The Five Most Underrated Black Movies Of The Last 20 Years

Although I still maintain that Black movies can and should do better, I definitely don’t think all is lost with Black cinema. In fact, along with the quotable classics such as “Do The Right Thing,” “Coming to America” and “Love Jones,” there are quite a few (relatively) recent Black movies whose quality and “unforgettableness” has been overlooked to the point where you can justifiably call them underrated.

Here’s five of them.

(Also, before I continue, let me clarify what I mean by “underrated.” You won’t see movies like “Ghostdog” and “Fresh” on this list because, while not many people have seen them, most of the people who have actually seen them think pretty highly of them. The flicks I’m mentioning today have been seen by many, but just aren’t rated as high as they should be.)

“Drumline”

This movie had a very great chance at being shitty. In fact, I remember specifically not seeing this in the theater because I literally said “This movie will very likely be very shitty” when I first saw the trailer and realized that it was starring…Nick Cannon.

Now — and I will definitely devote an entire day to this topic at one point — is there another person in Black culture whose level of cultural (dis)respect is so vastly mismatched with his actual production? Seriously, Nick Cannon has been legitimately successful in everything he’s done, and has helped launch the careers of numerous actors and comedians, and has been with some of the most fantasized-about women in the world, but he still doesn’t get the type of love that his success should warrant. Seriously, Nick Cannon is the reason why this movie doesn’t get the props it should, which is crazy because he’s the main reason why it deserves props!

Anyway, I (obviously) finally got around to seeing it. And, aside from the fact that they cast a 49 year old actor as a college senior, everything about this movie works. The band scenes are cool. The story line is believable. Zoe Saldana and Nick Cannon had genuine chemistry. Shit, they even brought Jason Weaver back from wherever the hell Jason Weaver hangs out when he’s not making movies about drummers.

“Life”

This movie was extremely funny, had a great cast (Seriously, take a minute and go look at its IMDB page), and had a few signature/quotable scenes. (My favorite? The Boom Boom Room bit)

So, with all of this in place, why don’t people talk about it more? Three words: The ending sucked. Now, it wasn’t just the ending that sucked, but the fact that we knew Eddie and Martin were innocent and we still had to watch them stay in prison for 50 years. At first, the whole wrongly convicted thing was funny, but after about an hour or so you can’t help but wonder when the hell they’re going to get out of prison. It would have been a much better movie if they let them go to the major leagues with Bokeem Woodbine and followed their hijinks there.

“Undercover Brother”

Let’s just say that any movie where Dave Chappelle is only the 5th or 6th funniest person in it definitely deserves a shitload of love.

“Hoodlum”

Let’s forget for a minute that Vanessa Williams’ and Larry Fishburne’s romance took up waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much screen time and was about as compelling as a Mitt Romney mixtape. Let’s also forget that Andy Garcia definitely was definitely given a suitcase full of 20 dollar bills to be in this movie. In fact, let’s even forget about the fact that, to be quite honest, the movie wasn’t really that good.

What made “Hoodlum” memorable was the fact that the actors — Tim Roth and Chi McBride, specifically — clearly had fun with their characters, and this made the movie pretty enjoyable. You could even tell that Cicely Tyson probably hadn’t had that much fun since those crazy-ass loft parties Frederick Douglass used to throw.

“Deep Cover”

This movie is largely (and understandably) forgotten about because it was released in that 1989 to 1992 period where heavyweights such as “Do The Right Thing,” “Boyz in The Hood,” “X,” “New Jack City,” “Menace to Society,” “Juice,” and “Boomerang” were made. (Wow. Look at that lineup again. All released within a 30 month span)

Still, this movie is definitely entertaining, and so rewatchable that they decided to remake it 7 years later and call it “In Too Deep.”

