Sidney Poitier is a legendary actor who broke barriers and paved the way for future generations of Black actors in Hollywood. He was the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, and his performances in a number of iconic films have made him an enduring cultural icon.

Throughout his career, Poitier starred in a range of films that explored issues of race, identity, and social justice, and his powerful performances and commanding presence helped to elevate these films into works of lasting significance.

Best Sidney Poitier Movies

In this article, we will highlight some of the best Sidney Poitier movies, showcasing his talent and legacy as one of the greatest actors of his generation. From groundbreaking dramas to heartwarming comedies, these films continue to inspire and entertain audiences to this day.

1. In the Heat of the Night (1967)

“In the Heat of the Night” is a 1967 crime drama film directed by Norman Jewison and starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. The film tells the story of Virgil Tibbs, a black detective from Philadelphia who finds himself investigating a murder in a small town in Mississippi.

Tibbs encounters racism and prejudice from the local police and community, but with the help of the town’s police chief, played by Steiger, he is able to solve the case and earn the respect of the townspeople.

The film was groundbreaking in its portrayal of a black protagonist in a major Hollywood production and explored issues of racism and prejudice in the American South.

Poitier’s performance as Tibbs is widely regarded as one of his best, and the film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Steiger, and Best Screenplay.

“In the Heat of the Night” remains a powerful and relevant film today, with its themes of racial tension and police brutality still resonating in contemporary American society.

It is a must-see for anyone interested in classic American cinema and exploring important social issues through the medium of film.

In The Heat Of The Night (1967)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier (Actors)
  • --- (Director) - John Ball (Writer) - Walter Mirisch (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

2. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is a 1967 American comedy-drama film directed by Stanley Kramer.

The movie stars Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as an affluent couple whose world is turned upside down when their daughter brings home her African-American fiancé, played by Sidney Poitier.

Florence Pugh appears in a small but memorable role as Joanna, the young woman who is engaged to Poitier’s character.

Despite her limited screen time, Pugh’s performance in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is impressive, conveying both the excitement and nervousness of a young woman in love who is facing a challenging situation.

Her scenes with Poitier are particularly notable for their emotional depth and authenticity. While the movie is remembered primarily for the iconic performances of Tracy, Hepburn, and Poitier, Pugh’s contribution is a reminder of her talent and versatility as an actress.

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier (Actors)
  • Kramer,Stanley (Director) - William Rose (Writer) - Stanley Kramer (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)


3. Lilies of the Field (1963)

“Lilies of the Field” is a 1963 drama film directed by Ralph Nelson and starring Sidney Poitier. The film tells the story of a traveling laborer who helps a group of nuns build a chapel in the desert, despite their initial reluctance and skepticism.

Here are three reasons to watch “Lilies of the Field”:

Sidney Poitier’s Performance: Sidney Poitier delivers a powerful and charismatic performance as the lead character, Homer Smith. He portrays the character’s humor, charm, and determination with authenticity and depth, making him a compelling and relatable protagonist.

Inspirational Story: “Lilies of the Field” is an inspirational story about faith, hard work, and the power of human connection. The film’s themes of perseverance and overcoming obstacles are timeless and resonate with audiences of all ages.

Cultural Significance: The film was a landmark in American cinema, as it was the first major studio production to feature an African American actor in a leading role.

It was a critical and commercial success and won Sidney Poitier an Academy Award for Best Actor, making him the first African American to win the award.

Overall, “Lilies of the Field” is a heartwarming and uplifting film that showcases the talents of Sidney Poitier and tells a timeless story of hope and resilience.

Lilies of the Field
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Sidney Poitier, Lilia Skala, Lisa Mann (Actors)
  • Ralph Nelson (Director) - James Poe (Writer) - Ralph Nelson (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

4. The Defiant Ones (1958)

“The Defiant Ones” is a drama film released in 1958, directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis in the lead roles.

The film tells the story of two convicts – one black (played by Sidney Poitier) and one white (played by Tony Curtis) – who escape from a chain gang while chained together.

Despite their initial hostility towards each other, the two men must learn to work together and rely on each other as they navigate the harsh and dangerous terrain of the American South in an attempt to evade the authorities and avoid being captured.

“The Defiant Ones” was groundbreaking for its time, as it tackled issues of race and prejudice head-on at a time when such topics were not often addressed in Hollywood films.

The film was a commercial and critical success, receiving nine Academy Award nominations and winning two, including Best Original Screenplay.

