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"He's black. He's brutal. He's Boss."
Trailer, Boss Nigger

The term Blaxploitation refers to a film genre, quite popular in The '70s and early '80s, in which the hero or heroes are black, and they have to fight some sort of battle, engage some enemy or otherwise solve some problem in ways involving violence, intimidation, or extreme action skills. It was coined by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) when it was criticizing the genre for what it considered to be a negative image for African-Americans.

The pivotal point of this genre is that the main character's most significant attribute is the color of his (or her) skin, as well as stereotypical attributes associated with it at the time, such as intimidating appearance, being "naturally predisposed" towards independence, lack of respect for authority, utter disregard of manners and formalism, preference for violent solutions over diplomacy and unquestionable badassery.

Typically the main character is a good guy such as the title character in Shaft, but in some cases, he or she is an Anti-Hero, such as Priest, the drug dealer in SuperFly who wants to do one more deal and retire.

Some of the tropes exposed include:

The Trope Maker/Ur-Example of this genre is either Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) or The Black Klansman (1966). 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. The Blaxploitation genre fell out of favor roughly around 1976, mainly due to the aforementioned concerns from African American civil rights groups.

See also Blaxploitation Parody. Hood Film is a similar genre that emerged in the late 1980s as a more socially conscious reaction to the previous genre.


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  • Abar: Black Superman: African-American scientist Dr. Kennneth Kincade moves his family into an affluent white neighborhood, only to be greeted with threats and vandalism by their new neighbors. Enter John Abar (Tobar Mayo), leader of the militant Black Front for Unity. Abar becomes the Kincades' bodyguard, allowing Dr. Kincade to resume his work on a serum that can make an ordinary man invincible.
  • Across 110th Street: A no-nonsense black NYPD cop and his older white partner investigate a deadly botched bank robbery and find themselves caught in the middle of a war between the black Harlem mob and The Mafia. Famous for its extensive location shooting in Harlem during the height of the Big Rotten Apple era and Bobby Womack's theme song.
  • Black Belt Jones: A more contemporaneous Blaxploitation/martial arts hybrid, starring Jim Kelly from Enter the Dragon fighting against a crew of Mafiosi 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. They managed to get none other than James Brown himself to do the soundtrack!
  • The Black Cobra: A black Cowboy Cop protects a young photographer from a gang of Ax-Crazy bikers she witnessed and photographed killing somebody.
  • Black Dynamite: A 2009 Affectionate Parody of the genre.
  • The Black Gestapo: Black 'protection' squad is set up to help citizens of Watts against the Mafia. Proudly taglined 'The New Master Race!'
  • The Black Godfather: A black gangster starts a Mob War to keep heroin out of his community.
  • 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.
  • The Black Klansman: When a black girl is killed by the KKK, her father, a light-skinned black man, returns to his hometown to infiltrate the local chapter of the KKK and bring it down from within.
  • Black Rage: An albino black man (played by a white guy) escapes slavery with his dark-skinned brother, with Lurch chasing after them.
  • Black Samson: A not-so-Angry Black Man who runs a local club has to deal with multiple attempts by a white mobster to muscle in on his territory — and soil it with drugs.
  • The Black Six: An African-American biker gang avenges the racist murder of their leader's brother.
  • The Harder They Come was sold as an exotic Blaxploitation film when it hit the US, but still fits a lot of the parameters of the genre, with a Reggae singer tangling with corrupt cops, music moguls and drug smugglers in Jamaica.
  • The Hebrew Hammer lovingly borrows many of the tropes seen in these films and throws them in a pot with literally every Jewish stereotype ever to serve up the first ever "Jewsploitation" film. In it, our titular hero, a "Certified circumcised dick," is out to stop Santa Claus's evil, antisemitic son from destroying Hanukkah. Accompanying him is his Token Black Friend, Muhammed Ali Paula Abdul Raheem, of the Kwanzaa Liberation Front who more or less acts as an excuse to play blaxploitation tropes comically straight.
  • Hit Man: A remake of Get Carter starring Bernie Casey and Pam Grier.
  • I'm Gonna Git You Sucka: A 1988 spoof that helped revive interest in the genre.
  • Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino's homage to the genre, most notably starring Blaxploitation icon Pam Grier in the lead role.
  • J.D.'s Revenge: An African American law student in New Orleans attends a hypnotist's show and is posessed by the spirit of the titular deceased 1940s gangster J.D. Walker. He then gradually gains the mannerisms of the fallen one.
  • 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 got in on the craze, thwarting heroin dealers and Voodoo priests in Harlem, New Orleans, and the Caribbean.
  • 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.
  • Pootie Tang: An affectionate parody of the genre from 2001.
  • Possess My Soul, also having the alternate title Abby, but known affectionately among its fans as "The Blaxorcist."
  • Shaft: A black private detective in New York City has to find the kidnappers of the daughter of a negro crime boss; based off the novels by Ernest Tidyman. Spawned two little-remembered sequels and a TV series shortly thereafter, a 2000 sequel starring Samuel L. Jackson as the original John Shaft's nephew, and an attempt at a reboot with all three generations of Shaft. One of the genre's biggest critical and commercial successes, though mostly known nowadays for its theme song.
  • Sheba, Baby: Pam Grier plays yet another ordinary citizen going vigilante to avenge a loved one.
  • South Bronx Heroes: An ex-con helps some kids escape from their child pornographer foster father.
  • Space Is the Place: A 1974 movie starring Sun Ra. This film was made during the early 1970s with a majority of Afro-American actors, deals with themes of black self awareness and salvation and features a cool soundtrack.
  • Sugar Hill (1974) - 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.
  • Super Fly: 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.) Mostly remembered nowadays for its soundtrack, written and produced by Curtis Mayfield.
  • 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.
  • They Cloned Tyrone: A Genre-Busting mashup with science fiction and conspiracy thrillers - a drug dealer, a pimp, and a prostitute uncover a bizarre conspiracy when the drug dealer seemingly comes back from the dead.
  • The Thing with Two Heads: A racist doctor's (Ray Milland) head gets transplanted onto the body of a black death row inmate (Rosey Greer). Chained Heat hijinks ensue.
  • 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.
  • TNT Jackson: Former Playboy Playmate Jeannie Bell stars as a karate expert tracking down her brother's murderer in Hong Kong. Similar to Black Belt Jones, except with Bell losing her clothes before each fight scene.
  • Trouble Man: Detective/pool shark/problem solver Mr. T (not him) gets drawn into a war between rival L.A. ghetto crime kingpins and has to fight to clear his name after he gets framed for murder. Soundtrack by Marvin Gaye, with the title song becoming a big hit.
  • 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.
  • Undercover Brother is basically an Austin Powers-esque parody of the genre, with the main character being a 70's blaxsploitation protagonist in modern times trying to stop The Man from mind controlling black America with a chain of fried chicken restaurants.
  • 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.

