White Savior Movies, Ranked

Today, McFarland, USA is released in theaters. Based on a true story, the movie stars Kevin Costner — who, between this role and Black or White, must be working out some white guilt — as Jim White (his actual name), a white coach who leads a track team of inner-city (see: Latino) students to victory. This is just the latest entry in a long list of white savior narratives: stories in which a white person heroically “saves” people of color, generally by using his white expertise (privilege) to teach them that, hey, you can still play music/read a book/catch a baseball even if you’re brown! These movies are never about the people of color succeeding as much as the white savior patting himself on the back. But they are labeled inspiring (for white people) and groundbreaking (for white people) and are often voted on at the Oscars (by white people). Here’s a ranking of 20 white savior films — by no means a comprehensive list — from worst to best. 

20. The Blind Side (2009)

Based on another true story (aren’t they all?), The Blind Side follows a rich Southern woman, Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), who adopts black teenager Michael (Quinton Aaron) after spotting him walking around. She invites him to Thanksgiving dinner, buys him clothes, sits him down, and explains to him how to play football (seriously), eventually helping him get into college. Throughout the film, he’s portrayed as a quiet, docile, eager-to-please black child, while Leigh Anne is the woman who coaches him to success. Bullock won an Oscar for the role — of course! — though I’m choosing to believe it’s a belated award for Miss Congeniality.