The word blaxploitation is derived from the words black and exploitation.

It was a film genre that emerged in the 1970s, often depicting Black people as being exploited by white authority figures and/or police officers.

The films were usually low-budget productions with stereotypical portrayals of African Americans, an exaggerated focus on sex and violence, including drugs to make it seem more “ghetto,” rapping for no reason other than its connection to hip hop culture or scenes including Black Power symbols.



What Are Blaxploitation Movies?

Blaxploitation is a genre of films from the 1970s that featured African American actors in lead or supporting roles.

These movies were not only an economic response to white-dominated Hollywood but also served as a form of social and cultural protest against racism.

The Blaxploitation era began with Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), which was written and directed by Melvin Van Peebles.

The film tells the story of a young black man who starts out as an unemployed ex-convict and eventually becomes a pimp after being introduced to drugs by his girlfriend, played by Vonetta McGee, who works for her mother, Madame Tricksy (played by Estelle Evans).



Best Blaxploitation Movies

The movies are known for their use of funk music (often soul), which was an integral part of the films’ background soundtracks.

Blaxploitation movies are a genre of films that portray black people in stereotypical, often negative ways.

Here’s our video guide on Blaxploitation cinema:

The intentions of blaxploitation movies were to provide entertainment for African Americans during the time when they had very few positive representations on film. This blog post will list some popular blaxploitation movies and describe them in detail.

Blaxploitation movies were a genre of films that featured African American actors in starring roles and were typically characterized by urban crime dramas.

The genre was created for an audience of black people who felt they had been ignored by Hollywood.

Best Blaxploitation Movies – The List

Let’s jump right into our list with a cult classic.

Blackenstein (1973)

In 1973, a film called Blackenstein was released.

The movie has been described as being in the horror/comedy genre. It is about a mad scientist who creates an African-American Frankenstein’s monster with karate abilities to fight crime and racism.

This movie is not available on DVD or Blu-Ray but it can still be rented from streaming sites like Amazon Video and Netflix.

Blackenstein is a 1973 horror-comedy film that was directed by William Crain. The plot follows Dr. Henry Frankenstein’s grandson, who creates his own creature and then decides to put it in the Olympics for track and field events.

The movie stars Alonzo Brown as Dr. Frankenstein Blackenstein and features appearances from Bernie Casey (as Lieutenant Detective Papadopoulos) and Vonetta McGee (as Lana).

The film was released in theaters on February 10th, 1973, but was banned in many countries for its explicit violence including Australia and Germany.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • John Hart, Ivory Stone, Cardella DeMilo (Actors)
  • William A. Levey (Director) - Frank R. Saletri (Writer) - Frank R. Saletri (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Blacula (1972)

Blacula is a 1972 American horror film that was the first African-American vampire movie. The movie gained popularity in 1973 because of its release during the height of blaxploitation films.

It has been featured on many lists as one of the best movies from this genre. Blacula’s success helped pave way for other black actors and actresses to have more representation in Hollywood.

The film follows Mamuwalde, who has recently turned into a vampire by Count Dracula over 400 years ago when he traveled to Transylvania to help quell an uprising led by Vlad Tepes (later known as Dracula).

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • William Marshall, Denise Nicholas, Vonetta McGee (Actors)
  • Crain,William (Director) - Raymond Koenig (Writer) - Joseph T. Narr (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Petey Wheatstraw (1977)

Petey Wheatstraw is a 1977 film that tells the story of Petey (William H. Marshall), an African-American man, who takes a job as a janitor at a large corporation and discovers that his boss is using the company to smuggle drugs.

He then proceeds to blackmail him with this information, but when he gets home, he finds out that his wife has been murdered by her lover. Distraught, Petey turns to crime in order to provide for himself and his son.

Ultimately, it’s revealed in the end that Petey was killed by drug dealers while trying to rob them on behalf of another criminal organization; however, no one knows what happened between the time he left work and when his body was found.

Petey Wheatstraw
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Cliff Roquemore (Director)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

That Man Bolt (1973)

In 1973, That Man Bolt was a movie released that is considered to be one of the first blaxploitation films.

It follows the story of an ex-convict who has just been released and decides to turn over a new leaf. The film starred Fred Williamson as Leon Jefferson, and also featured Yaphet Kotto as Detective Taggart.

