8 Civil Rights Movies to Watch on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Celebrate the bravery of these civil rights leaders.

Film Lists

Martin Luther King Jr. day is about more than just getting the day off work.

It's about remembering and honoring the struggles of the brave men and women who fought—and are still fighting—to dismantle centuries of systemic racism and oppression. Chief among these inspiring individuals is Martin Luther King, Jr., a Christian minister who led a nonviolent movement in the 1960s that advocated for the fair and equal treatment of black Americans.

Here are 8 of the best movies to watch today to commemorate this important holiday.

Selma (2014)

Directed by Ava DuVernay, this stirring drama tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s struggle to secure voting rights for black people in the three-month period leading up to the historic march from Selma to Montgomery. Dr. King is powerfully portrayed by David Oyelowo.

A Raisin In the Sun (1961)

Adapted from Lorraine Hansberry's revolutionary play of the same name, Raisin in the Sun was one of the first movies to confront systemic racism head on.

All the Way (2016)

This 2016 TV movie follows the true events of Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency as the civil rights movement unfolds. LBJ is played by Bryan Cranston, and Anthony Mackie gives a stunning performance as MLK.

King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis (1970)

This documentary is one of the purest, unrevised windows into the reality of MLK as a person available. It uses only original newsreel and other footage, features no voiceover, and covers the period from the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 and 1956 through MLK's assassination in 1968.

4 Little Girls (1997)

This harrowing film was directed by Spike Lee and nominated for best documentary film at the Academy Awards in 1997. It tells the story of the 15 September 1963 case of four black girls (Addie May Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Rosamond Robertson) in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Rosa Parks Story (2002)

The Rosa Parks Story is a stirring biopic about the accidental civil rights leader's life leading up to the moment in which she refused to give up her seat on the bus. Angela Bassett portrays Rosa Parks, and Cicely Tyson plays her mother.

The Butler (2013)

This movie is inspired by Wil Haygood's Washington Post article "A Butler Well Served by This Election," that tells the story of the real life of Eugene Allen, who worked in the White House as a butler through many presidential administrations. The film stars Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Alex Pettyfer, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber, Robin Williams, Minka Kelly, Mariah Carey, and Clarence Williams III.

Loving (2016)

Loving tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which repealed state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton co-star as the famous couple.