Lemonade (2016 film)

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Promotional poster
Written byWarsan Shire
Directed by
Music byBeyoncé
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producers
  • Beyoncé
  • Todd Tourso
  • Erinn Williams
  • Melissa Vargas
  • Steve Pamon
  • Ed Burke
  • Onye Anyanwu
  • Jonathan Lia
  • Keenan Flynn
  • Nathan Scherrer
  • Scott Horan
  • Thomas Benski
  • Kira Carstensen
  • Danyi Deats
  • Thomas Martin
  • Violaine Etienne
  • Michael Garza
  • Khalik Allah
  • Chayse Irvin
  • Pär Ekberg
  • Santiago Gonzalez
  • Malik Sayeed
  • Dikayl Rimmasch
  • Reed Morano
EditorBill Yukich
Running time65 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseApril 23, 2016 (2016-04-23)

Lemonade is a 2016 musical film and visual album by American singer Beyoncé, and serves as a visual companion to her 2016 album of the same name. Beyoncé also contributes as a director and executive producer for the film. The film was released on April 23, 2016, premiering on HBO, and bundled with the album on CD/DVD, Tidal and iTunes Store, which released on the same day.[1]


The film is divided into eleven chapters, titled "Intuition", "Denial", "Anger", "Apathy", "Emptiness", "Accountability", "Reformation", "Forgiveness", "Resurrection", "Hope", and "Redemption".[2] The film uses poetry and prose written by British-Somali poet Warsan Shire; the poems adapted were "The Unbearable Weight of Staying", "Dear Moon", "How to Wear Your Mother's Lipstick", "Nail Technician as Palm Reader", and "For Women Who Are Difficult to Love".[3][4]


The film opens with a shot of Beyoncé leaning against a car in a parking garage, her face obscured by her fur coat, before cutting to a desolate Fort Macomb, interspersed with shots of Beyoncé dressed in a black hoodie amongst the reeds and on an empty stage with closed red curtains.

Intuition: On a plantation, scenes of Black women dressed in white standing solemnly are accompanied by a recitation of the first poem, intercut with scenes of Beyoncé standing among reeds in a black hoodie. Beyoncé begins with "Pray You Catch Me" in an old metal bathtub. She emerges from a stage onto a rooftop and leaps off the edge as the song ends, plunging into deep waters.

Denial: Floating underwater, Beyoncé unzips her hoodie, revealing a skin-toned bustier. She swims into a grand submerged bedroom where she comes upon a version of herself resting on a bed. She begins floating and rapidly contorting underwater before emerging from the bedroom and out of a courthouse onto a street in a flowing yellow frilled dress. ("Hold Up").

Beyoncé walks down a busy city street and picks up a baseball bat. She smashes in car windows in rage as onlookers cheer. She strikes a fire hydrant that begins to spray water as children run to play. She breaks a security camera and a storefront window as fire explodes behind her. She menacingly approaches the camera and strikes it, before boarding a monster truck. She uses the monster truck to squash vintage cars, and drives off in the distance.

Anger: A high school band accompanied by majorettes parade down a suburban street. In an abandoned parking garage, women dance in unison in long white dresses with their sleeves tied to each other. A lone female drummer plays in solitude as dancers in black begin to approach an SUV. A ring of fire is ignited as "Don't Hurt Yourself" begins.

Beyoncé, hair braided in cornrows, clad in a tight grey tank top and leggings two-piece and draped in a fur coat, sings aggressively as the song is interrupted by Malcolm X's speech "Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?", speaking about how the most discriminated person in America is the black woman. The song resumes with shots of Beyoncé wandering the parking garage in a wedding dress, and sitting in the ring of fire in a red dress. An intertitle declares "GOD IS GOD AND I AM NOT" before she throws her wedding ring at the camera.

Apathy: In a bus, dancers in tribal paint and hair braided in traditional African styles dance in unison as Beyoncé solemnly looks on. In a plantation mansion, Serena Williams wanders the halls and dances in front of Beyoncé as she sings "Sorry". The song ends as Beyoncé sits crosslegged in an empty room dressed in a metallic bra set with her hair braided similarly to Nefertiti's crown. Naked women wander a field as the film fades to black.

