By now, everyone’s seen Shaft and Superfly, the ultimate blaxploitation films, but the relatively shortlived film genre produced hundreds of low budget action and comedy films that allowed filmmakers like Spike Lee and Robert Townsend to have successful careers in film.
Take a look at the trailers for a few blaxploitation films that are essential viewing!
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)
Although it wasn’t really considered a blaxploitation film, Melvin Van Peebles’ magnum opus blew open the doors for black filmmakers and opened the doors for the new school of cinema. Released with the tagline, “Rated X by an all white jury,” Sweet Sweetback tells the tale of the title character, played by Peebles, on the run from white authority. Peebles couldn’t get a major studio to finance the film and mostly spent his own money to produce it, along with a $50,000 loan from Bill Cosby. The soundtrack of the film was provided by Earth Wind & Fire, before they became one of the biggest bands in black music.
The Spook Who Sat By The Door (1973)
This controversial film, based on the novel by Sam Greenlee, tells the story of a black man named Dan Freeman (get it? free man…) who becomes a top spy for the CIA with a secret agenda: destroy the agency from the inside and start a revolution. He uses his espionage training to educate young black men in Chicago. Soon after its release the film disappeared from theaters and remained a difficult movie to obtain until it was finally released on DVD in 2004.
Rudy Ray Moore’s classic character Dolemite made his film debut in 1975 after appearing on several of his comedy albums. Dolemite is a poetry spitting pimp who is released from jail after being framed by a couple of corrupt cops. The film is full of quotables, and several scenes were featured heavily in Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Got Your Money” video.
Detective: Now, I know you think you’re smart, see, cause you got all them flashy clothes, you got that big car there, you got all them black b*****s working for you.
Dolemite: You forgot about the white ones.
Truck Turner (1974)
A blaxploitation film starring Isaac Hayes as a bad-ass, ass kicking bounty hunter looking for a guy named Gator. That’s all you need to know. This is classic!
Welcome Home Brother Charles (1975)
One of the most unintentionally hilarious blaxploitation films ever, Welcome Home Brother Charles details the post-prison life of a man who is subjected to a bunch of incredibly ridiculous experiments while in jail. Once he’s released, he vows to get revenge on those that put him in jail. How does he go about getting his revenge? He seduces their women and kills them. The real kicker is the murder weapon he uses……… SPOILER ALERT (Highlight to find out what the murder weapon is) He strangles them with his freakishly large penis. Yup!
Sheba Baby (1975)
Pam Grier was the undisputed queen of Blaxploitation films. She appeared in several of its classics: Foxy Brown and Coffy to name a few. In nearly all of them, she also managed to lose her shirt to the delight of any man who watched.
In Sheba Baby, the title character returns to her hometown of Louisville to fight some thugs who are trying to strong-arm her father’s family business out from under him, and just like in all of her films, Pam kicks a*s and takes names later.
Willie Dynamite (1974)
Willie Dynamite has the distinction of having Roscoe Orman playing the title character. Who exactly is Roscoe Orman, you may ask? Well, Roscoe also played Gordon on the children’s educational show Sesame Street.
Willie Dynamite is a pimp who’s doing what pimps do, and on his quest to be the number one pimp in New York City finds himself at odds with his league of fellow pimps, the cops, and a former prostitute turned social worker named Cora.
This is one of my favorite Blaxploitation films if only for it having one of the greatest moments of a pimp losing his cool and turning into a total simp. WATCH THAT SCENE HERE.
Trouble Man (1972)
Trouble Man is mostly known for it’s score which was written and performed by the legendary Marvin Gaye. The movie itself is pretty substandard and pretty forgettable. But, no blaxploitation film collection would be complete without it. After years of being unavailable, it was finally released to DVD in 2006.
Black Dynamite (2009)
Black Dynamite stars Michael Jai White as the title character in this brilliant homage to the blaxploitation genre. From the costuming to the intentional production mistakes to the kind of film its shot on, Black Dynamite is nearly indistinguishable from the films it parodies. The film co-stars Salli Richardson and Tommy Davidson and features cameo appearances from Arsenio Hall, John Salley, Brian McKnight and many more.
What are some of your favorite Blaxploitation films???