Blaxploitation is a genre of African-American movies that were released in the 1970s. The films featured actors who were often black and specifically targeted black audiences.
These movies often tackled controversial subject matter, such as drug use and prostitution. The term “blaxploitation” can be traced back to a 1972 article in the Village Voice.
It was an attempt to put a label on the new genre of African-American cinema that was emerging at the time.
What Is blaxploitation?
Blaxploitation is a genre of American cinema that first developed in the early 1970s. The films were generally low-budget and featured black casts.
Taken as a whole, blaxploitation movies reflected the climate of the times: the United States was going through a period of social upheaval and turbulence, with protests against the Vietnam War and urban uprisings in American cities.
Some critics have argued that blaxploitation films were an outlet for African-Americans to explore their political consciousness and embrace black pride.
Other critics have suggested that movies like Shaft helped to change Hollywood stereotypes about African-Americans and made heroes out of African-American actors.
Blaxploitation films became popular with African-American audiences, who had long been ignored by Hollywood studios. The films often portrayed black characters as strong figures who triumphed over white villains.
What Is Blaxploitation?
Blaxploitation movies were generally made on low budgets.
They featured over-the-top violence, gratuitous nudity, gritty urban settings and characters with names like Foxy Brown and Coffy.
Sometimes they also include political messages, such as the importance of education or the evils of drug use.
Here’s our video guide to Blaxploitation cinema:
Some blaxploitation movies were especially popular among mainstream audiences, including “Shaft” (1971) and “Superfly” (1972).
Other well-known movies in this genre include:
- “Cleopatra Jones,”
- “Foxy Brown,”
- “Blacula” (1972) and
Blaxploitation’s popularity waned by the late 1970s. Many critics have blamed its decline on its formulaic nature Blaxploitation is a film genre that emerged in the United States during the 1970s.
The word “blaxploitation” is a portmanteau of the words “black” and “exploitation.” It was originally coined by Variety magazine critic Jonathan Rosenbaum in 1972 when he reviewed Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.
He described the film as the first of a genre of films that were “made cheaply, directed at the black urban audience, and shown both in black neighborhoods and in drive-ins frequented by blacks.”
In the 1970s, films featuring African-American actors as protagonists were known as blaxploitation films.
They became popular during this time and featured themes of black empowerment and racial segregation.
Toward the end of the decade, the genre declined in popularity, with studios choosing to make different types of films.
However, there are still a few blaxploitation films that have become cult classics.
What Is A Blaxploitation Film?
There has been a lot of debate about where the genre of Blaxploitation films came from. Some say that they are a direct reflection of the Black Power movement, while others claim that they were created to counter the popularity of Blaxploitation films made by white film directors.
Regardless of their original intentions, these films have become an integral part of American pop culture. Towards the end of the 1960s, several black filmmakers started making films that were aimed at black audiences.
These films were filled with stereotypical characters, stereotypical plots, and stereotypical dialogue. Even though these films were made for black audiences, they became widely popular among white audiences as well.
Blaxploitation films did not rely upon big name actors or actresses to draw in moviegoers. Instead, most Blaxploitation films featured either unknown actors or up-and-coming African-American actors and actresses like Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson.
Although many people consider these films to be low quality and stereotypical, there are still some quality movies within this genre. One such film is 1973’s “Coffy.”
This film was directed by Jack Hill and starred Pam Grier as Coffy, a nurse who decided to take matters into her own hands.
Black action movies from the 1970s that were produced and directed by black directors, starred black actors and were made for a primarily black audience. The genre was born in the early 1970s in an effort to showcase the talents of black actors during a time when they were being ignored by Hollywood.
However, some critics say that Blaxploitation films were more harmful than helpful because they reinforced negative stereotypes of black people. Blaxploitation films flourished in the early 1970s once black filmmakers, producers and movie studios recognized an untapped market of black audiences who had been ignored by Hollywood.
The term Blaxploitation was coined in 1973 by white film critic Gene Siskel, but it was widely used to describe movies released between 1971 and 1975. Leading figures of the movement included Melvin Van Peebles, Gordon Parks and Ossie Davis who have all since died.
