The selections are not necessarily the ‘greatest Black movies of all time,’ or the most favorite, or the ones that were best reviewed by critics or fans, but those which actually changed the way Black folks dress, talk and interact with the world.
In other words, these influential Black movies changed the way Black men and women viewed themselves and viewed each other. They also introduced a vehicle for those that felt trapped or boxed out of the system to participate in the American Dream. Further, these movies connected with their audience because they were a realistic portrayal of life in America from many Blacks. The common theme that connects them all together is that the movies focus on people who have limited opportunities and are doing their best to lift themselves up.
Super Fly is a 1972 blaxploitation crime drama film directed by Gordon Parks, Jr., starring Ron O’Neal as Youngblood Priest, an African American cocaine dealer who is trying to quit the underworld drug business.
Youngblood Priest (Ron O’Neal) is an African-American cocaine dealer who has a strong desire to exit the drug business. Before he can exit the drug world, he has to earn enough funds to support his lifestyle as he feels that a regular nine to five job will not satisfy his needs. He creates a plan to sell thirty kilos of cocaine, and use the profits to sustain him while he searches for a job, which he assumes will be a difficult process due to his criminal background. Along the way Priest has several run-ins with corrupt law enforcement. He also experiences betrayal from his close friend, Eddie. In the end, Priest is able to escape from the drug business with Georgia, his girlfriend, and walk away unharmed.
The Mack is a 1973 blaxploitation film directed by California native Michael Campus, starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor.
After returning home from a five-year prison sentence, John “Goldie” Mickens, (Max Julien) has a plan to achieve money and power in Oakland, California by becoming a pimp. Goldie’s criminal ways juxtapose his brother Olinga’s (Roger E. Mosley) Black Nationalist efforts to save the community from drugs and violence. With Slim (Richard Pryor) as his partner and Lulu (Carol Speed) as his head prostitute, he organizes a team of women and quickly rises to prominence.
Scarface is a 1983 American crime film directed by Brian De Palma and written by Oliver Stone. The film tells the story of Cuban refugee Tony Montana (Al Pacino) who arrives in 1980s Miami with nothing and rises to become a powerful drug kingpin. Although it’s not technically a Black movie, it had a huge impact on the Black community.
Boyz n the Hood
Boyz n the Hood is a 1991 American teenhood drama film written and directed by John Singleton in his directorial and screenwriting debut, and starring Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long and Angela Bassett. This was the film debut for both Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut.
In 1984, Try Styles lives with his divorced single mother, Reva, in Watts, Los Angeles. After Tre gets in a fight at school, his teacher informs Reva that Tre is highly intelligent but has a volatile temper and lacks respect. Worried about Tre’s future, Reva sends him to live in the Crenshaw neighborhood of South Los Angeles with his father, Furious Styles, from whom she hopes Tre will learn valuable life lessons and how to be a man. In Crenshaw, Tre reunites with his friends, Darrin “Doughboy” Baker, Doughboy’s maternal half-brother Ricky, and Chris, their mutual friend. The film brilliantly portrays the influence a father can have on a young child, despite growing up in the shadow of gangs, drugs and violence.
Menace II Society
Menace II Society (pronounced Menace to Society) is a 1993 American hooddramathriller film directed by Allen and Albert Hughes in their directorial debut, and starring Tyrin Turner, Jada Pinkett, Larenz Tate and Samuel L. Jackson. The film is set in the 1990’s South Central Los Angeles, California.
The film follows the life of a young man named Kaydee “Caine” Lawson and his close friends. It gained notoriety for its scenes of violence, profanity, and drug-related content. It was released in May 1993 to critical acclaim for its gritty portrayal of urban violence and its powerful underlying messages.
New Jack City
New Jack City is a 1991 American crime film based upon an original story and screenplay by Thomas Lee Wright, and directed by Mario Van Peebles in his directorial debut, who also co-stars in the film. The film stars Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Allen Payne, Chris Rock, Mario Van Peebles and Judd Nelson. The film was released in the United States on March 8, 1991.
Wesley Snipes plays Nino Brown, a rising drug dealer and crime lord in New York City during the crack epidemic. Ice-T plays Scotty Appleton, a detective who vows to stop Nino’s criminal activity by going undercover to work for Nino’s gang.
Enter the Dragon
Enter the Dragon is a 1973 Hong Kong-American martial arts film directed by Robert Clouse, starring Bruce Lee, John Saxon and Jim Kelly. This was Bruce Lee’s final film appearance before his death on 20 July 1973 at age 32. The film was first released on 26 July 1973 in Hong Kong, six days after Lee’s death.
Often considered one of the greatest martial arts films of all time, in 2004, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The film was often thought of as the one that sparked the “Kung Fu Kraze” in the the Black community.
Remember that this is a list of the most influential Black movies. It is not to be confused with the greatest Black films, although at least one of them is on both list. Instead, it is a list of films that actually changed the way Black folks dress, talk and interact with the world.
Please share your thoughts below because I would love to know your view based on your own individual experiences. Also, what came after Menace II Society?