The movie was directed by Gordon Parks Jr., and it was written by John W. Driscoll with music composed by Quincy Jones III.

Blaxploitation films were popular in the 1970s because they gave African Americans more opportunities in Hollywood – not only on screen but behind-the-scenes too! They are known for their strong black heroes who fight against them.

That Man Bolt (Soul Showcase)
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Fred Williamson, Byron Webster, Miko Mayama (Actors)
  • Henry Levin (Director) - Quentin Werty (Writer) - Bernard Schwartz (Producer)
  • English, French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

Friday Foster (1975)

Friday Foster is a 1975 blaxploitation film that features a strong female protagonist. The movie, though not well received at the time of release, has been noted for its portrayal of black women in Hollywood as protagonists and action heroes.

Friday Foster (1975) follows the story of Friday Foster, an African-American woman who inherits her father’s detective agency and uses it to solve crimes around Los Angeles while also trying to find out who killed her father.

She eventually finds out that he was murdered by one of his clients after they were unable to reach an agreement about money owed from gambling bets made between them.

Friday Foster
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Pam Grier, Yaphet Kotto, Godfrey Cambridge (Actors)
  • Marks,Arthur (Director) - Orville H. Hampton (Writer) - Arthur Marks (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Black Caesar (1973)

This movie was directed by Larry Cohen and stars Fred Williamson as Cane aka Black Caesar.

The plot revolves around Cane who gets released from prison after spending twelve years behind bars for robbery.

He wants revenge against his old boss Slim Jim (played by Bernie Hamilton) and he will do anything to get what he feels entitled to money, power, respectability in society, happiness with his family.

The movie also features Rudy Ray Moore as an eccentric underworld doctor.

Black Caesar
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Fred Williamson, Art Lund, Gloria Hendry (Actors)
  • Cohen,Larry (Director) - Larry Cohen (Writer) - Larry Cohen (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Willie Dynamite (1974)

It is a 1973 American blaxploitation film directed by Gilbert Moses and starring Roscoe Orman, Diana Sands, Thalmus Rasulala, Joyce Walker, and was released by Universal Pictures.


The eponymous Willie Dynamite is a pimp in New York City, who strives to be number one in the city.

As he is trying to do so, a social worker named Cora is trying to change his ways – as well as those of the women who work for him – for the better. It was the first film produced by the Zanuck-Brown Company.

Willie Dynamite is one of the many movies that are considered to be blaxploitation films in the 1970s that starred black actors as protagonists for the first time in Hollywood history without portraying them negatively or using racial stereotypes.

These types of films were popularized by African Americans because they had been neglected for decades due to racism against blacks in America’s mainstream cinema industry which created frustration among audiences within this demographic group.

Willie Dynamite
  • Roscoe Orman, Diana Sands, Thalmus Rasulala (Actors)
  • Gilbert Moses (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Truck Turner (1974)

Truck Turner, also known as Black Bullet, is a 1974 blaxploitation film, starring Isaac Hayes and Yaphet Kotto, and directed by Jonathan Kaplan. The screenplay was written by Michael Allin, Jerry Wilkes, and Oscar Williams.

Truck Turner, a former professional soccer player who becomes a bounty hunter (along with his partner Jerry), is looking for a bail evader in Los Angeles, California.

After a firefight, where Truck must use deadly force to kill the pimp, Turner becomes a prominent person and a target for assassins.

Truck Turner
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Kaplan,Jonathan (Director) - Oscar Williams (Writer) - Paul M. Heller (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Three The Hard Way (1974)

This Blaxploitation film is about three martial-arts specialists who prevent white supremacists from tainting the U.S. water supply with a toxin that’s only harmful to black people.

The story involves a white supremacist plot to taint the United States water supply with a toxin that is harmless to whites but lethal to blacks.

The only obstacles that stand in the way of this dastardly plan are Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly, who shoot, kick and karate chop their way to final victory.

Three the Hard Way
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly (Actors)
  • Gordon Parks, Jr. (Director) - Eric Bercovici (Writer) - Harry Bernsen (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Cooley High (1975)

Set in 1964 and featuring a phenomenal Motown soundtrack, “Cooley High” stars Glynn Turman as Preach, a high school senior living in the projects in Chicago with dreams of becoming a writer.