The Reason Behind Blaxploitation
Blaxploitation films are an urban genre of film that first emerged in the United States during the early 1970s. The term is also used to describe similar films and television shows made primarily by African-American filmmakers, starring black actors, and aimed at black audiences.
Terence Steven “Steve” McQueen Jr. (February 9, 1930 – November 7, 1980) was an American actor. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles; however, two of his most notable movies were released posthumously: The Towering Inferno and Papillon.
He also played the title role in the television series Wanted: Dead or Alive and Frank Bullitt in Bullitt. In 1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world.
McQueen’s roles reflected a certain toughness, but many considered him to have been much more than a “macho film star”. Some say he added a deeper dimension to film acting—a man of quiet strength who conveyed emotion with minimal expression.
On June 6, 2000, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard. In 2002, the U.S Blaxploitation is a genre of cinema that came about in the 1970’s during the period of racial tension.
It was created for black audiences and made by black directors and producers. Blaxploitation is often criticized as being offensive and racist, but it was actually a way to speak out against society’s idea that African Americans were inferior.
Blaxploitation is considered to be the first “modern” genre because it was created in the 1970s, when movies with an urban setting started to dominate box offices. The Blaxploitation genre mostly focused on the lifestyles of inner-city African Americans, which Hollywood had never before portrayed.
Black audiences flocked to see these films and turned them into box office hits. In this way, the Blaxploitation genre was actually a response to Hollywood’s lack of diversity in film.
No one had ever seen anything like it before; an urban setting filled with African American actors speaking in their own accents and dealing with everyday life issues facing inner-city blacks. This new type of film gave African American viewers characters they could relate to, but it also showed them how far they still needed to come as a people.
Famous Blaxploitation Movies
Blaxploitation was a genre of American films released from the early 1970s to the early 1980s. The word is a portmanteau of the words “black” and “exploitation”.
Blaxploitation includes several sub-genres, including crime, action/martial arts, Westerns, comedy and musical. Tarantino has stated that he considers Blaxploitation a genre unto itself, with his films Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Jackie Brown (1997) as modern-day blaxploitation films.
Blaxploitation films were originally produced between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s; their bulk appeared within the major American film industry during the 1970s. That period is known as the “blaxploitation era”, as they were made widely available to a mainly urban, black audience.
These movies have had a significant and long-lasting effect on American cinema, television and pop culture in general.
Early blaxploitation films often featured black men in lead roles and were seen as exploitative, but the genre evolved into more sophisticated works. Using names of characters from movies like “Super Fly,” we’ll show you some famous blaxploitation movies, and their stars.
Blaxploitation is a genre of American film that emerged in the early 1970s. The first blaxploitation film was “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song”, a 1971 independent feature film produced, written and directed by Melvin Van Peebles.
The films, typical of the blaxploitation genre, featured a new and often edgier kind of African-American actor, who usually played streetwise characters that were unencumbered with the stigmas of mainstream Hollywood. Taken together, blaxploitation movies represent one aspect of the black power movement.
They were produced as a form of “black cultural nationalism”, designed to portray black people as strong, positive characters for once. Blaxploitation includes several subgenres: crime/crime drama, action/martial arts, westerns/frontier tales and comedies.
The films were produced primarily for distribution to urban African-American theaters, but some entered mainstream theaters if they had crossover appeal. The best known blaxploitation films include: “Shaft” (1971), “Super Fly” (1972), “Black Caesar” (1973), “Bucktown” (1975), “Boss Nigger” (1975) and “Coffy” (1973).
Blaxploitation Today is an independent film company. It was formed in 2004 to produce films as a vehicle for social change and to help nurture young African-American talent.
The company has worked with local and national film schools, such as City College, Howard University, and the Rhode Island School of Design. Travis Wilkerson is the founder and CEO of Blaxploitation Today.
Wilkerson began his career working on documentaries at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC. He later worked for the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Motion Picture Production Services (OMPPS).
In 1999 he relocated to Los Angeles and became a freelance filmmaker, where he worked on several independent films including the Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize winning film “American Gun” (2000), the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Weather Underground” (2004), and several television specials for C-SPAN, The History Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Fox Sports Net, and ESPN.
Travis Wilkerson is also a professor of film at San Diego City College in California.
