Writer’s pick: Five sports films to watch during Black History Month


Illustration by Sam Neff.

Elijah Uche, Reporter

In the United States, Black history is recognized during the month of February. In today’s era, the most famous way to observe Black history is through the media. Films and documentaries have been created in order to recognize and bring light to Black success and struggles since the arrival of Africans in the 16th century.

However, Black history is a broad phrase. The history of the fight for equality can range to various topics and categories, all with one common goal: to push racial equality for Black people.

One such category is sports. There are many events throughout United States history where Black athletes have had to fight against racial oppression in sports for a chance to thrive in a field that wasn’t accessible to them before.

Various sports stories, accomplishments and moments have been recorded and turned into films for everyone to watch. Here are five sports films to watch for Black History Month.


The biographical sports drama film “Race” focuses on Olympic runner Jesse Owens, the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals at a single Olympic Games. Taking place in the 1930s, a decade that had the looming rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, “Race” details Owens’ rise to stardom as a track and field sprinter while also covering the many obstacles he had to face as a Black athlete. Owens defied racist views by dominating in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, proving in front of both the United States and Nazi Germany that he, as a Black athlete, was not inferior to white athletes.

Tasha Robinson of The Verge writes in a critique of the movie, “He’s presented as the sort of humble saint whose success, at least in this palatably packaged version of his life story, suggests a cosmic justice for the downtrodden.”

“Remember the Titans”

“Remember the Titans” is based on the true story of the 1971 T.C. Williams High School football season. Starring Denzel Washington, the film focuses on the brotherhood between the players of the football team and their journey of uniting with one another despite the different racial backgrounds between them.

The football team perseveres through many obstacles, including heckling from opposing teams, cheating referees, and even a car accident that severely injured one of the players.

Film reviewers Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of Spirituality & Practice wrote a film review that stated, “In a variety of wonderful scenes, the filmmakers show us how these black and white boys learn to salute the inner greatness of each other’s souls. The sport of football becomes a laboratory for racial harmony and common effort.”


On April 15, 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman Jackie Robinson made history by becoming the first Black player in the 20th century to appear in a major league baseball game. The biographical sports film “42” details Robinson’s rise in the major leagues.

Over the course of the film, Robinson is forced to endure the racist behaviors of opponents, fans and even his teammates. The movie also sheds light on the significant people who supported him during his tenure with the Dodgers, such as manager Branch Rickey and teammate Pee Wee Reese.

Ian Nathan of the movie reviewing website Empire Online remarked, “In honour of his subject, Brian Helgeland has written and directed an unapologetically strait-laced biopic, sunlit and rich in the alluring rituals and mysteries of the game, but as simplistic, manipulative and undeniably rousing as the piped fanfare of a ballpark organ.”

“Glory Road”

Texas Western College, now the University of Texas at El Paso, made history by becoming the first college basketball team to feature an all-Black starting lineup when they faced the Kentucky Wildcats in the 1966 NCAA Division I Basketball Championship.

Directed by James Gartner, “Glory Road” surrounds the events leading up to the championship game, such as the racism and discrimination the athletes faced, as well as head coach Don Haskins’ struggle to unite his team.

The story of the Texas Western Miners changed the college basketball game forever, expanding athletic opportunities for Black people in the south.

Roger Ebert of RogerEbert.com stated, “‘Glory Road’ tells its story not through personalities but in terms of the issues involved. It uses the basketball season as a backdrop to the story of how Haskins (Josh Lucas) inherited a weak, losing team at Texas Western and set out to recruit gifted Black players from the schools and playgrounds of the North.”

“A Most Beautiful Thing”

Produced by former NBA stars Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade, “A Most Beautiful Thing” is a documentary film chronicling the first Black high school rowing team, reuniting after 20 years to compete in the 2019 Chicago Sprints.

Interviewing these once-young boys, “A Most Beautiful Thing” has the team members recollect their memories about forming the most unlikely band of brothers that form a family, and shows that even an uncommon sport such as rowing can bring the most dissimilar of backgrounds together.

Kristen Yoonsoo Kim of The New York Times wrote in a review, “Dynamic camera movements make the film come to life amid more conventional choices, as Mazzio tracks the rowers from their harrowing upbringing to their entrance into a white-dominated sport. In talking-head interviews, teammates … recall getting into rowing because they were offered free pizza at the first meeting. But they somberly articulate why the sport became a saving grace: Out on the water, they were away from the neighborhood’s barrage of gunshots and sirens.”