All the movies selected for inclusion in Top 50 African American Films of All Time must meet the following criteria:
- Feature length narrative format, typically over 60 minutes long
- Critically recognized with formal commendation in print, television, and/or digital media. A movie about the Black experience and/or a movie that is written, produced, and/or directed by Black people. A movie with a Black person in the lead role.
- Popularity over time, including success at the box office, television and cable airings, and DVD/VHS sales and rentals.
- A movie of historical significance that has left a mark on the history of the moving image through visionary narrative devices, technical innovation, or other groundbreaking achievements.
- A movie of cultural impact that has left a mark on American society in matters of style and substance.