Emptiness: "Dear Moon" is recited accompanied by visuals of a plantation mansion bathed in an eerie blood-red glow. The camera slowly zooms in on a windowed door as the thumping beat of "6 Inch" begins, cutting to scenes of Beyoncé riding in a vintage Cadillac at night. The scene cuts to Beyoncé in a room surrounded by other women dressed in black as she swings a lightbulb above her head. The word "LOSS" flashes as the window explodes into fire. Beyoncé begins dancing seductively on a stage behind glass, intercut with scenes of her dressed in a grand white dress lying on a bed before walking down a hallway as it begins to catch aflame. The song ends with Beyoncé and a group of people standing outside the mansion as it burns behind them.

Accountability: Little girls run around and play in a mansion, while a mother and her daughter sit in a bedroom. It cuts into an interview with a man recounting his experience meeting then-President Obama as he drives through a storm. The interview is intercut with super 8 footage of the man with his family in a New Orleans neighborhood. The film cuts back to a tunnel in Fort Macomb as Beyoncé sings "Daddy Lessons" with a guitarist. The song is interrupted by childhood home videos of Beyoncé and her father Mathew Knowles, as well as videos of him playing with his granddaughter Blue Ivy, before resuming to more footage of life in New Orleans, such as families playing and a jazz funeral.

Reformation: Beyoncé lies in an empty playing field in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as "Love Drought" begins, cutting to scenes of women dressed in white walking in a line into the ocean, alluding to the mass suicide of captured Africans at Igbo Landing, who chose to drown themselves over a life of slavery.

Forgiveness: In a sparsely furnished house, she plays "Sandcastles" on the piano, intercut with scenes of a child's drawings, wilted flowers, decorative objects, and a fireplace. She sings to Jay-Z as they caress and embrace each other.

Resurrection: A gathering of black women in dressed in white dresses in a historic park. "Forward" begins as black women hold up pictures of deceased relatives, including the mothers of black men whose deaths galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement. A Mardi Gras Indian circles around a dining room table shaking a tambourine.

Hope: "Freedom" begins as Beyoncé sings the first verse acapella on an outdoor stage at night. A dancer begins dancing to the instrumental break, intercut with footage of women sitting under a large willow tree and having a communal dinner, and Winnie Harlow wearing a crown of thorns.

Redemption: Scenes of black women caring for themselves in the mansion are shown as Beyoncé recites the last poem. The film cuts to footage of Jay-Z's grandmother, Hattie White, celebrating her 90th birthday as she delivers a speech on overcoming hardship, marking how she was served lemons but made lemonade. Scenes of women on a plantation coming together and tending to a communal garden are seen, as the final song "All Night" begins with Beyoncé now back at Fort Macomb at sunset, wearing an elaborate dress. She sings to joyful footage of families, couples, and home videos of herself with Jay-Z and her own family.

The film concludes with the music video for "Formation".


The film's cast features Ibeyi, Laolu Senbanjo, Amandla Stenberg, Quvenzhané Wallis, Chloe x Halle, Zendaya and Serena Williams.[5] In "Forward", the mothers of Trayvon Martin (Sybrina Fulton), Michael Brown (Lesley McFadden), and Eric Garner (Gwen Carr) are featured holding pictures of their deceased sons.[6][7] Jay-Z and Beyoncé's daughter Blue Ivy appears in home video footage at one point, as does Jay-Z's grandmother Hattie White, and Beyoncé's mother Tina Knowles, who is shown with her second husband Richard Lawson on their wedding day in 2015.[8]


Critical response[edit]

“Lemonade” draws from the prolific literary, musical, cinematic, and aesthetic sensibilities of black cultural producers to create a rich tapestry of poetic innovation. The audacity of its reach and fierceness of its vision challenges our cultural imagination, while crafting a stunning and sublime masterpiece about the lives of women of color and the bonds of friendship seldom seen or heard in American popular culture.

