The 70s was the rise of disco, bell-bottom jeans, and timeless 8-tracks, so it’s no surprise the decade birthed some of the best 70s Black movies in the cinema.
Before the 70s, the best Black movies included A Raisin In The Sun (1961)and All Night Long (1962). These movies showcased some of the best performances of the era; however, the 70s gave us so many more to add to the list.
So without further ado, here are the best 70s Black movies you forgot you loved.
Also known as the Black Frankenstein, Blackenstein stars John Hart, Ivory Stone, and Andrea King in one of the best black horror films of the 70s.
The film was released just a year after the hit movie Blacula, a remake of Dracula. It continued to cash in on the success of Black remakes.
The story follows a war vet who loses his arms and legs in combat, so his wife consults a mad scientist to patch him up. The results were monstrous, to say the least. The movie was so popular that Saturday Night Live still does skits about it to this day.
Black Samson (1974)
For territory and rival movies, Black Samson gives Westside Story a run for its money.
The film stars a noble nightclub owner desperately trying to keep his neighborhood crime and drug-free, but his luck soon runs out when Johnny Nappa shows up trying to incite violence.
With the help of his intimidating pet lion, Black Samson (Rockne Tarkington) battles Nappa (William Smith) to restore his neighborhood’s integrity.
The film was written by Daniel Cady and Warren Hamilton Jr., directed by Charles Bail, and released by Warner Bros.
The Soul of Ni**er Charley (1973)
If you’re a fan of Western movies, you’ll want to give this movie a watch.
You’ll enjoy this movie primarily because of its action sequences and historical context. The film follows a trio of escaped slaves who’ve recently killed a white man in self-defense. The entire movie follows the trio as they try to escape from professional slave hunters.
The film was directed by Martin Goldman and was famous for its themes of racism and romance, although it received a lot of backlash for its controversial title.
Some fun facts about the movie are that the directors shot it in several fun locations, including Virginia, New Mexico, and Jamaica.
Willie Dynamite (1973)
This movie follows a social worker trying to help a pimp and his workers turn their life around. This movie has everything from 70s Black fashion, hit songs from the time, and raunchy outfits.
From the first ten minutes, you’ll get a real taste of the 70s, as the opening scene is Willie Dynamite (Roscoe Orman) riding through the streets of Manhattan in his pimped out purple Cadillac– an everyday staple for 70s pimps, and a double license plate that spells out his name.
The movie was released by Universal Pictures and was the first film produced by the Zanuck-Brown Company. The movie was extra popular because watchers enjoyed that the women were of many different ethnicities.
This 70s film is one of the best coming-of-age stories for Black youth. It stars Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Bryan O’Dell as an aspiring young boy and a tired gang leader.
The movie has an unexpected plot twist at the end, making it a suspenseful enjoyment all the way through. Also, the entire movie’s soundtrack was written and performed by the afro-funk band “War.”
Basically, if you’re into movies about teenagers realizing the streets aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, this is the film for you.
Brotherhood of Death (1976)
Brotherhood of Death is about a group of retired war vets facing off with Ku Klux Klan members in this classic thriller.
The movie is pretty low-budget but doesn’t fail to capture the intensity and racial tension of the time. If race wars don’t stress you out, you’ll enjoy this tactical film about “sticking it to the white man.”
Movie producer Ronald Goldman wanted the film to be as far from Hollywood influence as possible while still turning a profit– and that he did. The film has celebrity appearances, including an appearance by Washington Redskins former player, “Jefferson.”
Greased Lightning (1977)
Greased Lightning is one of the best Black comedies of the 70s.
The movie follows the real-life event of Wendell Scott, the first Black stock car racing driver to win an upper-tier NASCAR race. Through comedy and drama, we learn about the hardships of becoming a Black Hall of Fame inductee.
Michael Shultz directs this 1977 masterpiece and stars Richard Pryor as the main character. Pryor seems to hone in on his comedic expertise in this film, which we all can appreciate.
The movie also stars Beau Bridges and Pam Grier, who have been widely accepted as the first female action star.
Black Mama White Mama (1973)
Two star-crossed individuals find themselves teaming up in this unconventional Black 70s film. Black Mama White Mama was also written as Woman in Chains and is dedicated to portraying life in women’s prisons.
The movie was directed by Filipino film legend Eddie Romero and inspired by the 1958 film The Defiant Ones.
The movie carries the trope of chaining Blacks and Whites together and forcing their coherence as many movies before it did. Still, this film also tackles many themes of feminism and sexuality, which were only being explored in the 70s through certain media.
Foxy Brown (1974)
This classic movie follows a sexy Black vigilante (Pam Grier) battling it out with several high-profile street members to avenge her recently murdered boyfriend.
The influence Foxy Brown had on pop culture was unbelievable and continues today. It’s one of the many films of its time to showcase a woman’s maternal sexiness and her badass side in the same 91 minutes.
Which Way Is Up? (1977)
Which Way Is Up follows orange picker Leroy Jones (played by comedian Richard Pryor), who is forced to leave town after becoming a union leader.
The movie comes as a remake of the 1972 classic The Seduction of Mimi, and Pryor takes on three lead roles at once. The film also stars Lonette McKee as Vanetta and Margaret Avery as Annie Mae.
The entire film is as funny as it is heartfelt and seemed to pave the way for Black slapstick comedy.
Slaughter’s Big Rip Off (1973)
Vigilante movies were extremely popular in the 70s, so it’s no surprise Slaughter’s Big Rip Off was just as successful as its predecessor Slaughter (1972).
This crime classic stars Jim Brown as Slaughter, a Vietnam vet looking for further revenge apart from his first venture.
Bucktown, USA is a classic Black American film starring Fred Williamson. The story takes you through a town where a young Black man tries to make amends with the city that killed his brother but soon finds he’s in a lot more trouble.
The movie is eerie, suspenseful, and dramatic. It’s one of the best Black films of its time because of its commitment to action and historical context.
Other supporting characters include Pam Grier as Aretha and Thalmus Rasulula as Roy.
Top 70s Black Movies, Final Thoughts
So, now that you’ve been reminded of all of these excellent 70s Black films, it’s time to watch them! Or, check out the trailers for movies on this list that you haven’t heard of before and see what all the hype was about back in the 70s.