10 Essential Hip-Hop Films



The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com


I was watching Paid in Full for the approximately 200th time when a thought occurred to me: They don’t make “hip-hop/hood”  movies any more do they?

When it comes to “black” movies in today’s market place there’s pretty much Tyler Perry and that’s it. And yes, I’m aware of Ice Cube and all of his works but he hasn’t made a “hip-hop” movie in awhile. And by hip-hop I don’t mean a movie about hip-hop music. This isn’t Krush Groove or Russell Simmon’s The Show or Rhyme and Reason I’m talking about. I also don’t mean those vanity projects designed specifically to sell CD’s. So that excludes Cash Money’s Baller Blockin, Death Row’s Murder Was The Case, Rocafella’s Streets is Watching and State Property.  I mean an actual viable movie that just happens to be marketed to the hip-hop nation with an accompanying epic soundtrack. Hollywood inundated us with these movies in the 90’s and early 2000’s and while all of these movies weren’t classic there’s something to be said for a time when movies were made for black people. Because outside of Tyler Perry and some art house stuff that will never see wide release. We just don’t see young black voices in our movie theaters anymore.  So while they all aren’t cinematic masterpieces here are 10 movies (in no particular order) that embody what is missing in today’s theaters.


This movie needs no introduction. For the five people who haven’t seen it and don’t understand why it’s great I urge you to take a look. Many of the cameos would probably be lost on the younger generation from Queen Latifah dissing Flex’s mix to Special Ed stealing Raheim’s girl. But nobody can deny the Oscar-worthy performance of Samuel L. Jackson as aspiring pedophile/ high-school age speakeasy proprietor Sweets. Bonus Fact: This is the movie that made me want to be a DJ.

Boyz N The Hood

I confess every time I see Morris Chestnut in a movie I’m secretly afraid that just when something great is about to happen to him a car full of gang members will pull up and shoot him in the back. Based on the way his agent picks scripts though that scenario would probably improve most of the movies he’s starred in recently. But this is the movie that had Lawrence Fishbourne, Angela Basset, Cuba Gooding Jr, Nia Long, and Ice Cube. Sometimes you look at a cast of a movie and you’re amazed at all the talent combined. Also remember when John Singleton was relevant?

New Jack City

Nino Brown and G-Money are the most iconic crime duo in the history of black film.  This movie was released in 1991 and tells a cartoonish and simplistic version of the story of crack.  It’s a great movie that helped launch Wesley Snipes and Ice-T into stardom. (There was a time when putting Ice-T in your movie as streetwise cop was not a no-brainer).   And while over the top by today’s standards, Mario Van Peebles never completely veers into the Blaxploitation turf that his father helped establish. If anything this movie reminds us  of a time when crack was super scary.

Paid In Full

The only film in this list that wasn’t released in the 90’s. This is like the unofficial sequel of New Jack City telling the story of Harlem’s crack trade in the 80’s and the legendary story of Rich Porter, Alpo and AZ (here rechristened as Mitch, Rico, and Ace). Some details have been changed to protect the innocent. This is one of those movies that was bootlegged years before it’s official release and it’s easy to understand the streets impatience. The quality of this low-budget film and the performances of everyone involved make me wonder if Roc-A—Fella could have become as big a name in movies as it was in music. Hell Cam’ron wasn’t just passable in this film he was a bonafide actor.

Menace II Society

Speaking of classic movie characters. Kaine and O-Dog are two you can’t forget. The ending of this movie was my first “Sixth Sense” moment. Before this the idea that a movie could have a “bad” ending was foreign to me.  In retrospect Kaine was a degenerate who probably wasn’t bound for greater things. But his chances for redemption were cut short regardless.  The Hughes Brothers made you feel compassion for characters that moments earlier had committed a robbery/murder.

South Central

O.G. Bobby Johnson and Ray-Ray yes the trend of classic characters continue. This movie had more than a few shades of Boyz N The Hood as O.G. Bobby Johnson fights for the soul of his son. Watching it again recently and seeing the desperate situation of the characters involved makes me wonder about how little progress is being made. Why are there still so many poor people in America and why are minorities still relegated to second class citizen status?

Above The Rim

You forgot about Pac’s only truly gangsta role? Yeah I know he was a little crazy in Juice. But Roland Bishop was just a crazy confused kid who was probably in the beginning stages of becoming a thug. Birdy the character that Pac played in this film was an actual thug and I believe the basis for the post-prison version of Tupac that he presented to the world until his tragic demise. But I could spend days deconstructing Tupac I’ve had 17 years to think about it.

