14 Best Movies to Watch on MLK Day

Are you looking for some films to watch on MLK day? Well, we got you! Today, we will present you this list of the 14 best movies for MLK day! Whether you want something educational or entertaining that fits the holiday, you will likely find something on this list!

Without further dilly-dallying, let us get this show on the road!

1. Selma (2014)

English 2h 8m IMDb
Selma (2014)

Director: Ava DuVernay

Stars: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Oprah Winfrey

Selma is about the Selma to Montgomery march. It tells of one of the most trying times in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and the fight for civil rights.

There are many things that happened in the life of King. Often, full documentaries do not fully capture everything. With so many things to look at, these films try to compress everything with a general overview.

Selma aimed to focus on a single event. If you are mainly interested in the events that led to the Voting Rights Act, check this movie out to get a good look at it.

2. MLK/FBI (2020)

English 1h 44m IMDb
MLKFBI (2020)

Director: Sam Pollard

Stars: Martin Luther King(archive footage), J. Edgar Hoover(archive footage), David Garrow

MLK/FBI is a film that focuses on the difficulties and troubles brought on King by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in their attempts to discredit one of the most influential figures in the fight for civil rights.

The film does not revolve around the fight unlike most MLK Jr. documentaries. However, it is an ideal film to watch to get a glimpse of the hardships King had to face. It shows that despite his nonviolent ways, he had more than one enemy and was attacked on more than one side in more ways than one.

3. King in the Wilderness (2018)

English 1h 51m IMDb
King in the Wilderness (2018) 

Director: Peter W. Kunhardt

King in the Wilderness is a film focused on Martin Luther King Jr.’s last years, which are also some of the most eventful years in the fight for civil rights.

This film shows some of the most known marches and speeches of MLK Jr. It might have focused on King’s final years and his killing, but it is an ideal film to start with if you would like to delve into the issues of the fight for civil rights.

4. All The Way (2016)

English 2h 12m IMDb
All The Way (2016) 

Director: Jay Roach

Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anthony Mackie, Melissa Leo

This film does not revolve around MLK Jr., but it does center on a figure heavily involved in the movement. Maybe not in the same way as King or other leaders in it. However, an important figure still – the 36th president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson.

While the film does not focus on the fight, it does a great job of presenting a prominent part of its progression. It shows who LBJ is and his reasonings, making this film an ideal watch to understand why things happened the way they did.

5. Malcolm X (1992)

English 3h 22m IMDb
Malcolm X (1992)

Director: Spike Lee

Stars: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Delroy Lindo

As you might have guessed from the title, this film focuses on Malcolm X. It tells of his story, how he came to be part of the fight, and even his influence on it even after his death.

It is no secret that MLK Jr. And Malcolm X have been compared and contrasted over and over again. After all, one could say that the two are two sides of the same coin. Fighting for the same thing but in different ways. Now, that makes this film an ideal watch to see another side of the movement.

6. Betty & Coretta (2013)

English 1h 28m IMDb
Betty & Coretta (2013) 

Director: Yves Simoneau

Stars: Tyler Hynes, Angela Bassett, Gloria Reuben

As the title suggests, the film focuses on Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King. It tells how the death of their husbands brought them together. Additionally, it shows how their shared experiences, beliefs, and goals have forged a bond between the two that both surprised and empowered the crowd their husbands have left.

MLK Jr. and Malcolm X might not have seen eye to eye. However, their wives found a friend in each other. This film is not only ideal for a better understanding of the fight but for a touching watch too.

7. Our Friend, Martin (1999)

English 1h IMDb
Our Friend, Martin (1999)

Director: Robert Brousseau, Vincenzo Trippetti

Stars: Edward Asner(voice), Angela Bassett(voice), Lucas Black(voice)

The film follows two friends as they travel back in time to meet MLK Jr. in different times of his life. It is somewhat a biography of King but made easier to understand for young audiences. It tells how things are because of King’s aid in the fight and how things might have been if it never happened.

This film is an animated film meant for children. If you would like to introduce your little one to MLK Jr. and the fight, this film is an ideal watch.

