Sidney Poitier Portrait Session

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Sidney Poitier was an icon, one of the first true black stars in the modern-day film. He not only paved the way for so many black actors/actresses, but he also allowed black people to see themselves in their favorite films. In his death we remember his legacy and the movies that will live on forever.

Poitier’s journey into acting began when the then dishwasher landed a spot in the American Negro Theater after a successful audition. But the young Poitier was rejected by audiences because his tone-deafness left him unable to sing. He would stay determined to master the craft of acting and eventually would rid himself of his Bahamian accent. He would then land a leading role in the Broadway production “Lysistrata.

Poitier would go on to star in many Broadway plays in the 1950s. One of the most famous was his role in the 1959 first production of “A Raisin in the Sun. That play also starred Ruby Dee and Louis Gossett Jr. Later that year Poitier would star in the film adaptation of “Porgy and Bess alongside Dorthy Dandridge. He would also become the first African American to win the Oscar for Best Actor.

Hollywood Remembers Late Actor Sidney Poitier

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Sidney Poitier’s death make some of his movies even more important to black culture. To celebrate him we’ve created a list of Sidney Poitier moves that every black person should watch for the culture’s sake.

“The Defiant Ones” (1958)

“The Defiant Ones” is an American adventure drama about two escaped prisoners, one white and one black, who are chained together and must find common ground to survive. It won Academy Awards for Cinematography and Original screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor. Poitier would go on to win the Silver Bear Award for Best Actor at the Berlin International Film Festival.

“Porgy and Bess” (1959)

“Porgy and Bess” is a 1935 Opera that was adapted into a musical film that starred Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge. Due to the films’ controversial subject matter, it drew mixed reviews from critics, but over time it was considered one most prestigious films of its time. In 2011 it was chosen to be added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

“A Raisin in the Sun” (1961)

“A Raisin in the Sun” is another play that was adapted into a featured drama film that starred Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Louis Gossett Jr in his film debut. The film is about a black family who seeks a better life. Poitier was nominated for a Golden Globe. The film was also added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

“In the Heat of the Night” (1967)

“In the Heat of the Night” is an American mystery drama film that was based on a novel written by John Ball. The story is about a black detective played by Poitier, who becomes enthralled in a murder case in a small town in Mississippi. The film won five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor. Some critics have deemed it the top 100 greatest movies of all time. It is also in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

“Lilies of the Field“ (1963)

“Lilies of the Field” is a comedy-drama film adapted from a novel by William Edmund Barett. It is deemed one of Poitier’s best films. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor, becoming the first black actor to win the award. The film was later turned into a Broadway play and was selected into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

Honorable Mentions

“Uptown Saturday Night”

“Let’s Do It Again”


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5 Sidney Poitier Movies Every Black Person Should Watch  was originally published on