Tales From The Hood

You might think I’m  bugging by putting this movie on the list of essential cinema for the hip-hop generation. But you have to look at what this is. It’s probably the most exploitative film on the list. The one that cares the least about the plight of black people in America. And yet it’s horror/comedy vibe makes it entertaining and certainly less cheesy than other lame attempts like Leprechaun In The Hood. What this movie does though isn’t really a mockery of our culture. It’s social commentary disguised as pulp horror comic schtick. And Clarence Williams III’s black interpretation of the Crypt-keeper from Tales From The Crypt is more than worth the price of admission.


Finally a comedy. I’ll probably be crucified for saying this but the very first Friday probably isn’t the funniest one in the series. But it’s still the best one. The other movies in the Friday series take the original concept and pervert in ways to shamelessly milk the laughter out of the audience. This Friday in it’s pacing and characters that feel genuine with just a touch of the comedic effect was a lot more believable. A character like “Money Mike” could never exist in the universe of the first Friday Film he would stick out like sore thumb. And Chris Tucker’s role as Smokey is a lot more endearing than the obtusely crass Mike Epps in his portrayal of Day-Day. Go rewatch all three films in the series if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

New Jersey Drive

Probably the least recognizable name on this list New Jersey Drive is probably remembered more by hip-hop heads than any other group of people because of it’s epic two volume soundtrack. Featuring songs from Lost Boyz, Outkast, and Redman to name a few. I didn’t see the movie for years after it’s release. But one day I was up at like 3 in the morning and it was on TV. I watched it and enjoyed it. It’s a small movie and sometimes small movies are the best. It tells a very simple story of some misguided youth who live in North Jersey and steal cars. That’s it. It doesn’t turn into Fast and The Furious. It doesn’t turn into a convoluted social studies exercise. It stays in its lane (pun intended) and you ultimately feel satisfied with the story it tells.

Those are my 10 essential hood movies. But of course there are more. If you want to get at me for not including your favorites remember the criteria. No straight to dvd rapper vanity projects. No documentaries. No movies that don’t directly deal with people in the hood.  Dis-Honorable Mentions: Dead Presidents (more of a Vietnam movie), Love Jones ( black women love this movie like black men love Scarface), Soul Food (I’ve grown to hate that movie though), Sunset Park (I forgot what the movie is even about), and that movie where Usher and Fredro from Onyx hold their school hostage (actually that movie sucked).


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  • Thanks to Tyler Perry for allowing people to think that all black men do is wear dresses and high heels.

    • brotha_man

      where to even start with this negro….i refuse to watch his ‘ish. i stand wit spike on his views about Mr. Perry

      • ItGoesDownINtheDM

        i like his sitcoms tho … not really into the madea seriers tho

      • ItGoesDownINtheDM

        i can watch the paynes and the browns all day everyday lol

      • Lord Saltsworth McGinty III

        I have to agree with you there. His movies are hot garbage and his sitcoms insult my intelligence.

    • ItGoesDownINtheDM


  • GTFOH!

    All them ‘chets are classics!

    Definitely a good top 10 list, but I would have added “BlueHill Ave” over “Tales From The Hood”, but still a good list.

    • brotha_man

      or dead presidents. still one of my favorite joints

      • Yeah, DP was classified as a war flick, even if it was a ‘Hood flick, it wasn’t Hip Hop, but it did have the banging Al Green soundtrack. I think BlueHill was classified as “Str82DVD”, but that was a banger too.

        Overall, a solid list, but definitely would have replaced Tales with DP if that was an option. DP is definitely on of the Top 10 ‘Nam flicks though.

    • ItGoesDownINtheDM

      remove tales from the hood … and add ABOVE THE RIM !! thats my favorite joint of all time and its probably has one of the best soundtracks too for a hip hop movie …..

      • ItGoesDownINtheDM

        my bag above the rim is up there !! def classic right there ………. lol

      • LOL~N

        You know Above The Rim gotta be up there!

        True Fact : Birdie was based on Haitian Jack

  • junj03

    Love them all and i own most.

