Netflix has an extensive collection of impactful movies about slavery that educate us about the horrific crimes against enslaved people and those facing oppression in the past. While it’s always valuable to learn history through literature, the cinematic accounts of such injustices can evoke stronger emotions to help us understand the realities of what transpired. These films aim to raise awareness and prevent history from repeating itself.
Whether you want to learn more about black history or gain a broader perspective, we’ve compiled this list of the best Netflix movies on slavery to increase understanding. Let’s explore some of the finest films available on Netflix that spotlight slavery.
Best slavery movies on Netflix!
|Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
|13TH – A Documentary
|I am Not Your Negro
|The Black GodFather
|Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
|12 Years a Slave
|La Esclava Blanca
|Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India
This collection of movies includes some of the most realistic and hard-hitting slavery films ever produced. Most are based on first-hand accounts of enslaved people, depicting the horrific exploitation of human rights by influential powers.
All of these impactful titles are currently available to stream on Netflix.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
When discussing influential slavery movies, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom remains unforgettable. This gorgeous yet brutal film chronicles Nelson Mandela’s struggles and his fight for African freedom.
It documents pivotal events in South African history through Mandela’s perspective. We learn how the lawyer spearheaded resistance after the horrific Sharpeville Massacre. The film conveys Mandela’s early hardship on the path to becoming an African revolutionary, President, and global icon. But it also examines the Sharpeville Massacre and the anti-apartheid movement.
Idris Elba delivers a towering performance as Mandela, fully capturing the leader’s spirit. Since the movie adapts from Mandela’s biography, it represents his outlook authentically. We witness Mandela co-founding the ANCYL (African National Congress Youth League) and how his brave actions led to lifelong imprisonment. By recounting major historical events, the film earned an impressive 7.1 on IMDb. It remains one of the most vital slavery movies on Netflix to view first.
Django Unchained (2012)
IMDb RATING: 8.5/10
The next movie on the list is one of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpieces, starring Jamie Foxx & Leo DiCaprio. The story of Django Unchained is majorly fictional, but many real-life characters have influenced it.
With an objective to portray slavery, and how brutally people were treated for their skin color; this story revolves around Django, an enslaved person who is now free and has joined forces with bounty hunters to save his wife. And Calvin, played by Leo DiCaprio, a plantation owner, has enslaved her.
Too much explanation of the plot will spoil the movie, so I have provided a brief synopsis of the film. Meanwhile, the movie also has an 8.5 rating on IMDB. The movie provokes deep emotion even after being a fictional story. It clearly outlines the cruelty of slavery and racism, making it a must-watch slavery movie on Netflix.
Battleship Island (2017)
IMDb RATING: 7.1/10
Battleship Island fictionalizes actual events on the harrowing Korea’s Hashima Island. Director Ryoo Seung-wan skillfully depicts the extreme hardships faced by 400 Korean forced laborers there. The story centers on the life-threatening risks they take while attempting escape.
Set during WWII, the film sheds light on Imperial Japan’s horrific colonization of Korea. It stars renowned Korean talents and provides an urgent, emotional viewing experience.
Without spoiling the plot, it’s one of the most compelling Netflix movies about slavery now streaming. Thanks to its poignant narrative and strong filmmaking, the film earned a 7.1 on IMDb. The director stated it portrays the factual accounts of Koreans on the island, including their lack of pay, constant abuse, and backbreaking forced labor. It’s a must-watch for understanding this aspect of Korea’s traumatic history under imperialist oppression.
13TH – A Documentary (2016)
IMDb RATING: 8.2/10
13TH is one of the best slavery documentaries on Netflix. It chronicles the racist impacts behind the 13th Amendment while featuring commentary from activists, scholars, and politicians. They explain the criminalization of black people through mass incarceration and the rise of prisons.
Director Ava DuVernay created this vital film to dissect the connection between race, justice, and the mass imprisonment of black citizens. It’s titled for the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery in 1865. It also examines the surge in America’s prison population from 357,292 in 1970 to over 2.3 million by 2014.
DuVernay aimed to critically re-examine “law and order” policies and how fear was weaponized against black Americans. It also spotlights racial biases in mandatory drug sentences during the crack epidemic. This remains one of the most insightful slavery documentaries currently on Netflix.
I am Not Your Negro (2017)
IMDb RATING: 7.9/10
I Am Not Your Negro is another exceptional choice constructed from author James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House. The film explores America’s painful racist history through Baldwin’s recollections of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Baldwin offers his own candid observations on the nation’s tumultuous past and present.
