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These Were the Best Protest Movies From the Past Decade

Protests are woven into the fabric of the social experience. It is natural to find oneself at odds with some aspect of society, politics, religion, or really any and / or all aspects of life. The history of protests dates as far back as there have been governments and monarchies to protest against. In the US, the American Revolution of the 1770s that led to the country to break ties with England started the long tradition of protests and uprising on our shores. The 1960s saw protests crop up in the Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and protests against the Vietnam War. In 1969, the Stonewall Riots protested how gay people were treated in New York City.

More recently, social media has made it easier for protests to get the word out to people, and the past decade has seen a great array of impassioned protesters fighting for justice and rights. Protests have cropped up for the Black Lives Matter movement, in protest of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police, and over the 2016 and 2020 United States presidential elections. Hollywood has been making films about protests for as long as the movie industry has existed and there are plenty of examples going back to the 1930s, but today, we’ll focus on protest movies from the past decade.


7 Pride (2014)

Pride is a film about the miners’ strike of 1984-1985 in London when Mark Ashton, a gay activist, realized that the police were no longer harassing the LBGTQ community because their attention was focused on the striking miners. He decided to arrange a fundraiser in his community during London’s Gay Pride Parade. This led to the creation of “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners,” which raised money to help the striking miners’ cause. Pride won the Queer Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014, and was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy and for the BAFTA for Best British Film.

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6 Selma (2014)

Selma is filmmaker Ava Duvernay‘s account of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches in Alabama led by Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and Hosea Williams. The film premiered at the 2014 American Film Festival, and expanded to wide release on March 20, 2015, to honor the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. The film was nominated for Best Picture at the 2015 Academy Awards and won the Oscar for Best Original Song, as well as being nominated for four Golden Globe Awards. Selma featured a deeply human performance from David Oyelowo as King, Stephen James as Lewis, and Wendell Pierce as Williams.

5 Stonewall (2015)

Stonewall is a film set in and around the events of the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots on Christopher Street in New York City, when gay and lesbian community members clashed violently with the NYPD, leading to the creation of the gay rights movement and Gay Pride parades and celebrations . The film was directed by Roland Emmerich and stars Ron Perlman, Jeremy Irvine, Jonathan Ryhs Meyers, and Joey King.

4 BPM (2017)

BPM (Beats Per Minute) also known as 120 Beats Per Minute is a French film that details the AIDS activism of the ACT UP Paris group in France during the 1990s. ACT UP, or AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, is an international political group that staged protests to end the AIDS Pandemic in the early 1990s. The screenwriters, Robin Campilo and Philippe Mangeot, used their own personal experiences with ACT UP to tell the story. BPM debuted at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and won four awards including the Grand Prix. It also won Best Picture at the Cesar Awards (France’s version of the Academy Awards)

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3 The Hate U Give (2018)

The Hate U Give is based on the novel of the same name from author Angie Thomas and tells the true story of the Oakland, California police shooting an unarmed Black man named Oscar Grant in 2009. It starred Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, KJ Apa, Common, and Anthony Mackie, and debuted at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Stenberg won a number of awards for her performance including the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. Fruitvale Station starring Michael B. Jordan is also based on the killing of Oscar Grand at the hands of the Oakland Police.

2 Detroit (2017)

Detroit is a film based on the 1967 Algiers Motel Incident in Detroit, Michigan during the racially motivated 12th Street Riot. The motel was about one mile from where the riot began. Three people were killed, and nine others were beaten by the Detroit Police Department, Michigan State Police, and the Michigan Army National Guard. Three Black teenage boys were killed and seven Black men and two white women were wounded during the incident. Detroit was powerfully and energetically directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar.

1 LA 92 (2017)

LA 92 is a documentary film about the 1992 LA riots that broke out after the 1992 verdict in the trial over the Los Angeles Police Department’s brutal beating of Rodney King. King had been brutally beaten by four LAPD officers in March 1991 and the incident was filmed by a person on a balcony nearby. King was hit with a stun gun, his right leg was broken, his face badly cut, and he was covered with bruises. He said the officers beat him in the face with their billy clubs and stun guns.

Those four officers were tried on charges of excessive force and acquitted. Within a few hours, riots broke out which lasted six days, killed 63 people, and injured 2,383 more people. LA 92 consists of striking documentary footage of the riots and was made to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

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