Before we begin, a question: Do the recent Fast and the Furious movies (Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, and Furious 7) qualify as Black movies?
Although I actually wrote about this a few months ago, I thought about it again while watching Fast Five for the 127,000th time last weekend. And my answer remains the same: Kinda. Most of the main characters (Vin Diesel, The Rock, Ludacris, Tyrese, the guy hired to spray fake sweat on The Rock between each take, etc) have Black in them. And although the themes aren’t necessarily Black, I’m willing to personally grandfather this franchise from those qualifications.
Fast and the Furious aside, this question brings up a greater, more comprehensive question about what actually makes a Black movie a Black movie. Is it a Black cast? A Black director? A “Black” theme? The tragic death of someone named “Ricky?” How does a movie wanting that elusive “Black” title qualify?
I don’t have an answer to that question. What I do have, however, is a breadth of knowledge of Black movies. So much so that while I can’t tell you exactly what makes a movie Black, I can tell you the likelihood of a movie’s Blackness if it possesses certain characteristics.
1. The cast includes Clifton Powell or Loretta Devine
If either of these people are in the movie, there’s a 177% chance it’s a Black movie. If they both happen to be in the movie, those odds jump to 1536%.
2. There’s a pivotal scene in a Baptist church
If there’s a scene somewhere in the movie where the main character is seen standing at a pew, a single tear running down his face while “I’m Gonna Up A Yonder” is heard in the background, there’s a 181% chance it’s a Black movie.
3. Your favorite cookout song is heard during the opening credits
What would be the Blackest possible opening credits song? My guess: “Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze. Anyway, if the movie starts with a cookout song, there’s a 97% chance it’s a Black movie.
4. Your second favorite cookout song is heard during the end credits
“If Before I Let Go” is the Blackest possible opening credits song, “The Wobble” has to be the Blackest possible end credits song. Just because no one would leave the theater until the song ended.
5. There’s an inexplicably choreographed dance scene
My favorite inexplicably choreographed dance scene ever happened in The Best Man Holiday, where each of the male characters somehow managed to learn and perform a complex dance routine 17 minutes after they first got to the house. Even without actual Black characters, having this in the movie would have given The Best Man Holiday a 162% chance of being a Black movie.
6. Theaters hire extra security for its release
Even though White kids shooting up schools happens much more often than Black people shooting up movie theaters, there still is a nasty stigma that if a bunch of Black people are at a movie, there’s going to be violence. Sadly, an increase in movie security gives a movie a 81.9% chance of Blackness.
7. It contains some type of street basketball or dance tournament where the stakes are win or die
If the movie you’re watching happens to contain a neighborhood double dutch tournament, and there’s a vicious feud between the double dutch champions and the double dutch challengers that results in seven people getting stabbed the night before the big tournament, there’s a 112% chance you’re watching a Black movie.
8. Everyone’s hair is always perfect
If each end is perfectly tight, each Caesar and accompanying beard is perfectly lined up, and each lacefront is always perfectly applied, you’re between 80 and 85% likely to be watching a Black movie.
9. There’s a scene with a drug dealer in a sweatsuit passing out Thanksgiving turkeys from a U-Haul truck
This gives the movie an 89% chance of being Black. If the head drug dealer and the head police detective happen to be brothers, the percentage jumps to 197.
10. It’s exactly 90 minutes long
Although Straight Outta Compton and a few others are exceptions to the rule, if you’re in the theater at 9 p.m. and out the theater by 10:37 p.m., there’s a 179% chance you just watched a Black movie.