Our Favorite Black Rom-Coms
One of the best parts of Valentine’s Day is grabbing some wine and happy-crying to your favorite rom-com by yourself, with your besties, or, if absolutely necessary, alongside your date.
(Be warned: Their romantic gestures will pale in comparison to the flirty antics you’ll see on the big screen).
To celebrate both this day of love and Black History Month, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite Black rom-coms to stream!
There’s something about the Black rom-com renaissance of the early 2000s that just hits different. Sanaa Lathan, the muse of the movement, played every love interest role perfectly, but her best movie during this era was without a doubt Brown Sugar.
I mean, who doesn’t love a painfully slow (yet painfully obvious) burn? This movie follows Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre (Taye Diggs), childhood best friends who bond over their love for hip-hop. As they grow up and move to different places, their friendship and passion for music remain consistent. That is, until Sidney moves back to New York, and Dre springs it on her that he’s about to propose to his girlfriend. A marriage and changing hip-hop industry, mixed in with run-ins and reckonings, makes this friends-to-lovers movie a classic.
I love a storyline that keeps you on your toes—even though you know exactly how it’s going to end.
Brown Sugar turned 20 in October 2022, and this movie is for lovers of Black love and Black music alike. Black rom-coms (and Black movies in general) are known for their soundtracks, but what makes this movie amazing is that you’re watching Sidney and Dre create the soundtrack for their love. Throughout the movie, they always come back to their love for music and their love for each other.
And unlike some other rom-coms, Brown Sugar is not lacking in comedy (the fine dining scene makes me crack up every time, and I know it word for word). So if the slow burn starts getting more frustrating than flirty, revel in the comic relief provided by rappers Queen Latifah and Mos Def, along with cameos from other famous hip-hop artists who pop up throughout the movie.
Waiting to Exhale
If there’s one thing about me, I’m going to root for female friendships! Not to get too Charlotte York, but I truly believe our friendships and platonic loves are the ones that sustain us through it all and there’s no better example of that than Waiting to Exhale. This movie has everything: an absolutely stacked cast (hello Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, plus a RHOA cameo by Kenya Moore), a soundtrack that has lasted the test of time (I mean Toni Braxton, Chaka Khan, and Aretha Franklin??), and a storyline that is there for you at every stage of your life. Not to mention it gave us one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history.
Waiting to Exhale is based off Terry McMillian’s book of the same name and follows our main characters Bernadine, Gloria, Robin, and Savannah. Throughout the movie, each of the women struggle with everything from relationship problems, to job woes, to complicated family dynamics. Though the prominent plot points revolve around the respective men in their lives, I think the real love story is between the women themselves. I’ve come back to this movie at nearly every stage of my life—from my first-boyfriend middle school days, to my most recent quarter-life crisis—and with every rewatch, I find myself relating to different moments and different characters—and recognizing some of my closest friendships in them as well.
To me, this is the quintessential Black rom-com because it shows a reality that so many Black women face: When it seems nothing is going your way, you’ve got a core group of friends giving you unconditional love and support—even if they don’t agree with your choices—because we’ve got nothing if we don’t have each other. Waiting to Exhale is the go-to film for when you’re feeling love, needing love, or looking to express love to your friends (or, to some incredible beige, color-coordinated outfits).
Stream Waiting to Exhale here.
Queen Latifah can truly do it all, and this movie is no exception to that rule. Last Holiday doubles as a rom-com and a Christmas movie, but it’s not so holiday-themed that you can’t watch it year-round (like I do). It’s also as much about romance as it is about falling in love with life and actually following your dreams, something I think we could all use to uplift us in the current state of the world.
Last Holiday follows Georgia (Queen Latifah), a woman who lives a very simple life working in the cookware section of a department store. But Georgia has a Book of Possibilities: filled with pictures of amazing food she’s cooked (but never eaten), places she wants to visit (but has never gone), and a “photoshopped” picture of her marrying her colleague Sean (LL Cool J), which… how could you not want that? These possibilities are just that until she hits her head and is told that she only has less than a month to live.
There are no substitutions for this feel-good movie, where even the sad moments are not too sad. I always walk away from it with the cheesiest grin and the reminder of how short and precious life is. Maybe this movie will actually push you to ask out your Valentine this year, pursue a hobby more intently, or spend all of your money on Beyoncé tickets. Explore all the possibilities on Prime Video!
Janet Jackson. Regina King. Tupac Shakur. Need I say more? Lucky for you, I will! Though this movie came out in 1993, it’s just as relevant today as it was back then—and not just because of the 90s fashion resurgence. This movie opens in the wake of heartbreak and tragedy. Justice has just lost her boyfriend and is trying to channel that grief into her poetry. She’s also trying to get to Oakland, and ends up tagging along with her friend Iesha, Iesha’s boyfriend Chicago, and of course… the charismatic but persistent Lucky. John Singleton gave us Poetic Justice and so many other Black classics like Boyz n the Hood and Baby Boy, his absence in the world has certainly been felt since he left us in 2019.
Aside from the iconic wardrobe and expressive genius of Janet Jackson and Tupac, ultimately, Poetic Justice is a romantic movie, right down to the enemies-to-lover trope. But more broadly, I see a movie about love conquering all. Like most John Singleton movies, our characters are dealing with some deep but relatable stuff. Justice has just lost her love to senseless gun violence, sadly something too many people still deal with every single day. Lucky is navigating single parenthood while his baby’s mother struggles with substance abuse disorder and the criminal justice system. Every character deals with the constant demands and grind of our capitalist society; being overworked and underpaid, cars needing repairs at the most inopportune time, and fighting to create space for your own joy and creativity between it all.
As we follow our characters on their journey to Oakland, we see all the ways they hold love in spite of the world trying to rob them of it. Love for their kids, love for their ancestors, love for their friends, and of course, love blossoming where you least expect it between Justice and Lucky. Soak up the 90s fashion, Janet Jackson’s iconic braids, and the Black joy just in time for Valentine’s Day!