90-Second Expert: Blaxploitation

Quick Summary

  • At the turn of the 1970s, whites began to vacate America's cinema-filled inner cities
  • Black audiences therefore became a legitimate target audience
  • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song proved the point
  • A decade's worth of black-themed flicks followed
  • Until the fad faded out, leaving rappers, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Quentin Tarantino to later revive interest.


Key Titles

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Sony (1971)

Blaxploitation hits the ground running with director / writer / star Melvin Van Peebles' tale of a black guy on the lam from The Man. Rough, raw and revolutionary.

Shaft (1971)

Despite Richard Roundtree's iconic, Isaac Hayes-scored walk through NY, Shaft is an oddly pedestrian pic. Still, Roundtree's private dick was an instant icon, his exploits spawning two sequels and a remake.

Super Fly (1972)

A controv-magnet that many felt glamorised drug-dealing - testament surely to Ron O'Neal's magnetic performance as smoothie Priest, not to mention Curtis Mayfi eld's soundtrack. He's your pusher man!

Coffy (1973)

Rocking razors in her hair, Pam Grier's out for justice in a visceral revenger. Follow-up Foxy Brown (this time it's a pistol in her 'do) kept things fresh with pickled privates and a lesbian bar brawl.

Uptown Saturday Night (1974)

With soul cinema in full swing, Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier got funky in a charming hepcat caper also starring a then up-and-coming Richard Pryor.


Not a blaxploitation picture per se, but a poignant and hilarious account of Sweetback's shoot, with director Mario Van Peebles playing his pops and linking reconstructions with talking-head testimonies.

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