120 Best Films That Center BIPOC Experiences

Updated May 26, 2024 • Staff

It's time to amplify the voices that have long been marginalized and bring to the forefront the rich tapestry of BIPOC experiences. Delve deep into the diverse narratives, struggles, triumphs, and resilience of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. Prepare to be moved, educated, and inspired as we embark on a cinematic journey that expands our horizons and fosters empathy. These films are a testament to the beauty, strength, and unwavering spirit of BIPOC individuals, reminding us of the transformative power of cinema.

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120.

Les Misérables (2020)

This Oscar-nominated French movie is set in Montfermeil, the Paris suburb where Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables but which today is a rough neighborhood.

Inspired by instances of police violence that happened in 2008, the movie follows a squad of police officers who try to keep the neighborhood under control. Their methods, or lack thereof, inevitably cause things to explode. This is a thriller with a message, one which sometimes feels forced; but the payoff at the end will make you forget all of that.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Actor: Al-Hassan Ly, Alexis Manenti, Almamy Kanoute, Bonnie Duvauchelle, Damien Bonnard, Djebril Zonga, Djibril Zonga, Issa Perica, Jaihson Lopez, Jeanne Balibar, Ly Lan Chapiron, Marine Sainsily, Nizar Ben Fatma, Romain Gavras, Sofia Lesaffre, Steve Tientcheu
Director: Ladj Ly
Rating: R
119.

Donkeyhead (2022)

This Canadian drama is directed by, written by, and stars first-time director Agam Darshi. It’s a labor of love about a 30-something woman who takes care of her sick father while trying to become a writer.

Mona (the character) comes from an immigrant Indian family, and she is proudly the black sheep of the bunch. When a visitor greets her with “God is Truth” in Punjabi, she replies in English with “Merry Christmas”, and when aunties catch her smoking she gives them the middle finger. Not to mention she is sleeping with a married man.

And yet the way the movie is made it works as a universal story - one about finding purpose in taking care of one’s parents while navigating complex family dynamics.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Agam Darshi, Huse Madhavji, Kim Coates, Sandy Sidhu, Stephen Lobo
Director: Agam Darshi
118.

Shirkers (2018)

In the early 1990s, Singaporean teens Sandi, Jasmine, and Sophie set out to make the country’s first indie movie. Incredibly, in between college, day jobs, and very limited funding, they manage to do just that with the help of their wise but mysterious mentor, Georges. Shirkers, as the project came to be called, seemed primed to revolutionize the burgeoning Singaporean film industry. It was ambitious and bonkers, unlike anything the country has seen before, and it lovingly contained tributes to the makers' cinematic heroes (among them Wim Wenders and David Lynch). But before it could see the light of the day, before it could even be viewed and edited by the girls who conceptualized it, Shirkers’ raw footage was whisked away by Georges, who fled the country without a trace. 

The potentially pioneering film was never to be seen again—that is, until 20 years later when it resurfaces in near-mint condition (sadly, the audio could not be recovered). Fascinated by the journey of the lost film and mystified by Georges’ motives, Sandi decides to remake Shirkers as a documentary. The result is an artistic and personal interrogation into what made their small beloved film possible, how its loss affected the people behind it, and how this all led to Shirkers, the documentary, which is a testament to how art always prevails in the end. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Georges Cardona, Jasmine Ng, Jasmine Ng Kin Kia, Sandi Tan, Sophia Siddique Harvey
Director: Sandi Tan
Rating: TV-14
117.

Ilo Ilo (2013)

At the height of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, a small Singaporean family scrambles to keep their middle-class status afloat. The parents shave their expenses and work extra-long hours, but their busyness causes them to neglect their misbehaved son. When his misdemeanors prove to be too much, the mother is forced to hire a stay-at-home nanny, and her presence (along with other external pressures) brings about a change in the house. Suddenly, everyone becomes a bit more aware of their limitations and potential, and from this, a shared empathy grows. In other hands, this story might come off as bare and forgettable, but under first-time-feature director Anthony Chen’s helm, Ilo Ilo comes to life in rich detail, thoughtful shots, and captivatingly natural performances. Despite its many heartbreaking scenes, the film rarely dwells in sentiment, and it's this restraint that makes Ilo Ilo all the more gripping to watch. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Family
Actor: Angeli Bayani, Chen Tian Wen, Chen Tianwen, Jialer Koh, Jo Kukathas, Koh Jia Ler, Peter Wee, Stephanie Kiong, Tian Wen Chen, Yann Yann Yeo, Yeo Yann Yann
Director: Anthony Chen
Rating: Not Rated, PG-13
116.

Us and Them (2018)

Us and Them follows two former lovers who reminisce and reassess their decade-long relationship over one night. They both seem to be in better places, certainly financially if anything else, but their shared wistfulness for the past threatens to prove otherwise. 