His best friend, Cochise (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), is a star basketball player at Edwin G. Cooley Vocational High School and is hoping to get a college scholarship. Tragedy, though, is just around the corner when the two have a run-in with the police.

The film was based on screenwriter Eric Monte’s life in Chicago.

Cooley High [Blu-ray]
  • Glynn Turman, Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, Garrett Morris (Actors)
  • Michael Schultz (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Coffy (1973)

Coffy is a 1973 American blaxploitation film directed by Jack Hill. The plot revolves around a drug dealer and the revenge of one woman.

Coffy, played by Pam Grier, has worked as an undercover agent for the police to infiltrate her boyfriend’s gang when she discovers that he has been dealing heroin.

When she confronts him about it, he beats her and dumps her at the hospital to cover his tracks with law enforcement officials.

Outraged by this betrayal, she vows vengeance against both him and all other purveyors of drugs in society.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui (Actors)
  • Jack Hill (Director) - Jack Hill (Writer) - Salvatore Billitteri (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Uptown Saturday Night (1974)

The film was released in 1974 starring Sidney Poitier as Dr. Jordon (Jimmy) Smith Jr., Bill Cosby as Henry Longstreet.

At Madame Zenobia’s illegal nightclub, when Steve Jackson and Wardell Franklin get robbed of their wallets containing a winning lottery ticket, they set out to recover it.

Steve Jackson and Wardell Franklin sneak out of their houses to visit Madame Zenobia’s: a high-class but illegal nightclub.

During their visit, however, the place is robbed and they are forced to hand over their wallets. Steve’s wallet turns out to have contained a winning lottery ticket, and together they must recover their stolen property.

Uptown Saturday Night
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte (Actors)
  • Sidney Poitier (Director) - Richard Wesley (Writer) - Melville Tucker (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

The Spook Who Sat By the Door (1973)

The Movie is about a black man who plays Uncle Tom in order to gain access to CIA training, then uses that knowledge to plot a new American Revolution.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door is a 1973 action crime–drama film based on the 1969 novel of the same name by Sam Greenlee.

The Spook Who Sat By the Door [DVD]
  • Lawrence Cook, Janet League, Paula Kelly (Actors)
  • Ivan Dixon (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)

Cotton Comes to Harlem is a 1970 American neo-noir action comedy film co-written and directed by Ossie Davis and starring Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques, and Redd Foxx.[4] The film is based on Chester Himes’ novel of the same name.

“Reverend” Deke O’Malley, a conman, is selling shares at a Harlem rally, for the purchase of a Back-to-Africa movement to be called The Black Beauty.

During the rally, several masked gunmen jump out of a meat truck and steal $87,000 in donated cash from the back of an armored car.

Two Harlem detectives, Gravedigger Jones and “Coffin” Ed Johnson chase the car, and a bale of cotton falls out of the vehicle, unremarked at the time. Uncle Budd, a scavenger, finds the bale of cotton and sells it for $25 to a junk dealer, but later buys it back for $30.

There is a reward out for the $87,000, and Gravedigger and Coffin deduce that the money was probably hidden inside the bale which had fallen out of the getaway vehicle during the chase.

After accusing Reverend O’Malley of stealing the money and taking him captive, Detectives Jones and Johnson are able to blackmail Tom, a mob leader, to give them $87,000 – to be restored to the original donors – after discovering that Uncle Budd has run off with the stolen money and emigrated to Ghana, to live in retirement with his ill-gotten gains.

Cotton Comes To Harlem
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques, Calvin Lockhart (Actors)
  • Ossie Davis (Director) - Ossie Davis (Writer) - Samuel Goldwyn Jr. (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Ganja and Hess (1973)

Dr. Hess Green, an archaeologist overseeing an excavation at the ancient civilization of Myrthia, is stabbed by his research assistant, who then commits suicide.

When Hess wakes up, he finds that his wounds have healed, but he now has an insatiable thirst for blood, due to the knife carrying ancient germs.

Soon after, Hess meets his former assistant’s wife, Ganja. Though Ganja is initially concerned about her missing husband, she soon falls for Hess.

Though they are initially happy together, Ganja will eventually learn the truth about Hess, and about her husband. Will she survive the revelation? Will Hess?