     Non-Film Examples 
  • Luke Cage was created in response to the growing popularity of the genre, but he isn't always a straight example. He definitely can be, though, especially when writers want to focus on his anti-authoritarian streak or his focus on the problems of black neighborhoods.
  • Mafia III is out and proud about trying to replicate the feel of old Blaxploitation flicks. Against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, you play a black Vietnam veteran out to avenge the death of his family at the Mob's hands (and the Mob's subsequent saturation of his home neighborhood with heroin). On the way, you get to take down The Klan, evil hillbillies, and many an Angry White Man. The "Faster, Baby!" DLC is even more so, with an Afro Asskicker helping you take down a corrupt racist sheriff.
  • The album Mack Avenue Skullgame by funk rock band Big Chief is presented as though it's the soundtrack to a nonexistent blaxploitation movie of the same name: Since blaxploitation movies often have a Cult Soundtrack, sometimes to the point of eclipsing the film, they just skipped making the movie altogether. The music is mostly instrumental, but one can piece together a basic plot through song titles like "Cop Kisser (Mack Fucks up the Scene at the Freezer)", and through the few tracks that do have lyrics (which include "themes" for antihero Mack, his love interest Sonica, and antagonist Doc).
  • The Simpsons spoofed this with "Next, on Exploitation Theatre... Blacula, followed by Blackenstein, and The Blunchblack of Blotre Blame!" - "Ooh, funky!"


Video Example(s):



It tells the story of John Shaft (Richard Roundtree), a tough African-American private detective who travels through Harlem and infiltrates The Mafia in order to find the missing daughter of a black mobster. Also in the cast are Moses Gunn as Bumpy Jonas, Charles Cioffi as Lt. Vic Androzzi, and Christopher St. John as Ben Buford, along with Gwenn Mitchell and Lawrence Pressman. Isaac Hayes did the theme song quoted above, which has reached Memetic Mutation to the point where it may actually be better known than the movie. It also earned Hayes the "Best Original Song" Oscar, the first ever awarded to a Black musician.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / Blaxploitation

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