Hood movies can be divided into two subcategories and you would often find different genres in this bigger category. First would be mostly crime dramas starring Afro-American actors, set in various gloomy neighbours in the biggest American cities, and dealing with their everyday situations of struggling against various kinds of oppression.
The second category goes to gangster movies with important bosses without scruples and the people revolving around them. This list features mostly movies from the first category, but we have left some from the second, being some of the most important and famous from the genre. These are the 25 best hood movies of all time.
25. Barbershop (2002)
An Ice Cube movie, set on the south side of Chicago where Calvin has to keep his barbershop that he inherited from his father. Since it became only a burden to him, he decided to sell it but soon started to feel bad for it and constantly dealing with the fact that he has sold it.
We meet a list of unforgettable characters there who share their stories, dreams and hopes, such as Eddie, an old grumpy barber with no customers, a highly educated barber Jimmy and a new, white barber Isaac who just wants the opportunity to cut someone’s hair and many more.
24. Dangerous Minds (1995)
One of the most beloved and memorable movies about struggling youth from tough neighbourhoods is this drama with Michele Pfeiffer in the leading role and one of the few where a woman carried out the whole story.
Pfeiffer is Louanne Johnson, an ex-marine who is hired as a teacher in a poor neighbourhood of a California city. She is struggling with her students, constantly listening to their threats, swearing and rebelling, until she manages to gain their trust, by using unconventional methods, such as Bob Dylan lyrics.
23. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
One of the most memorable sports comedies is this interesting story about two friends, white and black hustlers who decide to play together in a basketball tournament only to double their chances of winning.
But nothing is simple as it seems since Billy and Sydney won’t maybe be stopped by any other opponents, but might have their plans disrupted by one another, thanks to their constant fighting. But to make it even more complicated, Sydney finds out that Billy is being chased by a couple of gangsters.
22. Scarface (1983)
Al Pacino, Brian de Palma, Oliver Stone. I think these names themselves tell us everything. This is a story about an individual who becomes one of the most famous and notorious criminals ever. Starting as a nobody and ending as the biggest, Tony Montana is the name that must be mentioned when it comes to crime stories.
He is a Cuban immigrant who left his home country during the Mariel exodus of 1980. He finds his refuge in Miami where he very soon becomes involved in criminal activities in order to get a green card. His greed and possessive nature will make him one of the biggest crime bosses ever but also be the end of him.
21. Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice (1996)
One of the most successful parodies of all time is this hilarious comedy made by the talented Wayans brothers who mock the various U.S. that happen in the hood, most of them mentioned in this list, as well. They made a parody of Juice, Bad Boys, South Central and Menace II Society, among many others.
We follow Ashtray who returns to his old neighbourhoods and gets into different unforgettable situations, together with his crazy friends and unusual father. They introduced us to many unforgettable characters and made a parody many will remember for a long time.
20. Casino (1995)
This Martin Scorsese masterpiece takes us to Las Vegas and shows us its double face, the glamour and bling on one side and brutality on the other. We meet Ace Rothstein and Nicky Santoro, two mobsters who move to this flashy town to become someone.
It is a story of two friends with different destinies. Ace becomes an operator of the Tangiers casino and Nicky takes a different path, robbing locals. Soon their lives will become even more different when Ace meets Ginger and Nicky finds meaning in drugs and alcohol.
19. He Got Game (1998)
An excellent sports drama about a high school basketball player, Jesus Shuttlesworth, one of the biggest talents in his country. But Jesus has problems at home, his talent is overshadowed by his father’s issues and background.
He is in prison, convicted of killing Jesus’ mother and sentenced to life. But he is released on parole and his only wish is to convince Jesus to play for the governor’s university in order to get a reduced sentence. This movie has a great story, a brilliant actor who puts it on a higher level and a direction by Spike Lee who is definitely capable of making a movie about the misunderstood and the ones on the other side of the law.
18. Carlito’s Way (1993)
One of the most memorable movies about narco bosses and mafia organisations is definitely Carlito’s Way. The unforgettable performance by Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante and simply outstanding Sean Penn as a young, hotheaded Bronx gangster Benny Blanco, together with its excellent story make this movie one of the most important on this list.
It is a great depiction of the dangerous New York City and its neighbourhoods and it shows us what can happen when you find yourself in the streets, surrounded by all its vices and baits that some simply can’t refuse to be part of.
