The best Black crime movies are such a thrill to watch. Whether it is about investigating, solving the case, or the actual crime, we cannot get enough of these films. The following is a list of some good ones:
American Gangster (2007)
Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe star in this crime drama about criminal Frank Lucas. Lucas is played by Washington. He is a gangster who smuggles heroin in the coffins of American soldiers killed in Vietnam.
Frank gets away with this for many years and builds an empire. He is a smart and intuitive person who works hard to get where he wants. The crime drama also features Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, and Cuba Gooding Jr in prominent roles.
Crowe plays his archenemy detective Trupo, who is determined to bring Lucas down. Many critics have called this one of the best Black crime movies ever made.
Cool Breeze (1972)
This movie has action, comedy, and crime rolled up into one. It is about a gang of criminals trying to pull off a heist. The only thing standing in their way is the undercover police officer called Vance (played by Thalmus Rasulala).
Foxy Brown (1974)
Pam Grier stars in this film about a woman who seeks revenge for her boyfriend’s murder. Jane Fonda and D’Urville Martin co-star in this crime thriller, filled with action from one end to the other. Foxy is a woman that can hold her own against men. The ladies often get revenge in unpredictable ways.
Queen & Slim (2017)
This crime drama stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith. A young couple (played by Kaluuya and Turner-Smith) quickly connect on their first date. However, an unexpected disturbance occurs when they get pulled over by two cops for a minor traffic violation.
What happens next is something that neither of them expected. They end up on the Run with some people referring to them as the Black Bonnie and Clyde.
This time, Pam Grier plays a nurse fed up with the drug dealers in her neighborhood. When her sister succumbs to addiction, she decides to do something about it. The criminal mastermind (played by Robert Doqui) underestimates this woman’s tenacity and is in for a big surprise.
She is relentless when hunting down these criminals and won’t stop until they are all punished.
Black Caesar (1973)
Fred Williamson stars as Tommy Gibbs. He shines in this crime drama about a man who becomes the head of the most powerful gang in Harlem. As a child, Tommy gets injured by a racist cop.
This experience proves to be prophetic. Later as an adult and underworld kingpin, he clashes with this same cop ( as well as rival mafia gangs) on the streets of Harlem.
Live and Let Die (1973)
Roger Moore and Jane Seymour star in this James Bond thriller about a man investigating the murder of three fellow agents. He ends up being a target of the very same killer. Bond almost meets his maker by alligators in one of the most famous scenes.
This film rode the wave of the blaxploitation era of the time and takes place in Jamaica. While James Bond focuses on a British agent, this film features several well-known Black actors, including Julius Harris, Geoffrey Holder, and Yaphet Kotto. The second bond girl in the movie is a Black-American Playboy bunny, Gloria Hendry.
A Soldier’s Story (1984)
Howard E. Rollins Jr., Denzel Washington, and Adolph Caesar appear in this film about a Black detective (played by Rollins) investigating the murder of a fellow sergeant.
While he is conducting his investigation, he realizes that many people in the community knew about the killer’s identity and did nothing to stop him. He takes it upon himself to identify the murderer, as well as those who were complicit in the crime.
Richard Roundtree stars in this film about an African-American man who is trying to make it through life when he meets Bumpy Jonas (played by Moses Gunn).
While working with both Black nationalists and Black gangs, Shaft fights to protect Harlem from the rival white Mafia. He also makes it his mission to find the kidnapped daughter of a Black crime Lord. Gordon Parks directed this film.
Paid in Full (2002)
This movie is about three young men who all live in Harlem. Their names are Mitch (played by Wood Harris), Ace (Andre 3000), and Rico (Esai Morales). The friends end up getting involved in the local drug underworld.
When one of them makes a serious error in judgment, it causes their lives to change in ways they never expected.
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
The controversial best-selling novel became a movie. A Black man named Dan Freeman (played by Lawrence Cook). Upon returning from Vietnam, he finds out that the racial hierarchy has not changed in the United States.
Despite becoming the first Black agent in the CIA, he still gets disrespected. So he decides to take matters into his own hands. His military and CIA training work to help local youth fight for justice.
Let’s Do It Again (1975)
This film features two brothers, Billy (played by Bill Cosby) and Clyde Williams (played by Sidney Poitier), who are trying to make the best of some bad investments.
Their plan is to turn $20,000 into a windfall. They’re also trying to turn a washed-up boxer into a champion. While the two get involved in various criminal activities, there is lots of comedy along the way.
Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)
This crime-comedy stars Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques as two detectives named Gravedigger Jones (Cambridge) and Coffin Ed Johnson (St. Jacques).
