AFI Movie Club Rewind: THE COLOR PURPLE – American Film Institute
The Color Purple Film Still - Akosua Busia and Desreta Jackson



This film was originally selected as an AFI Movie Club pick on May 27, 2020.

THE COLOR PURPLE, based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, ranks #51 on AFI’s list of the most inspiring films in American history. Steven Spielberg, who directed the film, was the recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1995.

Watch Kerry Washington announce THE COLOR PURPLE.


DID YOU KNOW? Alice Walker’s contract stipulated she would serve as project consultant and that 50% of the production team – aside from the cast – would be African American, female, or “people of the Third World.” After the film’s release, the NAACP praised the production for employing more African American actors and filmmakers than any motion picture to date since SOUNDER.

DID YOU KNOW? Producer Quincy Jones personally selected Steven Spielberg to direct THE COLOR PURPLE, and Oprah Winfrey made her feature debut in the film.

DID YOU KNOW? Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle and Tina Turner were all considered for the role of Shug, which eventually went to Margaret Avery.

DID YOU KNOW? Alice Walker helped the actors translate their lines with greater authenticity, teaching them the pacing and rhythm of the Southern black dialect she knew as a child.

DID YOU KNOW? North Carolina provided the primary locations for the film, even though Walker’s novel reflected her childhood in segregated Georgia. Other parts of the film were filmed by a second unit in Kenya in the Maasai tribal areas, as well as Nairobi.

DID YOU KNOW? The field in front of Celie’s house was sown with purple flowers that bloomed within two weeks, providing the location of Celie’s climactic conversation with Shug Avery and her reunion with Nettie. In the last week of filming, the flowers were replaced with fabricated snow for winter scenes, even though the actors were enduring sweltering summer heat.

DID YOU KNOW? THE COLOR PURPLE was nominated for 11 Academy Awards® in the following categories – Actress in a Leading Role (Whoopi Goldberg), Actress in a Supporting Role (Margaret Avery), Actress in a Supporting Role (Oprah Winfrey), Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup, Music (Original Score), Music (Original Song, “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister),” Writing and Best Picture?

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

Click Here to Find Out How to Watch THE COLOR PURPLE Now



The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

  • How does the adaptation differ from Alice Walker’s original novel?
  • What does the color purple symbolize in the film?
  • Which character did you identify with the most and why?
  • How are the film’s female relationships depicted and why are they important?
  • What do you think of the response the film received when it was first released?
  • Does the film still resonate today? How would you regard the film’s legacy?
  • What themes make it stand the test of time?
  • How would you compare Spielberg’s career prior to THE COLOR PURPLE with the films he made in his later career?
  • How would you rate THE COLOR PURPLE?


AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. See all of the titles programmed for AFI Movie Club here. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience. Learn more in our FAQ section.

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