We all know the movies that have inspired hip hop greatly. Rappers continuously reference and base their personalities around them. It’s always surprising and interesting to learn what really inspires hip-hoppers, or what inspired the famous movie that your favorite rapper adores. With that said, I’ve compiled a list of movies that have indirectly shaped hip-hop culture.
1. The French Connection (1971)
French Connection is one of the pioneering drug smuggling movies, hands down. It was first released in 1971 and it inspired many movies with its gritty and raw style of direction. This was Gene Hackman’s breakout role where he played tough cop James Doyle on a mission to stop a massive heroin shipment to New York from France. If it hadn’t been for French Connection, other movies that shaped hip-hop, such as Scarface (1983) and Goodfellas, would not exist.
2. Flash Dance (1983)
Flash Dance was a poppy dance movie that came out in 1983. The movie was about a welder slash exotic dancer who wanted to get into a prestige ballet school. But it wasn’t this girl’s rag-to-riches story that influenced hip-hop. It was specifically the historic breakdance scene. Flash dance was the first movie to showcase breakdancing by having the famous Rock Steady crew dance on the street.
3. Scarface (1932)
We all know the influence of Pacino’s Scarface, but I’m actually referring to the 1932 original (yes Scarface was a remake). This Scarface was a very bold because it was based on Al Capone’s life while he was still in power; it was so risky that Capone’s henchmen visited a screenwriter to ensure the movie was completely fiction. Oddly enough, Al Capone really enjoyed the movie when it eventually released. Pacino’s version followed the same story as the original but used drugs as the catalysts instead of overall mob activity.
4. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
In the Heat of the Night, a movie about a black cop and a white cop working together in Mississippi, was a real game changer. It really showcased the acting chops of Sidney Portier and became famous for its revolutionary slap scene. It went like this: Portier’s character, Tibbs, was questioning a respected plantation owner about a murder he’d been investigating. A question prompted the plantation owner to slap Tibbs, but to the surprise of viewers, Tibbs slapped him back. Taking into account the era of civil rights protest, a black man slapping a respectable and powerful Caucasian was shocking for both races. What many movie watchers didn’t realize at the time is that the returned slap was not scripted. It was Sidney, not Tibbs, who slapped the man, in retaliation to all the injustices he experienced growing up and working in the entertainment industry. It shaped a culture and ultimately but indirectly paved the way for a rebellious hip-hop movement in the decades to follow.
5. Mo Better Blues (1990)
Spike Lee has a list of popular movies that critique the social landscape of his time. Unfortunately, Mo Better Blues tends to get overlooked. The movie follows a period in the life of a fictional jazz trumpeter Bleek Gilliam (played by Washington) as a series of bad decisions result in his jeopardizing both his relationships and his playing career. It might be hard to draw connection to today’s hip-hop but in the early 1990’s hip hop and jazz had an intimate relationship. The movie also touched on the trials of an artist in a music industry, which relates directly to hip-hop.
6. The Education of Sonny Carson (1974)
The Education of Sonny Carson does not carry the same acclaim as Boyz N Da Hood or Menace II Society but it shares the same inspiration to many, most notably Ghostface. Ghost used many scenes from the movie as intros and skits on his debut album, Iron Man. Sonny Carson was one of the original movies to really portray the horrible living conditions in New York neighborhoods.
7. The Warriors (1979)
This 1970’s gang movie was so inspiring that it spurred riots and vandalism after theater showings. Though the movie did not get critical acclaim when it first opened, it managed to gain a huge cult following, particularly in the rap community. Due to the movie’s gripping depiction of a gang lifestyle in a post-traumatic New York City, many rappers have used the film in beats, samples, and skits.
8. Five Deadly Venoms (1978)
There’s a wide array of classic kung fu movies out there, but Five Deadly Venoms really stands out. The popularity of this over-the-top action flick has given it somewhat of a cult status, so much so that it really increased the popularity of kung Fu movies in America. One group which took notice was the world famous Wu-Tang Clan. Wu would eventually base their style and production on kung fu films.