17. Clockers (1995)
A movie directed by Spike Lee must be something interesting and this crime drama proves exactly the point, starring some of the best actors at the time, such as Harvey Keitel, Delroy Lindo and John Turturro and young promising actors, such as Isaiah Washington and Mekhi Pfeiffer.
It is a story of neighbourhood youngsters, a group of clockers (street-level drug dealers) who work for Rodney Little, a local drug lord. There is bad blood between Rodney’s dealers and soon all their negotiations will end up in murder. Two main detectives are certain that the one who turned himself in isn’t responsible so they will have to prove his innocence.
16. American Gangster (2007)
New York City mob, a biographical drama, a movie that must be mentioned. It is a story about the rise and fall of one of the most famous American gangsters, Frank Lucas. An interesting view of the criminal mind and way of thinking. Are they ready to surrender and at what cost? Do they always stay true to what they are doing? Is there a price for their knowledge and eventually their confessions?
Lucas is Harlem’s drug lord, the mightiest individual in one of the most dangerous New York City neighbourhoods. On the other side of the law, there is Richie Roberts, an honest policeman, in charge of the joint narcotics task force.
15. A Bronx Tale (1993)
This Robert de Niro directing debut is an interesting and intriguing tale of a nine-year-old Calogero whose childhood is full of excitement and various stories due to his fascination with the local mob boss, Sonny. His father Lorenzo is very well acquainted with the mobsters way of life and is determined to keep his son away from them.
But this might prove to be completely useless, since Calogero is following Sonny as much as possible, admiring his actions and everything he does. Growing up in this neighbourhood might result in his connection with Sonny in the end, given the fact that he has never listened to what his father had to say to him.
14. Crash (2004)
This crime drama takes place on the streets of Los Angeles in a 36 hour long time period and it brings us the stories of different kinds of people. It deals with many controversial topics, especially racism, bringing us stories about people from various parts of the city and belonging to different social circles.
It is slow paced with many dialogues and it serves a lot of patience to go through it and figure out what is in fact going on. But it is a brilliant depiction of what prejudice can do to people and what someone’s narrowmindedness can cause.
13. Above the Rim (1994)
This is the story of Kyle-Lee Watson, a promising young basketball player and his connection with one of the most powerful drug dealers, Birdie and his brother, Thomas “Shep” Sheppard who also used to be a big high school basketball player.
A great depiction of racial problems and destinies that had to change due to the difficulties of growing up in a ghetto and trying to become someone besides a criminal. It is an excellent insight into the lives of some promising young sports stars who have to work even harder than their colleagues, due to their different backgrounds.
12. Paid in Full (2002)
Mekhi Phifer made some memorable roles at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. This is another interesting crime drama with him in a leading role, set in Harlem, New York where a young man is forced to cope with the 1980s drug scene.
He builds his illegal empire, but soon experiences failure, due to unfaithful employees and rivals, but also a complete lifestyle change from a hardworking young man in a dry cleaning business to a frightful and powerful drug lord.
11. Juice (1992)
This crime drama is a great depiction of the lives of youths in New York’s Harlem, their problems and the things they have to deal with from day to day. Police harassment, rival neighbourhood gangs and their personal issues are among the problems they are dealing with.
Q, Raheem, Steel and Bishop are spending their days in the Harlem neighbourhoods, constantly trying to find their purpose, dreaming of power and happiness, but at the same time having to face the destiny they were given. The excellent soundtrack, gripping story and very good performances, especially by Tupac Shakur and Omar Epps make this movie one of the most interesting in its genre.
10. 8 Mile (2002)
Eminem was one of the greatest and most influential rappers at the end of the 1990s but in this movie, he also proved he can act. Directed by the gifted Curtis Hanson’s hand who chose some of the most promising young actors at the time, Mekhi Phifer and Brittany Murphy, this movie is a great depiction of a life in a tough neighbourhood.
It is set in Detroit in 1995 and its title is connected to a road called 8 Mile, which divides the city in half, based on racial belonging. Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr. is a young white rapper who wants to cross these imaginary boundaries and succeed in the world of hip-hop, mostly belonging to the Afro Americans.
9. Fresh (1994)
Brooklyn, New York, the setting for many movies related to this topic is also one of the “main characters” in this crime drama. Neighbourhoods really play a big role in these movies, becoming one of the most important parts of them.
This movie follows the story of Fresh, a 12-year-old drug dealer who can’t get out of the poverty, racism and corruption in his hometown. But after his sister becomes involved with a local drug lord, Fresh decides to change his life and tries to help himself and his sister get out of this seemingly hopeless situation.
