Classic Hip-Hop culture is more than just music, graffiti, breaking, and Dj'ing. The movies and TV shows that explore themes involving struggle, perseverance, poverty, power, and the grim portrait of life in the inner city, are all as relevant to the experience as any classic song or album. However, every hood movie isn't created equally. There's a very fine line between exploration and exploitation. The Rock The Bells team has put our heads together and picked out the 20 hood movies that every classic Hip-Hop fan needs to see at least once in their life.
Friday (Watch On HBO Max)
While most people who don't understand the culture immediately equate "hood" with "negativity," Friday completely changed that perception thanks to the dynamic on-screen chemistry between Ice Cube and Chris Tucker which resulted in comedic gold.
Boyz N the Hood (Watch on Amazon Prime)
Boyz N the Hood is the spiritual yang to Friday's Yin. For many Americans who lived in suburban bliss, John Singleton's masterpiece was there first look at the grim reality that was — and continues — to occur in cities across America.
Menace II Society (Watch on Netflix)
The cast of the Hughes Brothers' film is absolutely perfect — particularly that of Tyrin Turner and Lorenz Tate as Caine and O-Dog. The film went a long way in showing that there could be both comedy — and extreme violence — in a movie focused on the hood.
New Jack City (Watch on Amazon Prime)
Wesley Snipes is going to show up on this list a lot — and rightfully so. His portrayal of Nino Brown honored real life kingpins like Nicky Barnes, Frank Lucas, and Bumpy Johnson who carried themselves with swagger and confidence.
Paid in Full (Watch on Netflix)Vased on the true stories of famous drug lords like Alpo, A.Z. and Rich Porter during the era of expanding crack addiction, Paid in Full remains a certified classic hood movie.
Training Day (Watch on HBO Max)
Denzel. Washington. Enough said.
Baby Boy (Watch on Netflix)
While Baby Boy is decidedly melodramatic at times, that's actually the fun of it. It's campy at times, and we can't but laugh every time Ving Rhames comes on screen.
Do the Right Thing (Watch on Hulu)
Under Spike Lee's direction, Do the Right Thing is a film that you can touch, taste, and smell. Given the state of the world right now, it's sadly as relevant as ever before.
Poetic Justice (Watch on Hulu)
Tupac Shakur was a multi-talented personality. When most of the world knew him for his music, he pivoted to acting and presented a fully-formed portrayal that was completely transformative.
Hustle & Flow (Watch on Amazon Prime)
The South doesn't get enough respect when it comes to classic Hip-Hop. Most attention is spent on either NYC or LA. Hustle & Flow was particularly poignant because it held onto a narrative about how many young Black men view Hip-Hop as their only avenue out of despair.
He Got Game (Watch on Hulu)
Denzel. Washington. Enough said.
Barbershop (Watch on Netflix)
Both Cedric the Entertainer and Eve steal the show in a universal story of resiliency in the face of long odds.
Set it Off (Watch on Hulu)
Most hood movies skew very male, and many of the females are there just there as filler. Set it Off bucks that trend in a major way.
Juice (Watch on Amazon Prime)
Tupac's acting debut will always be remembered as a time and place when people realized his immense talent. While he will always be synonymous with West Coast Hip-Hop, his connections to Harlem will always be there thanks to Juice.
8 Mile (Watch on Hulu)
Eminem gives one of the best performances in a hood movie outside of perhaps only Denzel Washington in Training Day. It shouldn't be that surprising, either. Eminem is essentially playing himself.
Colors (Watch on Hulu)
As Roger Ebert wrote so eloquently, "Almost without exception, American movies about gangs have either romanticized them in fantasies (“West Side Story,” “The Warriors”) or viewed them from outside as a monolithic, dangerous unit. This movie tries to understand a little of the tragic gang dynamics, to explain why in some devastated inner-city neighborhoods they seem to offer the only way for young men to find power and status.
Above the Rim (Watch on HBO Max)
Pac's portrayal of Birdie, a guy who was trying to monopolize a local streetball tournament, and Bernie Mac's Flip, a local junkie, will never be forgotten.
Cooley High (Watch on Pluto TV)
Set in Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project, Cooley High became a touchstone for filmmakers like John Singleton and Spike Lee.
Deep Cover (Watch on Amazon Prime)
Although Lawrence Fishburne had been making films since 1979's Apocalypse Now, Deep Cover was his first leading role as an undercover cop infiltrating a cocaine ring which provides a new spin on a classic film noir set-up.
Sugar Hill (Watch on Amazon Prime)
The second of Barry Michael Cooper's "Harlem Trilogy," Sugar Hill continued to show just how brilliant Wesley Snipes was.