Anyway, people of VSB, did I forget anything? Can you name any other underrated Black movies you’d add to the list?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

***For all the folks in the DC area, this Saturday, April 7, from 930pm-3am at Liv Nightclub (11th and U Street, NW) is another edition of #REMINISCE, the party dedicated to all 90s everything brought to you by VSB, Shine On Me, and Just Cause Events. It’s FREE BEFORE 11 w/RSVP (reminiscedc.eventbrite.com), a Courvoisier sponosred open bar from 930-1030pm, and no dress code! It’s cheaper to come out and party. Last month’s party was OFF THE HINGES! Somebody shook my hand when they left and just said, “Thanks P, for throwing this party…” <—- not lying. So come and make it do what it do this Saturday at Reminisce!***

  • http://miresevini.wordpress.com/ Donika_Lindje

    Cosign about Undercover Brother!!! I am always shocked at the number of my friends who have never seen it. FYI, loved that comparison to Mary J. Blige’s Burger King Commercial and the General and that chicken. Fell out laughing when I heard the Burger King clip on the radio today!

    • Datalore

      People who haven’t seen this always clown me for owning it. If only they would give it a chance. Hilarious from beginning to end. Anything that can make Denise Richards funny has to have merit.

      • GypsyCurl

        The scene were she is feeding him the mayonnaise sandwich is the best! Also the shower scene when the two girls are fighting! Or the scene were eddie griffin says “Must get funky” and his shoes become platforms. Aaaah man there are so many great scenes in that movie. And i havent even watched the movie in sucha long time.

        • CMR

          Its been said already but Fresh and Eve’s Bayou should have been on the list. Especially Eve’s Bayou.

          • SororSalsa

            +100

            I was just about to post on EB. Truly a great film.

    • GypsyCurl

      I only agree that Life is sooooooo underrated but Drumline? No ma’am. I liked Drumline but there were so many things that could have been better about that movie. (Petey Pablo performing with the band during a competition? I dont think so! Maybe during homecoming but not a competition.)

      Undercover brother was a great movie but was not a sophisticated comedy like Life. Undercover Brother is just balls to the wall stupid (in a good way) kinda like Austin Powers. OK I guess in that aspect it is underrated.

      • Keisha

        I thought the same thing until I saw something similar at the Honda Battle of the Bands in Atlanta this year. One band brought out Lenny Williams. He sang “Cause I Love You”….after all this time he still has it!

        • Leslie

          That band was the BEST BAND IN THE LAND, THE MARCHING 101 from SCSU! GO BULLDOGS!

          • Keisha

            What??? You’re drunk. The best band in the land is the PRAIRIE VIEW A&M UNIVERSITY MARCHING STORM!!! :-)

          • Breezy

            Excuse the both of yous….BETHUNE-COOKMAN UNIVERSITY has the best band.

            Thank you!

    • https://twitter.com/#!/mackaroto Jay

      LOVE Undercover Brother. Neil Patrick Harris, Dave Chappelle, Eddie Griffin all of them… underrated comic geniuses at the time.

    • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com/ Perverted Alchemist

      Spike Lee’s cousin Malcolm D. Lee directed “Undercover Brother”, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a very underrated film, but the trouble was the movie was overshadowed by Malcolm’s other film “The Best Man”.

      Since then, he’s done a couple of decent movies- such as “Roll Bounce”, “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins” and “Soul Men”, but nothing he’s done will top the comedic genius that is “Undercover Brother”.

    • http://sisterescape.blogspot.com Fiore Scott

      YES YES and YES. I absolutely love this movie. One of my favorites of all time. I’m always pubbing it and no one seems to know what I’m talking about. And Dave Chappelle was the funniest dude in that movie, imo, but everyone else was great too. Also, that movie was essentially the beginning of Neil Patrick- Harris’s reemergence onto the scene.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com AfriJay formerly known as African Mami

    cottamn it. I HATE settling for seconds. I’ve been refreshing my page since 12:01! Now, lemme read!

    • Justmetheguy

      Oh sh*t Jay she done went and cuffed you instead of waitin for you to cuff her! LMFAO!!!The artist formerly known as African Mami is a d@mn trip! ROTFL! My abs are hurtin right now! Where would I be without VSB lolol

      • https://twitter.com/#!/mackaroto Jay

        DAAYUM! Just noticed that. You know you gotta grow dreads now right?

        • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com AfriJay formerly known as African Mami

          @ Jay,

          singing to you, in a burlesque outfit

          *Whatever you want from me, I am giving you everything*———->Whitney Houston-I can out sang her too!