  • brotha_man

    *scrolls through one more time* Illseed take “tales from the hood” off and add “Sugar Hill”.

    otherwise these are all classics

    • brotha_man

      my bad the director for sugar hill is cuban. i thought it was a spike lee joint

      • brotha_man

        replace “tales from the hood” with “Dead presidents”

      • ItGoesDownINtheDM

        just remove tales from the hood all together lol …. thats a good movie to watch but not a classic … its like Soul Plane …. funny movie good watch but not classic …..

      • ^This

        But the soundtrack (Scarface’s was off the hook *Facemob)

      • brotha_man

        facemob was hard as$ hell

      • Lord Saltsworth McGinty III

        I went to the movies to see that sh@t and was pissed!

      • ItGoesDownINtheDM

        nah spike aint getting credit for that one lol … but you can tell sugar hill aint no spike lee joint ….. there was nothing spike lee about that movie … spike got a certain feel to his movies especially them early on joints …..

      • ItGoesDownINtheDM


      • brotha_man

        forgot about above the rim. thats a classic for sure

      • ItGoesDownINtheDM

        yeah that movie and juice holds a permanent spot in my memory banks ……………….. lol ………..

      • brotha_man

        *crumbles up paper and starts new list*

  • wickedjones

    Maybe im off point but I thought Malcolm Lee movies were good.

  • ItGoesDownINtheDM

    if i ever get on or get in contact with someone i feel confortable pitching my idea too i got a good one … sort of a remake of the an olddy but goody but def a nice new little twist too it ……

  • brotha_man

    I remember watching a show called “Laurel avenue based in st. paul, it was a black mini series on hbo. i was a lil jet then but remember it being good, especially because i was raised in the twin cities. Charles Dutton was executive producer.

    • ItGoesDownINtheDM

      sounds familar

  • STFUUIgnants

    So it has to be strictly about drugs & violence to be hip hop? Sounds like a post new millenium interpretation of what hip hop is suppose to be about. Only thing missing is clubbing.

    • maya

      And booty-clapping! lol

    • Breeze

      might as well throw players club on the list lol

  • What about Training day? or even American Gangster?

  • MrJayK

    What about “Who’s The Man?” Not only a comedy, but featured almost all of the hip-hop icons of the day. Plus, the soundtrack: Biggie, Mary, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Erick Sermon, House of Pain. That movie gets slept on, and needs to be on the list.

  • bisolabliss

    Poetic Juice
    Barber shop I & II
    Higher Learning
    Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood
    Who’s the Man
    Deep Cover
    Do the Right Thing
    Panther – the accompanying soundtrack had a joint on it titled ‘The Point’…this record featured Big Mike, Biggie Smalls, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Buckshot, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, Digable Planets, Heltah Skeltah, Ill Al Skratch, Jamal, Menace Clan & Redman…what a line up

  • RichFromBX

    Liberal Hollywood won’t allow another movie like Menace or Juice to come out again for a long long time – they ain’t letting anything that that could “shed a bad light” on the black community leave the pitch stage. It’s their way of “protecting” black people and making sure no one hurts them because they can’t do it themselves and need the help.

    To me, this is just another form of racism and oppression especially when they green light the coonery of Madea…say what you want about Republicans, at least they’re the devil dressed as the devil.

  • Freezamon

    What About..

    Caught Up
    Fly By Night
    Bronx War
    Beat Street
    Crush Groove
    Livin Large

    • caught Up is terrible movie

  • Man Fresh needed to be on there somewhere, that flick was chock full of game for anyone with the ability to read between the lines. Plus the added bonus of starring a young Mike from The Wood…LOL Which speakin of, The Wood coulda easily replaced Tales From the Hood (which IS my shit too btw…”The shit?? Ah yes…you’ll get the shit. You’ll be knee-deep…in…the SHIT…”) as a hood-related comedy. “Oh y’all goin to that lil dance huh? Nigga REMEMBER them mufukkin dances boy…” LMAO

  • 1800mossadslave

    Squeeze tho

  • Mike lowry

    You got to have SHOTTAS on there bruh….

    • I feel you, but Shottas is more raggae type of shit

  • Fresh is slept on and some of those are cinematic classics

    • phillysheed

      I think Fresh and Paid In Full are actually the 2 best films of that genre from that era. Good stories that are magnificently acted by everyone involved.

  • som fed

    am I the only one who’s watched and enjoyed City of God???…over and over and over again???

    • water_ur_seeds

      its a classic but not an america hood movie…

      • James Jones

        Agree – great foreign flick- not a hood classic.

    • phillysheed

      City Of God is awesome. One of the only subtitled movies I have no problem watching but it’s in Portuguese.

