5 Best Movies to Watch by Bokeem Woodbine

Staff & contributors

On their drive back from a Tinder date that was only average, a couple are pulled over by a racist police officer. Things escalate unexpectedly and the couple, one of whom is a lawyer aware of the corruptedness of the system, start a life on the run together. This thrilling set-up mixing social commentary and romance is a movie that's actually many movies in one. And almost as if to cut in-between the different tonalities, there are so many quiet and beautiful shots of the couple: silent, still or dancing - these moments are true cinematic magic. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Andre De'Sean Shanks, Andy Dylan, Benito Martinez, Bokeem Woodbine, Brian Thornton, Bryant Tardy, Chloe Sevigny, Colby Boothman-Shepard, Daniel Kaluuya, Dickson Obahor, Flea, Gayle King, Gralen Bryant Banks, Indya Moore, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Jodie Turner-Smith, Joseph Poliquin, Karen Kaia Livers, Lucky Johnson, Melanie Halfkenny, Robert Walker Branchaud, Soledad O'Brien, Sturgill Simpson, Thom Gossom Jr.

Director: Melina Matsoukas

Rating: R

Spike Lee’s semi-autobiographical film is a loving and nostalgic ode to the Brooklyn of his childhood. It also happens to be his sweetest work and while overshadowed by the explosive Do The Right Thing, remains an easy contender for one of his very best. The world of Crooklyn is told through the eyes of Troy, a young girl growing up with her four brothers, and her mother and father in a cramped brownstone. 

Lee’s Brooklyn is a colorful delight set aloft by a swooning soul soundtrack. His ability to capture the vibrant magical tones and textures of the city feels as complete as ever, and marvelous performances from Alfre Woodard and Delroy Lindo as Troy’s parents help create a touching and all-encompassing experience. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alfre Woodard, Arthur French, Bokeem Woodbine, Carlton Williams, Carmen Tillery, Christopher Knowings, Christopher Wynkoop, Dan Grimaldi, Danielle K. Thomas, David Patrick Kelly, Delroy Lindo, Emelise Aleandri, Frances Foster, Gary Perez, Harvey Williams, Hector M. Ricci Jr., Isaiah Washington, Ivelka Reyes, Joie Lee, José Zúñiga, Keith Johnson, Kewanna Bonaparte, Manny Perez, Maurie A. Chandler, Michele Shay, Mildred Clinton, Norman Matlock, Omar Scroggins, Peewee Love, Raymond Reliford, Rene Ojeda, Richard Whiten, RuPaul, Sharif Rashed, Spike Lee, Taneal Royal, Tiasha Reyes, Tracy Vilar, Tse-Mach Washington, Ulysses Terrero, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Zelda Harris

Director: Spike Lee

Based on the real-life experience of director Elegance Bratton, who was himself a Black gay marine soldier during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” period in the US, The Inspection documents the behind-the-scenes cruelty that goes on in training the armed forces. Specifically, it inspects how institutions like the marines are hardwired to promote a certain kind of masculinity and how people like Bratton, perennially in the margins, respond, react, and fight back. 

It’s moving and artful but also lighthearted and humorous, finding light even in the darkest corners. It’s self-contradictory that way, but the film is all the better and nuanced for it. Gabriel Union’s performance is also worth noting here; in a career-defining turn, she transforms into a character at once so hateful and loving, you’ll be hard-pressed not to give her your full attention onscreen.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Dominguez, Andrew Kai, Aubrey Joseph, Becky Boxer, Bokeem Woodbine, Daniel Williamson, Eman Esfandi, Gabrielle Union, Jered Meeks, Jeremy Pope, McCaul Lombardi, Nicholas Logan, Raúl Castillo, Steve Mokate, Tyler Merritt, Wynn Reichert

Director: Elegance Bratton

Rating: R

Based on the documentary short she helmed with actor Taylor Russell, Savannah Leaf’s Earth Mama is an intimate, unabashedly political, and decisively non-judgmental look at one mother’s determined attempts to regain custody of her two children. Gia (Tia Nomore) is struggling to work enough hours at her part-time photo studio job to pay for the home she needs before she can be reunited with her kids — struggling because the state also requires her to attend classes on topics like addiction recovery, which are eating into her time. What’s more, Gia is also heavily pregnant, and her looming due date sets a clock ticking on her efforts to satisfy her caseworker and decide what’s best for her new baby. 

There’s a depressingly cyclical nature to all this heartbreak, as testified to by the real people who sometimes pierce the drama to share their own experiences of the system Gia is navigating. Their contributions — along with Nomore’s lived-in performance and Leaf’s assured touch — deepen the urgency and emotion of the movie, which is as much a commentary on the dehumanizing bureaucracy of the social care system as it is Gia’s own particular story.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Autumn Mirassou, Bokeem Woodbine, Ca'Ron Jaden Coleman, Doechii, Dominic Fike, Erika Alexander, Frank Scozzari, JF Davis, Keta Price, Olivia Luccardi, Sharon Duncan Brewster, Slim Yani

Director: Savanah Leaf

For almost the entirety of its runtime, Old Dads feels like it has something it's desperately trying to prove. But while the millennial generation and a newfound popular interest in political correctness are ripe for satire, this film chooses the lowest hanging fruit possible to make jokes about—inventing one senseless situation after another in order to laugh at people's "sensitivity" with little energy or wit. The main cast has tried and tested talent, but the material they're working with feels more artificial and whiny than truly perceptive of today's generational clashes. The movie tries to manufacture some sort of dramatic realization by the end, but it hardly changes the protagonists anyway. A film need not be PC to be good, of course, but it should at least stand for something instead of simply standing against so much.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abbie Cobb, Angela Gulner, Bill Burr, Bobby Cannavale, Bokeem Woodbine, Bruce Dern, C. Thomas Howell, Cameron Kelly, Carl Tart, Chelsea Marie Davis, Cody Renee Cameron, Dash McCloud, Erin Wu, Jackie Tohn, Josh Brener, Justene Alpert, Justin Miles, Katie Aselton, Katrina Bowden, Leland Heflin, Miles Robbins, Natasha Leggero, Paul Walter Hauser, Rachael Harris, Reign Edwards, Rick Glassman, Rory Scovel, Steph Tolev, Tom Allen

Director: Bill Burr

Rating: R