The Love Below15 Black Romance Movies You Can Watch This Month

When Barack and Michelle Obama unveiled their official portraits for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, many people were astounded by both the beauty and complexity displayed in the artwork. It seems, though, that the former president was also awestruck by the beauty of his wife, forever captured on canvas. He intensely stared at the portrait, and in the process, stirred feelings in those who also want to be seen by their partners—through a love that doesn’t have to be spoken to be known. Many expressed that sentiment on social media.

What the Obamas have built in real life is thankfully available to other Black people through cinema. Black romance movies, ranging from raucous comedies to intense dramas, have long captured Black love, showcasing how people come together, fall apart, and come back together again. Since we commemorate both Valentine’s Day and Black History Month in February, there’s no better time than now to honor those movies that so mirror what we see every time Barack and Michelle Obama look at each other. Black love is a force—and these movies bring it to life.

1. Waiting To Exhale

{ 20th Century Fox }
Air Date: December 22, 1995

Savannah Jackson (Whitney Houston), Robin Stokes (Lela Rochon), Bernadine Harris (Angela Bassett), and Gloria Matthews (Loretta Devine) are four Black sister-friends clinging desperately to each other as they navigate complex relationships. Savannah is a successful television producer who has relocated from Denver to Phoenix in an effort to get over her married lover Kenneth (Dennis Haysbert). While she knows he’ll never leave his wife, she’s holding out hope that he’ll eventually recognize her value. Similarly, Robin is stuck in a relationship with Russell (Leon), who’s also married, and when she finds the courage to leave, she discovers that healthy relationships are difficult to maintain. Gloria, their beautician, has been struggling to cut romantic ties with her son’s father, David (Giancarlo Esposito), even after he says that he’s gay. Bernadine, sweet Bernadine, is raising two children alone after her husband, John (Brandon Hammond), leaves her for his white secretary. While each of them have relationship woes, their friendship is what keeps them afloat. Waiting To Exhale is a testament to our friends also having the capacity to be our soulmates.

2. The Best Man

The Best Man is a classic Black romance film: It’s funny, but also delves into relatable issues, and includes Black couples who resemble those we encounter in our real lives. Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) is a Chicago-based writer who’s preparing to release his debut novel, Unfinished Business. While Harper insists that the book isn’t autobiographical, his college friends disagree. When Harper travels to New York to serve as the best man in his close friend Lance’s (Morris Chesnut) wedding, all of his friends, including Jordan (Nia Long), Julian (Harold Perrineau), and Quentin (Terrence Howard) interrogate him about the book because it includes one explosive detail that may unravel Lance and his fiancé Mia’s (Monica Calhoun) relationship before they even get down the aisle.

3. Moonlight

{ A24 }
Air Date: October 21, 2016

Moonlight deserved every single accolade that it received during the last awards season. From the impeccable cinematography to the emotions that are captured in scenes where there are no words, Moonlight offered a necessary alternative to the heteronormative romances that we often see onscreen. Barry Jenkins’s masterpiece follows one Black boy through three different phases of his life as he navigates his sexuality, the torment he endures because of his difference, and the people in his life who both show up for and disappoint him. In the second chapter of the movie, Chiron, played by an astute Ashton Sanders, falls in love with his classmate and protector Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). After they share an intimate moment on the beach, we don’t see them reconcile until Chiron has evolved into Black (Trevante Rhodes), a drug dealer in Atlanta with a hard exterior and emotional unavailability. When Black and Kevin (now played by André Holland) reconnect, it’s very clear that their love can transcend time. They’re vulnerable with each other and honest about the lack of intimacy in their lives. Their interaction in a small diner in Miami has driven me to tears every time I’ve watched the film, and if you’re looking for a movie that will tap into your emotional well, Moonlight is it.

4. Poetic Justice

{ Columbia Pictures }
Air Date: July 23, 1993

Justice (Janet Jackson) can’t escape trauma and heartbreak. Her mother, who bestowed her with the name Justice, has died. The grandmother who helped her survive has died and left Justice her home in South Central Los Angeles. Her boyfriend, Markell (Q-Tip), who just wanted to enjoy a night at the drive-thru movie theater with her, has died—shot right in front of her after bringing her a tub of popcorn. Justice can’t escape heartbreak, so she’s stopped opening up. She spends her days at the local beauty shop where she works, and then retreats to her home to write poetry, watch movies, and love on her cat White Boy. That all changes when Lucky (Tupac Shakur), a local postal clerk, comes into the hair salon to drop off mail and begins flirting with her. Soon, Justice is on a road trip to Oakland, California with Lucky, her friend Iesha (Regina King), and Iesha’s boyfriend Chicago (Joe Torry). While their six-hour car ride shouldn’t help Justice grieve, it does exactly that, and in the process, gives us an imperfect and ill-matched couple to root for.

