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7 Famous Black Figures That Are Long Overdue For Their Own Biopic

 Oprah Winfrey speaks with Amanda Gorman in “The Oprah Conversation,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
Oprah Winfrey speaks with Amanda Gorman in “The Oprah Conversation,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

We have gotten a number of biopics for certain, specific Black figures over the course of many years. For example, in our article on movies to watch on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day, there were a total of three movies that featured an actor playing Dr. King in a prominent role.

However, there are other Black figures who don't have biopics, and they are long overdue. Now, I'm not talking about documentaries, as we already covered several great ones to watch for Black History Month. Nope, these are biopics featuring actors and actresses portraying the Black figures in question. So, who are these seven famous Black figures who deserve biopics? Well, you’re about to find out.

jerry lawson during computer history museum talk
jerry lawson during computer history museum talk

Gerald “Jerry” Lawson

Nowadays, video games (and in turn, video game movies and TV shows) are bigger than ever before. In fact, the video game industry is now bigger than any other form of entertainment, period. Music? Video games are bigger. Television? Video games are bigger. Movies? You guessed it: video games are bigger. But, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, it might not have been the case at all if not for one Gerald “Jerry” Lawson.

Mr. Lawson created the Fairchild Channel F, which was groundbreaking for one very distinct reason – it was the first video game console that used interchangeable cartridges. Before that, you needed whole machines to play a single game, like the Magnavox Odyssey, which was primarily just a Pong machine.

A cool biopic would be about how Lawson fell into circles with the big electronic engineers at the time, such as Steve Wozniak. Because Lawson was usually the only Black face in the room, and it would be great to see how he created something that would go on to change the video game landscape forever. Make a biopic about this man already, dammit!

paul robeson in the emperor jones
paul robeson in the emperor jones

Paul Robeson

Not too long ago, I wrote about how I don’t think enough people talk about Paul Robeson, and yeah. Not enough people talk about Paul Robeson!

The dude was a true Renaissance Man, as he was an athlete, a singer, a stage actor, and a movie star. The guy really did it all! The Communist Party also claims him as their own, and his beliefs in Socialism are also well-documented. So, of course, this would be interesting to see if there was ever a biopic created about him.

I always thought that Jonathan Majors (prior to his conviction after being found guilty of assault and harassment, and losing project after project) would make for an interesting Paul Robeson. But now, I’m not really sure who could fill in those mighty big shoes. Because it would surely take a towering performance, if not necessarily a towering individual.

maya angelou on the oprah winfrey show
maya angelou on the oprah winfrey show

Maya Angelou

Okay, so here’s what’s interesting. There kind of already is a biopic of Maya Angelou. But, that’s only if you count the television film, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which is based off of the autobiographical book by Maya Angelou of the same name.

However, that’s not what I mean when I say I want a Maya Angelou biopic. Because the woman, who was a fry cook, a sex worker, an actor, a director, a member of the Civil Rights Movement, and a poet…just to name a few titles, deserves a biopic that goes over her full and rich life.

And since this is my article, I can dream cast whomever I want. So, I’d love to see Jennifer Hudson in the role. It would be amazing to see a film that chronicled Angelou’s life all the way up to when she recited her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton. I mean, seriously. Why hasn’t this biopic been made already?

octavia e butler during democracy now interview
octavia e butler during democracy now interview

Octavia E. Butler

As a novelist myself, you’re going to find that I want a number of biopics focused around Black writers. I considered putting Toni Morrison on this list (who is also very worthy of a biopic of her own), but I’ve decided to focus on Octavia E. Butler instead.

Why Butler? Because she was the first prominent Black female science fiction writer in America. And, I want to see a movie about her since the idea of a Black woman science fiction writer was seemingly unheard of back when she started.

I know we’re supposed to finally be getting a Parable of the Sower movie from A24, (which I’ve already dreamcasted, by the way), but I would love to see a film dedicated to her work, and her craft. Honestly, there’s a lot that I don’t know about Butler, and I’m hoping that a biopic could rectify that.

native son book cover
native son book cover

Richard Wright

Since I’m still on the topic of writers (Didn’t I tell you?), I’d absolutely LOVE a biopic on one of my favorite novelists, Richard Wright. The author of Native Son, Black Boy, and Uncle Tom’s Children, Wright wrote unflinching portrayals of Black Americans, and painted a picture that was often unflattering, if not necessarily incorrect.

And, guess what? James Baldwin wasn’t a fan, at least not of Native Son. What I’d really love to see in a biopic of Wright is one where the two literary giants meet, and perhaps have some words with one another (not necessarily fisticuffs). If not that, then it would be great to just see Wright disavow America for Paris, as he loved the latter, and was immensely disappointed with the former.

Obviously, it would be an artsy fartsy kind of biopic, but a man as intellectually gifted as Richard Wright deserves a biopic that’s equally intellectually profound.   

oprah winfrey on cbs mornings
oprah winfrey on cbs mornings

Oprah Winfrey

I had to really make sure that there wasn’t already a biopic about Oprah Winfrey, because honestly, it doesn’t make any sense that there isn’t one. But, all I could find was a biographical documentary that was supposed to be coming to Apple TV+, and as I mentioned in the intro, a documentary is not what I mean.

What I want to see is a biographical movie that gets into Oprah’s difficult childhood with her grandmother, to her rising in the ranks and getting her own talk show, and to her ultimately becoming the megawatt business mogul that she is today. The only issue is, who the heck could possibly play Oprah? The actress in question would have to be extremely versatile, as Oprah has also been an actress in her own right.

Honestly, I don’t even know how a movie of this magnitude could be made, but as the title of this article suggests, her biopic is definitely long overdue.

Beyonce in the Renaissance movie
Beyonce in the Renaissance movie

Beyoncé

Maybe, just maybe, it’s too soon for a Beyoncé biopic. After all, Whitney Houston only just recently got a biopic in I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and just last year, we got the concert movie, Renaissance: A Film By Beyonce. So, perhaps she is still just too prominent to have a biopic made about her.      

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that she doesn’t already deserve one. From her competing in early talent shows, to her work in Destiny’s Child, to her acting career, to her marriage to Jay-Z, all the way to today, if anybody is deserving of a biopic, it’s Beyoncé.

Even though we’ll likely eventually get a movie about her, like we’re getting for Michael Jackson, I’d really like to see one sooner rather than later. The woman damn well deserves it, after all.

What famous Black figures would you like to see get a biopic made about them who hasn’t had one already?