Juneteenth is today, a celebration of Black liberation in the United States and the collective betterment of our society that comes with freedom for all. This is a very good time to watch TV shows and movies by Black artists and filmmakers that have been sitting in your queue, from the work of Donald Glover to Ryan Coogler to Ava DuVernay. Thanks to the holiday, many of these are available for free, which is even better.
Observer Entertainment has curated the guide below to help ease the stress of figuring out what to watch this weekend on your off-hours. The major streaming services alike are represented below, from Netflix to Hulu to Amazon, and we’ve offered recommendations for new or recent releases for all of them, as well as classic, hidden gems that may be buried between the cracks.
The list below is not comprehensive, but it is curated. Here are some of the finest offerings available to stream online or watch on TV right now.
Netflix has launched a whole “Black Lives Matter Collection” of titles in the wake of the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. There are many, many noteworthy documentaries titles under the banner (including several we’ve recommended in Keeping Watch before), but today I’ll point you to Pose, the transcendant FX drama about the African-American and Latino drag ball culture of the ’80s and early ’90s. Pose has it all: strong writing, award-winning performances, a great soundtrack and a massive heart. For a film to watch, consider All Day and a Night, starring Ashton Sanders, Jeffrey Wright and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. It’s a heavy crime drama, but in the words of our critic Oliver Jones, it “presents with intimate and devastating authority…the sad rituals surrounding gun death and poverty that mark life for too many.” Watch Pose and All Day and a Night on Netflix.
It’s hard to describe director Barry Jenkins’ use of closeups. “Sublime” doesn’t quite cut it in If Beale Street Could Talk, which is shot by James Laxton, based on the James Baldwin novel and both winningly romantic and emotionally devastating. Love and resignation never looked so real onscreen as it does in the faces of the film’s heroes played by KiKi Layne and Stephen James. Watch If Beale Street Could Talk on Hulu.
Check the clock, it’s time for Watchmen. If you are totally unfamiliar with the deconstructionist comic book this show is inspired by, that’s fine. You don’t need it for now. What you do need is to watch an interrogation of American white supremacy through the lens of superheroics. HBO has made the show’s entire nine-episode run free to stream this weekend. Get on it. Watch Watchmen through HBO Max, Now and Go or on HBO.com for free.
Disney+ is running a banner that reads “Celebrate Black Stories” and Black Panther leads it in all its hyped glory. Obviously everyone should watch Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time and the other recent movies and shows on there, but please, I implore you, because not enough people know they’re on Disney+: make some time to watch Sister Act and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit! These are two underrated movies full of joy and song and warmth that were critically torpedoed in the ’90s. Disney+ will be getting a Sister Act 3 in the future, so we might as well catch up. Watch Sister Act and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit on Disney+.
This year’s latest film starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson, The Banker, has been made free to watch on Apple TV+ for the rest of the month in honor of Juneteenth. Though The Banker‘s release was mired in controversy, the film is still a showcase of great performances from its leads, as well as Nicholas Hoult. Watch The Banker on Apple TV+.
Amazon Prime Video
Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the powerful Oscar-nominated film I Am Not Your Negro is a must-watch documentary about the life of James Baldwin—especially if you’re doing a Baldwin double feature with If Beale Street Could Talk (see above). It’s been on Amazon Prime for a while but is also free this month through Kanopy. Watch I Am Not Your Negro on Amazon Prime Video OR on Kanopy for free.
And on cable: Juneteenth programming
On cable, a bunch of channels are featuring programming for Juneteenth. Check your listings for exact times. Here are a few.
BET: The network is airing a “Juneteenth Freedom Day Marathon,” including the network premiere of Selma, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Do the Right Thing as well as more movies and TV shows. They’ll be accompanied by interstitial appearances from Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Corey Booker, Rev. Al Sharpton, Chloe x Halle, TIP ‘T.I.’ Harris, Sinqua Walls, Pose’s Indya Moore and MJ Rodriguez, YG, Naturi Naughton, Loni Love, NAACP president Derrick Johnson, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza and more.
FX Networks: Across FX, FXX, FXM, a simulcast marathon of the shows Atlanta and Black-ish (both of which have “Juneteenth” episodes) and the films Hidden Figures, Selma and Get Out. the following movies will be simulcast all day.
AMC and IFC: The channels will both air the Sherman’s Showcase special “Black History Month Spectacular,” and the guest stars will include John Legend, Michael Ealy, Questlove, Terrence J, Jemele Hill, Tom Sandoval, Tom Schwartz, Mario Van Peebles, Bresha Webb and more.
OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network will air a slate of nonfiction programming, including Dark Girls and its companion Light Girls, Oprah & Lupita Nyong’o on Colorism, Oprah Winfrey Presents: Legends Who Paved the Way and the OWN: Spotlight: Where Do We Go From Here?
Keeping Watch is a regular endorsement of TV and movies worth your time.