Lists, Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

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!***

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • http://imblacknitravel.com IBIT

    “The Walking Dead.”

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

    New Jersey Drive. You’re welcome.

  • 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

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