It is undeniable that the years 1971 Tree and Baadassss song by Sweet Sweetback, both released within months of each other, were actually a first step towards the rise of the Blaxploitation genre – a film genre that catered to African American audiences. However, the genre which was undoubtedly meant to entertain its target audience and pique various political issues of the time only succeeded in polarizing the African American community of the time.
Some believed that these films promoted black empowerment and broke down racial barriers and prejudice, while others believed that these releases negatively fueled white prejudice against African Americans. Now, well over four decades later, those movies are a part of film history, though some of them still have pretty sharp teeth that dig deep into the societal ills we face to this day. Here are the seven classic Blaxploitation movies that are still relevant to this day:
I’ll Fuck You Sucka – 1988
I will make you suck was Keenen Ivory Wayans’ feature debut, an homage to the 1970s Blaxploitation genre, which also starred cast stalwarts Bernie Casey, Isaac Hayes, Jim Brown and Ja’net DuBois. It mainly consisted of various direct homages to Blaxploitation Gems from a bygone era, like Tree and super fly, while superimposing humor and all-purpose gags.
The story revolves around Jack Spade’s return to “Any Ghetto, USA”, only to find his brother dead from a gold chain overdose. He seeks revenge against Mr. Big, a white criminal boss who sells gold chains on the streets. In this wacky satire of 1970s blaxploitation movies, Spade learns he must take matters into his own hands to find true justice.
The Last Dragon — 1985
1985 the last dragon is a mixture of kung fu, blaxploitation and funk culture. The film is about a young New York City martial artist who has trained tirelessly to reach the same level of skill as Bruce Lee, but also has to deal with a self-proclaimed neighborhood bully and the Shogun of Harlem.
The film was produced by Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, which is actually reflected in the film’s narrative; although ostensibly centered on martial arts, the film’s main purpose was to promote Motown artists and sell records. The film contains martial arts violence but very little blood, lots of sexual innuendo, and no shortage of African American and Asian stereotypes. It is quite possibly the first and only African-American martial arts musical ever made.
Foxy Brown – 1974
Foxy Brown, originally conceived as a sequel to 1973 Coffyfollows Pam Grier as Foxy Brown, a woman-turned-vigilante who seeks revenge on the mobsters who brutally murdered her boyfriend. Grier shone as Brown just as much as she did in her other Blaxploitation roles due to her incredible acting skills, which portray her character as both tough and sensitive.
The film was originally to be called Burn, Coffy, burn! in which a “one-chick squad” uses all manner of tools and means to draw blood, including fists, knives, guns, and even an airplane propeller. Pam Grier’s performance in crafty brown led Tarantino to write the eponymous role of Jackie Brown specifically for her.