The Color Purple (1985): Steven Spielberg directed Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey in stellar, Oscar-nominated performances in this beautiful re-telling of Alice Walker’s award-winning best seller. While the film shied away from some of the book’s edgier elements it had just as much heart.
Waiting to Exhale (1995): Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett headline this romantic drama based on Terry McMillan’s popular book on women struggling with trifling men. The soundtrack and film were big crossover hits and a sequel is reportedly in the works.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998): Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs (in his first major role) heated up movie screens with their interpretation of Terry McMillan’s popular book about a 40-year-old woman in love with a man half her age.
Beloved (1998): In only her second big screen role, Oprah Winfrey gives a powerful performance alongside a top notch cast (including Danny Glover) in this adaptation one of Toni Morrison’s most acclaimed novels.
Sounder (1972): One of the most celebrated films in African-American cinema history. This touching tale of an impoverished family and their beloved dog stayed closed to the spirit of the kids book on which its based.
Clockers (1995): One of Spike Lee’s most underrated films further fleshes out the intricacies of inner-city crime, the relationship between thugs and cops — all of which Richard Prince tackled in this celebrated novel of the same name.
Precious (2009): Push, Sapphire’s disturbing character study of an obese, sexually abused NY teen, was an incredibly hard work to adapt to film. But director Lee Daniels was more than up to the challenge. The film made Mo’nique an Oscar winner and Gabourey Sidibe an unlikely movie star.
For Colored Girls (2010): Tyler Perry’s polarizing version of Ntozake Shange’s intense piece on women of various backgrounds and generations enduring despite the odds brought together a stellar, all-star cast and was considered by many critics to be Perry’s best film.
The Secret Life of Bees (2008): A powerhouse of black actresses including Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys came together for this film (based on a Sue Monk Kidd book) about a young white girl in South Carolina during the 1960’s whose life is influenced by the black women in her life.
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Today, the blockbuster film The Help scored four major Golden Globe nominations and appears poised for more glory at the Academy Awards early next year. Since The Help was based on a best-selling book, we got to thinking about other big screen adaptations of black-themed books. Do you think these film versions stacked up well against the original books?