DAR Films: 15 Of The Greatest Black Films Of The 90's

By @TrueGodImmortal 

Black cinema has always been one of the most vital things to our culture. Movies that appeal to our people, our humor, our struggles, black films have been extremely viable, iconic, and influencing within the community, and a showcase of our talents. There was no decade in film that this was more on display than the 90's. The 90's showcased so many different elements of the black experience in film, music, and more. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at the 15 greatest black films of the decade. There are so many great films from the decades that we could have talked 20-25, if not more, but let's make my job a bit harder and narrow it down to just 15. Let's get into it.

*Soul Food (1997)

-One of the most underrated black movies ever, I think Soul Food is one of the best, if not the best film centered around family.  It has a great cast, with Nia Long, Mekhi Phifer, Vanessa Williams, Vivica Fox, and many more rounding out the George Tillman Jr directed (his first major film directorial debut) and Babyface produced comedy-drama. From the ups and downs, tests of loyalty, pain within love, to the loss that rocks the family, Soul Food is a movie that will be remembered forever by moviegoers of all ages. It's well deserving of a spot on this list.

*Boyz N The Hood (1991)

-There's no way to make a list like this without including this John Singleton directed classic. Released in 1991, this film would be a breakthrough moment for Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, and Morris Chestnut, as all played pivotal characters in this film. Laurence Fishburne was amazing in his role as Furious Styles, and the film provided lessons and moments that expressed how growing up on the West Coast could be. With a hard hitting loss as the film neared the close, as well as a sense of family amongst the main characters, this film was one of the best during the decade for sure.

*Juice (1992)

-I think this movie gets lost in the shuffle with films like Boyz N The Hood and Menace II Society, but make no mistake about it, Juice is a definite classic. It showed us that Tupac was one hell of an actor, gave Omar Epps a breakout role, and immortalized Khalil Kain as Raheem. The story of four young high school friends who were always hooking class and chasing women comes to a strange but understandable end when the power of a gun comes into play. The friendship is torn apart by Tupac's character Bishop and the dichotomy between Bishop and Omar Epps' character Q is what helps to drive the movie. The story, the pace, and the acting is all well done and feels like a true to life story of a young friendship gone awry.

*Fresh (1994)

-In what might be more of a coming of age story than anything, this film was one that I slept on until about 10 years ago or so. The story of Fresh (played by Sean Nelson) and his tough life is essentially a movie that can relate to the experience of many kids from the neighborhood that have to grow up way before their time. Samuel L. Jackson stars as Fresh's father, and their relationship is very telling and important to the movie. There's the young Chuckie, who is one of Fresh's closest friends that busts the stupid dope moves, and Fresh's sister who plays a big role throughout as well. It's a great story and though it isn't one of the biggest movies from the decade, it is certainly one of the best.

*Crooklyn (1994)

-Spike Lee has made a number of great movies over the years, but I truly believe this is his best (besides another film that makes this list). Based in the hometown of Spike, Brooklyn, New York, the film follows one family and their struggles. Alfre Woodard is the mother, and Delroy Lindo would play the father, but the biggest star of this film was Zelda Harris, who plays the main character Troy Carmichael. Troy has to deal with being the only girl in a house of brothers, a small knack for stealing, and the lessons placed upon her by her mother. When her mother passes away, it ends the film on a sad note, but the film grabs you emotionally during this period. That is the mark of a true classic.

*Friday (1995)

-One of my all time favorite films, this movie is seen as a stoner classic, but it's also one of the best comedies ever, and likely the best black comedy of the decade. Focused on Craig (played by Ice Cube) and Smokey  (played by Chris Tucker), the film starts with Craig losing his job (on his day off) and goes into other subplots throughout. Smokey owes Big Worm (played by Faizon Love) 200 dollars, Craig wants to date his sister's friend Debbie, the neighbor Ms.  Parker has a private prayer meeting with a pastor (played by Bernie Mac), Smokey attempts to find love with a woman who claims to look like Janet Jackson (of course she does not), and there's even more happening in this movie. This is essentially a movie about one long crazy day in the neighborhood, but it's got enough comedy and hilarity throughout to make it flow perfectly. This movie is a true classic.

*Menace II Society (1993)

-The truth of the matter is that films documenting life in our neighborhoods seemed to be the biggest wave during the early 90's. There is no film that did it quite like Menace did. With Larenz Tate in his most infamous role as O-Dog, and Tyrin Turner as the lead character of the move Caine, Menace allows you to identify with these characters and in some way, root for them. There are a lot of iconic quotes and moments in this film, and I think the secondary members of the cast in the movie are very vital as well. Menace II Society is without a doubt a classic film and should always be recognized as such.