The film was an immediate hit when it was first released in China, and it’s easy to see why. With just the right balance of realism, romance, and comedy, the movie makes for a simple but deeply moving and involving watch. You can’t help but root for the exes to get back together, even though you know as well as they do how minimal the chances of that happening are.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Reality, Romance
Actor: Andrew Tiernan, Boran Jing, Dongyu Zhou, Jack Roth, Jing Boran, Liu Di, Qu Zhe Ming, Qu Zheming, Rene Liu, Shi Yufei, Sophie Colquhoun, Su Xiaoming, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Tim Bentinck, Zhang Zixian, Zheming Qu, Zhou Dongyu, Zhuangzhuang Tian
Director: Rene Liu
Rating: Not Rated

Free Watching Options:

Watch Us and Them (2018) on Fubo for free
115.

One Cut of the Dead (2017)

Another indie zombie movie? Far from it. One Cut of the Dead, written and directed by Shin'ichirô Ueda, became a global sensation following its small theatrical run in Japan for its creative and original screenplay. A hack director and film crew are shooting a low-budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility when they are attacked by real zombies. That’s all you need to know about the plot, as the film is full of surprises that will catch you off guard. Wondering how an independent film with a budget of just $25,000 was able to gross over $30 million worldwide? The answer lies in the film itself. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror
Actor: Ayana Goda, Donguri, Harumi Shuhama, Harumi Syuhama, Hiroshi Ichihara, Kazuaki Nagaya, Manabu Hosoi, Mao, Miki Yoshida, Sakina Asamori, Shinichiro Osawa, Shiori Nukumi, Shuntaro Yamazaki, Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama
Director: Shin'ichirō Ueda, Shin'ichiro Ueda
Rating: Not Rated, Unrated
114.

Minari (2021)

Minari is a film written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, about a Korean-American family in search of the so-called American Dream. It is an intimate drama that is powerful yet quiet, and filled with moments of innocence. With dreamlike scoring, unique characters, and a captivating climax, this movie tugs on the heartstrings, and serves as a great reminder of the beauty of gratitude.

Thanks to these, plus winning performances across the board, Minari earned plenty of nominations at the 2021 Oscars, with Youn Yuh-jung eventually bagging the Best Supporting Actress award—a monumental first for South Korea.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Family
Actor: Alan Kim, Ben Hall, Chloe Lee, Darryl Cox, Debbi Tucker, Ed Spinelli, Eric Starkey, Ernie Robinson, Esther Moon, Han Yeri, Jacob Wade, James Carroll, Jenny Phagan, Kaye Brownlee-France, Noel Kate Cho, Scott Haze, Skip Schwink, Steven Yeun, Tina Parker, Warren Lane, Will Patton, Youn Yuh-jung
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Rating: PG-13
113.

Bad Axe (2022)

Bad Axe is an intimate documentary that follows the Sievs, a tight-knit family that runs a restaurant in the city of Bad Axe, Michigan. When the rise of COVID restrictions and racist hate groups put their business at risk, the Sievs try to hold on to each other while also carefully, in their own way, fighting back.

Mostly shot in the unforgettable year that is 2020, Bad Axe captures the fraught intensity and existential panic we all spiraled into during the global pandemic. It’s a charged film, but underneath all that buzz is a story about a family with its own tensions and histories and contradictions to deal with. Bad Axe is at once simple and complex, and like family, you just kind of love it, flaws and all.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Documentary, Drama
Actor: Austin Turmell
Director: David Siev

Free Watching Options:

Watch Bad Axe (2022) on Hulu for free
112.

Control Room (2004)

For the longest time, American media coverage was skewed to justify the presence of US forces in Arab states. Control Room unveils that bias by following Al Jazeera at the start of the Iraq War in 2003. One of the biggest Arab media outlets at the time, Al Jazeera dared to cover both sides of the war, but by doing so put a target on its back. It was vilified by both the US government, which called it an Osama mouthpiece and the Arab world, which called it a Bush ally. 

Control Room shows the difficulty (if not sheer impossibility) of achieving journalistic balance, objectivity, and integrity. Through interviews with Al Jazeera reporters and US military officers, we witness how lines are blurred, loyalties are tested, and purpose is shifted in a state of war. A seminal work on media bias and press control, Control Room is vital and enlightening, a must-watch to understand the inner workings of the fourth estate. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Documentary, War
Actor: Abdul Jabbar Al-Kubeisi, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Hassan Ibrahim, Josh Rushing, Muafak Tawfik, Nabeel Khoury, Omar Al-Issawi, Tom Mintier
Director: Jehane Noujaim

Free Watching Options:

Watch Control Room (2004) on Amazon Prime for free
111.

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America (2022)

Although Who We Are is essentially a professionally recorded masterclass interspersed with additional interviews, it only emphasizes Jeffery Robinson's skill as an orator and his compassion as a teacher. In a clear and levelheaded manner, he lays out how even the historical documents that formed the blueprint of the United States are exclusionary in key ways. Robinson does this not to condemn his country, but to challenge the way we view traditions as sacred, and to see how modern-day white nationalism is upheld by these institutions, intentionally or not. The new interviews that accompany Robinson's talk take these lessons on the road, reminding us of those who are directly affected by these centuries-old decisions.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Jeffery Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr.
Director: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler

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