The Baadasssss Blaxploitation Top 20

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

Blaxploitation was a popular exploitation film genre born in the 1970s that focused on stories about African Americans' social struggles and their fantasies. These movies were heightened, outrageous versions of reality and featured main characters that were larger than life. The subject matter dealt with everything from inner city crime (pimps, players, gangsters, drug dealers, private eyes) to tales of the supernatural (vampires, demonic possession). Throughout the 70s, black audiences finally got their own heroes to champion on the big screen. Most importantly the movies created an outlet for the African-American artistic community to work in and be seen. It remains a very important part of both cultural and cinematic history.

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Pam Grier as Coffy

1. Shaft (1971)

An action film with elements of film noir, Shaft tells the story of a private detective, John Shaft, who travels through Harlem and to the Italian mob neighborhoods in order to find the missing daughter of a black mobster. The movie was adapted by Ernest Tidyman and John D. F. Black from Tidyman's 1970 novel of the same name. Widely considered a prime example of the blaxploitation genre, Shaft was selected in 2000 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." (Wikipedia)


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2. Coffy (1973)

Pam Grier is Coffy, a sexy nurse who decides to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge to get back at the drug dealers who got her sister hooked on heroin. Pam Grier's fierce personality mixed with her natural sexiness drives this movie over the top! As Coffy tries to get to the bottom of who's behind the drug dealing in her area, she is put in very dangerous situations which she must get out of using her strong will and determination. This is a crown jewel of the era. It was followed up by another classic of the genre Foxy Brown.


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3. Super Fly (1972)

Gordon Parks Jr.'s Super Fly marked the second mega hit for what became known as the Blaxploitation era. Youngblood Priest (Ron' O'Neal) has got it all, the flashiest clothes, the hottest bitches, a color TV in every room, coke by the pound and the finest ride in Harlem. What he doesn't have is piece of mind, and this is what the story is all about. The only way Priest will truly be able to make his dream of a bright future a reality is for his mentor Scatter (Julius W. Harris) to help him score one last big cocaine deal, thus funding his escape from a life of crime for good.


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4. The Mack (1973)

The reason The Mack is the best pimpin' film is that it was actually shot on the streets of Oakland, CA and much of the cast were real life hustlers and pimps from the Bay area. In this Godfather of pimpin' flicks, we get a look into the life of a young hustler named Goldie (Max Julien) who is sentenced to a term in prison thanks to two corrupt, racist cops. Upon his release, Goldie finds that his younger brother (Roger Mosely) is the head of a group of citizens trying to rid the neighborhoods of crime. Along with his best friend Slim (Richard Pryor), Goldie goes against his brother's wishes and plans to rule the streets as the king of players again. He must then evade the same cops that put him away and a white competitor in the underworld that wants to keep him down.



5. Black Caesar (1973)

In 1953, a young shoeshine boy named Tommy Gibbs (Omer Jeffrey) takes his first steps into the organized crime business. While a gangster gets his shoes shined, Tommy grabs onto his leg to prevent the man from getting away. Another gangster shows up, pulls out a gun and shoots him. A bit later, young Gibbs goes to bring a dirty cop his pay off. McKinney (the cop in question) is racist and hits Gibbs so hard he ends up with a broken leg in the hospital. Many years later, Tommy Gibbs (now played by Fred Williamson) returns to Harlem seeking retribution. This film is one of the best in the blaxploitation genre and Fred "The Hammer" Williamson truly is a "Bad Mutha."


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6. Blacula (1972)

In the year 1790, African Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) and his wife Luva (Vonetta McGee) visit the country of Transylvania and its most popular resident, Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) in an effort to get help to end the slave trade. It is soon revealed that ol' Dracula himself is a racist. When Mamuwalde and Luva attempt to leave the castle, they are swiftly held captive by Dracula's vampire minions. Count Dracula bites Mamuwalde turning him into a vampire and curses him with the name "Blacula". After locking Mamuwalde into a metal coffin, Dracula lets Luva know that her fate is sealed as well, and the two are placed inside a hidden dungeon room, never to be seen again. Centuries later, Blacula escapes from his tomb and begins wreaking terror on modern urban society.


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7. Dolemite (1975)

Comedian Rudy Ray Moore wanted to cash in on the Blaxploitation craze so he brought his standup character "Dolemite" to Drive ins and Grindhouses across the USA. Dolemite has to be one of the worst directed films, but for some reason, that doesnt matter when you watch it. The acting is pretty horrible as well, but there's a certain charm about it that will grab you. The story focuses on a club owner/player (Rudy Ray Moore) who is framed for a crime but has been hired by the local government to get back on the streets and take down the man who set him up, Willie Green (D'urville Martin), a dope pushing pimp who's been selling drugs and killing innocent kids in the hood.


