Over the past few decades, the film industry has seen a rise in the number of Black filmmakers and their stories being told on the big screen.
The road was paved by Black filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux, the first African American to produce movies that featured in white movie theaters in the 1920s; Gordon Parks, whose independent films gave rise to the 70s blaxploitation subgenre; and Spike Lee, whose works depicting racial inequality experienced by Black people in America have been received with blockbuster success and critical acclaim.
Because of these pioneers breaking the glass ceiling in the film industry, we’re able to enjoy the works of Black filmmakers today who bring their unique perspectives to Hollywood. From biopics to horror comedies to science fiction blockbusters, here are the upcoming projects from Black filmmakers we’re most excited for.
A.V. Rockwell – A Thousand and One (March 2023)
A Thousand and One may be A.V. Rockwell’s feature film debut, but the writer-director has a compelling story she wants to tell. Inez De La Paz (Teyana Taylor) is a recently released inmate from Rikers who, in a moment of impulse, kidnaps her estranged son from foster care. The touching drama is about motherhood, survival, and coming-of-age in an ever-changing New York City.
Stephen Williams – Chevalier (April 2023)
A seasoned television director, Stephen Williams hopes to be recognized as a rising Black filmmaker with Chevalier. The biopic thrusts French-Creole musician Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges into the limelight. He was a violin prodigy but rampant racism in France’s Old Regime stood in the way of his rise to fame and success.
Steven Caple, Jr. – Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (June 2023)
The latest in the Transformers movie franchise isn’t helmed by Michael Bay but by a Black filmmaker. In Hollywood, it’s a major milestone when Black filmmakers direct blockbuster movies, but Stephen Caple Jr. is no stranger to them. He brings a ton of experience from directing Creed II. He also wants to introduce Black and Latin culture to the franchise, stating in an interview with Bet, “For us to be in this position where we can tell a story about our culture, our people, and see ourselves portrayed on the big screen blending in with these vast genres is special.”
Tim Story – The Blackening (June 2023)
In horror movie tropes, the Black character always dies first. But what if all the characters are Black? They can’t all die first—right? That’s the main premise of Tim Story’s upcoming comedy slasher starring an all-Black cast. It’s the feature film version of a skit popularized by Comedy Central, and aims to challenge what we think we know about horror movies.
Kemp Powers – Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (June 2023)
Kemp Powers has been building a name for himself as one of the most accomplished screenwriters of his time, with One Night in Miami and Soul as his biggest successes. He also served as co-director for the Pixar film, which made him the first Black filmmaker and co-director in the animation studio’s history. More recently, he joined Joaquim Dos Santos and Justin K. Thompson as co-director of the highly anticipated Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, which is slated for a release in the summer.
Justin Simien – Haunted Mansion (July 2023)
Another horror with Black leads—LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Hadish, and Rosario Dawson—is coming your way this year. Justin Simien, known for creating the Netflix hit Dear White People, is recreating a 2003 horror with Haunted Mansion. Though the premise is familiar based on the title alone, the movie uniquely blends horror with the adventure that a Disneyland attraction brings—because it is actually a popular attraction in the famous theme park.
Juel Taylor – They Cloned Tyrone (July 2023)
They Cloned Tyrone is the feature film debut of Black filmmaker Juel Taylor, who’s worked as a screenwriter for movies like Creed II and Space Jam: A New Legacy. The science fiction comedy stars John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx as the main trio who find themselves in a government conspiracy they must solve.
Chris Spencer – Back on the Strip (August 2023)
Back on the Strip is another Black filmmaker’s feature film debut. In the comedy, Chris Spencer put together an ensemble cast consisting of Spence Moore II, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, and Wesley Snipes. Merlin (Moore) dreams of becoming a successful Las Vegas magician. Instead, he finds himself reuniting an aging all-male stripper crew called The Chocolate Chips.
And still to come are these movies:
Nia DaCosta – The Marvels (November 2023)
It’s been a while since Ryan Coogler became the first Black filmmaker to direct a Marvel feature. And the MCU hit a new milestone by hiring director Nia DaCosta as the first Black female filmmaker to direct a Marvel feature. A self-described “Marvel trash”, DaCosta is known for her 2018 crime drama Little Woods, which received critical acclaim and the Nora Ephron award at the Tribeca Film Festival. DaCosta clearly knows how to tell female-centric stories that are complex, so personally, I’m excited to see how she can add depth to female superheroes like Captain Marvel in The Marvels.
Blitz Bazawule – The Color Purple (December 2023)
Alice Walker’s The Color Purple has already been adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg, but a movie musical hasn’t been done yet. That’s all going to change in December. Black filmmaker Blitz Bazawule aims to bring the award-winning stage musical to the screen. Like its source material, The Color Purple follows the life of a young African American woman who endures abuse and discrimination throughout her life in the South during the 1900s. Fantasia is set to play the lead role of Celie, with supporting roles played by Taraji P. Henson, Cory Hawkins, and Colman Domingo.
Elijah Bynum – Magazine Dreams (December 2023)
Fresh off the success of Creed III, Jonathan Majors is coming back in the action-packed drama Magazine Dreams. With Elijah Bynum as director, Magazine Dreams follows the life of Killian, an amateur bodybuilder who wants to turn pro but struggles to “find human connection”. The film released at Sundance this year, and was met with critical acclaim for Majors’ performance and Bynum’s direction.
Julius Onah – Captain America: New World Order (May 2024)
The TV series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier introduced us to a new Captain America—Sam Wilson aka The Falcon—and he’s getting his own movie treatment. New World Order will be released under the MCU’s Phase Five, with Anthony Mackie returning in the titular role. Not much is known about the movie’s premise yet but the creators hinted that Harrison Ford will play a big role as the President. Whether he’s a new villain to beat or actually a good guy is something we’d have to find out before next year.
Steve McQueen – Blitz (2024)
Historical dramas directed by Black filmmakers often tell the slave narrative, but Steve McQueen has many stories to share. Blitz is the British director’s upcoming World War II epic for Apple TV+. It’s about the aerial bombing of London during the war, and how it affected a group of locals. Like his award-winning 12 Years a Slave, Blitz features an ensemble cast with Saoirse Ronan as the leading actress.
Barry Jenkins – Mufasa: The Lion King (2024)
Not many details have been released regarding Disney’s origin film Mufasa: The Lion King. What we do know is that has a 2024 release and it’s directed by a Black filmmaker. Barry Jenkins, who helmed critically-acclaimed titles like Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, has signed on to bring life to the beloved character. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen will return as Timon and Pumbaa, while Mufasa will be voiced by Aaron Pierre. He previously worked with Jenkins in the miniseries The Underground Railroad.
Jordan Peele – Untitled Project (December 2024)
After three successful feature films, Jordan Peele has proven himself to be one of the greatest Black filmmakers ever. Fans and critics have been asking what his next project is and, fortunately for us, Universal Pictures just made it public that there will be an “Untitled Fourth Film Directed by Jordan Peele” on December 25 next year. Peele has always kept quiet about his works until a trailer releases, but we can only assume (and hope) that it’s going to be a Christmas-themed film with elements of horror and science fiction, and an important social commentary on politics, culture, and race.
The future of the film industry is looking bright with the rise of Black filmmakers in their feature film debuts and the return of established names with highly-anticipated projects. Audiences can expect to see more powerful and thought-provoking stories from Black filmmakers in the years to come.