Black Cult Classics of the 1990s
The 1990s produced a number of black films — both acclaimed and critically panned — that have managed to stay in the hearts and minds of viewers to this day. In honor of the 15th anniversary of the release of the certified classic Love Jones, we count down 11 1990s cult favorites, from New Jack City to, yes, B.A.P.S.
Poetic Justice (1993)
We get a chance to see two of the hottest entertainers of the ’90s — Tupac and Janet Jackson — step off the concert stage and onto the big screen. On a road trip from Los Angeles to Oakland, their characters end up crashing a family reunion and run into April, May and June, the latter played by Maya Angelou. Watch as Janet — Justice — reflects on being a phenomenal woman.
Film like it: Jason’s Lyric
Menace II Society (1993)
Of all the urban crime dramas of the ’90s, we picked Menace II Society because it actually received rather favorable reviews from critics, making Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s list of the top 10 movies of 1993. (It even won an MTV Movie Award.) Of course, later in the ’90s, the Wayans brothers directed and produced Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, a parody of this film and some of our other favorite black cult classics: Juice and Boyz n the Hood.
Film like it: Dead Presidents
The Five Heartbeats (1991)
Between the catchy songs, flashy wardrobes and one-liners upon one-liners, it’s hard not to stop what you’re doing and watch The Five Heartbeats whenever it comes on TV. Watch Eddie King (not Kane) Jr. as he makes this young lady squirm in her seat.
Film like it: The Temptations
In 2003 Entertainment Weekly made a list of the 50 best cult classics of all time, and stoner comedy Friday ranked No. 49. The success of Friday spawned a whole trilogy, with another sequel possibly in the works. This month, star Ice Cube said he has started writing the fourth installment — with hopes of getting Chris Tucker on board.
Love Jones (1997)
Don’t you dare talk bad about Love Jones, especially in the company of HBCU grads, people from Chicago or anyone who has ever participated in a dimly lit spoken-word showcase. But how corny are those lines from main character Darius Lovehall’s (played by Larenz Tate) spoken word when you hear them now? (Insert snaps here for emphasis.)
Films like it: Brown Sugar, The Best Man, Love & Basketball
This movie did terribly at the box office, and critics panned it. But it’s actually worth watching. Not kidding! Platinum blonde hair, a skin-tight plastic jumpsuit and a smile filled with gold-encrusted teeth on Halle Berry? Plus, the film had cameos from a handful of Hollywood stars, from Howard Hewett to LL Cool J to the late Heavy D.
Why Do Fools Fall in Love? (1998)
The film, starring Larenz Tate as singer Frankie Lymon, tells three different stories about the life of the Teenagers’ lead singer through his interactions with Zola Taylor (Halle Berry), Elizabeth Waters (Vivica A. Fox) and Emira Eagle (Lela Rochon).
Film like it: What’s Love Got to Do With It?
The Wood (1999)
Actors Sean Nelson, Trent Cameron and Duane Finley steal the show in this coming-of-age romantic comedy. They were fresh faces on the screen and delivered one-liners like seasoned vets. We laughed as we watched them take bets on who would lose his virginity first.
New Jack City (1991)
New Jack City is one of those films that are repeatedly referenced in other pop-culture works. One of the funniest episodes of Martin — and perhaps one of the funniest in ’90s sitcom history — is when Martin’s $400 Discman comes up missing and he has a New Jack City-style meeting with Gina, Tommy, Cole and Pam. More recently, Lil Wayne’s lyrics reference villain Nino Brown, played by Wesley Snipes, and Bow Wow’s last album was called New Jack City II.
Film like it: Paid in Full
The Inkwell (1994)
Set in the 1970s, The Inkwell is the coming-of-age story of Drew Tate, played by Larenz Tate, the unofficial king of the ’90s cult classic. When Drew, a young man spending a couple of weeks on Martha’s Vineyard for the summer, wasn’t up to hijinks — or talking to his doll friend — he was trying to woo another ’90s favorite, Jada Pinkett Smith. (Haven’t watched in a while? It’s uploaded in full on YouTube.)
House Party (1990)
Who didn’t want to host a fly house party like the ones in the House Party collection? (Even the bash in House Party 4 looked fun to us. Judge not.) In the original House Party, they wore neon outfits, had rap battles and showed us the latest dance moves. Don’t act like you never took these moves to a party around your way.
Film like it: Class Act