With just a couple of days left in Black History Month, Gildshire wanted to take a detour from our customary “Goes to the Movies” package. Today, we’re going to step back into history and talk about the impact that black movie directors have had on film. These are movies you might have seen, but we know they are movies you know by reputation. Take a look and see how you can expand your movie watching horizons with “Black History Month: Black Directors.”
When a movie earns over $100 million in domestic ticket sales, it is considered noteworthy if not unusual. In fact, 30 films topped that mark in 2016 alone. However, when an African-American directed film joins that company, the lights of the studio blink in joy.
Why would that be? A hundred million is a hundred million. No matter the director.
The conventional wisdom is that black films won’t do well overseas. In this unfortunate case, perception is reality. However, the perception forces black directed/cast films to focus on domestic response and free them from the often-stifling “insertions for the international audience.”
That said, this virtual border wall for black directors means the $100 million threshold matters a great deal! In the history of film, only 33 titles from African-American directors earned over $100 million in domestic ticket sales.
Who are the directors who have cracked the code, so to speak?
Several names show up repeatedly. John Singleton has four, F. Gary Gray, Antoine Fuqua, and Keenen Ivory Wayans have three. Spike Lee and Forest Whitaker have two each. But, here is something that shouldn’t surprise you even a little bit. The cast name that shows up most of all is Denzel Washington. He stars in five of the high-grossing movies.
Even adjusting for inflation (and that is the only fair and accurate way to do it) “Stir Crazy” is one of only four films on the list from before 1990. But, it was right about then that the film industry went sequel-crazy. That is a trend that black film directors have, so far, avoided, (save for the Fast and Furious never-ending franchise and Scary Movie) even insofar as it is a leg up on the receipts.
#33. Stir Crazy, starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. Directed by Sidney Poitier.
#32. Scary Movie, starring Carmen Electra and Dave Sheridan. Directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans.
#31. Fantastic Four, starring Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan. Directed by Tim Story.
#30. The Fate of the Furious, starring Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel. Directed by James Wan.
#29. 2 Fast 2 Furious, starring Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson. Directed by Rob Cohen.
#28. Get Out, starring Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams. Directed by Jordan Peele.
#27. Straight Outta Compton, starring O’shea Jackson Jr, and Corey Hawkins. Directed by Curtis Hanson.
#26. Fantastic Four, Rise of the Silver Surfer, starring Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba. Directed by Shawn Levy.
#25. The Italian Job, starring Donald Sutherland and Mark Wahlberg. Directed by F. Gary Gray.
#24. Ride Along, starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. Directed by Tim Story.
#23. Boomerang, starring Eddie Murphy and Robin Givens. Directed by Jonathan Lynn.
#22. Waiting to Exhale, starring Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett. Directed by Forest Whitaker.
#21. Harlem Nights, starring Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. Directed by Eddie Murphy.
#20. The Butler, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. Directed by Lee Daniels.
#19. Sister Act 2, Back in the Habit, starring Whoopi Goldberg and Kathy Najimy. Directed by Bill Duke.
#18. Boyz in the Hood, starring Ice Cube and Cuba Gooding Jr. Directed by John Singleton.
#17. Training Day, starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
#16. Inside Man, starring Denzel Washington and Clive Owen. Directed by Spike Lee.
#15. Shaft, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Vanessa Williams. Directed by John Singleton.
#14. Barbershop, starring Ice Cube and Anthony Anderson. Directed by Tim Story.
#13. Rise of the Guardians, animated. Directed by Peter Ramsey.
#12. Hope Floats, starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. Directed by Forest Whitaker.
#11. Creed, starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Directed by Ryan Coogler.
The Top Ten
#10. Eddie Murphy Raw, starring Eddie Murphy. Directed by Robert Townsend.
#9. Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail, starring Tyler Perry and Derek Luke. Directed by Tyler Perry.
#8. Scary Movie 2, starring Anna Faris and Charlie Sheen. Directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans.
#7. The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington and Marton Csokas. Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
#6. Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart. Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
#5. The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis. Directed by Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes.
#4. Four Brothers, starring Mark Wahlberg and Tyrese Gibson. Directed by John Singleton.
#3. Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington and Angela Bassett. Directed by Spike Lee.
#2. White Chicks, starring Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans. Directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans.
#1. New Jack City, starring Wesley Snipes and Ice Cube. Directed by Mario Van Peebles.
While Gildshire may wish that the Number Three movie would be where the list ends, there is a lot of value, particularly in the Top Ten. This weekend, find one or two of these in your streaming service and appreciate Black History Month: Black Directors.