8. King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis (1969)

English 3h 5m IMDb
King A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis (1969)

Director: Sidney Lumet(uncredited), Joseph L. Mankiewicz(uncredited)

Stars: Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Ben Gazzara

This film is about Martin Luther King Jr. and the fight for civil rights. It was released only a year after the assassination of the activist, making it one of the earliest biographical films centering on him. It is one of the most comprehensive films about King and the fight.

If you intend to dive deep into the life of the social activist and the movement and want to know everything there is to know about the two, this movie is one you should consider putting on your watchlist.

9. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

English 1h 33m IMDb
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Director: Raoul Peck

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson(voice), James Baldwin(archive footage), Martin Luther King(archive footage)

This film focuses on racism and American history as a whole. It does not revolve around MLK Jr. However, he and his views and works are touched on in the film. As the film centers on racism, it also lights on the other leaders in the fight for civil rights, giving you a glimpse of the views of the other people in it.

This movie is one you should check out if you would like to have a wider perspective on the issue. It can give you a good feel for everyone’s views on the issue.

10. Boycott (2001)

English 1h 58m IMDb
Boycott (2001) 

Director: Clark Johnson

Stars: Jeffrey Wright, Terrence Howard, CCH Pounder

As you might have guessed from the title, this film tells of the Montgomery bus boycott.

MLK Jr. has given many great speeches, led many marches, and overall, been a big part of the civil rights movement. This event is only one of the many milestone events that are a must-know. This film gives a good glimpse of this pivotal part of history and MLK Jr.’s contribution to it.

If you are interested in taking a good look at the important points of the movement, this film is one you should check out.

11. The Rosa Parks Story (2002)

English 1h 37m IMDb The Rosa Parks Story (2002)

Director: Julie Dash

Stars: Angela Bassett, Peter Francis James, Tonea Stewart

As the title of this movie says, it tells the story of Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, a black woman who refused to give her seat to a white man. It tells the same story as Boycott. However, this one puts a little more focus on the titular character. Still, it does detail the Montgomery bus boycott and the part of Martin Luther King Jr. in it well.

You might want to consider adding this film to your watchlist if you are interested in the boycott and want a closer look at it.

12. MLK: The Assassination Tapes (2012)

English 47m IMDb
MLK The Assassination Tapes (2012)

Director: Tom Jennings

Stars: Martin Luther King(archive footage)

As the name suggests, this film focuses on the assassination of MLK Jr. It tells the event leading to the assassination and the happenings in its aftermath. It uses footage from the time, making the viewers feel as if they were there when it all happened. It gives the viewers a first-hand-like experience of the tragedy.

This film is one you might want to consider watching if you are interested in the happenings in the assassination of MLK Jr. However, even if you are not, if you are a history buff, you will likely enjoy this film.

13. I Am MLK Jr. (2018)

English 1h 35m IMDb
I Am MLK Jr. (2018)

Director: John Barbisan, Michael Hamilton

Stars: Martin Luther King(archive footage), Carmelo Anthony, Nick Cannon

This film is a documentary that, as you might have guessed, centers on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Additionally, it takes a look at his contribution to the fight and its continuing effect today.

If you intend to have a movie marathon focusing on Martin Luther King Jr., you might want to start with this one. On the other hand, this film will also fit on watchlists that center on the leaders of the civil rights movement or the fight for civil rights as a whole.

14. In Remembrance of Martin (1986)

English 57m IMDb
In Remembrance of Martin (1986) 

Stars: Ralph Abernathy, Joan Baez, Julian Bond

This film serves as a eulogy of some sort to one of the leaders of the civil rights movement – Martin Luther King Jr. In a way, it also gives the viewers a closer look at the hero through the eyes and words of those who were closest to him.

This film is ideal to add to your watchlist if you intend to get to know MLK Jr., not only in the notable aspects of his life but also in the simple ones. This film allows the viewers to get up close and personal with the fallen hero in a way.


Final Words

There you have it! The 14 best movies for MLK Day! We hope we got to be of service to you today. If you have more, well, you know where to find us! Feel free to give our other discussions a visit! That would be all from us for now. See you around and happy watching!

Movies to Watch on MLK Day

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