5. Boomerang

{ Paramount Pictures }
Air Date: July 1, 1992

Boomerang has it all: Eddie Murphy at the height of his funniest; Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence at the beginning of their careers; Halle Berry with an iconic haircut that many women still ask for at the beauty parlor; and legends Eartha Kitt and Grace Jones playing man-eaters who don’t take no shit. Boomerang also offers an apt lesson in how dating could be a much more fun endeavor if we all cared less about attachment. For advertising executive Marcus Graham (Eddie Murphy), women are a dime-a-dozen. He wines them, sleeps with them, and then kicks them out of his house when he realizes their feet aren’t to his liking. Yet, Marcus is smitten when he meets Jacqueline Broyer (Robin Givens), a fellow executive who will soon become his boss, and she begins to treat him as he’s treated other women. It doesn’t sit well with Marcus, but he finds himself pining for Jacqueline, and even tries to pressure her into being in an exclusive relationship with him. She ends their casual relationship, instead, and when he’s at his lowest, Angela (Halle Berry) picks him up. Boomerang had an amazing soundtrack, including Toni Braxton’s classic song, “Love Shoulda Brought You Home,” and the iconic Boyz II Men song, “End of the Road,” and also included recitable lines that still land perfectly. If you want to watch a man get a dose of his own medicine, Boomerang should be in rotation on Valentine’s Day.

6. Deliver Us From Eva

{ Focus Features }
Air Date: February 7, 2003

Deliver Us From Eva toys with a lot of tropes that have been used to malign Black women. Eva Dandridge (Gabrielle Union) is framed as a Sapphire who emasculates men through her sharp tongue, ambition, and refusal to be subservient. Eva’s so unbearable, in fact, that her brothers-in-law, Mike (Duane Martin), Tim (Mel Jackson), and Darrell (Dartanyan Edmonds) hire Ray (LL Cool J) to seduce her, make her fall in love, and convince her to leave Los Angeles. What redeems Deliver Us From Eva is that it’s clear that Eva is no-nonsense because she’s had to be fiercely protective of her sisters. After their parents died, she had to sacrifice her dreams in order to ensure that her sisters were taken care of and able to pursue their own dreams. There’s a lot wrong with Deliver Us From Eva. It’s still worth watching.

7. Disappearing Acts

{ HBO }
Release Date: December 9, 2000

Terry McMillan is one of those rare novelists who can create characters whose failures are familiar to us. In her 1989 novel, Disappearing Acts, McMillan introduced readers to Zora Banks, an aspiring singer and songwriter, and Franklin Swift, a blue-collar worker with a complicated past. In 2000, HBO adapted the book and cast Sanaa Lathan and Wesley Snipes in the title roles. When Zora moves to a brownstone in Brooklyn, she quickly falls for Franklin, the contractor tasked with polishing the floors of her home. Their relationship ends abruptly when Zora discovers that Franklin is separated from his wife, but hasn’t divorced her, and that it’s difficult for him to keep steady employment. What becomes of a couple that’s doomed to fail from the beginning? That’s the gray space that Zora and Franklin dwell in from the beginning of the movie to the end.

8. Something New

{ Focus Features }
Air Date: January 29, 2006

Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan) is a successful accountant with her own home, loving parents, and supportive friends, but thanks to her Type-A personality, she’s so focused on work that she hasn’t made time to cultivate a romantic relationship. That’s not to say that Kenya doesn’t have an idea of what she wants—she keeps a running list that includes a successful career and straight, white teeth. When Kenya’s friends convince her to go on a blind date with Brian Kelly (Simon Baker) so she can loosen up, she discovers that he’s white, and then proceeds to act awkward because she’s never envisioned herself in an interracial relationship. Eventually, Kenya hires Brian to renovate her backyard. She then sleeps with him, overthinks the encounter, and then takes out her weave when he asks uninformed questions about her hair. Everything about Something New is cringe-inducing—and that’s also what makes it so entertaining to watch.

9. Love Jones

{ New Line Cinema }
Air Date: March 14, 1997

I’m convinced that Love Jones persuaded a generation of cisgender men that reading poetry to women at open-mic nights guaranteed them sex. Most of those men weren’t as smooth or handsome as Darius Lovehall (Larenz Tate) though. When Nina Mosley (Nia Long), a talented photographer, meets Darius at the Sanctuary lounge and he reads a poem in her honor, it’s the spark of a casual relationship that quickly progresses to something more. Foolishly, Nina listens to her friend, Josie Nichols (Lisa Nicole Carson), and tests Darius by going to New York to a close a chapter with her ex-boyfriend. The rest of the movie will make you want to communicate more effectively and transparently with the person you love so you don’t end up in the rain with nothing to protect your fresh blowout from getting wet.

