Shaunna Murphy
Updated Feb 22, 2017 @ 1:43 pm
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20th Century Fox

Though we all love getting the chance to see Oscar-nominated films before the big night, let’s be real, here: going to the movies is ridiculously expensive. Shelling out $16 to see an 80-minute arthouse movie with few special effects that merit that cost of admission is not always the most financially sound option, so a whole lot of us end up waiting for smaller movies to reach streaming services before taking the plunge.

This year it’s been tougher than ever to do that, though, with so many movies starring women of color finally making some headway in that whole #OscarsSoWhite thing. (Though of course, both behind the scenes and in front when it comes to non-black people of color, there’s still a lot of work to do.)

Here are the ones you should definitely keep your eye on…or, in other words, add to your Netflix queue immediately.

1 Fences

Paramount Pictures

Viola Davis is one of the greatest actresses on Planet Earth. This is not an opinion, it is a stone cold fact.

So you should absolutely take the time to watch her speak playwright August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning words in Fences, a movie that chronicles the life of a black family in 1950’s Pittsburgh that is ruled by a proud, difficult man named Troy (Denzel Washington), but anchored by Davis’ stronger, gentler Rose. Davis is nominated for Best Actress, and will very likely finally win.

2 Hidden Figures

20th Century Fox

Naturally you’ve heard of Hidden Figures by now, as the true story about black NASA mathematicians Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer, a Best Supporting Actress nominee), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) is a box office smash in addition to a really great movie.

The movie does fall back on a white savior narrative via Kevin Costner’s entirely fictional character Al Harrison, but the performances from its three leading ladies (and Mahershala Ali, himself a nominee for Moonlight) make Hidden Figures well worth the cost of admission…or, you know, Netflix.

3 Moonlight

A24

Both Monáe and Best Supporting Actress nominee Naomie Harris are fantastic in Moonlight, though the film primarily focuses on a gay black boy named Chiron throughout three major stages of his life.

It’s the author of this story’s favorite film of the year and she (I?) recommends you watch it as soon as humanly possible.

4 Loving

Focus Features

Ruth Negga, who is also great as Tulip on AMC’s Preacher, plays one half of the real-life Loving couple (yes, seriously), whose landmark 1967 Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

She’s fantastic, and will surely be one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood within the next 365 days. Catch her while you can!

5 Moana

Disney

2017 got you down? Struggling to remember what joy feels like?

Well check out this animated tale of a Polynesian island girl who goes on a journey to resort the heart of a goddess — and in the process, discovers she is worthy of leading her people — and you’ll feel better in no time.

6 Tanna

Lightyear Entertainment

The fact that the cast of Tanna had never seen a movie before, let alone acted in one — they hail from Vanuatu’s remote Tanna island in the South Pacific, where the movie was filmed, and don’t have electricity or running water, let alone Netflix — is reason alone to check this one out. It tells the true story of a couple who decided to marry for love against their tribe’s wishes, putting them in grave danger and changing their tribe forever.

7 13th

Netflix

Here’s one you can stream on Netflix right now! 13th, a documentary by Selma director Ava DuVernay, explores intersections of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States. The “13th” title refers to the amendment that freed the slaves…though as DuVernay proves overwhelmingly, White America has done a pretty great job perpetuating elements of slavery via the war on drugs, the school-to-prison pipeline, and so on and so forth.

It’s not an easy watch, but it’s a crucial one — and a solid reminder of why we need more women of color working behind the camera, too.