Hip Hop movies have become a mainstay among lovers of the genre. Many of these projects have become responsible for pushing the genre past the radio. A vital medium within the culture of Hip Hop, many of these releases have achieved cult classic status. Going past the music to highlight the social and cultural activities surrounding the genre, Hip Hop movies are essential in showcasing many facets.
Cult classic Hip Hop movies cover a wide range of plots and are far from one-dimensional. They offer deep dives into the many highs and lows of Hip Hop culture. There's no shortage of incredibly written material, from romantic dramas to comedies and gritty stories about gun violence and racial profiling. There is an endless stream of Hip Hop movies to get into, and these seven classics should be a part of everyone's watchlist.
Wild Style (1983)
Wild Style is a drama often regarded as the pioneer of Hip Hop movies. The Charlie Ahearn-directed project has maintained cultural relevance even after 40 years. Wild Style showcases the birth of Hip Hop in the '80s and its many facets. The movie follows an anonymous graffiti artist and his signature during the rise of the rap industry.
Many rap, breakdance, and graffiti artists and groups appeared in Wild Style. The movie became a melting pot of Hip Hop pioneers and featured legends like Fab Five Freddy and Grandmaster Flash, among others.
Krush Groove (1985)
Krush Groove is a movie that was greatly inspired by the early days of Def Jam Recordings. Blair Underwood starred as a fictional version of the iconic record producer Russell Simmons. The musical comedy featured a staggering list of notable musicians, including Run-D.M.C., The Fat Boys, New Edition, and the Beastie Boys. Krush Groove also stacked many famous stars in its soundtrack album.
During his brief, yet legendary career, Tupac Shakur made his film debut in the coming-of-age crime thriller, Juice. Ernest R. Dickerson directed the classic Hip Hop movie. It features unforgettable performances by Omar Epps, Queen Latifah, Samuel L. Jackson, Khalil Kain, and Jermaine Hopkins. Juice is set in Harlem, following four friends who get caught up in the gritty world of street crime and the harrowing events that occur as a result.
Juice delivers on all fronts and is packed with a lot of gut and heart. Peer pressure, friendship, loyalty, and police harassment are significant themes that the movie covers. The film's soundtrack, also called Juice, was released on New Year's Eve in 1991. Hip Hop veterans like Naughty by Nature and Eric B. & Rakim appeared on the album. Juice is undoubtedly a quintessential Hip Hop cult classic.
Friday is a buddy comedy that is still referenced almost three decades after its release. The hilarious movie was led by brilliant performances by Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. Friday was a cultural phenomenon and offered a new perspective on Hip Hop movies. DJ Pooh and Ice Cube wrote the movie in an attempt to show a lighter side to films involving the hood.
F. Gary Gray directed the movie and also had a minor role in it. The funny ensemble cast included Nia Long, Bernie Mac, Regina King, Faizon Love, John Witherspoon, and more. Friday follows two friends who owe a feared drug dealer some money and their antics as they attempt to recover the money. The cult classic spawned two sequels and is the reason for the popular quote, "Bye Felicia!"
Paid in Full (2002)
Paid in Full is a crime drama starring Wood Harris, Mekhi Phifer, and Cam'ron. The film was directed by Charles Stone III, and it was inspired by true events. Paid in Full follows the drug trade in 1980s Harlem and the rise and fall of three friends caught up in it. The film serves as a cautionary tale of the consequences of a life of crime.
Pain in Full is another one of many classic Hip Hop movies. In addition to its real-life situations, the fictitious project was based on notable drug dealers Azie Faison, Rich Porter, and Alpo Martinez. Greed, loyalty, ambition, and betrayal are significant themes in the movie. Paid in Full had a mixed critical reception, but it has become one of the staple movies in Hip Hop culture.
How High (2001)
How High is a lighthearted comedy that features Method Man and Redman in lead roles. The hilarious movie touched on fantasy elements and delivered joke after joke from start to finish. The film follows a pair of lazy stoners, Silas and Jamal, who smoke a magical substance. When a ghost appears to the duo, they ace their exams and end up at Harvard. However, when they run out of their magical supply, they must navigate college independently.
Additionally, How High introduced a softer side to the pair of Hip Hop rappers. The movie may not have achieved a critical and commercial response, but it remains a staple Hip Hop movie. The soundtrack was a moderate success, with songs from Method Man and Redman featured.
Don't Be A Menace (1996)
Don't Be a Menace is another beloved comedy film that covers Hip Hop culture. Shawn and Marlon Wayans star in the laugh-out-loud movie about a young man who moves to the tough streets of Los Angeles. Don't Be a Menace is noteworthy for its spoofing of classic Hip Hop movies of the 1990s. Juice, South Central, Boyz n the Hood, and Menace II Society were parodied in the film.