2 Movies Like A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

Staff & contributors

Summer of Soul would already be remarkable if it was just a collection of some of the greatest live performances ever put to film. Boasting a roster that includes Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight, and Sly and the Family Stone, the nearly-forgotten 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival featured in the documentary was an all-star catalog of some of the biggest names in popular music, all at pivotal moments in their careers. Seeing them at the height of their powers, in front of a Black audience that meant so much to them, makes for an unexpectedly emotional experience.

But Summer of Soul also expands beyond the actual concert, using the Harlem Cultural Festival to represent a turning point in Black culture and history, especially after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Through the film's pristine, electric editing and gorgeous archival restoration, music becomes a communal act of mourning, a rallying cry to face the uncertain future, and a celebration of a people and a heritage continuing to fight against erasure and persecution.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, History, Music

Actor: Abbey Lincoln, B. B. King, Chris Rock, David Ruffin, Fidel Castro, Herbie Mann, Hugh Masekela, Jesse Jackson, John F. Kennedy, John V. Lindsay, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mahalia Jackson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Mavis Staples, Max Roach, Moms Mabley, Nina Simone, Questlove, Redd Foxx, Richard Nixon, Robert F. Kennedy, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Tony Lawrence, Walter Cronkite

Director: Questlove

October Sky doesn’t tread new ground—in fact, you’ll be forgiven for rolling your eyes at a couple of cliches, including the classic “Those are your dreams, dad, not mine!” moments—but it’s so unassuming and well-made that it’s hard not to get drawn in by its many charms. There’s Gyllenhaal’s breakthrough performance for one, and the small town coming together to help each other out for another. Perhaps because the film is based on Homer Hickman’s true story, it also feels more specific and lived in than most period pieces. And it smartly avoids villainizing young Hickam’s adversaries so that they feel more real and nuanced, as opposed to the other far-fetched parts of the film. Sure, the overuse of sweeping music can feel cloying at times, but stellar performances across the board and confident direction overall make it a heartwarming, inspiring winner.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Andy Stahl, Blaque Fowler, Brady Coleman, Chad Lindberg, Charles Lawlor, Chris Cooper, Chris Ellis, Chris Owen, Courtney Cole-Fendley, David Dwyer, Don Henderson Baker, Doug Swander, Elya Baskin, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Jake Gyllenhaal, Joe Digaetano, John Bennes, Kaili Hollister, Larry Black, Laura Dern, Mark Jeffrey Miller, Mark W. Johnson, Natalie Canerday, Neva Howell, Randy Stripling, Rick Forrester, Scott Thomas, Terrence Gibney, Terry Loughlin, Tommy Smeltzer, William Lee Scott

Director: Joe Johnston

Rating: PG