          @TheChamp-you are famous for telling peeps to get a room. Nope, not me….everythang’s going to be on display, I don’t want others trippin…I’m establishing MY territory right hurr!

      • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com AfriJay formerly known as African Mami

        @ JMTG,

        Yap, I forgot to put a MRS. infront! Jesus wept! and I sho know that when he sees this (Jay), he gon out weep Jesus……

      • nillalatte

        Don’t know why you laughing… you done been had cuff’s on. Just cause I ain’t been around you think you been cut loose? Ha! :P lol

        • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com AfriJay formerly known as African Mami

          uh oh?!

          don’t letme e-beef you, because that wud make me unintelligents pippoz, and I’m supposedly educated

          • Breezy

            Girl you are a nut case but the last time I checked tho Jay was Color Purple Patty Caking with RWC.

            *long as noneyalls have designs on PJ everything is everything*

            • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com AfriJay formerly known as African Mami

              @ Breezy,

              whose side are you leaning on?
              #teamafrijay or #team fillintheblank?

              • Breezy

                @ Mami: am with you girllllllll…gogetcha Man!

                *whispers Jay in big trouble*

                • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com AfriJay formerly known as African Mami

                  @ Breezy,

                  LMAOOOOOOOOOO!!!! N 2say, I’m nutso, girrrrrrrrrrrl u’re right behind me, if not in front.

          • Chanelle

            lmao you changed it to Afrijay fa real….she aint playin out here yall! This whole set of comments is crackin me up right now

            • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com AfriJay formerly known as African Mami

              @Chanelle

              it’s the locks that made my common sense disappear.

              • Chanelle

                lol i understand

          • nillalatte

            MRS. AfriJay formerly known as African Mami,

            You and Jay go together like honey and butter. Now go get your freak on girl! He’s all yours. I gots me some training to do with JMTG. ;) LOL

        • Justmetheguy

          ” Don’t know why you laughing… you done been had cuff’s on. Just cause I ain’t been around you think you been cut loose”

          Oh nah boo. I’m just waitin on u to take that ninja mask off, so I can turn YOU every way but aloose ;)

          • nillalatte

            Aww boo, don’t you know that imagination is 90% of the intensity. :D

            • Justmetheguy

              hahaha! Only for women though lol

  • http://amartianslove.wordpress.com smartsx

    how to be a player with bill bellamy. one of my favourite, raunchiest comedies from 90s. lol i’m gonna go watch it now!

    • AfroPetite

      +1 I love this movie!

    • http://www.greenafrodiva.com Green Afro Diva

      “hey aint she persuasion? Thats caucasion fool! Damn u a ignant ass!!!” lol

    • Nell

      I loved this movie, too!!!

      “BUSTED! Adapt!”

    • Chanelle

      I loved this movie back in the day too!

  • http://adorassociety.com Myssdee

    I just watched Deep Cover the other day (lol)

    Clockers is an underrated black film

  • http://adorassociety.com Myssdee

    I take that back

    FRESH IS AN UNDERRATED BLACK FILM
    It starred Sean Nelson
    Samuel L. Jackson

    • http://www.facebook.com/jennellnicole Jennell Nicole

      Crooklyn.

      Set It Off.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jennellnicole Jennell Nicole

        my bad, didn’t meant to post that as a reply.

      • GypsyCurl

        YES!!!! One of my all time faves!!!

      • MJoy

        Crooklyn is the business!!!! But are Spike Lee joints ever underrated?

    • Latonya

      yeah Fresh is very underrated

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      Fresh was a good film.

      • http://bigraysmindgraffiti.wordpress.com Big Ray

        I always loved the ending to Fresh…it is so deep.

  • AfroPetite

    Woo.

    I have a girl crush on Jada so this is entirely biased on my part. I’m not even sure if Woo is indeed underrated or if it is actually just the average black film.

    • GypsyCurl

      BAPS. I loved Halle Berry in BAPS!

      • AfroPetite

        :-\ oh….

        • The Other Jerome

          Cosign on “Woo”. I owned that movie (until somebody “borrowed” it) Funny. As. Hell. The problem with the movie was that it’s title is “Woo”! Seriously, that’s an awful title. And it probably killed sales and box office receipts for the flick.

