"He's black. He's brutal. He's Boss."
—Boss Nigger trailer
The term Blaxploitation refers to a specific class of movie, quite popular in the 1970s and early 1980s, in which the hero or heroes are black, and they have to fight some sort of battle, or engage some enemy or otherwise solve some problem. The pivotal point of this genre of film is that the main character's most significant attribute is the color of his (or her) skin, which is not white such as in most films prior to the genre.
Typically the main character was a good guy such as the title character in Shaft, but in some cases he was an Anti-Hero, such as Priest, the drug dealer in Superfly who wants to do one more deal and retire.
Some of the tropes employed include:
- Endless supply of easily disposable Mooks who try to stop the character's plans.
- Said mooks are usually star pupils of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.
- Conversely, the main character often has Improbable Aiming Skills.
- Good Cop, Bad Cop, often where he either has to work around the incompetent cops, or requires bribing/avoid having to bribe corrupt ones.
- When they've captured a mook and need information, typically resort to the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, where, since the character is black, will extract information from the perp "By any means necessary" (a Malcolm X quote).
- Often has some sort of Time Bomb he has to find or fix before it blows up.
- May or may not have themes of The Man Is Keeping Us Down.
- Groovy soundtrack
- Characters speaking in constant jive talk.
- The Mafia as antagonists.
The Cool World, from 1963, is the Ur Example of the genre. The Trope Maker is 1971's Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Note that unless indicated, if a movie is mentioned below, it's referring to the original 1970s/1980s version, and not to any subsequent remake under the same name.
See also Blaxploitation Parody.
- Black Belt Jones: A more contemporaneous Blaxploitation/martial arts hybrid, starring Jim Kelly from Enter the Dragon fighting against a crew of Mafioso who killed the owner of a karate school.
- Black Caesar: Tommy Gibbs, a shoeshine kid in Harlem, becomes a mob runner. On one of his jobs he's beaten severely by a corrupt, racist cop and his leg is shattered, leaving him mildly crippled. Gibbs is then sent to jail for assaulting a police officer. After leaving prison, he assassinates a Mafia target and leverages that favor into a deal allowing him to control a section of Harlem.
- The Black Gestapo: Black 'protection' squad is set up to help citizens of Watts against the Mafia. Proudly taglined 'The New Master Race!'
- Black Gunn: A nightclub owner is drawn into a conflict between the Mafia and a militant Black Power organization of which his brother is a member.
- Blacula: An 18th-century African prince gets turned by a racist Dracula and imprisoned until the modern day. Spawned a sequel and many imitators, including Blackenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Black, and...
- Sugar Hill - After her fiance is killed by racist gangsters, Diana "Sugar" Hill enlists the help of her local Voodoo priestess, Baron Samedi, and a gang of Zombie Mooks in getting revenge.
- Possess My Soul, also having the alternate title Abby, but known affectionately among its fans as "The Blaxorcist."
- "Next, on Exploitation Theatre... Blacula, followed by Blackenstein, and The Blunchblack of Blotre Blame!" "Ooh, funky!"
- Blackenstein is a real movie.
- Boss Nigger: A violent western starring Fred Williamson and an incredibly catchy theme song
- Cleopatra Jones: A black, female DEA agent fights drug dealers.
- Coffy: A nurse (Pam Grier) goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the drug dealers responsible for her sister's addiction. Notable for featuring both a female protagonist and an anti-drug message, both of which were unfashionable at the time.
- Ebony, Ivory And Jade: Kidnapped athletes go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against their captors.
- Foxy Brown: A black woman seeks revenge for her boyfriend who was shot down by The Man. Spiritual Successor to Coffy.
- The Last Dragon: A hybrid with Martial Arts Movie genre released after the trend for both had faded. "Bruce Leroy" Green battles Sho'nuf, Shogun of Harlem in a quest to be the greatest fighter.
- Live and Let Die: Even James Bond gets in on the craze, thwarting heroin dealers and Voodoo priests in Harlem, New Orleans, and the Caribbean.
- Shaft: A black private detective in New York City has to find the kidnappers of the daughter of a negro crime boss. Spawned two little-remembered sequels shortly thereafter, and a similarly forgettable 2001 sequel starring Samuel L. Jackson as the original Shaft's nephew. Mostly known nowadays for its theme song.
- Superfly: A drug dealer wants to set up one more deal in order to retire. (Since there were several sequels, apparently his attempts at retirement were not successful.)
- Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song: A bordello's show-stud is framed for murder by crooked cops, flees and takes the opportunity to pay back the Man for multiple injustices. Not quite an exploitation film, but it's often considered the Ur Example, so it's certainly relevant to the discussion.
- Three the Hard Way: Three men (black, of course) have to stop a white supremacist who has developed a chemical which, when added to the water supply, kills only negroes. Note that he's going to hit three heavily black cities (Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington, D.C.) so each of the heroes must take on an entire army of mooks single handed.
- Truck Turner: Isaac Hayes soundtracks and stars in this movie, where he plays a bounty hunter who kills a notorious fugitive pimp and subsequently gets a bounty put on his head by the Los Angeles pimp community. Co-stars Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols as an extremely bad-tempered and foul-mouthed madam who acts as the Big Bad of the picture.
- Vampire in Brooklyn: Basically Blacula in mid-90s New York. Stars Eddie Murphy and was advertised as a comedy, but the movie switches to a straight horror film about halfway through.
- Original Gangstas: Retired Outlaws (Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree and Ron O'Neal!) decide to take down the violent new gang in their neighborhood.