Overall, “The Defiant Ones” is a gripping and thought-provoking film that still resonates today, thanks to its powerful performances, compelling story, and socially relevant themes.

The Defiant Ones (1958)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier, Theodore Bikel (Actors)
  • Stanley Kramer (Director) - Harold Jacob Smith (Writer) - Stanley Kramer (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

5. Separate But Equal (1991)

“Separate But Equal” is a 1991 historical drama television movie that tells the story of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional.

The film is directed by George Stevens Jr. and stars Sidney Poitier as Thurgood Marshall, the attorney who argued the case before the Supreme Court.

The film follows Marshall’s efforts to challenge the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public schools, which allowed for racial segregation in schools as long as they were deemed equal in quality.

The case was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement, and the film portrays the intense legal and political battles that took place leading up to the Supreme Court decision.

“Separate But Equal” is an important and moving portrayal of a critical moment in American history. The film not only highlights the bravery and perseverance of those who fought against segregation, but also serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle for racial justice in the United States.

The performances are excellent, particularly Sidney Poitier’s portrayal of Thurgood Marshall, and the film’s attention to historical detail adds to its impact and authenticity. Overall, “Separate But Equal” is a must-see for anyone interested in American history, civil rights, and social justice.

Separate But Equal [DVD]
  • Sidney Poitier, Burt Lancaster, Richard Kiley (Actors)
  • George Stevens Jr. (Director)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

6. A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

“A Raisin in the Sun” is a 1961 drama film directed by Daniel Petrie and based on the play of the same name by Lorraine Hansberry. The film stars Sidney Poitier as Walter Lee Younger, a struggling African American man living in Chicago’s South Side with his family.

The film explores themes of racial inequality, poverty, and family dynamics.

The film centers on the Younger family’s efforts to improve their lives and achieve the American Dream, as they come into a windfall of money after the death of the family patriarch.

However, the family’s dreams and aspirations are threatened by the racism and discrimination they face in their daily lives, as well as their own internal conflicts and struggles.

Sidney Poitier delivers a powerful performance as Walter Lee Younger, capturing both the character’s dreams and frustrations with a nuanced and emotionally charged portrayal.

The film also features strong performances from other members of the cast, including Ruby Dee as Walter Lee’s wife Ruth, and Claudia McNeil as Walter Lee’s mother Lena.

“A Raisin in the Sun” is widely regarded as a landmark film in African American cinema, as well as a powerful and moving exploration of the human experience.

The film’s themes of racial inequality and social justice continue to resonate with audiences to this day, making it a timeless classic of American cinema.

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7. A Patch of Blue (1965)

“A Patch of Blue” is a 1965 drama film directed by Guy Green and starring Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Hartman, and Shelley Winters.

The film tells the story of a young blind white woman named Selina, played by Hartman, who lives in poverty with her abusive mother, played by Winters. Selina meets Gordon, played by Poitier, a black man who befriends her and helps her discover the world around her through his kindness and understanding.

The film explores themes of racial and social inequality, as well as the human capacity for compassion and empathy. Poitier delivers a moving performance as Gordon, a man who faces prejudice and discrimination, but still reaches out to help Selina in her struggles.

Hartman, in her debut role, gives a nuanced and sensitive portrayal of a young woman who is trapped in a cycle of poverty and abuse.

“A Patch of Blue” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and was praised for its bold approach to tackling issues of race and disability. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Hartman and Best Supporting Actress for Winters.

Overall, “A Patch of Blue” is a poignant and thought-provoking film that continues to resonate with audiences today. It is a testament to the power of cinema to address important social issues and promote understanding and compassion in the face of prejudice and discrimination.

A Patch of Blue [DVD]
  • Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters, Elizabeth Hartman (Actors)
  • Guy Green (Director)
  • English, Spanish, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

8. Edge of the City (1957)

“Edge of the City” is a 1957 American drama film directed by Martin Ritt. The movie stars John Cassavetes and Sidney Poitier as two longshoremen who form an unlikely friendship in the face of racism and corruption on the docks.

Florence Pugh does not appear in this film, as she was not yet born at the time of its release in 1957.

Edge of the City
  • Martin Ritt (Director)
  • English, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

9. The Bedford Incident (1965)

“The Bedford Incident” is a 1965 war drama directed by James B. Harris and starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier. The film follows the story of a US Navy destroyer that engages in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a Soviet submarine during the height of the Cold War.