Ganja & Hess
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Duane Jones, Marlene Clark, Bill Gunn (Actors)
  • Bill Gunn (Director) - Bill Gunn (Writer) - Quentin Kelly (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Dolemite (1973)

It is a movie by D’Urville Martin: After he is released from jail, a pimp takes on the criminals and corrupt police officers who framed him in the first place.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Rudy Ray Moore, D'Urville Martin, Jerry Jones (Actors)
  • D'Urville Martin (Director) - Jerry Jones (Writer) - Rudy Ray Moore (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Trouble Man (1972)

Trouble Man is a 1972 blaxploitation film starring Robert Hooks. The movie follows the exploits of a Vietnam veteran who returns home to find that his old neighborhood has been taken over by drugs and crime.

He decides to take matters into his own hands, and fight back against those who would harm him or other people in the community.

Trouble Man was made at a time when many African-Americans were involved in various civil rights movements, including Black Power demonstrations such as those seen at the 1968 Olympics where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during their medal ceremony.

As such, there are some parallels between this film’s themes about fighting for justice against an oppressive system with these more public displays of protest.

Trouble Man
  • Robert Hooks, Paul Winfield, Paula Kelly (Actors)
  • Ivan Dixon (Director)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Black Belt Jones (1974)

Black Belt Jones is a 1974 film that follows the adventures of Robert “Black Belt” Jones. He has been framed by his boss, Mr. Big, for possession of drugs, and he goes on the run from the law after his wife is killed in an attempt to kill him while at home with their son.

The movie stars Jim Kelly as Black Belt Jones and co-stars John Liu as Ah Chuen (Jones’ friend) and Bruce Lee as Mr. Ping (a martial arts instructor).

Jones is a karate expert who is trying to get by in the world. Unfortunately, he gets caught up with some bad guys and has to take on the mafia single-handedly.

This film features martial arts legend Jim Kelly as Black Belt Jones and also stars Taimak Guarriello, Lynn Hamilton, and Ron O’Neal (famous for his role in “Superfly”).

It was directed by Robert Clouse (who would later go on to direct “Enter The Dragon” starring Bruce Lee). Released in 1974, this blaxploitation classic tells an action-packed story that will keep you hooked until the end!

Black Belt Jones
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jim Kelly, Gloria Hendry, Scatman Crothers (Actors)
  • Robert Clouse (Director) - Alex Ross (Writer) - Fred Weintraub (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Across 110th Street (1972)

Across 110th Street (1972) is a crime drama film starring Anthony Quinn, Yaphet Kotto, and Anthony Franciosa.

Directed by Barry Shear, the story follows two Harlem men who rob a bank across the street from their neighborhood to get money for their families.

The movie explores themes of relationships between fathers and sons as well as police corruption.

After robbing the bank they find that it’s not enough money for what they need so they continue on with other crimes which leads them into trouble with both the law enforcement and gangsters in their area.

One memorable scene shows an argument between two cops over how much each earns at his job while another one discusses how he would love to kill “all these black people”.

This movie is a story of how the lives of three people intersect, and their struggles to survive in Harlem.

It’s set in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood during the 1970s when crime rates were at an all-time high. In this film, we watch as they commit crimes in order to make ends meet and provide for themselves and their families.

Across 110th Street
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Frank Adu, Frank Arno, Joseph Attles (Actors)
  • Shear,Barry (Director) - Luther Davis (Writer) - Anthony Quinn (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)

The 1971 Melvin Van Peebles film “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” is a landmark of African-American cinema and the first commercial, independent black-directed motion picture.

It was also one of the earliest films to explore and depict explicit sex scenes. The movie follows the life of African American male protagonist from birth until his death, exploring issues such as racism, poverty, drugs, and violence.

The film was met with critical acclaim but caused controversy due to its content which resulted in it being banned in many cities across America at that time.

However today it has been recognized for its importance within popular culture as well as its cultural significance for young black Americans looking for more representation on screen.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]
  • Melvin Van Peebles, Simon Chuckster, Hubert Scales (Actors)
  • Melvin Van Peebles (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Super Fly (1972)

Super Fly (1972) is a cult classic movie starring Ron O’Neal. The film tells the story of an African American drug dealer who attempts to break free from a life of crime in order to build a more stable and successful future for himself.

