Where To Stream the Best Chadwick Boseman Movies
The 'Black Panther' star leaves behind a number of impressive performances. Here's where to watch them.
On Friday night, you could watch the shock ripple through the internet as news spread that Chadwick Boseman, the actor made internationally famous for playing the title character in Black Panther, had died at the age of 43. Boseman's family made the announcement on Twitter, revealing that he had been battling colon cancer for four years, working throughout treatment. The news was simultaneously baffling, heartbreaking, and astonishing. From his breakout in 2014's 42 to his now almost eerie portrayal of a ghostly soldier in Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods, Boseman established himself as a performer who was not only stunningly talented but also important.
Early in his rise to stardom, he was known for playing legends of Black history, including Jackie Robinson and James Brown, and, as T'Challa in Black Panther, he secured his own spot in the pantheon, bringing to life a superhero like no other before. There is still one Boseman film that's yet to be released: An adaptation of August Wilson's play Ma Rainey's Black Bottom set to debut on Netflix in which he stars alongside Viola Davis. For now, we're revisiting some of the highlights of his career available on streaming.
Before he starred in director Brian Helgeland's sturdy and perceptive biopic of Jackie Robinson, Boseman had only appeared in a handful of movies and made stray appearances in network procedurals like Third Watch, CSI: NY, and Law & Order. He was a struggling New York actor, teaching drama and working on his craft. Only a couple years after moving to LA, he landed the role that would completely change his career and put him on a path to mega-stardom. In a revealing profile of Boseman from 2019 in the New York Times, Helgeland mentioned how he cast Boseman in the role because he displayed "a stillness" and projected the gravitas of '70s icons like Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood. Unlike many stars who take many movies to find their footing on screen, all the gifts he would bring to bear on later projects are right here in the beginning.
Where to watch: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)
Get On Up (2014)
By the time Boseman took on the role of James Brown, his track record of playing historical luminaries was already becoming notable, and his turn as the Godfather of Soul instead proved that his talent was no fluke. Boseman is a whirlwind of charisma as the singer in a richly layered performance that is better than the occasionally paint-by-numbers biopic from The Help director Tate Taylor that can barely contain it. A deeply committed performer, Boseman reportedly stayed in character all throughout filming, and it shows on screen in the way he captures Brown's voice and physicality.
Where to watch: Stream on HBO Max (Watch the trailer)
Black Panther (2018)
Chadwick Boseman's range of talent made him a star, but his role as T'Challa of Wakanda, reluctant heir apparent and inheritor of his people's spiritual superpower, made him an icon, rocketing him into a cosmically enormous film universe where he held his own against alien armies, inter-dimensional magic, and a Hulk. Director Ryan Coogler, in his beautiful, emotional tribute to the late actor, wrote that Boseman himself wanted Wakandans to speak the native African language of Xhosa, and wanted to play his character with an African accent, "so that he could present T’Challa to audiences as an African king, whose dialect had not been conquered by the West." As T'Challa, Boseman carried the weight of a kingdom with grace, like a ruler out of Arthurian legend or The Lord of the Rings, and as his super-heroic alter ego Black Panther, Boseman emanated the live, coiled power of the predator for which the character is named. What he gave through his performance to a generation of Black fans and other fans of color, so used to seeing white heroes on screen again and again, is enormous, incalculable. Through him, Wakanda felt like a real place, closer than any other fictional nation; it's no surprise that the culture so swiftly adopted the kingdom's iconic cross-fisted salute, and Black Panther's rallying cry: "Wakanda forever!"
Where to watch: Stream on Disney+, along with Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame (Watch the trailer)
21 Bridges (2019)
This twist-filled, bullet-ridden thriller is far from a perfect film -- some of the plot elements feel repackaged from far better New York cop movies -- but it's the type of old-fashioned star vehicle that Boseman clearly had a knack for. Re-teaming with Avengers directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who produced the film, Boseman plays a variation on a familiar trope: the noble NYPD detective who can't be corrupted and shouldn't be messed with. His Andre Davis specializes in tracking down "cop-killers" and bringing them to justice -- even if that means shutting down the whole city and closing off the bridges. Despite the over-the-top genre setup, Boseman brings flashes of warmth and a bristling intelligence to bear on the role, hitting all the action beats with ease and selling some of the more ridiculous moments. It's a fun, low-key lazy Sunday afternoon movie from an actor who often ended up in more prestigious or big-budget fare.
Where to watch: Available on Showtime OnDemand on September 5; purchase on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
In Spike Lee's sprawling Vietnam War epic Da 5 Bloods, Boseman plays "Stormin'" Norman Earl Holloway, a supporting character who takes on an almost mythical quality to the older veterans who head across the world to claim his remains and recover a shipment of gold bars. In the gripping flashback sequences, where older actors like Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, and Norm Lewis play younger versions of themselves without de-aging make-up or Irishman-like technological face-lifts, Boseman is a symbol of youth and hope. He represents so much to these old men. At the same time, the actor doesn't play "Stormin' Norm" as merely an idea or a memory. He's a flesh-and-blood person -- a soldier and a mentor and a dreamer. That keen ability to embody lofty themes with psychology and weight might be Boseman's real legacy.
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix (Watch the trailer)
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