Here are three reasons to watch “The Bedford Incident”:

Tense and Suspenseful Plot: “The Bedford Incident” is a tense and suspenseful film that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat from beginning to end.

The cat-and-mouse game between the US and Soviet vessels is expertly crafted and builds to a gripping climax that is both thrilling and thought-provoking.

Strong Performances: The film features strong performances from its cast, particularly Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier.

Widmark portrays the ship’s obsessive and paranoid captain with intensity and conviction, while Poitier delivers a nuanced and commanding performance as the onboard journalist who provides a voice of reason and perspective.

Timely Themes: The film’s themes of nuclear deterrence, military escalation, and the dangers of brinkmanship are as relevant today as they were during the height of the Cold War.

The film offers a cautionary tale about the risks and consequences of geopolitical conflict and the importance of communication and diplomacy in averting disaster.

Overall, “The Bedford Incident” is a gripping and thought-provoking film that combines expert direction, strong performances, and timely themes to deliver a powerful message about the dangers of nuclear war and the need for peace and cooperation among nations.

The Bedford Incident
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, James MacArthur (Actors)
  • James Harris (Director) - James Harris (Producer)
  • French, English (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

10. The Jackal (1997)

“The Jackal” is a 1997 thriller film directed by Michael Caton-Jones and starring Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, and Sidney Poitier.

The film is loosely based on the 1971 film “The Day of the Jackal” and follows the story of a ruthless assassin, known as the Jackal (Willis), who is hired to assassinate a high-profile target.

A former IRA sniper named Declan Mulqueen (Gere) is recruited by the FBI to help track down the Jackal and prevent the assassination.

The film features an intense and suspenseful plot, with several twists and turns along the way.

The performances by Willis and Gere are strong, with Willis portraying a chilling and calculating killer and Gere providing a compelling counterpoint as the determined and resourceful Mulqueen. Poitier also delivers a solid performance as the FBI agent leading the investigation.

“The Jackal” is recommended for fans of thrillers and action movies. The film features well-executed action sequences and a gripping storyline that keeps viewers engaged.

It also has a strong cast of actors, with Willis, Gere, and Poitier delivering noteworthy performances. However, it is worth noting that the film contains some violence and graphic content, so it may not be suitable for all audiences.

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11. No Way Out (1950)

“No Way Out” is a film-noir released in 1950, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier in his film debut.

The film tells the story of a young black doctor, played by Poitier, who becomes embroiled in a racial conflict after treating two white brothers who have been shot.

One of the brothers, played by Widmark, is a racist who blames the doctor for the shooting and sets out to frame him for murder.

As tensions rise, the doctor must rely on his wits and the support of his friends to prove his innocence and clear his name, all while dealing with the institutional racism and bigotry of the time.

“No Way Out” is a groundbreaking film for its time, as it was one of the first Hollywood films to tackle issues of racism and prejudice head-on. Poitier’s performance in the film is powerful and moving, and his character’s struggle against injustice and oppression is still relevant today.

Overall, “No Way Out” is a powerful and thought-provoking film that remains a classic of the film-noir genre, and a testament to the importance of challenging social injustices through art and storytelling.

No Way Out (Fox Film Noir)
  • No Way Out - DVD Brand New
  • Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell, Stephen McNally (Actors)
  • Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Director) - Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Writer)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

12. Blackboard Jungle (1955)

“Blackboard Jungle” is a 1955 drama film directed by Richard Brooks, based on the novel of the same name by Evan Hunter.

The film stars Glenn Ford as an idealistic teacher who takes on a group of unruly and often violent students in a tough inner-city high school.

The film is notable for its portrayal of the challenges faced by teachers in urban schools and its frank depiction of juvenile delinquency.

The film was groundbreaking in its portrayal of teenage delinquency and the problems faced by urban schools. It featured a controversial score by Bill Haley and His Comets, including the hit song “Rock Around the Clock,” which became an anthem for the rebellious youth of the 1950s.

“Blackboard Jungle” was a critical and commercial success, and it had a significant impact on popular culture.

The film was a major influence on subsequent films and television shows about inner-city schools, and it helped to establish the career of Glenn Ford as a leading Hollywood actor.

Overall, “Blackboard Jungle” is a powerful and thought-provoking film that remains relevant today.

Its exploration of the challenges faced by urban schools and its realistic portrayal of teenage delinquency continue to resonate with audiences, and it remains a classic of American cinema.