      • demondog06

        BAPS!?…. really!?

        c’mon….really!?

      • Chanelle

        I liked her in this movie also

      • MJoy

        BAPS is the business!

    • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com/ Perverted Alchemist

      The soundtrack was better than the movie, but that’s just me…

    • Scipio Africanus

      I actually saw Woo in the theaters. That was out the same time as He Got Game.

  • http://adorassociety.com Myssdee

    A Low Down Dirty Shame
    Holiday Heart (Ving Rhimes did his thing in that leading role)
    Down in the Delta (Alfre Woodard, Mary Alice, Esther Rolle, Al Freeman, Wesley Snipes)
    Sugar Hill

    • https://twitter.com/#!/mackaroto Jay

      A Low Down Dirty Shame is one of my guilty pleasures. It has to be the worst best black movie made since the 70′s.

      • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

        Holiday Heart is def underrated. That was a good little film.

      • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com/ Perverted Alchemist

        Basically, but the second half of the soundtrack though? Flames!

    • Sigma_Since 93

      +1 Sugar Hill

      Wesley in his prime and a very talented cast to boot.

      • Mr_Not_Guilty

        +2 on Sugarhill and that score made me search everywhere for a soundtrack. The Jazz was supreme. The supporting actors are epic & reputable. Awesome Film.

        Baps?!! No.
        LIFE. should’ve gotten more props that it received. Everything from the Allstar cast (Rip Heavy D), their unforgettable lines (4 example: “I’m tha papaye!” RIP B MACK or my fav – “Tell Em bout the gun line boss”) their aging makeup & the adjustment in acting that was required to make them aging believable which was nailed, the perfect balance from funny to serious on the reality of innocent black men wrongfully locked up for most of their lives ( which made the end depressing not Suck!) it was a funny Drama & Genius Film.

  • http://imblacknitravel.com IBIT

    “The Walking Dead.”

    • AfroPetite

      Is there another “Walking Dead” I’m not privy to? The one on AMC doesn’t quite fit the bill….

  • http://www.twitter.com/mdrnj2dc Trenton Famous

    New Jersey Drive. You’re welcome.

    • SororSalsa

      I always love when BET shows New Jersey Drive, because the trailer always tries to give it some deeper meaning. “The story of young men and their struggle to escape the ghetto…..”. Just say “the story of some ninjas stealing cars”. That’s what it was.

  • http://www.greenafrodiva.com Green Afro Diva

    ATL was actually pretty good and TI wasnt a bad actor neither….School Daze, ok so to many I knew it was terrible but I loved it. Players club anyone? As beautiful as lisa raye is, I wouldnt have picked her to play diamond because she s just not a good actress. Troubleeeee, troubleeeee

    • http://www.FlyMediaProductions.com FlyDuo

      Totally forgot about ATL, that’s one of our favorites too. “Rashaaaaad!” and “Big Booty Judy”. The entire cast, storyline, vibe …it just WORKED.

    • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com AfriJay formerly known as African Mami

      @ Green Afro Diva

      Isn’t ATL a hood hood very over hood movie…more like a street novel brought to life, no…or I’m on some other ish?! therefore, it is a-okay for it to be underrated?!

      • Iceprincess

        ATL isnt a hood movie really. Its a coming-of-age story, a love story, a comedy, & story about friendship all rolled into one. Its good you should watch it. Did anyone realise that the uncle they live with is bubba from “forest gump”?

        • https://twitter.com/#!/mackaroto Jay

          “Oh sh*t…that was SO disrespectful. You done hit me in my mouf wit some gotdam money.”

          Big Boi…best line from ATL.

          • Iceprincess

            “You got a damn Picasso in ya house gurl”!!

        • http://www,greenafrodiva.com Green Afro Diva

          what she said…

    • Sigma_Since 93

      I rebuke you on the School Daze being garbage! On Good Friday no less.

      To many quoteables here AND if you add in the irony of Samuel Jackson playing a townie in a location (Morehouse) that the townies probably said the same thing about him.

      • http://www.greenafrodiva.com Green Afro Diva

        I meant that people I know said it was terrible but I thought it was real good. Please dont rebuke me lol