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12 Movies to Watch After You See Hidden Figures

By  · Published on January 10th, 2017

Get more on the true story and others like it.

Now that Hidden Figures is a big hit at the box office (overthrowing Star Wars for the top slot even), we can all hopefully recognize that moviegoers want well-made films about strong and important women and persons of color. For those who saw and enjoyed the new historical drama, which shares the stories of NASA computers Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, I’d love to recommend others like it, but there just aren’t a lot of similar precursors.

What I can recommend, then, is more documentaries than usual (half of the dozen titles), some of them directly tied to the world of Hidden Figures and some on subjects in the same spirit. Check out those and more movies I think fans of the award-winning film will enjoy below.

The Right Stuff (1983)

You’ve gone behind the scenes of Project Mercury via Hidden Figures, and now you should see what was going on a little more in the open. Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book mostly follows the same timeframe as Hidden Figures for the early history of the American space program, following the much more famous test pilots and astronauts. John Glenn is the primary overlap, here played by Ed Harris, and there’s at least one press conference that appears to be shared by both versions of the story.
Rent it on Amazon

A League of Their Own (1992)

The closest thing in story and spirit to Hidden Figures is perhaps this 25-year-old sports drama, also based on a true story. Fictionalizing the little-remembered history of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, it’s better than Hidden Figures in a number of ways, including its greater amount of memorable scenes and quotable dialogue. There’s just a lot more fun going on here, which maybe just makes sense since it’s about a pastime rather than serious computation of data to put people in space. It also earns more points for having a woman, Penny Marshall, at the helm.
Rent it on Amazon

The Tuskegee Airmen (1995)

Stories of minorities at war are always interesting, because they’re typically about a group of people fighting for a country that doesn’t treat them well (see also Glory, Indigenes/Days of Glory, Windtalkers, many others). This Peabody Award-winning HBO movie is about the famous, almost all-black USAAF 332nd Fighter Group in their training for, then participation in, World War II. Although based on a true story, unlike Hidden Figures its main characters are fictional composites of real people.
Rent it on Amazon (Free for Prime Members)

Dick (1999)

I don’t mean to take away from the real background characters, like those in Hidden Figures, but this underrated comedy is too much fun to exclude in this context. Kirsten Dunst, who is also in Hidden Figures, and Michelle Williams play teen girls who turn out to be the unsung heroes of the Watergate scandal. Yes, it’s pure fiction, but it’s delightful girl-power fiction, with some familiar faces before they were famous, such as Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell, who plays Bob Woodward opposite Bruce McCullough’s Carl Bernstein. And Dan Hedaya is maybe the most enjoyable Nixon ever.
Buy it from Amazon

Thirteen Days (2000)

Set nine months after the climactic events of Hidden Figures, this drama also features Kevin Costner in a major role as a person connected to the Kennedy Administration. It’s the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and understandably it’s played more intensely. There’s a general similarity to scenes of a bunch of people stressed about either a space mission launch or a Russian missile threat, though the latter would have entailed a lot more life lost if it had gone wrong. There are surely some unsung people involved in that story, too, if Hollywood wants to find them.
Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon

The Dish (2000)

If you love untold true stories about stuff that happened in the background of big events, The Dish is a perfect example. It’s not focused on unsung women or persons of color and isn’t entirely factual all the way through, but it’s a funny little comedy starring Sam Neill and Patrick Warburton about an Australian sheep paddock’s essential role in the first Moon landing – and in the broadcasting of that event to the world.
Rent it on Amazon

Freedom Riders (2010)

There’s a brief moment in Hidden Figures acknowledging the civil rights activism going on in America at the same time it’s set, shown in the form of a television report about the Freedom Riders bus bombing and beating. For the full context, here’s an Emmy-winning feature documentary about the mobile interstate campaign against segregation, with a large focus on the terrible tragedy, of course, from filmmaker Stanley Nelson (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution) for PBS’s American Experience brand.
Buy it from Amazon

Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II (2010)

Another documentary broadcast on PBS, this mid-length work isn’t the greatest in terms of its production value, going with the most basic talking head and archive material style, but it’s the sort of project that’s here to inform first and foremost. Specifically it informs about the unsung ENIAC programmers during World War II, women “computers” much like those led by Octavia Spencer’s character in Hidden Figures. Due to the successes of that movie and The Imitation Game, there ought to be a dramatic movie about these women next.
Rent it on Amazon

The Loving Story (2011)

Before the new drama by Jeff Nichols (but after a TV movie from 1996), the story of Mildred and Richard Loving were given due attention with this documentary by Nancy Buirski (who produced Nichols’ Loving). It’s a fairly standard production benefited by a surplus of footage of the Lovings captured in the 1960s by Direct Cinema filmmaker Hope Ryden. The couple, who were responsible for the national legalization of mixed-race marriage, was until recently barely known about in spite of their significance. Part of the reason might be because they didn’t seek out fame or even a spotlight.
Rent it on Amazon

20 Feet From Stardom (2013)

Morgan Neville’s very appealing Oscar-winning music doc is about remarkable figures who weren’t exactly hidden, at least not from our ears. But these background singers, who can be heard on some of the most popular singles of all time, were still mainly unsung artists (pun not intended). A lot of them, though not all, were also women of color, and in addition to just being a crowd-pleasing film, the doc also has a lot of substance in its addresses of race and gender in the music industry.
Rent it on Amazon

Underwater Dreams (2014)

What appears to be a simple feel-good documentary about Mexican-American kids winning a robotics competition tackles a greater specific issue of children of undocumented immigrants, none of whom are allowed certain education benefits in their state. Narrated by Michael Pena, the film also more generally addresses how the great minds who could make the world better and advance technology could come from anywhere, but without the right opportunities those minds go untapped.
Rent it on Amazon

Makers: Women in Space (2014)

Allow me to cheat a little bit with this one, as it’s technically an episode of the PBS series Makers. But it’s still pretty much a standalone documentary, and for this edition of Movies to Watch, I have to take some liberties to provide as many relevant recommendations as Hidden Figures deserves. Narrated by Jodie Foster and directed by Michael Epstein (LennoNYC), the mid-length doc is primarily about women astronauts, including first African-American in space Mae Jemison. There is a very brief shot of Hidden Figures heroine Katherine Johnson standing with the IBM computer at the beginning, and towards the end the doc highlights today’s behind-the-scenes engineers and mathematicians, such as hispanic Orion engineer Marleen Martinez.

Watch it here:

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.