The world lost a great actor this year, one who brought life to a remarkable range of remarkable Black figures. Chadwick Boseman died Friday, August 28 after a four-year battle with colon cancer—a battle that was kept from the public throughout the filming of his most popular work. The Howard University alum was an inspiration to many, particularly in the Black community for his portrayals of three iconic Black figures: James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and King T’Challa, Marvel’s Black Panther. Boseman himself was mentored by other Black icons like Phylicia Rashad and Denzel Washington, who helped pave his path. If you’re looking to honor his life through his work, many of his best movies are available for streaming on major platforms. Here’s where you can find them.
With a box office pull of over $1 billion and multiple records, including the highest-grossing film by a Black director (Ryan Coogler), Black Panther is Boseman’s most iconic role. He plays King T’Challa, Marvel’s first Black superhero, conceived by Jack Kirby. Coincidentally, Boseman died on Kirby’s birthday. You’ve likely seen the biggest solo superhero movie ever, but it’s a great time to watch it again and relive the performance that made Boseman a worldwide household name. You can find Black Panther on Disney+.
If you want to see Marvel’s introduction of Black Panther in its cinematic universe, you’re looking for Captain America: Civil War. The ensemble superhero cast prominently features T’Challa as his hunt for his father’s killer brings him into clashes with anyone who stands in his way, including Captain America. Boseman’s Black Panther was well-received and began the groundswell of fan support that would turn into the frenzy around what would become Black Panther’s solo film. What we didn’t know was that 2016 was the same year the actor was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. You can find Captain America: Civil War on Disney+.
The two-part conclusion of a story than spanned over 20 films, Boseman’s last two portrayals as T’Challa included his character’s death at the end of Avengers: Infinity War and his triumphant return at the end of Avengers: Endgame. He’s seen more in the former than the latter—Black Panther only returns for the final fight in Avengers: Endgame—but both reflect the character’s importance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the excitement Boseman brought to the screen, including one of my personal favorite moments when Black Panther and Captain America, reminiscent of Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed racing on the beach, sprint ahead of the pack and into danger at the “Battle of Wakanda.” You can watch both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame on Disney+.
For most of us, Boseman’s breakthrough role was opposite Harrison Ford in 42 where he played Jackie Robinson. Boseman’s performance would be widely praised, and set him on course for other high-status roles of prominent Black historical figures, like the one that would follow the next year. You can find 42 to rent or buy on YouTube Movies, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and iTunes; at the time of this writing, it’s not included in the subscription cost of other streaming services.
On the heels of 42, Boseman played James Brown in Get On Up. Boseman did all his own dancing for the role, and the film’s reception and box office performance were similar to that of Boseman’s previous high-pressure role. He was lauded for an unforgettable performance, and would shortly after begin his superhero run as Black Panther. You can watch Get On Up included in your HBO Max subscription, or otherwise to buy or rent from places like YouTube Movies, Amazon Prime, and iTunes.
In between Captain America: Civil War and his solo superhero film Black Panther, Boseman went back to portraying iconic Black figures. This time he played the first Black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. Marshall premiered at Howard University, Boseman’s alma mater, and his performance was again well received, though to a smaller box office than his other films at the time. Marshal premiered one year after Boseman would have learned of his cancer diagnosis; Black Panther would premiere the following year. Like 42, Marshall isn’t included in the subscription cost of other streaming services at the time of this writing; you can rent or buy Marshall from places like YouTube Movies, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and iTunes.
If you want to watch (or relive) Boseman’s last theater release, that would be 2019’s action-thriller 21 Bridges where he plays an NYPD detective. The film premiered the same year as Avengers: Endgame where Boseman gave a short and final portrayal of Black Panther, and was in theaters a mere few months before COVID-19 found its way to the United States. If you can’t wait, 21 Bridges can be rented or bought from the usual places, but it arrives to Showtime on September 5.
And the last of Boseman’s films comes courtesy of Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, which premiered earlier this year on Netflix about a group of Black Vietnam war veterans. It was originally intended for theaters prior to eventually landing on Netflix, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the film went to straight to Netflix where it was the top-streamed movie its opening weekend. Da 5 Bloods was not Boseman’s last project though, as he reunited with Viola Davis after their work together on Get On Up. His last movie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, is set to release next year.