10. Jason’s Lyric

{ Gramercy Pictures/Metro Goldwyn Mayer }
Air Date: September 28, 1994

When Jason (Allen Payne) and Lyric (Jada Pinkett Smith) meet in a television repair shop, they know they’re meant to be together. Both of them have plans to escape their violence-filled town, but Jason feels obligated to care for his brother, Joshua (Bokeem Woodbine), who’s just been released from prison. Both men were traumatized as children because their father, Mad Dog (Forest Whitaker), abused them and their mother, and was fatally shot him during one of his drunken rages. The odds are stacked against Jason and Lyric, which is the reason their love is such a joy to behold onscreen.

11. Brown Sugar

{ Fox Searchlight Pictures }
Air Date: October 11, 2002

“When did you fall in love with hip hop?” is the guiding question in Brown Sugar, and though main characters Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre (Taye Diggs) work in the hip hop industry, the question is really a metaphor for their relationship. Sidney and Dre have been friends since childhood, but have never seen each other as romantic partners—until Dre gets engaged to Reese (Nicole Ari Parker) and Sidney accepts a proposal from Kelby (Boris Kodjoe). Their decisions stoke up long-hidden feelings that Sidney pours into her book. Brown Sugar’s final scene makes the entire movie worth watching.

12. Two Can Play That Game

{ Screen Gems }
Air Date: September 7, 2001

Shanté Smith (Vivica A. Fox) has it all: She’s a 28-year-old advertising executive with a sleek convertible, slamming wardrobe, and gorgeous boyfriend. Shanté also acts as a relationship guru who uses her “10 Day Plan” to counsel her friends through romantic hardships. When her boyfriend Keith (Morris Chestnut) tells her he’s working late, but is caught red-handed dancing with another woman in a club, she has to implement the “10 Day Plan” in her own relationship. Two Can Play That Game is hilarious, primarily because of the cast, but also because Shanté speaks her inner thoughts directly to the audience.

13. How Stella Got Her Groove Back

{ 20th Century Fox }
Air Date: August 14, 1998

Stella Payne (Angela Bassett) needs a vacation: She’s a California-based stockbroker who’s raising her son, Quincy (Michael J. Pagan), on her own and navigating the stress that her high-strung sisters bring to her doorstep. Stella’s best friend, Delilah Abraham (Whoopi Goldberg) knows that her friend is stressed, so she suggests a vacation—as good sister-friends should. The pair travel to Montego Bay, Jamaica where 40-year-old Stella falls in lust with 20-year-old Winston Shakespeare (Taye Diggs). Their passion spills over from Stella’s vacation into her life as she tries to balance her career, her mothering, and her newfound romance. Between her meddling sisters and Winston’s disapproving parents, Stella’s in for a rocky ride that has so much to offer those who believe that love will never find them. It’s coming—just not in the package that you expected.

14. Love and Basketball

{ New Line Cinema }
Air Date: April 21, 2000

Let’s start with this indisputable fact: Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) should’ve never ended up together. After spending their childhood living next door to each other in Los Angeles, California, Monica and Quincy begin dating after their high school prom. They then decide to attend the University of Southern California together, where their relationship unravels. Quincy starts feeling himself and cheating with some girl who he takes to McDonalds for meals. If that wasn’t enough, he decides to enter the NBA draft without discussing it with Monica. Again, they should’ve never ended up together. By the end, though, they’re playing a one-on-one basketball game to decide whether or not they want to be together. What a mess. It’s entertaining, but a mess none-the-less.

15. Claudine

{ Third World Cinema }
Air Date: April 22, 1974

Claudine Price (Diahann Carroll) is in love with garbage collector Rupert Marshall (James Earl Jones), but their relationship can’t be public because Claudine is relying on government assistance to help with feed and clothe her six children. The overbearing presence of the state is front-and-center in Claudine, as the couple has to decide whether or not to get married based on access to food. There’s also a lot of tension between Rupert and Claudine’s eldest son, Charles (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) because he’s worried that his mother will be abandoned again by a man who claims to love her. In the end, Claudine and Rupert are navigating a complex relationship that’s predicated primarily losing resources instead of acting on love—a shame.

by Evette Dionne
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Evette Dionne is Bitch Media’s editor-in-chief. She’s all about Beyoncé, Black women, and dope TV shows and books. You can follow her on Twitter.

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