Samuel L. Jackson narrates this acclaimed documentary. The opening scene features Baldwin’s interview on The Dick Cavett Show in 1968. It earned high praise and numerous honors, including a BAFTA for Best Documentary.
With a 7.9/10 on IMDb, it’s easy to stream on Netflix. The documentary elicits solemn emotions as it provides a candid look into the Black American experience and the community’s adversities. Most importantly, it delivers tremendous historical accuracy, cementing its status as an indispensable slavery film on Netflix.
IMDb RATING: 6.7/10
Harriet stands out as one of the best biopics about slavery and heroism. It chronicles the extraordinary journey of Harriet Tubman—from fleeing slavery to becoming an enduring American icon. The film spotlights the perilous situation for black citizens in the 1940s. But it also applauds their resilience and resolute struggles toward liberty. Harriet escaping enslavement by a plantation owner and transforming into a leading abolitionist represents the resilience of the human spirit.
Exploring the plot in-depth would diminish the viewing experience, so it’s best to watch the events unfold on Netflix.
Despite the poignant storytelling and performances, Harriet only has a 6.6/10 on IMDb. In my opinion, it warrants higher acclaim. Along with the compelling narrative, the movie delivers fantastic cinematography and production design. The sets, costumes, and dialogue transport viewers to the period and make it one of the most engaging films about slavery on Netflix. It elicits intense emotions by authentically capturing the era’s oppression.
The Black GodFather (2019)
IMDb RATING: 7.5/10
Excluding The Black Godfather from this list would be an injustice. This documentary-style movie examines the legendary life of Clarence Avant, deemed the “Godfather of Black Music.” It showcases how Clarence wielded immense influence within Hollywood, music, and civil rights. The film spotlights Clarence’s early life and provides keen insight into how slavery shaped him.
With a 7.4/10 rating on IMDb, the documentary succeeds through first-hand accounts from icons Clarence worked alongside. It vividly brings pivotal historical moments to life, cementing its rank among the finest movies about slavery on Netflix.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)
IMDb RATING: 6.9/10
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom offers a glimpse into the real-life blues trailblazer Ma Rainey. It depicts the struggles of being a black artist in 1920s America. The plot may not confront slavery directly, but instead focuses on its lingering impacts.
The story follows Ma Rainey as she’s hired by white producers to record new songs with her band in Chicago. Her character observes that the ” white bosses don’t care nothing about me… They just want my voice.” From there, the film explores the challenging recording session and the themes of racism and oppression.
With a 6.9/10 on IMDb and a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score, the movie clearly resonated with audiences. It poignantly encapsulates the truth of being black in America through a historic lens. For that reason, it stands out as one of the best Black history movies currently streaming on Netflix.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
IMDb RATING: 8.1/10
The movie 12 Years a Slave is one of the greatest movies depicting slavery through the lens. It is directed by Steve McQueen and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is playing the role of Solomon Northup. The movie is based on the autobiography of Northup, a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery. He remained an enslaved person for 12 years until he was free, thus the movie’s title. Meanwhile, the film also outlines how people used to trick free black men into slavery. The movie 12 years a slave is definitely worth watching if you want to know more about slavery and cruelty back in the day.
The movie has an IMDB rating of 8.1 and 95% on rotten tomatoes, which explains why the film is worth watching. The story exploring the life of a free black man tricked into slavery can evoke solid feelings and emotions. The movie’s objective is to use art to portray the hardship and struggle of one of the many people sent into slavery. The phenomenal acting and cinematography make it one of the best slavery movies available on Netflix.
La Esclava Blanca
IMDb RATING: 5/10
The next movie in this list of Best Slavery Movies on Netflix is quite different, as it explores the situation of a white orphan girl taken by enslaved black people. The movie portrayed Colombia in 1821, and the story revolves around an orphan white girl and her family, which consist of enslaved Black people. The film’s plot is based on a historical lie said by the critics. However, it is one of the great movies depicting the struggle and hardship of slavery. It also shows a perspective of black people who had a family while working as a slave.
The movie stands with a strong 8.1 rating on IMDB, signifying the response of viewers towards the film. The movie shakes different emotions as the actors have portrayed their characters beautifully. While there is a debate on the movie’s historical truth, but it is one good piece of art that one should definitely watch.
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India
IMDb RATING: 8.1/10
The next on the List of Best Slavery Movies on Netflix is Lagaan: Once upon a time in India. Lagaan beautifully dramatizes Indian citizens suffering under oppressive British imperial rule. This Oscar-nominated Bollywood film turns to historical events for inspiration. People faced exorbitant taxes (called “Lagaan” in Hindi) imposed by British officials. Failure to pay resulted in grave consequences.
