Top 10 Soul Cinema (a.k.a. Blaxploitation) Films [Linwood’s Picks]

After Melvin Van Peebles’ independent feature ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’ was a financial success in 1971 and proved that Black folks will fill the seats of theaters to see themselves in empowered roles on the big-screen, there was a surge of Black American pictures (often made by White filmmakers) that took advantage of this once untapped market with themes that were a bit on-the-nose. Unfortunately, this led the NAACP to coin the term “Blaxploitation”, even though many could be, have been, and are subject to deconstruction as important products of their time. While they were very rough-around-the-edges, even for their era of cinema, creativity shined through their low-budget efforts, which as a writer myself, I have taken a lot of notes from.

For this list, I’ll be showcasing trailers to ten of my favorite movies from around that period intended to capitalize on the popularity, subvert expectations of, or just unlucky enough to be associated with this sub-genre of exploitation films. For many, they will still be known as “Blaxploitation”… For me, they are simply “Soul Cinema”!

10. THREE THE HARD WAY (1974)

“The story involves a white supremacist plot to taint the United States water supply with a toxin that is harmless to whites but lethal to blacks. The only obstacles that stand in the way of this dastardly plan are Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly, who shoot, kick and karate chop their way to final victory.”

9. BUCKTOWN

“After his brother’s death, Duke Johnson (Fred Williamson) travels to a small Southern town to organize his brother’s funeral. During his stay, he decides to revive his brother’s nightclub business. However, this venture quickly uncovers the thinly veiled racism and corruption that run rampant in the town. Duke and his friend Aretha (Pam Grier) face demands for bribes and violence from the police. With the arrival of Duke’s pal Roy (Thalmus Rasulala), the situation only escalates.”

8. COFFY

“Coffy is a 1973 American blaxploitation film written and directed by American filmmaker Jack Hill. The story is about a black female vigilante played by Pam Grier who seeks violent revenge against a heroin dealer responsible for her sister’s addiction.”

7. TROUBLE MAN

“T (Robert Hooks) is a slick detective who’s done very well for himself, but still runs his operation from the same mean streets he grew up on in South Central Los Angeles. His latest case comes from local hoods Chalky (Paul Winfield) and Pete (Ralph Waite), who claim that someone’s been robbing their dice games at gunpoint. As T searches for the perpetrator, he realizes the job is a setup. Chalky and Pete have pinned a murder on him, and both cops and criminals think T is to blame.”

6. TRUCK TURNER

“Bounty hunter Mack “Truck” Turner (Isaac Hayes) almost always finds his target, but his latest prize — a pimp called Gator (Paul Harris) — is killed while Turner is chasing hm. Gator’s girl, Dorinda (Nichelle Nichols), vows to avenge his death and offers ownership of her successful call girl operation to anyone who can knock off Turner. Upscale pimp Harvard Blue (Yaphet Kotto) steps in, upping the ante with professional assassins. Turner, however, isn’t going down easily.”

5. THE MUTHERS

“An American woman receives unexpected help when she attempts to free her sister from a brutal South American prison.”

4. BLACK BELT JONES

“A martial artist battles the Mafia and ghetto hoods to keep a karate school from falling into the wrong hands. Will the Mafia win or will Black Belt Jones save the day?”

3. T.N.T. JACKSON

“A woman (Jeanne Bell) encounters thugs and drug dealers after traveling to Hong Kong to search for her missing brother.”

2. FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE (1977)

“A minister dispenses justice on three convicts who take his family hostage.”

1. COONSKIN

“A multi-layered satire of race relations in America. Live-action sequences of a prison break bracket the animated story of Brother Rabbit, Brother Bear, and Preacher Fox, who rise to the top of the crime ranks in Harlem by going up against a con-man, a racist cop, and the Mafia.”

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