Black musicians have, and continue to be, influential in shaping music. But often recognition goes to the white artists who copy their sound and style. Here are three movies where black musical talent is front and center.

Black musicians have always been an influence on the music we listen to.
Black musicians have always been an influence on the music we listen to.
Photo by nappy from Pexels

Ray

This movie stars Jamie Foxx as the iconic Ray Charles. Ray debuted in 2004 and follows over 30 years of Ray Charles’ life. The film was a box office and critical success, leading Foxx to win an Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild and Critic’s Choice Award for his incredible portrayal of Ray Charles.

With most Hollywood blockbusters, it’s worth noting this movie takes some creative liberties. In the credits, the movie says it’s “based on true events” so it makes sense to change a few things to fit the narrative the movie is trying to convey. Despite the minor changes made to fit the movie, Ray is still a shining example of black musical talent on the big screen.

An actual photo of the musical talents of Ray Charles in action
An actual photo of the musical talents of Ray Charles in action
Photo Credit

Dreamgirls

This 2006 movie musical stars BeyoncĂ© Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, and Anika Noni Rose as “The Dreams,” a powerful singing, black girl trio. Adapted from the 1981 stage musical of the same name, this movie won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture and two different Oscars. It was also the acting debut of Jennifer Hudson, who placed seventh on American Idol.

While Knowles is a powerhouse in her own right, this movie belongs to Hudson. The most memorable song from the movie is her rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Director Bill Condon initially had some reservations about casting Hudson, but it’s clear now no one else could do the role of Effie White justice.

'Dreamgirls' is about three black women trying to make it as superstars.
Dreamgirls is about three black women trying to make it as superstars.
Photo Credit

Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman is James Brown in ‘Get On Up,’ a movie from 2014. The film is not told chronologically, but as a stream of consciousness from Brown’s memories. It includes memories from his childhood, introduction to music, and his troubled relationships with those closest to him.

While the movie has acclaim for Boseman’s portrayal of Brown, it also has some controversy. Not for Boseman’s acting, but for some crucial events left out of the movie script. James Brown was a social activist, but not much of his activism made it into the movie.

James Brown, a black musician and the Godfather of Soul
James Brown, a black musician and the Godfather of Soul
Photo Credit

This is not a comprehensive list of all the incredible movies out there that feature black musical talent. However, it is an honorable mentions list of movies that focus on influential black artists. Expand your movie repertoire by watching these movies and acknowledging the contributions of black musical talent on music as we know it today.