The officers investigate why a bale of cotton suddenly turns up in Harlem – of all places. They find out that someone is smuggling tons of money in the bale of cotton. Crazy action ensues when the money turns up missing.
Cleopatra Jones (1973)
This is the first action movie to star Tamara Dobson as Cleopatra Jones. She’s a government agent who goes undercover in order to get close to drug suppliers and blow up their labs.
The 6’2” Dobson showcases stunning outfits and martial arts skills while facing opponents such as Mommy, played by Shelly Winters. This movie was an extremely popular one that inspired two sequels featuring Dobson.
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger star as two men who must work together in order to solve a murder case. Virgil Tibbs (played by Poiter) is a Black police detective from Philadelphia, and he finds himself a suspect in a murder of a white man.
One of his fellow officers from Sparta, Mississippi (Chief Bill Gillespie, played by Steiger), works with him to find the real killer.
Trouble Man (1972)
This crime thriller stars Robert Hooks as Mr. T., a man who gets hired on by an illegal gambling syndicate that claims to be the victims of robbers.
Unfortunately, he gets framed for murder. Now he must prove his innocence to the cops and other criminals who were after him.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
This movie follows the true story of Oscar Grant, which takes place on New Year’s Eve 2008. He is an African-American male who lives in Oakland, California.
As he leaves the train station after getting some money out of the ATM, he runs into trouble with local police officers when they mistake him for a criminal. This film shows how racial profiling can have a negative effect on both the person being profiled and the officers who are profiling them.
The Hurricane (1999)
This drama is about the life of Rubin Carter, who was born in New Jersey to a middle-class family. He was a veteran and a boxer with a great future ahead of him until he was wrongly imprisoned for murder by a crooked cop.
He spent twenty years in prison. However, his conviction eventually got overturned. With the work of a young legal team, it came to light that the case against him was tainted with racism and corruption.
Murder at 1600 (1997)
This movie stars Wesley Snipes. It’s about an investigation done by Ronin Payton (Snipes), who gets rehired to work for the Secret Service after being fired.
He soon discovers that a woman has been killed in the White House, and he is recruited to find out who did it. Diane Lane and Alan Alda also co-star in the film.
Dead Presidents (1995)
This crime thriller stars Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker, and others. It tells the story of a young Vietnam vet’s life in New York City.
He soon realizes that adjusting to life after the war is not easy. After struggling to find Reliable work to support his family, he succumbs to desperation. He and his friends decide to pull off a huge bank heist for the windfall of a lifetime.
New Jack City (1991)
This movie stars Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, and Chris Rock. It’s about a young man named Nino Brown (Snipes) who lives in New York City during the 1980s. He becomes one of the city’s biggest drug lords, but his quest for power doesn’t end there.
This flick is especially violent, but it was highly praised by critics and viewers alike. The crime drama also features a memorable soundtrack.
Training Day (2001)
This action crime movie stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. It’s about a young rookie cop named Jake Hoyt (Hawke) who works as a narcotics officer in Los Angeles.
One day, he gets assigned to work on patrol with Alonzo Harris (Washington). As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Alonzo isn’t the type of officer that Jake should be working with, but it might be too late for him to get out of his deal.
I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)
The crime was never so funny until I’m Gonna Git You Sucka came out. This is a classic comedy movie that was written and directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. It stars several famous African-American comedians such as Kadeem Hardison, Jim Brown, and others.
In this flick, a group of African-American men from the inner city come together to get revenge on several drug dealers who have caused them problems in the past.
Set It Off (1996)
This crime drama stars Vivica A. Fox, Kimberly Elise, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett Smith. It’s about four friends who have fallen on hard times.
They’re all suffering from unemployment, so they devise a plan to rob the local banks in their city. But things start to get out of hand. Eventually, their lives are forever altered with one last heist.
This crime drama stars Laurence Fishburne, Vanessa L. Williams, Cicily Tyson, and Andy Garcia. Upon release from prison, Bumpy Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) resumes his criminal activities as a key player in the Harlem numbers racket.
However, Bumpy’s old friend Illinois Gordon (Chi McBride) and lover Francine Hughes (Vanessa Williams) are both pushing for him to get clean. As he tries to maintain dominance, he must deal with rival Mafia leaders ( played by Andy Garcia and Tim Roth) that seek to bring him down.
Best Black Crime Movies Ever, Final Thoughts
Black filmmakers and thespians have made many well-received crime films. Some of these cinematic works date back to the blaxploitation era of the 1970s. There are more recent films with an all-Black cast or, at least, a famous and dominating lead such as Denzel Washington or Wesley Snipes.
Either way, if you want a good Black crime film, you have plenty to start from on this list.