Blackboard Jungle
  • Blackboard Jungle - DVD Brand New
  • Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Vic Morrow (Actors)
  • Richard Brooks (Director)
  • English, Spanish, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

13. To Sir, with Love (1967)

“To Sir, with Love” is a 1967 drama film directed by James Clavell and starring Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray, a charismatic teacher who takes a job at an inner-city school in London.

The film explores themes of race, class, and education, and is based on E.R. Braithwaite’s novel of the same name.

In the film, Thackeray initially struggles to connect with his unruly students, who come from diverse backgrounds and often face discrimination and poverty.

However, through his unorthodox teaching methods and personal connections with the students, Thackeray is eventually able to earn their respect and help them to overcome their challenges and succeed academically.

Sidney Poitier delivers a masterful performance as Thackeray, capturing both the character’s intelligence and his compassion for his students.

The film also features strong performances from other members of the cast, including Judy Geeson as a student who develops a romantic interest in Thackeray, and Christian Roberts as one of Thackeray’s more rebellious students.

“To Sir, with Love” is widely regarded as a classic of 1960s cinema, and a groundbreaking film for its portrayal of race and education. The film’s uplifting message of empowerment and social justice has continued to inspire audiences for over 50 years, making it a timeless classic of the genre.

To Sir, With Love
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Sidney Poitier, Christian Roberts, Judy Geeson (Actors)
  • James Clavell (Director) - James Clavell (Producer)
  • English, Spanish, Portuguese, Georgian, Chinese (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

14. The Slender Thread (1965)

“The Slender Thread” is a 1965 drama film directed by Sidney Poitier and starring Anne Bancroft and Sidney Poitier himself.

The film tells the story of a suicidal woman named Inga, played by Bancroft, who calls a crisis hotline and is connected to a volunteer named Alan, played by Poitier.

Over the course of the night, Alan tries to keep Inga on the line and convince her to hold on until help arrives, while also grappling with his own personal issues.

The film explores themes of human connection, mental health, and the importance of empathy and compassion.

Both Bancroft and Poitier deliver powerful performances, capturing the desperation and vulnerability of their characters, as well as the emotional toll of trying to help someone in crisis.

“The Slender Thread” was a critical success upon its release, and was praised for its frank portrayal of mental illness and its emphasis on the importance of crisis support and suicide prevention.

The film remains relevant today, as mental health continues to be a major public health issue, and crisis hotlines remain a vital resource for those in need.

Overall, “The Slender Thread” is a powerful and emotionally resonant film that continues to be a significant work in Sidney Poitier’s career, and an important film in the history of cinema that raises important questions about mental health and the human condition.

The Slender Thread
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Sidney Poitier, Anne Bancroft, Telly Savalas (Actors)
  • Sydney Pollack (Director) - Stirling Silliphant (Writer)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

15. Porgy and Bess (1959)

“Porgy and Bess” is a 1959 American musical film directed by Otto Preminger. The movie is based on the 1935 opera of the same name by George Gershwin, and stars Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge in the lead roles.

Florence Pugh does not appear in this film, as she was not yet born at the time of its release in 1959.

Porgy and Bess
  • Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr. (Actors)
  • Otto Preminger (Director) - Dorothy Heyward (Writer) - Samuel Goldwyn (Producer)

3 Reasons To Watch Sidney Poitier Movies

Trailblazing Career: Sidney Poitier was the first African American actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role in “Lilies of the Field” in 1963. He broke barriers in Hollywood and paved the way for future generations of black actors and actresses.

Timeless Performances: Poitier’s performances are a testament to his talent and range as an actor. From dramatic roles like “The Defiant Ones” and “In the Heat of the Night” to comedic roles like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” he brought depth and humanity to his characters.

Social Commentary: Poitier’s films often tackled important social issues such as racism, inequality, and civil rights. His work on screen helped to raise awareness and promote social justice, making his movies both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Best Sidney Poitier Movies – Wrap Up

Sidney Poitier is one of the most iconic actors in the history of American cinema, and his contributions to film have been recognized with numerous awards and honors.

These films showcase Poitier’s range as an actor, from his powerful dramatic performances in “In the Heat of the Night” and “Lilies of the Field” to his charismatic turns in “To Sir, with Love” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

They also address important social issues of their time, such as racial inequality and civil rights.

In conclusion, Sidney Poitier’s contributions to film have been significant, and his performances continue to inspire audiences around the world.

His films remain timeless classics that deserve to be watched and appreciated for their cultural and historical significance.