His plans are disrupted by his former partners, however, and he eventually finds himself back where he started.

In 1972, Gordon Parks Jr. directed a seminal film called Super Fly. The movie is about a cocaine dealer who wants out of the game but can’t get out because he’s addicted to the money and power that comes with dealing coke on the streets of Harlem.

Super Fly
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Ron O'Neal, Carl Lee, Sheila Frazier (Actors)
  • Gordon Parks Jr. (Director) - Phillip Fenty (Writer) - Sig Shore (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Foxy Brown (1974)

The film was directed by Jack Hill and co-written with Grier. The film is also notable for being one of the earliest films to feature female rage as its main theme.

It tells the story of a woman who goes on a revenge-filled rampage against drug dealers, pimps, and corrupt police officers in an effort to find out who killed her sister.

Foxy Brown
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown (Actors)
  • Jack Hill (Director) - Jack Hill (Writer) - Buzz Feitshans (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Shaft (1971)

This blog post is about the 1971 movie Shaft. Written by Ernest Tidyman, this thriller follows the story of a black private detective named John Shaft who has to find and arrest his own father’s killer.

Directed by Gordon Parks Jr., this cult classic stars Richard Roundtree as John Shaft and was filmed in Harlem, New York City.

This film won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1972 and was nominated for two other Oscars that same year: Best Actor (Richard Roundtree) and Best Music (Lalo Schifrin).

It also received Golden Globe nominations for both these categories with Roundtree winning one award for Best Motion Picture Acting Debut Male in 1973.

It tells the story of John Shaft, an African-American private detective who typically shuns both cops and criminals.

Shaft (1971)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi (Actors)
  • Gordon Parks (Director) - Ernest Tidyman (Writer) - Joel Freeman (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

The Mack (1973)

This is a review of The Mack (1973) directed by Michael Campus. This film is not for the faint-hearted and is an example of the 1970s exploitation movie genre.

Though this film was released in 1973, it has been recently remastered on Blu-ray and DVD in 2010 with commentary from Director Michael Campus.

In 1973, The Mack was released as a film that showed the side of life in Oakland that many people were not aware of.

It is considered to be one of the best blaxploitation films ever made and it tells the story of a pimp named Iceberg Slim (played by Rudy Ray Moore). The movie also stars Max Julien, Margaret Avery, Scatman Crothers, and others.

The film starts with Iceberg Slim recruiting two new girls for his stable. He takes them to a house where they meet their new boss who has been waiting for them.

They are told about how things work and they go through an orientation process before they are allowed to start working on street corners or at parties.

The Mack
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Max Julien, Don Gordon, Richard Pryor (Actors)
  • Michael Campus (Director) - Robert J. Poole (Writer) - Harvey Bernhard (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

The Best Blaxploitation Films That Helped Defined The Genre

The blaxploitation era lasted from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, but there are still films being made today. These movies were not only entertaining for audiences, but they also helped define an era.”

Blaxploitation films are a subgenre of exploitation films that emerged in the early 1970s.

They were generally released by black filmmakers for an urban audience and featured large numbers of African-Americans in starring roles, usually as criminals or gangsters.

The genre was chiefly characterized by having black actors play characters who are streetwise, self-sufficient, and sexually aggressive.

These films offered both an alternative to popular Hollywood fare and a way for social messages to be communicated through cinema.

The 1970s was an interesting time for film. It was the era of blaxploitation films, which were often low-budget exploitation movies aimed at depicting black people as strong and heroic.

These films helped shape a new generation of African American filmmakers that would go on to create some of Hollywood’s most defining moments.

They also gave birth to a slew of memorable characters such as John Shaft, Foxy Brown, Coffy, and Boss Hog – all who had their own unique struggles with trying to live in America while being black or female.

Blaxploitation Horror Movies

Did you know that there are horror movies released in the 1970s? They were called blaxploitation and they tended to be more violent than your average horror movie.

Blaxploitation horror movies typically had strong female leads who would fight back against their attackers with whatever weapon they could find (such as guns).

They also frequently featured scenes involving nudity or other sexual activity; this may be because sex was considered taboo at the time, but it still made for interesting viewing.

I’ve compiled a list of some of the best blaxploitation horror movies from this era for you below. Let me know which one is your favorite!

Ready to learn about more Film History & Film Movements?