He teaches film production and screenwriting at four universities in Southern California: San Diego State University; Mt. San Antonio Colleg A new wave of Blaxploitation films has been sweeping Hollywood and the rest of the world.
Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Pam Grier’s Jackie Brown, which was remade into a film by Tarantino in 1997, have brought back this genre which was last seen on screen in the 1990s with films like Pulp Fiction and In Too Deep.
Even the entertainment industry is taking notice of this trend, with VH1’s recent airing of the biopic Foxy Brown starring Yvonne Craig as Tamara Dobson. The story follows Tammy from her humble beginnings as an exotic dancer to her rise as one of the most popular and successful actresses in African-American cinema.
Blaxploitation films have always been popular among African Americans; however, it is not just us that have enjoyed this unique brand of entertainment. According to The Root.com, 26 percent of all white movie goers saw Blaxploitation films during their heyday in the 1970s.
In an interview with NPR, Dr. Jason Edwards said he believes there were two main reasons for its popularity: “One is that they’re really fun movies to watch… They’re really entertaining,” said Edwards.
“But I think another reason is because they serveBlaxploitation is a blanket term used to describe a variety of black action-oriented films that were produced from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s.
These movies were characterized by their focus on urban crime and hedonistic lifestyles, and their tendency to appeal to the urban audiences who identified with the film’s protagonists.
The genre was popularized by director Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), which became a surprise commercial hit after grossing over $7 million in the U.S. alone.
Toward the end of the decade, blaxploitation films such as Shaft (1971) and Super Fly (1972) had become box office hits, while other movies like Black Caesar (1973) and Three the Hard Way (1974) featured stars like Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, and 1974’s film Blackenstein was essentially a blaxploitation version of Frankenstein.
By that time, the genre was starting to fizzle out due to falling ticket sales — it was superseded by other subgenres such as kung fu and gangster films — but its influence would continue to be felt for decades afterward.
The Historical Context Of Blaxploitation
Blaxploitation, a genre of film that emerged in the early 1970s, was an attempt to empower black people by providing strong images of black characters.
Athough there were several films released prior to 1971 featuring black actors in lead roles (like “The Defiant Ones” and “In the Heat of the Night”), it was between 1971 and 1975 that the genre gained momentum with films like “Shaft,” “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” and “Super Fly.”
The Blaxploitation genre didn’t last for long — at least not in its original form. In many ways, it began to self-destruct in 1975 when its most popular star, Jim Brown, left the genre to pursue other interests.
While there were still some notable successes (“Cooley High,” for example), by 1977 many of these films had disappeared from theaters. By 1980, the genre had all but vanished.
Blaxploitation cinema is a subgenre of the exploitation film genre. The films, which were produced from the early 1970s to the early 1980s, typically feature stereotypical African-American characters, related specifically to the “black experience” in urban ghettos.
Blaxploitation films were originally made for an urban audience, but most of the bigger budgeted films were later distributed to a wider, mostly white audience.
As a result of this marketing, Blaxploitation films are now considered to be part of the American pop culture canon.
Empowering New Black Voices In Cinema
Cinema has the potential to be the most powerful and influential art form. It allows us to explore the world from new perspectives, and it can help us find common ground amidst our differences.
But one glaring absence from this medium is black voices. In the past decade, only 3% of directors were black. Only 1% of writers were black.
And for every 100 studio films released annually, only 5 are directed by black filmmakers. How can we allow such a disparity to exist?
How can we be so accepting of an industry that routinely ignores our voices? An easy answer is that there are simply not enough talented black filmmakers.
But I would argue there’s a deeper problem at play: The entertainment industry is in the business of creating moneymakers. Black films don’t tend to make as much money in Hollywood, so they’re not getting made.
The solution isn’t to change talented black people — it’s to change how Hollywood thinks about black films. In the film industry, a new generation of black artists is coming of age and making its mark.
Athough African Americans are 12% of the US population, according to a study by San Diego State University, they make up only 3% of directors, 5% of writers, 11% of executive producers, 1% of cinematographers, and 4% of producers.
But while the statistics don’t look good overall, they do show a gradual improvement over the past decade. Before 2012, there were only two black directors who had been nominated for an Oscar: John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood ) and Lee Daniels (Precious ).
