The 38 Iconic 90s Black Movies You Must Watch

Crooklyn, one of the ultimate 90s Black Movies

If you’re getting tired of streaming modern movies that either follow the tragic flaws of superheroes or pay homage to that latest silly trend on social media, then why not go back to a time when Black movies really meant something? 

So let’s watch some 90s Black movies! 

From romantic comedies set in the city to drama taking place in the Southern church, Black movies from the 90s had it all. These movies exemplified an amazing time in Black culture, as the decade saw immense educational, professional, and financial growth for Black people in America. And for the first time, perhaps because of our gaining financial power, Hollywood was interested in telling our stories. So for at least a decade, Black moviegoers had it nice! 

These Black movies were telling the good, the bad, and perhaps too often, the ugly about being Black in America. And our storytellers, like Spike Lee, John Singleton, Kasi Lemmons and Rick Famuyiwa, were fighting to make sure Hollywood did right by us. 

As a result, we have a plethora of 90s Black movies that we can look back proudly on. So below, we’ll go over all 38 of the ones we think you have to watch to truly know what that decade in Black cinema was all about. 

1. House Party (1990)

This is the O.G. House Party movie, directed by Reginald Hudlin and based on his award-winning student film. In this musical comedy, the famous hip-hop duo Kid ‘n Play star as themselves while trying to organize the best house party ever in their LA home.

2. The Long Walk Home (1990)

Richard Pearce directed this historical drama referring to the Montgomery bus boycott from the 50s. Odessa Cotter (Whoopi Goldberg) is a black woman working for Miriam Thompson (Sissy Spacek). Through Odessa and her family, the movie tells the story of racial segregation, stereotypes, poverty, and violence toward the black community.

3. Boyz n The Hood (1991)

10-year-old Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding Jr.) had to go and live with his father in South Central Los Angeles, where the gang culture was thriving. There, together with his friends, he’s getting to experience LA’s ghetto and gang life first-hand. This drama film was John Singleton’s directing debut.

4. Five Heartbeats (1991)

This musical drama about the rise and fall of an amateur vocal group is a true classic among the 90s black movies. Robert Townsend directed, co-wrote, and also starred as one of the “Heartbeats” together with Robert Townsend, Michael Wright, Leon, Harry J. Lennix, and Tico Wells.

5. New Jack City (1991)

Mario Van Peebles directed this 90s black crime movie based on a true story and set it in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, where a drug dealer on the rise, Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes), is chased down by detective Scotty Appleton (Ice-T).

6. Boomerang (1992)

Directed by Reginald Hudlin, this rom-com follows the life of an NYC advertising executive and womanizer, Marcus Graham (Eddie Murphy). When Marcus meets a female version of himself in Jacqueline Broyer (Robin Givens), he gets to see things from a different perspective.

7. Class Act (1992)

When grading reports of a high school genius Duncan (Christopher “Kid” Reid), got swapped with those of a delinquent student Blade (Christopher “Play” Martin), by mistake, Duncan and Blade had to walk in each other’s shoes. This urban retelling of The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain was directed by Randall Miller.

8. Juice (1992) 

This thrilling crime drama was Ernest R. Dickerson’s directing debut, as well as rapper Tupac Shakur’s acting debut. Filmed in NYC, the movie revolves around the teenage days of 4 Harlem boys and gets dramatic when one of them, Bishop (Tupac Shakur), starts killing people and his friends.

9. Malcolm X (1992)

This movie, directed by Spike Lee, is a tribute to a black activist. Denzel Washington stars as Malcolm X, who, after spending 6 years in prison, goes out and joins the Nation of Islam. He returns to Harlem and starts holding public speeches, promoting racial separation. However, after a pilgrimage to Mecca, he loses faith in the Nation of Islam.

10. Mo’ Money (1992)

Peter Macdonald directed this comedy-drama set in Chicago. Con man Johnny Stewart (Damon Wayans) decides to change his life after meeting Amber Evans (Stacey Dash) and gets a job in a credit card company she works for to impress her. However, he can’t restrain himself from scamming.

11. Sister Act (1992)

Deloris (Whoopi Goldberg) is a lounge singer in Nevada who witnessed a murder and has to move to a convent in San Francisco and act like she’s a nun as a part of her witness protection program; there, she struggles to adjust to her new lifestyle. Emile Ardolino directed this film, that’s one of the best black movies of the 90s.