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8. Foxy Brown (1974)

In this follow up to Jack Hill's 1973 Blaxploitation classic Coffy, Pam Grier stars as Foxy Brown, another badass babe that's out for revenge. When her FBI informant boyfriend is suddenly murdered by a crime organization Foxy goes undercover as a call-girl to get back at them. Pam Grier shines once again in another excellent Exploitation film by Grindhouse auteur Jack Hill. He creates such a great atmosphere and his snappy dialogue and fun characters are some of the best of the 70s era. Foxy Brown is an iconic character from the Blaxploitation genre and this movie is one of the classic female empowerment films from the 1970s.



9. Black Belt Jones (1974)

If you've seen Enter The Dragon, you'll know that Jim Kelly had his own brand of humor which he mixed with his blazing martial arts talent. Well, Black Belt Jones basically expands on that and injects it into every scene. The dialogue is very funny/witty and its one of the main strengths in the movie besides the over the top action. Its got to be noted that the score and sound effects by Luchi DeJesus and Dennis Coffey is one of the most funky from the Blaxploitation era. The movie is filled with intense brass horns mixed with Kelly's kung fu "Ki-ays" and laid over the sound of piercing bone crunches and snaps during the fight scenes. This was also the first blaxploitation-kung fu crossover and who better to kick it off than the legendary Jim "Dragon" Kelly?



10. Cleopatra Jones (1973)

The late great Tamara Dobson plays the eponymous Cleopatra Jones in this tale of a Super-Model Secret Agent and her one woman quest against the horrors of drug abuse. After destroying a poppy field in Turkey owned by Mommy (Shelley Winters) Cleo returns home to her drug ravaged community and to her lover Ruben Masters (Bernie Casey) who runs a halfway house for recovering addicts. Mommy takes Cleopatra's one woman crusade a tad personal (understandable really) and, after sending the usual corrupt cops to bust up the halfway house, she goes bat-shit crazy when one of her main dealers Doodlebug (Antonio Fargas) decides that he's going to go it alone as he feels that Mommy and her crew are on the slide.

 The karate kicks fly and bullets blast as Cleo takes on Mommy and her organization.


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11. Sugar Hill (1974)

This story opens at a hot-spot nightclub owned by Langston (Larry Johnson) whose main squeeze is the beautiful Diana "Sugar" Hill (Marki Bey). Before things start to get romantic, in come the baddies and the "Sell-Us-The-Club-Or-Else" angle. Wasting no time, the "Or-Else" option goes into effect and Langston is stomped and beaten to death just moments later. And so Diana goes into full revenge mode against the gang leader, Morgan (Robert Quarry) and his goons. Rather than becoming a kung-fu kickin', shotgun blasting femme fatale like Coffy, Diana's weapon of choice is the mysterious power of voodoo!


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12. J.D.'s Revenge (1976)

New Orleans, 1942. Hoodlum, J.D. Walker (David McKnight) is framed for being a "MURDERER!" and is gunned down in a hail of bullets. 34 years later, we meet Isiah "Ike" Hendricks (Glynn Turman), a cab driver/law student, who goes out on the town with his girlfriend, Christella (Joan Pringle). Looking for fun, Ike participates in a hypnotist show, but while under hypnosis, something strange happens. Soon after, Ike begins experiencing terrible headaches and hallucinations, including seeing the image of someone else when gazing into a mirror! The face looks familiar. It's none other than J.D. Walker! Slowly, the damned soul of J.D. begins to take control of Ike turning him into a psychotic vengeful criminal.


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13. Darktown Strutters (1975)

Syreena (Trina Parks) and her motorcycle (really oversized tricycle) gang pull into town and get in to a scuffle with a few local Aryans at the local BBQ joint and hilarity ensues. The girls escape and hook up with a rival male gang and more hilarity and PG-rated sexual hi-jinks occur. Syreena goes to visit her brother (who thinks he's Jim Kelly in Enter The Dragon) and knocks the front of his house down by karate-ing it. Then there's Cross (Norman Bartold), who runs the local BBQ pork chain who may or may-not have kidnapped Syreena's mom Cinderella (Frances E. Nealy) because she was operating an abortion clinic and knew he was actually in league with the Klan. Darktown Strutters is a highly stylized cult classic comedy that you'll never forget.



