In terms of quantity, this has been a strong year for Black female leads. While it may not be reflected at year’s end when many critics groups and other organizations are hardly recognizing the works of many, with the exception of Regina Hall, but from the various festivals around the world to theatrical releases and streaming platforms, there were at least 30 or more films that featured Black actresses in lead roles in 2018.
From studio thrillers to indie films, there were plenty of genres that were highlighted where the performances showcased the range of many.
There is still a lot of work to be done. Oscar winner Viola Davis, after becoming the first African-American to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama in 2015, stated, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”
So far, in the Academy Awards’ 90 year history, Halle Berry (2001) is the ONLY Black woman to have won an Oscar for Best Actress out of the 11 Black women ever nominated. That’s 11 out of 450 in total. Hopefully, in time, some of these actresses will be starring in films that merit consideration and more than one.
Among the 2018 highlights
Regina Hall became the first Black woman to be win Best Actress in the New York Film Critics Circle’s 83-year history for her role in Support The Girls.
Storm Reid starred in A Wrinkle In Time, which grossed over $100M at the box office domestically.
Amandla Stenberg starred in 3 theatrical releases (The Darkest Minds, The Hate U Give, Where Hands Touch) as well as Tiffany Haddish (Night School, The Oath and Nobody’s Fool).
Netflix had seven films that had Black actresses in lead roles – Chante Adams in Roxanne Roxanne, Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The Cloverfield Paradox, Megalyn Echikunwoke in Step Sisters, Elvire Emmanuel in First Match, Sanaa Lathan in Nappily Ever After, Michaela Coel in Been So Long, & Kat Graham in Holiday Calendar
Here’s a list of Black actresses who had lead roles in 2018, from films that were released in theaters to films that played in festivals; as well as films were streamed online.
Taraji P. Henson Proud Mary (Released by Screen Gems)
Taraji P. Henson Acrimony (Released by Lionsgate)
Storm Reid A Wrinkle In Time (Released by Disney)
Paula Patton Traffik (Released by Lionsgate)
Gabrielle Union Breaking In (Released by Universal)
Lex Scott Davis The First Purge (Released by Universal)
Amandla Stenberg The Darkest Minds (Released by 20th Century Fox)
Cynthia Erivo Bad Times at the El Royale (Released by 20th Century Fox)
Tiffany Haddish and Tika Sumpter Nobody’s Fool (Released by Paramount)
Tiffany Haddish Night School (Released by Universal)
Films that played at festival, followed by a theatrical release in 2018
Meagan Good A Boy. A Girl. A Dream (Sundance 2018, Released By Samuel Goldwyn Films
Dominique Fishback Night Comes On (Sundance 2018, Released By Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Kiersey Clemons Hearts Beat Loud (Sundance 2018, Released by Gunpowder & Sky)
Helena Howard Madeline’s Madeline (Sundance 2018, Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Maggie Mulubwa I Am Not A Witch (Sundance 2018, Released by Film Movement)
Amber Stevens West Love Jacked (PAFF 2018, Released by Inner City Films)
Elvire Emmanuel First Match (SXSW 2018, Shown On Netflix)
Zoe Renee Jinn (SXSW 2018, Released by Orion Classic)
Gugu Mbatha-Raw Fast Color (SXSW 2018, Will Be Released By Lionsgate 2019)
Regina Hall Support The Girls (SXSW 2018, Released by Magnolia Pictures)
Tessa Thompson Little Woods (Tribeca 2018, Will Be Release By Neon 2019)
Rafiki Samantha Mugatsia & Sheila Munyiva Rafiki (Cannes 2019)
Maame Adjei Before The Vows (ABFF 2018)
Erica Ash Skin In The Game (Urbanworld 2018)
Keke Palmer Pimp (Urbanworld 2018, Released by Vertical Entertainment)
Amandla Stenberg The Hate U Give (TIFF 2018, Released by 20th Century Fox)
Amandla Stenberg When Hands Touch (TIFF 2018, Released by Vertical Entertainment)
Viola Davis Widows (TIFF 2018, Released by 20th Century Fox)
Kiki Layne If Beale Street Could Talk (TIFF 2018, Released by Annapurna Pictures)
Sasheer Zamata The Weekend (TIFF 2018)
Genevieve Nnaji Lionheart (TIFF 2018, To Be Shown On Netflix)
Marianne Jean-Baptiste In Fabrik (TIFF 2018)
Fatou N’Diaye Angel (TIFF 2018)
Logan Browning The Perfection (LAFF 2018)
McKenzia Chinn Olympia (LAFF 2018)
Hope Olaide Wilson Solace (LAFF 2018)
Jessica Allain Thriller (LAFF 2018)
Tiffany Haddish The Oath (LAFF 2018, Released by Roadside Attractions)
Tika Sumpter An Acceptable Loss – (Chicago FF 2018, To Be Release By IFC 2019)
Michaela Coel Been So Long (BFI London 2018, Played on Netflix)
Paulina Singer Stella’s Last Weekend (Released by Paladin)
Halle Berry Kings (TIFF 2017, Released by The Orchard)
Condola Rashad Bikini Moon (Sao Paolo Film Festival 2017, Released by Flix Premiere)
Dawn Richard Kinky (Released by Patriot Pictures)
Zimkhitha Nyoka Vaya (TIFF 2016, Released by Array)
Danielle Deadwyler Jane & Emma (Released by Excel Entertainment)