Unveiling Unlikely Alliances: A Review of The Best of Enemies

Grade B

Author: Billy Madden

In today’s world, the shadows of racism still linger. The Best of Enemies, set in 1971, centers around civil rights activist Ann Atwater, who fearlessly advocated for school integration in North Carolina. She locks horns with C.P. Ellis, a Ku Klux Klan member fervently opposing integration. What unfolds is an inspiring journey of Ellis, once immersed in hate propaganda, eventually allying with his erstwhile adversary in the fight for justice.

What drew me to The Best of Enemies was the irresistible combo of Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell sharing the screen. These stalwarts, working their magic on an engaging historical backdrop, promised a recipe for success. Henson delivers a stunning performance as the fiery Atwater, and Rockwell effortlessly embodies Ellis, reminiscent of his portrayal of George W. Bush in 2018’s Vice.

The Best of Enemies is what you might call an “actor’s movie” – low on action but rich in dialogue. Despite its slow pace and length of over two hours, the compelling performances of Henson and Rockwell command attention from start to finish.

Though bereft of typical action sequences, the movie doesn’t shy away from depicting violence, including a few unsettling hate crime scenes. It’s a poignant reminder of the harsh realities of the past, some of which, unfortunately, persist to this day.

The movie thrives on its raw emotion and relentless pursuit of justice. For someone born long after the era depicted, it’s a stark reminder of the dehumanizing prejudice that once prevailed. The casual use of racial slurs transports viewers to an era alien to many, highlighting how deep-seated racial prejudice still influences today’s society. The film carries a potent message that needs to be widely shared and internalized to improve our world.

Astonishingly, Atwater and Ellis become close friends when Ellis embraces the truth and votes for integration. The film resonates with the powerful message that, despite our differences, we are all humans, part of the same universal fabric, navigating this life journey together. I recommend The Best of Enemies as a must-watch. It’s a poignant reminder of our shared humanity and the power of change.


The true story of the unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater, an outspoken civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis, a local Ku Klux Klan leader. During the racially charged summer of 1971, Atwater and Ellis came together to co-chair a community summit on the desegregation of schools in Durham, N.C. The ensuing debate and battle soon lead to surprising revelations that change their lives forever.

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