Superstar Aamir Khan plays the lead role of Bhuvan. He accepts a challenge from British officers to a game of cricket with monumental stakes. Victory would liberate their village from the crippling taxes they protested. The film captures the town uniting behind Bhuvan as he assembles a team, learns cricket, and competes in the match. A thrilling drama, music, and emotional resonance unfold.
With an 8.1/10 on IMDb, the film insightfully conveys British colonial cruelty through a distinctly Indian lens. However, it balances the heavy subject matter with spirited fun. Given the historical backdrop, Lagaan stands out as one of the best films on Netflix exploring oppression during British imperialism.
The Help (2011)
IMDb rating: 8.1/10
“The Help” is a poignant drama set in the 1960s in Mississippi. The film centers around Skeeter, an aspiring writer who returns from college with the ambition to tell the untold stories of black women working as maids in white households. Through interviews and personal experiences, the film uncovers the systemic racism and inequality that these women face daily. With an IMDb rating of 8.1, “The Help” is a must-watch for those seeking to understand the complexities of race relations during this era.
IMDb rating: 6.0/10
“Beloved” is a haunting tale of Sethe, a former slave who is fighting for her freedom and that of her children. The film delves into the psychological scars left by slavery, as Sethe is haunted by her past and the painful secrets she’s kept hidden. With an IMDb rating of 6.0, this film offers a harrowing look into the emotional and psychological toll of slavery.
The Long Walk Home (1990)
IMDb rating: 7.3/10
Set in Alabama during the 1950s, “The Long Walk Home” portrays the story of African-Americans boycotting public transport to protest racial segregation. The film focuses on Odessa, a black maid who chooses to walk miles to her workplace in solidarity with the civil rights movement, despite the risks involved. With an IMDb rating of 7.3, this film is a tribute to the unsung heroes of the civil rights era.
IMDb rating: 7.5/10
“Selma” is a historical drama that focuses on the 1965 voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr. The film provides a comprehensive look at the struggles, sacrifices, and triumphs involved in securing equal voting rights for African Americans. With an IMDb rating of 7.5, “Selma” serves as a powerful reminder of the fight for civil rights and the ongoing struggle for equality.
IMDb rating: 7.8/10
“Glory” is a war film set during the American Civil War, telling the story of Colonel Robert Shaw, who led the first all-black volunteer company. The film explores the challenges and prejudices he and his men faced, both from the enemy and within their own ranks. With an IMDb rating of 7.8, “Glory” is a compelling look at a lesser-known chapter of American history.
Free State of Jones (2016)
IMDb rating: 6.9/10
This film narrates the real-life story of Newt Knight, a farmer who led an armed rebellion against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi. Knight collaborated with other farmers and enslaved people to declare Jones County as a “Free State,” opposing the Confederacy. With an IMDb rating of 6.9, “Free State of Jones” offers a unique perspective on the Civil War and the fight against slavery.
Freedom Riders (2010)
IMDb rating: 8.0/10
“Freedom Riders” is a documentary that chronicles the journey of more than 400 Americans who risked their lives to challenge racial segregation in the South. Traveling in small interracial groups, they defied Jim Crow laws by sitting wherever they wanted in buses and trains. With an IMDb rating of 8.0, this film is an inspiring account of courage and activism.
The Butler (2013)
IMDb rating: 7.2/10
“The Butler” tells the story of Cecil Gaines, who served as a butler in the White House for eight U.S. presidents. The film offers a unique lens through which to view American history, from the civil rights movement to the Vietnam War, as experienced by a black man serving in a predominantly white institution. With an IMDb rating of 7.2, “The Butler” is both an intimate and sweeping look at American history.
IMDb rating: 7.1/10
“Descendant” is a documentary set in Alabama, focusing on the Africatown community, descendants of the last known slave ship, Clotilda. The film offers personal stories and a deep dive into the community’s history, capturing the resilience and spirit of a people who have overcome immense hardship. With an IMDb rating of 7.1, “Descendant” is a compelling watch for those interested in African American history and culture.
Wrapping up: Best Slavery Movies on Netflix
If you are looking for some of the best movies on the topic of Slavery, this list has covered the best movie art and cinematography gems on this sensitive topic. We have tried our best to provide you with a list of great movies exploring the struggle and hardship of black people and other races who have faced slavery.
You can start with the movie with the best IMDB rating, and follow through. If you want to watch movies while traveling, you can also check our guide on how to download movies on Netflix.