12. South Central (1992)

After serving 10 years in jail, Bobby Johnson (Glenn Plummer) turns to religion and finally goes home to LA, only to reveal that his son Jimmie (Christian Coleman) has joined his old gang. Stephen Milburn directed this crime drama inspired by Donald Bakeer’s fictional novel, The Original South Central L.A. Crips.

13. Cool Runnings (1993)

In this sports comedy, directed by Jon Turteltaub, we follow the adventures of a Jamaican bobsleigh team trying to make it to the Winter Olympic games in Calgary, Canada, in 1988. Derice Bannock (Leon), Sanka Coffie (Doug E. Doug), Junior Bevil (Rawle D. Lewis), and others showed what training winter sports in summer conditions looks like.

14. Menace II Society (1993)

This 1993 teen drama was the Hughes brothers’ directorial debut. The story is set in the LA neighborhoods of Crenshaw and Watts, where Caine (Tyrin Turner) and his friends live. This 90s black movie got notorious due to many scenes of violence, drug content, and realness.

15. Poetic Justice (1993)

On one long road trip from Los Angeles to Oakland, a grieving hairstylist and poet, Justice (Janet Jackson), travels together with a postal worker Lucky (Tupac Shakur), and two other friends. A great story and the chemistry between the main characters made this romantic drama, directed by John Singleton, a complete box-office hit.

16. Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993)

The comeback of Woopie Goldberg as a nun was directed by Bill Duke and inspired by the life of Iris Stevenson, Crenshaw High School choir instructor. This time, the nuns need help from their old friend Deloris van Cartier (Woopie Goldberg) to help them save the school.

17. What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993)

Brian Gibson directed this biographical film, inspired by the life of legendary Tina Turner. In this adaptation of Tina’s autobiography, Angela Bassett as Tina Turner and Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner tell the story of the couple’s turbulent love and music relationship.

18. Above the Rim (1994)

In this 90’s drama movie directed by Jeff Pollack, a talented high school basketball player Kyle (Duane Martin), has to choose which team he’s going to play for in the tournament, the local gangster’s (Tupac Shakur) basketball team or his school team.

19. Crooklyn (1994)

This is director Spike Lee’s semi-autobiographical movie that revolves around a family of 7 living in Brooklyn. The mother, Carolyn (Alfre Woodard), and the jazz musician father, Woody (Delroy Lindo), struggle with finances and daily challenges. After the mother’s death, her only daughter Troy (Zelda Harris) takes over her matriarch role.

20. Fresh (1994)

In this Boaz Yakin’s movie, 12-year-old Fresh (Sean Nelson) and his sister Nichole (N’Bushe Wright) are living in Brooklyn and struggling with poverty, racism, drugs, and a criminal environment. One day, Fresh decides to use his chess knowledge to develop a strategy that will enable them both to escape.

21. Jason’s Lyric (1994)

Living in a violent Houston neighborhood, TV salesman Jason (Allen Payne) dreams of a better life and falls for a high-spirited waitress Lyric (Jada Pinkett). However, he’s torn between helping his troublesome brother and escaping the town with the love of his life. The romantic drama was directed by Doug McHenry.

22. The Inkwell (1994)

In this Matty Rich’s comedy-drama, 16-year-old Drew Tate (Larenz Tate) and his family go for 2 weeks to Martha’s Vineyards to visit their relatives. Quiet Drew meets a party-loving black community that gathers at the Inkwell beach and tries to hook up with some girls.

23. Bad Boys (1995)

Two Miami police partners, Mike (Will Smith) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence), are very different yet so similar. Michael Bay’s directorial debut is an action-packed buddy-cop movie that follows the adventures of two cops against notorious drug dealers in Vice City.

24. Dead Presidents (1995) 

The Hughes brothers directed this crime movie that tells the story of the teenage days of Anthony Curtis, his experience of the Vietnam war, and how he came back to The Bronx and got into criminal activities. Lawrence Tate played the main character whose robbery disguise is still the preferred Halloween costume of many.

25. Friday (1995)

Two friends from South Central Los Angeles, Craig (Ice Cube) and Smokey (Chris Tucker), have until 10 PM to repay $200 to a drug dealer. This movie, directed by F. Gary Gray, follows their activities on a Friday while they’re trying to figure out how to pay back the debt.