8. Training Day (2001)
Action, drama and fights are only some of the adjectives to describe this masterpiece about a young police rookie Jake Hoyt who has to spend 24 hours with Alonzo Harris, the L.A.P.D. detective and a veteran narcotics officer. Harris is not your typical officer, succumbing to various not very legal ways of dealing with criminals in his city.
Their job is to work on ridding South Los Angeles of drugs, but soon Hoyt will start questioning his mentor’s methods and ethical dilemmas that will arise on their drives through the neighbourhoods of Los Angeles.
7. Street Kings (2008)
An interesting action drama with a stellar cast, including Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker and Hugh Laurie brings us the story of an undercover policeman who finds himself responsible for the murder of a fellow officer and needs to find out a way to clear his name.
Tom Ludlow is a ruthless undercover cop who can allow himself to slack and be irresponsible due to his many years of good service. When his ex-partner gets killed in his presence, Ludlow will have to make all his efforts to find the truth in the dangerous Los Angeles streets and in that way prove that he was only an innocent bystander.
6. Narc (2002)
Nick Tellis was fired 18 months ago but is brought back to service after an undercover cop died and the investigation isn’t showing any progress. He is partnered with an aggressive policeman named Henry Oak who was friends with the deceased and is constantly including his personal views in the investigation.
Nick is having a hard time since the investigation is not leading anywhere, his wife is unhappy with his return to the street and the chief of the police is trying to close the case, leaving everything unresolved. But suddenly, there is a bit of evidence that leads them to a possible solution.,
5. Friday (1995)
Ice Cube was extremely popular in the 1990s and this is one of his most famous and mentioned movies, a drama comedy about Craig and Smokey, two best friends who need to gather 200 dollars for a hood bully. It is Friday and their day is beginning to look interesting and complicated at the same time.
This is a story about a bunch of friends who hang out in their neighbourhood and try to survive their complex lives.
Besides Smokey and Craig, we meet Deebo, the local bully, Craig’s psychotic and jealous girlfriend Joi and Debbie, a girl Craig has a crush on. This is with reason one of the best representatives of this genre, with its socially strong topic and one of the best cast lists, bringing the cream of the Afro American actors at the time, such as Cube, Nia Long and Chris Tucker.
4. Hustle & Flow (2005)
One of the most recent movies on this list is this hip hop drama about a young and aspiring emcee Djay who tries to make his first record with some help from the people in his Memphis hood. When he finds out that a popular hip hop star is coming to visit his area, he decides to throw an unforgettable hustle to grab his attention.
This movie gives a great depiction of the Memphis ghetto where people need to do various things to earn their living and Djay does it by being a pimp while dreaming of a great career in music. Terence Howard did a great job portraying this aspiring and complex young man who won’t accept no for an answer.
3. Straight Outta Compton (2015)
One of the best movies from the last decade dealing with the topic of hip hop music, neighbourhood rivals and gangs is this biographical drama about the mean streets of Compton, Los Angeles. It is a true story about the 1980s rap scene and all the problems and obstacles they had to go through to make their voice heard.
It was America’s most notorious and dangerous place in the late 1980s and these boys decided to put all their frustrations and negativity into their hardcore lyrics and beats. They spoke the truth and exposed many hidden things and managed to stoop up to the authorities who wanted to shut them up.
2. Menace II Society (1993)
Set in Watts, California, this thriller drama brings the story of young Caine Lawson and his ups and downs. It is a great depiction of how an individual can get caught up in the problems surrounding him, as hard as he is trying to avoid them and move away from them.
Caine is the narrator and he gives us insight into his life from early childhood, the instance he lost his parents to drugs and all the issues he had to struggle with living in this tough and dangerous neighbourhood. Even though we learn a lot about Caine’s life, the movie itself shows several days in his life and the way he is trying to escape his destiny which seems to be rooted there.
1. Boyz n the Hood (1991)
One of the most famous movies set in the hood, with then very young Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut and Ice Cube who we later saw in many excellent and successful performances. It is a crime drama that follows the lives of three young men who reside and spend their days in the Los Angeles ghetto.
Ricky and Doughboy are half-brothers who deal with their tough destinies in a completely different manner. Ricky is an athlete who sees his future in sports and hopes to get out of the ghetto with its help and Doughboy succumbs to the environment surrounding him. And Tre Styles is their friend who is always somewhere in the middle, but also happy to have a father who is always there to help him when he needs to decide what’s right or wrong.