Oscar Who?: The 10 Best Film Performances By Black Actresses This Year

By Sofia Maame @sofia_maame 

Despite recent news from The Academy (#OscarsSoWhite), 2015 featured black actresses who rewrote the script on the roles we're used to seeing them play. From action to sci-fi, comedy, romance and everything in between, these black actresses dominated film screens in 2015.

Tessa Thompson, Creed

You’re probably familiar with Tessa Thompson from her sultry performance in Creed. But did you know she also starred in Selma and 2010’s Tyler Perry film For Colored Girls (Remember “And we was dancing”)? 32 year old Tessa Thompson is projected to have longevity towards an A list Hollywood career. Did I mention she's an activist-actress?

Teyonah Parris, Chi-raq

These days it seems Teyonah Parris is known more for wearing natural hairstyles than her acting accomplishments. Most of us were introduced to her in the film Dear White People, where she expressed the reality of being a Black woman at a PWI. Teyonah’s most recent lead role in Spike Lee’s film Chi-raq was met with criticism, mostly by people who didn’t understand the film’s Shakespearean roots. Nonetheless, Teyonah is definitely making a name for herself in the way she is un-apologetically black.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Concussion

Her screen presence and poise is reminiscent of a young Lynn Whitfield. Gugu, which is Zulu for “our pride," has used her British-African background to influence her acting career thus far. She first starred in Amma Asante’s feature film Belle as the bi-racial grand daughter to the most powerful judge in medieval England, who later had a say in resolving racial tension. Gugu was most recently featured alongside Will Smith as the lead actress-love interest in Concussion. Without a doubt, Gugu is reshaping the way we view romance, in her ability to be strong yet vulnerable.

Viola Davis, Lila & Eve

Everyone knows black women love them some Viola Davis! Something about Viola is so breathtaking and empowering at the same time (but I digress…) Despite gaining recognition and accolades for her lead role in Shonda Rhimes’s, How To Get Away With Murder, Viola remains true to her cinematic roots. She recently blessed us with her depiction of a mother turned gangster during the 2015 Sundance Film- Lila & Eve with co-star Jennifer Lopez. Chances are you missed this one, so you should definitely check it out!

Zoe Kravitz, Dope 

Dope received very mixed reviews in the way it followed a clique of high school geniuses who happened to grow up in the hood. Perhaps the only thing that wasn’t disputed was the casting of
Zoe Kravitz as Shameik Moore’s supporting actress and major crush in the film. So what if she was only seen a little over 4 times throughout the 103 minute film, we were all blessed to catch 90s feels from her look. (P.S Have you seen her and her mama in the new Calvin Cline ad?)

Naomie Harris, Spectre

The last time we saw a black woman starring in a James Bond Film was Halle Berry in 2002’s 007. Thankfully, Naomie Harris has broken that hiatus by starring in Bond’s most recent film Spectre. If you happened to notice her sophisticated British accent throughout the film, then she easily became your favorite character. Naomie also played Winnie Mandela alongside Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom which debuted in 2014. It looks like Naomie enjoys playing the woman in charge, could she be the next Angelina Jolie

Lupita Nyongo, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Following controversial success for her role in 12 years a slave, 2015 was pretty much Lupita Nyongo’s year! Not to mention, mainstream fashion couldn’t get enough of her as she graced the covers of Vogue, Lucky and W Magazine just to name a few. And if that wasn't enough, Lupita can now add the multi-million dollar movie franchise Star Wars to her list of accomplishments. It’s almost impossible not to be inspired by the many successes of this Kenyan, Mexico-City born actress.

Shanice Williams, The Wiz
The Wiz was love! There is nothing like seeing a collection of black excellence getting the spotlight their talent deserves. This was definitely true for breakout star Shanice Williams who played Dorothy during  NBC’s live rendition of the 1978 film. If you tuned in on December 3, 2015, then you know her angelical voice defeated every wicked witch.

Phylicia Rashad, Creed

Phylicia Rashad better known as Claire from the Cosby Show, has been under fire recently for her refusal to support rape accusations against her former co-star Bill Cosby. Politics aside, Ms. Rashad proved she's still got it, giving us an older more mature Claire as Adonis Creed’s (Michael B. Jordan) stepmother in the film Creed. Judging by the look of her passionate performance, she’s still classy and quick to put any child in their place.

Sanaa Lathan, The Perfect Guy

By now we all know Sanaa can do no wrong, especially when she places Michael Ealy & Morris Chestnut in the same movie. The Perfect Guy was an unconventional film for Sanaa’s career due to its psycho-lover plot and her hands-on role as an executive producer. In the end Sanaa's hard work paid off, The Perfect Guy earned 50k+ at the box office while ranking as the #1 film during its premiere week! Not too bad for an executive producer-actress, clearly Sanaa is still Ballin!

Photos: Shutterstock
Sofia Maame (Mah-May) is a Publicist + Editorial Assistant. Follow her-@sofia_maame