The Hip-hop movement is one of the most important and influential movements in The USA in the past thirty years. It includes four elements – deejaying, rapping, graffiti painting and B-boying. Rap music remained one of the favourite music styles in many households and it got transferred into movies, as well. Often including Afro-American actors and talking about the toughest neighbourhoods and sometimes various problems from the street, these movies gave the audience a whole new view on this interesting topic. This is the list of the 25 best rap movies of all time.
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 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 Afro-Americans.
Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2005)
Even though not really well accepted by critics, this biography drama became a huge hit immediately upon its release. It got out at the time when its leading actor 50 Cent was at the peak of his career. It is a crime drama story with a great soundtrack full of rap music.
It tells the tale of an inner-city drug dealer who decides to leave his old life behind in order to pursue his passion and love for rap music.
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
One of the best movies from the last decade dealing with the topic of hip-hop music, neighborhood 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 stood up to the authorities who wanted to shut them up.
Hustle & Flow (2005)
This is a 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.
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 neighborhood 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 neighborhoods, 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.
Paid In Full (1992)
Mekhi Phifer made some memorable roles at the end of the 1909s 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.
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 neighborhood. 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.
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 manners. 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.
Beat Street (1984)
This music-drama tells the story of the very beginnings of hip-hop music and movement. It is set in the 1960s when gang wars and violence have given way to hip-hop culture. There are no more druglords and armed men ruling the streets.
They have been replaced by breakdancers, rappers DJs, and graffiti artists who decided to show their art and express their dissatisfaction with the society of that time. It is a true hommage to the beginnings of this interesting movement consisting of four parts that were brilliantly depicted here.
One of the first movies with a hip-hop soundtrack is this interesting romantic drama about a jazz dancer who befriends two break-dancers. Soon they become the biggest hit in the streets, performing together.
Even though it might seem funny these days, with the over-the-top acting, dialogues, and predictable storyline, it is still a movie every rap fan should watch. It gives us an excellent insight into the scene in the 1980s, making us appreciate the simplicity and beauty of movies once made.
Brown Sugar (2002)
This is a romantic comedy with a brilliant soundtrack and it centers on Dre, who works as an A&R executive for a hip-hop label, and Sidney, a magazine editor. They have known each other since childhood and there has always been something more than just friendship between them.
When bumping into each other they realize that there is still an attraction between them and even though Dre is engaged and Sidney is wooed by a handsome basketball player, they start thinking about what might happen if they decide to give their relationship a chance.
Wild Style (1982)
One of the classics and true masterpieces with the topic in question is this music-drama that captures the New York City hip-hop scene in 1981. It is known as the first and one of the best hip-hop movies of all time and it gives the audience a remarkable view of the beginnings of hip-hop in the USA.
It follows Zorro, a street artist, and his crew who manage to roam around the cities of New York, preaching their style, music, and views. Always one step ahead of the police and their rivals, they will succeed in doing what they imagined and the result will be one of the most famous hip-hop concerts in history.
Dave Chapelle’s Bloc Party (2005)
This is a remarkable music documentary written by Dave Chapelle who takes us to a Brooklyn neighborhood and gives us insight into its free bloc party. The documentary includes some of the most influential hip-hop names of all time.
Besides Chapelle himself, there are Mos Def, Common, Kanye West, Erykah Badu, The Roots, and The Fugees who have reunited for their first performance in over seven years. This is an hommage to this movement and a wonderful journey that celebrates music, history, comedy, and community.
Krush Groove (1985)
This movie is based on the beginnings and early days of Def Jam Recordings and it tells the story of the manager Russel Walker who is in charge of all the hottest artists on the record label Krush Groove Records.
Among the many are Run-D.M.C. and Kurtis Blow and they operate under the production of Russel’s friend Rubin. But Russel will find himself in need of help when he doesn’t manage to find enough money for Run-D.M.C.’s hit record. He will turn to a street hustler and ask for money to press the record and at the same time have to deal with his brother Run and fight for the heart of R&B singer Sheila E.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Spike Lee is the absolute king of neighborhood movies dealing with hip-hop music and problems in the street. This is one of his greatest titles and one of the best and most influential rap movies ever. It is a comedy-drama about Sal Fragione who lives in a Brooklyn district that has significantly changed in the time he’s been living there.
It is primarily inhabited by Afro-Americans and Hispanics but Sal has adapted to this variety and multiculturalism. He has owned his pizzeria for 25 years and doesn’t want to leave the neighborhood even though his son hates it there. But when a situation in his restaurant escalates from a remark to a violent act, it will become obvious that everyone is frustrated and needs to solve their mutual issues.
Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (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 neighborhoods 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.
This adventure coming-of-age comedy-crime is a great example of a movie for the post-hip-hop generation. It is the story of Malcolm, a nerd who lives in the tough neighborhood of Inglewood, California. He is basically surviving there, surrounded by drug lords and gangsters, and at the same time trying to finish his senior year at high school.
He dreams of going to Harvard but still has to do some bad choices before applying for it and making his dreams come true. When invited to an underground party, he and his friends will find themselves in a series of misfortunes and dangerous situations which will teach him to stand up for himself and result in finding his true self.
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.
New Jack City (1991)
Wesley Snipes and Ice T star in this interesting and intense action drama-thriller about a gangster called Nino and his gang named Cash Money Brothers. They are in an extremely successful crack business, earning a million dollars every week.
But there is a police officer after them, Scotty, who will try and get into the gang by his most ambitious plan fails miserably. It is obvious that Scotty will have to become a drug pusher himself in order to get closer to Nino.
This music-comedy was based on Chris Rock’s story and it follows the members of a rap group called CB4. It is about the rise to fame of MC Gusto, Stab Master Arson, and Dead Mike. Very soon it becomes obvious that these three are not who they seem and don’t know as much about rap music as they claim.
But no one has to know that and it is never really sure how much about music any artist knows, as long they are selling their records. It doesn’t have to hurt sales as long as you play the part of a famous rap star.
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 neighborhood 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.
House Party (1990)
This musical comedy tells the story of a young boy named Kid who has been invited to a house party at his friend Play’s house. But this won’t be so easy since he got grounded by his father after a fight at school. He sneaks out while his dad is asleep but can’t even imagine what the night is going to turn into.
He doesn’t know that the three school thugs have made a plan to give him a lesson in behavior. Both Kid and Play can’t even predict what is going to happen to them that night and that it will become the wildest night of their lives.
This is a crime drama about two gangsters who earn their living by dealing drugs and pulling armed robberies. Tommy Brown and Sincere have moved from their Queens ghetto to a wealthy part of Manhattan and it seems they have it all.
But somehow they will realize that they don’t know what to do with their lives anymore. Sincere begins getting in touch with his African roots and wants to move to Africa with his girlfriend Tionne and Tommy has a religious awakening and joins the Nation of Islam.
This biographical drama tells the story of one of the greatest rappers of all time, The Notorious B.I.G. Christopher Wallace used to be a Brooklyn street hustler who transformed himself through raw talent and determination into this outstanding artist.
The movie follows his steps from being a street low life to becoming of the best and it shows his strong will and determination not to succumb to expectations it brings us closer to a somewhat different definition of The American dream.
All Eyez On Me (2017)
This biographical drama tells the true story of one of the greatest rappers of all time, activist, actor, and poet, Tupac Shakur. It follows him from his early days in New York City to become one of the biggest ever, all until his too-early death at the age of 25.
Even though his career has abruptly stopped, his talent proved to be eternal and showed that his legacy is enormous. It continued growing after his death, showing that true art and real artists never die.