Peabody Entertainment Awards on "Lemonade" [9]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 100% based on 6 reviews.[10] Miriam Bale for Billboard called Lemonade "a revolutionary work of Black feminism" as "a movie made by a black woman, starring Black women, and for Black women", in which Beyoncé is seen gathering, uniting and leading Black women throughout the film.[11] As well as relating the story of Beyoncé's relationship with her husband, Lemonade also chronicles the relationship between Black women and American society. The includes how the United States betrayed and continually mistreats Black women, with society needing to solve its problems in order to enable reformation and the rehabilitation of Black women.[12] As part of reverting the societal oppression and silencing of Black women, Lemonade centralizes the experiences of Black women in a way that is not often seen in the media, and celebrates their achievements despite the adversity they face.[13][14]

In June 2016, Matthew Fulks sued Beyoncé, Sony Music, Columbia Records and Parkwood Entertainment for allegedly lifting nine visual elements of his short film Palinoia for the trailer for Lemonade. The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed by New York federal judge Jed S. Rakoff, siding with the defendant.[15]


Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2016 African-American Film Critics Association Awards Best TV Show – Special or Limited Series Lemonade Won [16]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Variety Special Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Todd Tourso, Erinn Williams, Dora Melissa Vargas, Steve Pamon and Ed Burke (Lemonade) Nominated [17]
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special Kahlil Joseph and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (Lemonade) Nominated
Outstanding Picture Editing for a Variety Special Bill Yukich (Lemonade) Nominated
Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Nonfiction, Event or Award Special Hannah Beachler, Chris Britt and Kim Murphy (Lemonade) Nominated
2017 Grammy Awards Best Music Video Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Melina Matsoukas and Nathan Scherrer ("Formation") Won [18]
Best Music Film Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Kahlil Joseph, Ed Burke, Steve Pamon, Todd Tourso, Dora Melissa Vargas and Erinn Williams (Lemonade) Nominated
Black Reel Television Awards Outstanding Television Documentary or Special Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Kahlil Joseph (Lemonade) Won [19]


  1. ^ Spanos, Brittany (April 24, 2016). "Beyonce Releases New Album 'Lemonade' on Tidal". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 25, 2023. Retrieved March 1, 2024.
  2. ^ Hall, Gerrad (April 23, 2016). "Lemonade: Best moments from Beyoncé's HBO event". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on June 19, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  3. ^ Garcia, Patricia (April 25, 2016). "Warsan Shire Is the Next Beyoncé-Backed Literary Sensation". Vogue. Archived from the original on April 30, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  4. ^ Leaf, Aaron (April 23, 2016). "Ibeyi, Laolu Senbanjo, Warsan Shire Featured In Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'". Okay Africa. Archived from the original on April 25, 2016. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  5. ^ Price, S.L. (December 14, 2015). "Serena Williams is SI's Sportsperson of the Year". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on December 11, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  6. ^ "Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner's Mothers Appear in Beyoncé's 'Lemonade' Video". Essence. April 24, 2016. Archived from the original on April 25, 2016. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  7. ^ Tinsley, Omise'eke Natasha. "Beyoncé's Lemonade Is Black Woman Magic". Time. Archived from the original on January 23, 2021. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  8. ^ "Beyoncé's new album: why is it called Lemonade, what do the lyrics mean, plus all you need to know". Telegraph. May 4, 2016. Archived from the original on November 8, 2016. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  9. ^ "Entertainment winners named for Peabody 30". April 20, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  10. ^ "Lemonade | Rotten Tomatoes". www.rottentomatoes.com. April 23, 2016. Archived from the original on February 15, 2024. Retrieved February 15, 2024.
  11. ^ "Beyonce's 'Lemonade' Is a Revolutionary Work of Black Feminism: Critic's Notebook". Billboard. April 25, 2016. Archived from the original on July 9, 2020. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  12. ^ "Examining Lemonade with a Beyoncé studies professor". Dazed. April 26, 2016. Archived from the original on August 3, 2020. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  13. ^ Webster, Sina H. (2018). "When Life Gives You Lemons, "Get In Formation:" A Black Feminist Analysis of Beyonce's Visual Album, Lemonade". Senior Honors Theses. Archived from the original on September 17, 2021. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  14. ^ McFadden, Syreeta (April 24, 2016). "Beyoncé's Lemonade is #blackgirlmagic at its most potent". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on August 3, 2020. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  15. ^ Legaspi, Althea (September 1, 2016). "Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  16. ^ "'Moonlight' Named Best Picture by the African American Film Critics Association". The Hollywood Reporter. December 12, 2016. Archived from the original on December 13, 2016. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  17. ^ "Lemonade". Television Academy. Archived from the original on October 20, 2020. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  18. ^ "59th Annual GRAMMY Awards | GRAMMY.com". grammy.com. Archived from the original on February 7, 2024. Retrieved February 17, 2024.
  19. ^ "17th Annual Black Reel Awards Nominations". Black Reel Awards. December 14, 2016. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved December 18, 2016.

External links[edit]