The Best Five Films Ever Made in Harlem

February 24, 2012

While The 84th Academy Award nominations are telling you who and what talent to keep your eyes on for the upcoming Oscars on February 26th, at 7 pm on ABC. We here at Harlem World Magazine thought we would nominate our best five films ever made in Harlem, starting with the best first.

The Brother From Another Planet (1984)

The titular The Brother (Joe Morton) crash lands on earth and finds his way to 125th Street. A mute with healing abilities (both people and machines), The Brother watches and learns about life from Harlemites of all creeds. As endearing as it is strange, The Brother From Another Planet, directed by John Sayles, plays now as an inside look at 1980’s Harlem and is worth remembering as more than just a cult film.

Precious (2009)

A difficult film to watch and an important one to have seen. Precious hits issues close to home here in Harlem (obesity, physical and emotional abuse). Precious speaks to the disillusionment of youth, the hopelessness that can come from urban life, and the struggles to rise above. First time actor and Harlem resident Gabourey Sidibe (above), and Mo’Nique (both nominated, the latter won) deliver pitch perfect performances that earn them the praise they deserved.

The Cotton Club (1984)

Directed by revered Frances Ford Coppola and with a history of trouble under its belt, The Cotton Club is wonderful either way. Certain places define Harlem: the Apollo Theater, Hotel Theresa–the headquarters of Harlem World Magazine, and The Cotton Club. The name itself is a piece of history and the movie encapsulates the cool, dangerous and tumultuous 20’s and 30’s with beautiful camera work and sly acting from Laurence Fishburne, Richard Gere and the late Gregory Hines (pictured).

Shaft (1971)

Cool to the core, Shaft (Richard Roundtree) follows a suave New York City detective as he tries to find the whereabouts of a missing girl maneuvering around gangsters and drug dealers through Harlem, set to the catchiest Grammy nominated sound track by Isaac Hayes since Mission Impossible. Blaxploitation films don’t tend to have much to say but John Shaft has stayed in the limelight for over forty years. For instance, did I really have to tell you who’s Shaft ?

New Jack City

Mario Van Peebles directs and acts opposite the talented cast consisting of Wesley Snipes (pictured), Chris Rock, Allen Payne, Judd Nelson and Harlem itself to tell a gripping, violent story of a drug war in Harlem. Like Precious after it, New Jack City is a difficult story to take in but one that has to be told as violence has run rampant in this city for decades. A lifestyle that may seem appealing or an “easy way out” especially when there doesn’t look to be another way to get ahead in life, New Jack City shows the price of living on that fast track, the wild side.

What are your picks?

By Raylee

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