Parents' Guide to

Judas and the Black Messiah

By Monique Jones, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Informative Black Panther drama has violence, language.

Movie R 2021 226 minutes
Judas and the Black Messiah Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 6 parent reviews

age 14+
age 15+

Kaluuya slays in this role...give him ALL the awards!

Kaluuya slays in this role...give him ALL the awards. His portrayal is visceral, charming, strong, subtle, and vulnerable. Stanfield nails the egregious complexity of a character that would be too easy to just hate, there is a lot of nuance and sadness in his portrayal. A tall order for any actor, but necessary for an accurate reflective portrayal. Excellent directorial job by King. Truly inspiring, breathtaking and resonant. The film pulsates with possibility even when you know the outcome. The film feels both of the era it portrays and anchored in the current political moment...fantastic job!

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (6):
Kids say (5):

This important drama focuses its lens on demystifying the purpose and mission statement of a group once erroneously thought of by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. Judas and the Black Messiah makes it clear that the U.S. government labeled the Black Panthers a national threat because of their focus on racial liberation, social and economic justice, and unity: all perils to the United States' ability to control the masses through racism and capitalism. That said, Judas and the Black Messiah wants to be both a glowing Hampton biopic and a cautionary tale regarding O'Neal, which might confuse some viewers about its ultimate message. O'Neal's descent into the dark caverns of his mind would have been a more engaging -- and more challenging -- story to tell and would have capitalized on Stanfield's unique talents at portraying off-kilter, resonating characters. As it is, he does quite a lot to keep the film afloat by diving head-first into O'Neal's wavering stance on his Blackness and his position in America. One scene deftly and quickly shows how disturbed O'Neal becomes regarding his role as an informant. And O'Neal's FBI contact, Mitchell, has subtle layers thanks to Plemons' quiet but nuanced performance. The actor does a great job of showing how a White man might navigate the realization that what he's been taught about racism and who "the enemy" is could be horrifyingly incomplete.

Kaluuya, meanwhile, gives playing Hampton the old college try. But his performance tips toward impersonation, complete with an off-center stab at Hampton's unique southern/Chicagoan drawl. His take on Hampton, plus some odd acting tics (such as keeping his head to one side or standing awkwardly yet faux-seriously), makes it seem as if Kaluuya is acting for awards season, rather than the love of the person he's portraying. Fishback's talents shine through in her small role, but she's mostly wasted in yet another portrayal of the strong Black woman behind the Black male revolutionary. We should never forget that these wives and partners in the movement -- like Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz -- also had careers, dreams, and aspirations before meeting their significant others. They should be seen as three-dimensional individuals, not just as someone's wife. Plus, the film itself seems to be written in passive tense, making it hard for some scenes to have the weight they should. The storytelling style also makes the film seem like it's longer than it has to be. Still, despite some issues with story and portrayals, Judas and the Black Messiah can serve as a starting point for viewers who might not know anything about the Black Panthers -- as well as those who want to unlearn what they were incorrectly taught about the organization.

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