Can ya dig it? All the blaxploitation films to watch after ‘Superfly’
Ordinarily we’re not ones for remakes. In fact, we could happily never watch another one again for as long as we live. But considering that seems to be Hollywood’s primary output at the moment we’re not sure we have much of an option on that one. Having said that, we’re seriously intrigued by Director X’s Superfly – his modern day remake of the 1972 Blaxploitation classic – which has been receiving rave reviews.
The film was released last year and had critics like David Ehrlich from IndieWire calling it a “Fun, swaggering, violent update of a Blaxploitation classic”. If you’re planning to catch the movie or already loved it, we figure you might want to enjoy a marathon Blaxploitation session too. Here’s our ranking of the ten ultimate Blaxploitation movies we think you you should revisit or enjoy for the first time.
10. Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)
Telling a story as relevant today as it was in 1970, Cotton Comes to Harlem makes some big ole statements about inner-city violence brutality while also serving up ludicrous amounts of fun – chase sequences! Sex! Comedy! A badass soundtrack! – it isn’t the best of the genre but it’s still definitely worth a watch.
9. Ganja & Hess (1973)
Bill Gunn’s blood soaked vampiric horror doesn’t play by the rules of any genre. Starring Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead) as an anthropologist who develops a thirst for blood and immortality after being stabbed by an ancient dagger, Ganja & Hess is a shrewd examination of religion and identity and of being trapped in the jaws of addiction.
8. Trouble Man (1972)
Some fans suggest the film was possibly intended to be a very subtle parody of the Blaxploitation genre which makes sense when you consider how cartoonish T (Robert Hooks) is in the film. T is more of a caricature than a character but Trouble Man is still an absolute hoot, regardless.
7. Three the Hard Way (1974)
Easily one of the wildest most ambitious Blaxploitation movie ever made, Three the Hard Way follows three martial-arts specialists who prevent some white supremacists from tainting the U.S. water supply with a toxin only harmful to black people. Though the film has an obviously great premise the execution is boldly illogical at times but is nonetheless enjoyable.
6. Truck Turner (1974)
Easily the sleaziest film on this list – and the one with the least amount of plot, too – Truck Turner is a straight up 70’s action movie full of vengeful call girls (Nichelle Nichols), devious pimps (Yaphet Kotto and Paul Harris) and frenetic bounty hunters (Isaac Hayes) making for a wild, rollicking good time.
5. Black Belt Jones (1974)
Providing the perfect blend of martial arts, comedy, and Blaxploitation, Black Belt Jones is brimming with action and humor. Starring Jim Kelly (Enter the Dragon) and Gloria Hendry (Live and Let Die) as two badass martial artists taking on the mafia to save a karate school, the film is an absolute riot from start to finish.
4. The Mack (1973)
Gleefully transgressive, The Mack offers an incendiary exploration of sex, class, and race with a side of farcical male fantasy. Following a dude who turns to pimping only to become the most notorious “mack” in town (played by the endlessly charismatic Max Julien), the film presents a radical take on capitalism and the American Dream via a captivating anti-hero.
3. Shaft (1971)
Always the suavest, smartest, and strongest guy in the room, John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is a black detective who always comes out ahead of his enemies. At this point we shouldn’t need to tell you why Gordon Parks’s (The Learning Tree) legendary movie is worth revisiting or enjoying for the first time but if you need further persuasion just listen to Isaac Hayes’s iconic theme from the movie – it sells it on just about every possible level.
2. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)
Melvin Van Peebles’s landmark blaxploitation joint drove audiences wild upon release for its radical X-rated story about an African-American sex worker triumphing against “the Man”. As controversial as it was popular, the film is a dizzying interrogation of racism, political rhetoric, and even gender roles told through an occasionally distorted dreamlike lens.
1. Coffy (1973)
Offering a radical departure from the average depiction of female characters – and particularly female characters of color – Nurse Coffy (Pam Grier) is tough, brutal, and headstrong pointing a double barrel at society’s ills and pulling the trigger without remorse. Like many strong female characters to follow, Coffy succeeds in how society underestimates her, using sexist and racist perceptions to her advantage to kick some serious ass and serve some cold justice.