Lifetime is one of the more popular basic cable channels out there. Geared toward women, the channel features movies and shows that have women in leading roles. Since its launch in 1984, the channel has garnered millions of viewers each week who tune in to see powerful women rule the screen.
Today, the best black Lifetime movies are also movies that feature women as lead characters. The movies strive to inspire female camaraderie and show strong, independent women as sufficient in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel – 2020
Directed by Christine Swanson, this film tells the true story of the gospel group, The Clark Sisters, who would become the best-selling gospel group in music history. Born in Detroit, Michigan, to a gospel singer and choral director, the Clark sisters were pivotal to bringing gospel music into the mainstream.
The movie stars Aunjanue Ellis, Christina Bell, Kierra Sheard, Sheléa Frazier, Raven Goodwin, and Angela Birchett. The plot follows the Clark Sisters from their humble beginnings in Detroit to their breakout moment. The film features original songs from the Clark Sisters’ repertoire, including well-known hits like “You Brought the Sunshine” and “Nothing to Lose, All to Gain.”
Upon release in 2020, the film became Lifetime’s most-watched film. It’s an upbeat, spirit-lifting tale of faith and dedication. The movie received mixed reviews, though primarily positive praise followed the performance of the lead characters.
Salt-N-Pepa – 2021
Salt-N-Pepa was the first female rap act to see massive commercial success. They went platinum, won Grammys, and changed the look of hip hop forever. As one of the first all-female rap groups, they are also one of the bestselling rap groups of all time.
The movie tells the story of Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandra “Pepa” Denton, two young nursing students who stumbled upon one another while doing a project for a school friend. Mario Van Peebles directs the film; the film follows the girls as they discovered their chemistry, formed the infamous group, and quickly rose to fame as a powerful female rap duo.
The film stars GG Townson as James and Laila Odom and Denton. Other actors include Mario Van Peebles, Mandela Van Peebles, Cleveland Berto, Arnold Pinnock, and Dwain Murphy. The film was released to generally mixed reviews.
Steel Magnolias – 2012
Steel Magnolias first premiered as a play by Robert Harling in 1987. In 1989, the film adaptation starred Dolly Parton, Sally Field, and Shirley MacLaine. In 2012, Lifetime released their remake with Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashãd, Jill Scott, Adepero Oduye, and Condola Rashãd.
The film centers around six women living in Louisiana. The ladies laugh, gossip, and commiserate together. Gathering in a beauty shop, they discuss the intricacies of life and death and hair and manicures. This iteration of the film focuses on lifting the voice of black women while leaving plenty of room for comedy and camaraderie.
Queen Latifah starred in and produced the movie, playing a significant role in getting it done. The award-winning actress delivers quality performance, and the film generally has positive reviews.
Betty & Coretta – 2013
Directed by Yves Simoneau, the film tells the story of two powerful women meeting after the death of their husbands. Angela Bassett plays Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. Mary J. Blige plays Dr. Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X. The two meet at a convention and bond over their losses, their passion for the civil rights movement in America, and their new roles as single mothers.
The real-life relationship between Betty and Coretta spanned decades. Meeting after the assassination of their husbands, a bond formed between these two ladies that could not be broken.
The Lifetime retelling of their story received mixed reviews. It premiered on Lifetime as a drama in February 2013. Both Bassett and Blige received acclaim for their portrayals of these powerful women.
A Christmas Dance Reunion – 2021
This is the Lifetime holiday movie about young love that has the opportunity to rekindle. When a successful attorney returns to a favorite resort to celebrate the final Christmas season before the hotel closes, she bumps into her childhood dance partner – who is also the nephew of the hotel’s owner.
The film tells the classic love story of old friends rekindling an old love with new excitement. The movie stars Monique Coleman as Lucy Mortimer, the returning attorney who has to readjust to life in her hometown. Corbin Bleu plays the love interest, Barrett Brewster, whose family faces losing the beloved Christmas resort.
Kirk Franklin’s A Gospel Christmas – 2021
This feel-good Christmas movie was produced by the famous gospel singer Kirk Franklin. Written by Kourtney Richard and directed by Erica Sutherlin, the film focuses on a young pastor trying to fit in a new role within the church. The movie features a special appearance by Kirk Franklin himself, who also wrote and arranged the music for the film.
Demetria McKinney stars as Olivia, a young assistant paster who takes over a new church just before Christmas. Moving to a new place and balancing new responsibilities proves a little tricky for Olivia, who must learn to rely on the people around her for support and care. And as she walks along this brand new path in life, she stumbles on a love that she never saw coming.
Mahalia – 2021
Mahalia Jackson was born in New Orleans in 1911. Considered one of the most influential gospel vocalists of the 1900s, Mahalia used her music to inspire the people around her and fight for civil rights in her community. Her primary focus was speaking the word of God through her music.
The film stars Danielle Brooks as Mahalia and follows her life from the 1920s throughout her long, inspired career. It shows her getting a start singing blues, moving to Chicago, and cleaning a church for a living. The film shows her fame, eventually performing in places like Carnegie Hall.
The film also portrays her activism in the civil rights movement, meeting Martin Luther King, Jr. (played by Rob Demery) and standing nearby during his famous speech in Washington, D.C. Directed by Kenny Leon, the film generally received positive reviews.
Let’s Meet Again on Christmas Eve – 2020
This film centers around childhood sweethearts who follow their careers to opposite sides of the world. After making a pact to meet on Christmas Eve two years later, they take off for their separate adventures. Lifetime makes some great Christmas movies, and it’s only fitting that they make it onto this list.
Corinne (played by Kyla Pratt) and Rob (played by Brooks Darnell) fail to make the Christmas Eve appointment, apparently ending their once-in-a-lifetime romance. But when they bump into each other years later at a wedding, could it be that the stars are aligning after all?
Whitney – 2015
Directed by Lifetime alum Angela Bassett, the movie follows the life of one of America’s most popular singers: Whitney Houston. Based on her explosive marriage to fellow artists Bobby Brown, the film tracks the ups and downs of their relationship and how it impacted their respective careers.
Starring Yaya DaCosta as Houston and Arlen Escarpeta as Bown, the film also includes Yolonda Ross as Houston’s manager and friend Robyn Crawford. The film centers around the height of Houston’s career, beginning in 1989 and culminating in 1994.
Best Black Lifetime Movies Ever, Final Thoughts
From The Clark Sisters to Let’s Meet Again on Christmas Eve, Lifetime has supplied quality movies for decades. Some of the best black Lifetime movies feature strong female leads, saving the day and proving themselves solid and capable. These movies are sure to delight and offer a compelling story for anyone who decides to give them a try.