The Best Movies Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

The Best Movies Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Throughout the U.S., citizens are taking some time to honor the incredible work of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The renowned leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient will forever be remembered for his tireless dedication towards promoting racial justice and equality throughout the country. And while he may be gone his messages are still vital to remember as we continue to spread equality not just through the U.S., but around the globe.

Dr. King’s message has been carried on throughout the years not just through his recorded speeches and writing, but through film. Plenty of actors have played the historic civil rights leader, and to honor his memory and message we’re taking a look at our favorite films and TV shows featuring Martin Luther King, Jr.


Director Ava DuVernay’s 2014 film Selma expertly chronicles the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches, which King was actively involved in and ultimately influenced implementation of the Voting Rights Act, which protects citizens from discriminatory laws that would prohibit them from voting. Actor David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Dr. King is a highlight of the film, especially considering writers were barred from using any of King’s speeches in the film. Though they aren’t King’s actual words, Oyelowo’s speeches are just as moving, expertly capturing the activist’s magnetic passion and showing his drive to end racial injustice.


This TV mini-series chronicles the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and though it may seem like a standard biography is particularly due to its release in 1978, 10 years after King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Memories of the Civil Rights Movement were still fresh in the minds of audiences at home, making King a major event that had to be watched. The 3-part series earned critical acclaim and 9 Emmy Award nominations, including a nomination for series star Paul Winfield.

Selma, Lord, Selma

The Best Movies Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

If you’re looking to educate kids on Dr. King and the history of the Civil Rights Movement, then Selma, Lord, Selma is your best bet. This film first aired in 1999 on ABC, and chronicles the events of March 7, 1965, also known as Bloody Sunday, when a group of between 500-600 civil rights marchers leaving Selma, Alabama were brutally attacked by police. The televised images of the event would show citizens across the nation what was actually going on in Selma, and helped the Civil Rights Movement gain more support. The movie tells this story through the eyes of an 11-year old African-American girl, who’s taught about freedom, fairness, and racial equality by none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. himself. While it may deal with difficult subject matter, the film’s ultimate messages of freedom and equality are obvious, making this a great introduction to lessons on civil rights for children.


The Best Movies Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
Jeffrey Wright as Martin Luther King, Jr. (Left) and Terrence Howard as Ralph Abernathy (Right).

This HBO film follows Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work on the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, sparked when Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Actor Jeffrey Wright stars as Martin Luther King Jr. alongside a great cast that includes Terrence Howard as King’s friend and fellow civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy. The duo bring the events of the boycott to stunning life, and helped the film earn a 2001 Peabody Award for, “refusing to allow history to slip into the past.” If you’re looking to find this movie, you can actually watch the entire film here on YouTube (act fast before the link is removed).