14. Willie Dynamite (1974)

"Willie D" (Roscoe Orman) is livin the pimpin lifestyle and enjoying it to the fullest. Willie and his partners have a gathering to discuss the current state of pimpin. After joking around for a few minutes, the main pimp of the area explains they have to start worrying about the heat (cops) that's coming down on them. They need to start sticking to territories and no more free hooking for their ho's. All the other pimps agree they should go that route but Willie seems hesitant. He puts up a fight, and shows he's not gonna go along with the group. Meanwhile, a case worker (Diana Sands) as well as some police officers begin harassing Willie for his flashy, lawbreaking lifestyle. Soon his fast n' free livin' pimpin' world becomes a very dangerous place with everyone out to get him.


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15. The Black Gestapo (1976)

A black empowerment group called The People's Army have formed a special neighborhood program to keep out white corruption as well as drug dealers and pimps. The two main leaders of The People's Army are General Ahmed (Rod Perry) and Colonel Kojah (Charles H Robinson). Ahmed is the Martin Luther King personality and Kojah is the Malcolm X personality. The People's Army begins as a law abiding, honest force for good in the neighborhoods, but Colonel Kojah begins making it apparent his intentions are to create an army more in line with Hitler's SS. Now Ahmed knows that he not only has to battle the oppressive white thugs, but his old friend Kojah as well.


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16. Truck Turner (1974)

The late great singer/composer/actor Isaac Hayes stars as Mack "Truck" Turner, a skip tracer (bounty hunter) in the greater Los Angeles area. Before he became a criminal catcher, Truck was an all star football player, which is where he earned his nickname. When Truck kills a criminal named Gator with underworld ties, the dead man's devious associate Dorinda (Nichelle Nichols) decides to take revenge on Truck and hires a group of thugs led by Harvard Blue (Yaphet Kotto) to do the hit. With everyone on his trail, Truck has to use his keen wit and defense tactics to stay alive.


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17. Thomasine & Bushrod (1974)

Vonetta McGee plays Thomasine and Max Julien plays Bushrod in a film intended as a counterpart to the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. Thomasine and Bushrod go on a crime spree through the American south between 1911 and 1915, acting as Robin Hood type heroes who steal from rich, white capitalists, then give to Mexicans, Native Americans and poor whites. An excellent Western action-adventure with two icons of black genre cinema. The main theme was performed by the 60s psychedelic acid-rock band Love, featuring Arthur Lee.



18. Abby (1974)

Some say this movie was so controversial that it had to be pulled from cinema release, others claim it was pulled from circulation due to the fact it was nothing more than an Exorcist rip-off.
 It was never THAT controversial and even though Warner Brothers sued American International Pictures and won, it didn't really have that much in common with The Exorcist bar someone being possessed. For Regan MacNeil it was The Devil, for Abby Williams (Carol Speed), Eshu, a West African spirit of whirlwinds and chaos (and for some reason known only to the writers of this film) a sex demon.



19. Three The Hard Way (1974)

Jimmy Lait (Jim Brown) a music producer finds an old neighborhood friend House (Junero Jennings) shot outside his studio and immediately brings him to the hospital to get fixed up. Meanwhile, Jimmy's girlfriend Wendy (Sheila Frazier) decides to visit House in the hospital and she's kidnapped by some masked thugs. When Jimmy finds out about this he goes to Lt. DiNisco (Alex Rocco), but DiNisco explains that he can't just go after anyone. Jimmy decides to take matters into his own hands by getting his old friends Jagger Daniels (Fred Williamson) and Mister Keyes (Jim Kelly) to help him. It turns out an evil white supremacist named Mr. Feather (Jay Robinson) has a plan to create a special poison that will wipe out only the black race, leaving the three pals to stop him.


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20. Slaughter (1973)

Ex-Green Beret, Mr. Slaughter (Jim Brown) finds out that his parents have been killed in a car-bombing. Slaughter knew his dad had mob connections, but his mother didn't. Nevertheless, Slaughter's out for blood. The Treasury Department wants to join in on the fun since the baddies that they're after are not only responsible for the hit, but just for the usual underworld business. The trail leads to Mexico where the head honcho, Mario Felice (Norman Alfe) and his #1 goon, Dominic Hoffo (Rip Torn) reside. Slaughter is paired with agents Kim (Marlene Clark) and "Marcus" (Don Gordon), but also gets his libido a workout when Dominic's lady, Ann (Stella Stevens) is sent to spy on him.


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