  • water_ur_seeds

    snoop and master p made some good movies in the late 90s early 00’s…

    ‘the eastsidaz’ movie had that epic cypher with suga free in the mess hall (the jailhouse rap/i wanna go home) ‘gang law/hot boyz’ was pretty dope, ‘i got the hook up’, ‘baby boy’ etc

    they not classics but good watches…

  • water_ur_seeds

    yo forgot about ‘colors’ that schitt was dope as fck…

  • phillysheed

    What about Fresh, The Wood, or Baby Boy? I’d sub out a few of the ones listed for any of these three. Or even Set It Off.

    • phillysheed

      Oh damn and Sugar Hill…how could I forget that one? Fresh, Paid In Full and Sugar Hill the best 3 but I enjoy just about all the others mentioned.

  • Sep Turner

    Got to give a call for Wild Style, okay not quite in the same era but classic and pure hood with a more positive message than a lot of those on this list.

  • Obi Won

    Wait a minute, no BELLY!!!

    • thevoyce


  • Dan_Tebasco

    Snipes (2001) and Hustle & Flow are my favs… 8 Mile gets an honorable recognition

    I am glad that ATL is NOT on the list though shaked my head when it was listed in HIPHOP WEEKLY

  • no

    How could you forgret Fear of a Black Hat and CB4?

  • James Jones

    Belly definitely should have made the hip hop classics!

    • Cash

      Word up!!!! Belly definitely was a classic. Real life Hustlers

    • Breeze

      hell yeah

  • Awesome movies. All are classics…

  • Good movie list…

  • Pinnacle TheHustler

    Don’t forget “Bebe’s Kids”!!

  • Sal Sykes

    cnt forget blue hill ave with allen payne

  • KurtNiceHHL

    None if these are Hip Hop movies, though people mistake them as that. These are hood movies. New era Blaxploitation flicks. The plot of these movies is about ghetto life not Hip Hop. Hip Hop movies are Beat Street, Krush Groove, Wild Style, 8 Mile etc. Those movies have Hip Hop plots; music, rappin, graffiti, breakin etc. The first pic is of a dude pointing a gun. Guns are as American as westerns. Gun ain’t Hip Hop, its gangster (gangsta) and they been making those movies since the 1940’s when gangsters were popular the most.

  • $11625525

    “… an actual viable movie that just happens to be marketed to the hip-hop nation with an accompanying epic soundtrack. ”


    Do the right thing?

    La Haine?

  • Cash

    New Jack City is the all time greatest hiphop movie. Wesley was a pure gangsta that did not take s#!*.

  • Breeze

    American gangster???

  • TRE

    New Jersey Drive

  • TRE

    Hustle and Flow, Baby Boy, Colors

  • Dan Prideaux

    Bullet with Mickey Rourke and 2Pac? American Pimp? Judgement Night?

  • TheInfiniteToker

    So, you’re talking about hip-hop films, and you leave out 8 Mile?





  • Edonus


  • illness

    I want to hear responses from the ones he named, not these other cats, especially not the veterans. He was addressing his contemporaries specifically and for a reason, so that’s who I want to hear from

  • Jorge Gervin

    Belly n babyboy

  • J liv

    Strapped was a good one too.

  • Opposite Of Everyone

    not a single hip-hop film in that list.

    hip-hop films; you know films that feature the actual elements of hip-hop include –

    beat street
    style wars
    the freshest kids
    la haine
    krush groove
    tougher than leather
    the show

    an maybe house party at a stretch…

  • The Unhealer

    No Scarface?

  • WillRise

    those are a lotta good movies that shoulda been on the list…tru, but no one mentioned the one truest hip-hop movie that’s about hip-hop, for hip-hop as well as a love letter to and from hip-hop…Brown Sugar…a hip-hop flim and a tribute to hip-hop… not a flick that uses hip-hop to draw an audience into a so-so story via casting, soundtracks and whatever other promotional wizardry is needed…watch it and witness how essential this hip-hop film is to the list

  • essHwhy

    SON, how could you forget “Fresh”?

  • essHwhy

    …and Belly. also, i understand the criteria but i feel like State Property should def be on this list, if not for any other reason than that was a classic in the hood growing up.

  • jermayne clark

    belly is agreed, what about Master P’s I bout it. The B-rate low income ghetto scarface dramedy.

  • HatesElvis

    Bout it should be on tge list…