In 2013, however, Steve McQueen became the third with his acclaimed film 12 Years a Slave . The same year saw two other films directed by black men—Fruitvale Station , by Ryan Coogler; and The Butler , by Lee Daniels.
Many more talented black filmmakers are emerging now that digital filmmaking has become more accessible—a trend that’s sure to continue in 2014 with the release of Dear White People , a satirical comedy about race relations on a mostly white Ivy League campus; Beyond the Lights , starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a pop star; Selma , about The African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) was founded in 2005, by a group of passionate film lovers who collectively recognized that there was not enough Black film being released.
The mission of AFFRM is to unite and develop an independent distribution network for films made or written by and/or about people of African descent.
The AFFRM has been a catalyst for change in the independent film industry through its innovative model of releasing films theatrically and making them available on DVD and Cable VOD.
With its own network of DVD distributors, the AFFRM has been able to secure national distribution for many theatrical releases.
It is the only organization that has successfully created a distribution model that can consistently reach the Black consumer. The Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University, a department in the IU School of Liberal Arts, is devoted to preserving films by and about people of color.
The archive houses thousands of films and videos, including some rare titles that are difficult to find in other public collections. It’s part of a nationwide trend: As more African Americans pursue careers in media, libraries and archives are working to preserve their work.
The Black Film Center/Archive is currently working to preserve films made by or about black communities in the 1960s and 1970s, when many independent black filmmakers worked under the radar or struggled for funding.
“One of our motivations was to record for history films created by African-American filmmakers that might otherwise not have survived,” says professor and archive director Jacqueline Najuma Stewart.
“We thought it was important to collect films that offered insight into what it meant to be African-American during a certain period.” Since 2010, the center has received nearly $6 million from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support its archival efforts.
The original Blaxploitation films were a response to the exploitation films of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The exploitative films were made for profit by studios who used them as a way to primarily, and sometimes exclusively, exploit African American actors.
They were filled with hyper sexualized images of Black women who were portrayed as vapid, unintelligent, and over-sexualized. In contrast, Blaxploitation films centered on Black protagonists and often explored social issues affecting the Black community in urban areas of America.
The genre went on to influence many other films such as Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolemite (1975), which was originally written as a Blaxploitation film but was changed to gangster rap after studio executives found out that the film was going to be more comedic than violent. There are also elements of Blaxploitation that influenced films like Fish Heads (1980) starring Monty Python members John Cleese and Michael Palin.
Blaxploitation films also had a huge impact on hip-hop culture through its films’ soundtracks. Films like Super Fly (1972) and Foxy Brown (1974) featured funk music from artists like Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Willie Hutch, and War.These The story of Blaxploitation is one that doesn’t need to be told.
It’s a movement that history has already recorded, leaving it as often referred to as any other historical milestone in the United States.
The movement was a direct response to the perceived racism in Hollywood, which was traditionally the domain of white people. The success of blaxploitation films, however, would show that Black people could hold their own on screen and, moreover, determine their own destinies.
Blaxploitation films were released in a time when Black people were becoming more politically active than ever before. Civil rights groups like the NAACP worked hard to right the wrongs of past and present discrimination against Black people.
The Black Power movement, with its revolutionary and anti-establishment undertones, directly inspired some blaxploitation films. Many of these movies had a message far greater than “set ’em up and knock ’em down,” and they appealed to audiences in ways that no one expected.
Ultimately, they would pave the way for future generations of filmmakers and actors to cultivate careers in film and television all over the world.
The genre was heavily inspired by the “Western” genre and there were a lot of similarities to be seen here. These movies were characterized by the fact that they featured African-American actors who played roles that were not written for them in the first place.
The character of Shaft, for example, was originally written as a white person. However, because the producers didn’t want to deal with an expensive actor like Richard Roundtree, they gave him an African-American successor instead.
The Blaxploitation genre ended around 1975 when it became clear that people weren’t interested in it anymore.
Another reason for this is that the genre made use of stereotypes and racist language and because it wasn’t taken very seriously at all, it is now considered being one of the worst movie genres ever created. Many of these movies have been lost over time because people didn’t take them very seriously and only saw them as products to be sold.
This is why many Blaxploitation movies are known today only through their posters, which often feature very interesting designs.
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