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6 films to stream in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

These narrative features and documentaries help deepen our understanding of the slain civil rights leader's life and work.
Martin Luther King Jr., waves to supporters on Aug. 28, 1963 on the Mall in Washington D.C. during the "March on Washington".
Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters on Aug. 28, 1963, on the National Mall in Washington during the March on Washington.AFP via Getty Images

This year, service organizations and cultural institutions plan to honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a mix of in-person and virtual events, from volunteer opportunities to concerts and exhibitions.

But the legacy of the civil rights leader also lives on through countless cultural works — including a handful of notable films you can stream on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on Monday.

Here are six narrative features and documentaries that pay tribute to King's life and deepen our understanding of his world-changing crusade for racial justice. (The titles are listed alphabetically.)

'Boycott' (2001)

Emmy-winning actor Jeffrey Wright portrays King in this HBO docudrama largely focused on the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and 1956. The supporting cast includes Terrence Howard as Ralph Abernathy, the civil rights activist who once led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King. (Ejogo played Coretta again in "Selma.")

Where to stream: HBO Max

'Eyes on the Prize' (1987-1990)

In this sweeping, galvanizing 14-episode documentary series about the U.S. civil rights movement, King's leadership is on full display with the help of rich archival footage, interviews and photos. "Eyes on the Prize" is monumental in scope, stretching from the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 to the 1980s; King is a focal point of the second season, which originally aired on PBS in 1990.

Where to stream: HBO Max

'I Am MLK Jr.' (2018)

Derik Murray, producer of feature-length portraits of icons such as Muhammad Ali and Richard Pryor, executive produced this straightforward account of King's historic achievements, originally released on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. The film, centered on key events in the civil rights movement, features interviews with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young.

Where to stream: “I Am MLK Jr.” is available to rent or purchase via Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu and the iTunes Store.

'King in the Wilderness' (2018)

King biographer Taylor Branch and Emmy-winning writer Trey Ellis co-produced this documentary about the final two years of King's life, before his assassination on April 4, 1968. “How do you take the edges that have been smoothed for so many years, ‘Dr. King put on a mountaintop,’ and take him off to get to the real person?” Ellis said in 2018. “We started where everybody else stopped.”

Where to stream: HBO Max

'MLK/FBI' (2020)

Sam Pollard — the respected director, editor and producer known for his frequent collaborations with Spike Lee — helmed this bracing documentary about the FBI's surveillance and harassment of King. Pollard explores how J. Edgar Hoover tried to undercut King's political influence at every turn, raising provocative questions about abuses of federal power, privacy and institutional racism.

Where to stream: Hulu

'Selma' (2014)

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay ("When They See Us") chronicles the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches that were led by King (David Oyelowo, in a searing breakthrough performance), Hosea Williams (Wendell Pierce), John Lewis (Stephan James) and James Bevel (Common, who co-wrote the movie's Oscar-winning theme song ,"Glory").

Where to stream: Peacock. (The platform is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)