*Love Jones (1997)

-When speaking of one of the better romantic dramas in the black genre, this is a favorite of many. I'm slightly fond of this movie, but its inclusion on this list is mostly rooted in the legacy behind it and popularity. With Nia Long and Larenz Tate starring as Nia and Darius, this romantic drama/comedy is loved universally by many (mostly women) as a true to life love story. While it isn't completely realistic, it has an element that feels raw and real to it, and it carries the entire movie. This is what I consider a Neo-Soul love story film, with jazz and poetry helping to carry the background of the story. Love Jones is a classic, not because it was beautifully written or directed, but because it was a landmark story in execution and relatable to many. It's the quintessential love story of black films in the 90's.

*Boomerang (1992)

-Eddie Murphy could do no wrong during the 80's and early 90's. This film proved it. This romantic comedy is my personal pick for the greatest romantic comedy ever, and for Eddie Murphy, to have a love triangle of Robin Givens and Halle Berry, with the beautiful Lela Rochon also a conquest of his, life had to be good (maybe not when he had to have a "meeting" with Lady Eloise). Martin Lawrence and David Alan Grier are great in secondary roles, and the story plays out hilariously in this one. Boomerang is one of the greatest black films ever and I have it very high on my personal list of black movies in general and in the 90's.

*New Jack City (1991)

-When we look back on classic films of yesterday, there is no denying the power of New Jack City. 26 years later, the effect and impact of the Nino Brown character is still relevant. Wesley Snipes had his biggest role come during this movie (sorry, Demolition Man), and his career would slightly be shaped by it. With Chris Rock in a breakout performance as the doomed junkie Pookie and Ice T going undercover as a cop, this film showcased the underworld, the rise of CMB (a drug organization), and how the drugs affected the neighborhoods we lived in. It's one of the best executed films of the 90's in general, and one of the most iconic black films ever, securing a spot on this list for sure.

*What's Love Got To Do It (1993)

-There was nothing better than the portrayal of Ike Turner by Laurence Fishburne. It's honestly one of the greatest roles I've ever witnessed. The only thing that came close to that role? Angela Bassett's portrayal of Tina Turner, which is one of the most superb performances I've witnessed also. The crazy part? Those performances came in the same film. Together. The Tina Turner biopic was a wonderfully executed though probably slightly inaccurate film, and it's really a great watch, but make no mistake about it, two of the greatest acting performances in the last 20 years come in this movie, and that's why this film is included.

*Poetic Justice (1993)

-It was tough to put this movie on the list over Set It Off, The Best Man, and a few others, but the fact remains, there aren't too many movies from the 90's with more of a cultural impact than Poetic Justice. Janet Jackson would start a huge wave with the braids she wore in this film and many people still look at this film as one of the better romantic-comedy/dramas in general. Tupac is great in his role as Lucky, and Joe Torry is actually hilarious in his smaller role as Chicago. The film explores a number of topics throughout the film from love, loss/death, ego (Chicago), alcoholism, and a number of other small issues in its duration, and though it's not my favorite of the decade, it certainly deserves to be mentioned with the greatest.

*House Party (1990)

-Do I personally like the 2nd House Party better? Somewhat, but there's no denying that the original House Party is one of the greatest black comedies in history. With a cast that features music stars Full Force and of course, Kid N' Play, this comedy shows the story of high school students that are looking to have a big party and live like teenagers. Martin Lawrence is in his breakout role as Bilal here, Tisha Campbell is also great here, and there's enough music, dances, and comedy here for everyone to enjoy this movie.

*The Five Heartbeats (1991)

-The greatest music biopic ever is one that most people think is completely fictional. That's false. The group itself is fictional in name, but the Five Heartbeats are 100% based off the legendary group The Dells. With Michael Wright as the lead singer Eddie King Jr., Robert Townsend (who also directed) as Duck, and many more, this film moves along very well and shows the story of a popular black group in the 60's making their due while still battling with racism, egos, and their own internal conflict. This is one of my favorite movies ever and one of the greatest black films to ever grace the big screen.

*Malcolm X (1992)

-Spike Lee's greatest accomplishment. Denzel Washington's best role ever. Tbe story of Malcolm X was always one that needed to be told in film, and I don't think at that time that there was someone else who could have accurately done it in the right way. Spike created a three hour epic that followed the stories told in the Autobiography of Malcolm X, as he showcased the ups and downs, the jail time, the relationships, his converting to the Nation of Islam, the breakdown between the Nation and Malcolm, along with much more in his story. At the end of the day, this movie needs to be experienced once by everyone, much like I feel the book needs to be read by everyone as well. When we talk the best black films of the decade, I think Malcolm X is the ultimate. Hands down.



Popular Posts