26. Waiting to Exhale (1995)

Forest Whitaker directed this 90’s black movie inspired by Terry McMillan’s novel. The movie follows the stories of 4 different women living in Phoenix, bonded over the fact they’re all disappointed in men. Join Savannah (Whitney Houston), Robin, Bernadine (Angela Bassett), and Gloria (Loretta Devine) on their road to self-love and happiness.

27. Set It Off (1996) 

F. Gary Gray directed a drama about 4 black women in Los Angeles who decided to start robbing banks due to their financial struggles and in order to support their families. The main characters in this box-office success are Stony (Jada Pinkett), Cleo (Queen Latifah), Frankie (Vivica A. Fox), and T.T. (Kimberly Elise). 

28. The Nutty Professor (1996)

In this rom-com directed by Tom Shadyac, Eddie Murphy stars as an overweight UCLA professor Sherman who falls in love with his colleague Carla Purty (Jada Pinket). After experimenting with a slimming potion, he develops a different persona and starts leading a double life.

29. The Preacher’s Wife (1996)

Pastor Biggs (Courtney B. Vance), who was in charge of a struggling Baptist church in New York City, gets much-needed help from an angel – Dudley (Denzel Wahington), to save the church and his marriage with choir singer Julia (Whitney Houston). This comedy-drama was directed by Penny Marshall.

30. B.A.P.S. (1997)

Two Georgia waitresses, Nisi (Halle Berry) and Mickey (Natalie Desselle) decide to go to a music audition in LA to raise money for their dream project – a hair salon with soul food. This comedy movie following the adventures of two girlfriends was directed by Robert Townsend.

31. Eve’s Bayou (1997)

One hot Louisiana summer was a life-changing season for a little black girl named Eve (Jurnee Smollett) when she discovered her father (Samuel L. Jackson) was not who she thought he was, bringing emotional family drama into her life. In her directorial debut, Kassi Lemons tells the story of the Batiste family.

32. Love Jones (1997)

After meeting accidentally in a local Chicago club, an aspiring poet Darius (Larenz Tate), and a photographer Nina (Nia Long), bond over poetry, photography, and music. However, Nina’s ex Marvin (Khalil Kain), comes back, and more and more obstacles to their love story arise. This rom-com drama was written and directed by Theodore Witcher.

33. Soul Food (1997)

In his major studio debut, George Tillman, Jr. directed a comedy-drama about the trials of a Chicago-based family that loves Sunday gatherings with plenty of soul food. Complicated relations between Teri (Vanessa Williams), Maxine (Vivica A. Fox), Bird (Nia Long), Miles (Michael Beach), and other family members made this film so popular that it was even turned into a TV series.

34. Belly (1998)

Two friends, Buns (DMX) and Sincere (Nas) have been living on the edge since their childhood, and now as adults, they have built an empire from robbing and drug dealing. However, one of them, Sincere, decides to turn to religion and change his life, while Buns can’t get out of it. This crime drama is Hype Williams’s directorial debut, filmed in NYC.

35. In Too Deep (1999)

While trying to take down a local drug lord (LL Cool J), a recent graduate of Cincinnati police academy officer Jeffrey Cole (Omar Epps), goes on an undercover mission but develops a passion for the criminal life. Michael Rymer directed this 90’s crime thriller film.

36. Life (1999)

Ted Demme directed this buddy comedy-drama which follows the story of two convicts, Ray (Eddie Murphy) and Claude (Martin Lawrence), both sentenced to life for a crime they didn’t commit. The movie follows how their relationship develops over the decades they spend together, having to work in notorious Camp 8, and how they plan to escape.

37. The Best Man (1999)

In Malcolm D. Lee’s comedy-drama, Chicago-based author Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) is the best man who slept with his friend’s future wife Mia (Monica Calhoun) while they were in college and revealed his dark secret in a book. His friend Lance (Morris Chestnut) finds it out a night before the wedding, and the big day turns into a mess.

38. The Wood (1999)

As Roland (Taye Diggs) is getting cold feet about his wedding and goes M.I.A., the story goes back to his childhood in Inglewood with two of his best friends, Mike (Omar Epps) and Slim (Richard T. Jones). Rick Famuyiwa directed this comedy-drama about three best friends.

Other Black Movie Options

If you’re looking for something a little more recent, but without the superheroes, then checkout BlackOakTV’s catalog. We have a growing library of movies from independent filmmakers. See what’s in the library by going to our website and downloading us from your favorite app store!

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