The ‘90s was truly a golden age for Black cinema, crammed from front to back with films that combined powerful stories with moving soundtracks. Many of these enduring musical powerhouses still stick in our brains today.
From the soulful ballads of “Waiting to Exhale” to the hip-hop anthems of “Above the Rim,” these soundtracks featured in Black movies from the ‘90s not only set the tone for a whole decade of film but also defined an entire generation of Black film-lovers. Join us on this trip down memory lane as we revisit some of the very best scores that continue to resonate with us decades later.
In this article, we’re going to break down some of the best black film soundtracks from the nineties. Along the way, you might just discover something new about our incredible catalog of Black television and film here at BlackOakTV!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the list:
Eight ‘90s Black Movies With Iconic Soundtracks
These Black films from the nineties are filled with some of the greatest music from any era from legendary artists like DMX and the Wu-Tang Clan. Many of these soundtracks helped propel these musicians to even greater heights and produced many of the iconic songs that we still know and love today.
Ready to dive in? Here are eight ’90s Black movies with soundtracks that are truly unforgettable:
1. “Waiting to Exhale”
This 1995 romance film stars singer Whitney Houston and actress Angela Bassett, following the tale of four female friends. The group supports each other through the struggles of life and romantic relationships as each of them tries to have a successful relationship with a man. Along the way, struggles come and go, ultimately culminating in happiness for each of the women.
“Waiting to Exhale” is famous for its all-female, Black R&B soundtrack. Several songs from it ultimately reached the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, such as “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” “Let It Flow,” “Sittin’ Up in My Room,” “Not Gon’ Cry,” and “Count on Me.” The artists performing include Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, TLC, Brandy, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Faith Evans, Patti LaBelle, SWV and Mary J. Blige. In 1997, the soundtrack received eleven Grammy nominations and has sold over twelve million copies worldwide.
2. “Love Jones”
The cast of “Love Jones” includes Larenz Tate, Nia Long, Isaiah Washington, Bill Bellamy, and Lisa Nicole Carson. Written and directed by Theodore Witcher, this 1997 film tells the story of Darius Lovehall, a poet. When he meets Nina, a gifted photographer, sparks fly, and he ultimately renames one of his poems in her honor. As they explore their relationship and attempt to deal with people from their pasts and inner demons, both Nina and Darius try to discover what they really want from each other.
The soundtrack for “Love Jones” is filled with talented R&B artists like Dionne Farris and Groove Theory. Uptempo tracks such as “Sumthin’ Sumthin” and the soulful “Inside My Love” help to convey the themes of soul-searching and sensuality that this film is known for. In 1997, it reached the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and is also certified platinum.
“Boomerang” is a 1992 romantic comedy film starring Eddie Murphy, who also created the story the movie was based on. In “Boomerang,” advertising executive Marcus Graham is known as a cheater, player, and general commitment-phobe. When his friends tell him his standards are too high, he finds himself sleeping with his new boss, Jacqueline, in the hopes of getting ahead professionally. His plans backfire, and he finds himself ultimately having to abandon his usual womanizing habits and finally decide which woman he’s committed to.
Marcus Miller produced the soundtrack for “Boomerang,” which features catchy musical numbers like Babyface’s “Give U My Heart” and the heartbreaking “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” performed by Joni Braxton. The soundtrack spans across several genres, including R&B, new jack swing, hip hop, and soul. Upon its 1992 release, it reached number four on the US Billboard 200 chart, as well as number one on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It was also certified gold in August of that year and even reached triple-platinum status by 1995!
4. “He Got Game”
Written and directed by Spike Lee in 1998, “He Got Game” stars Denzel Washington, Ray Allen, and Milla Jovovich. In this sports drama, Allen plays talented high-school basketballer Jesus Shuttleworth, who struggles with his relationship with his father, Jake, who is played by Washington. When Jake is released on temporary parole after accidentally killing his wife, he attempts to convince his Jesus to play for their state governor’s alma mater. If Jesus accepts, Jake will receive a reduced sentence.
The chaos and turmoil the characters experience is perfectly captured in the film’s soundtrack. Created and performed by hip hop due to Public Enemy, the songs feature poetic, reflective lyrics paired with urgency and genre-defying mash-ups, including stringed instruments and funk. It performed quite well critically and reached number fifty on the UK Albums Chart.
5. “Above the Rim”
“Above the Rim” is another fantastic Black sports drama. Written and directed in 1994 by Jeff Pollack, the film is noteworthy as his directorial debut. The cast includes Duane Martin, hip hop legend Tupac Shakur, Leon, and Marlon Wayans. In the movie, high school basketball star Kyle-Lee Watson (Duane Martin) must choose between his future, which includes a scholarship to Georgetown University, and his loyalty to local neighborhood dealer Birdie (Tupac Shakur).
The soundtrack for “Above the Rim” was released in March of 1994. It was produced entirely by Dr. Dre and includes multiple genres such as gangsta rap, R&B, G-funk, and new jack swing. The songs are performed by Tupac, H-Town, Snoop Dogg, and some of the other most famous rappers from the nineties. There’s also a cover of Rev. Al Green’s classic “I’m Still In Love With You” by R&B recording artist Al B. The album reached number-one on the R&B Albums chart and stayed there for ten nonconsecutive weeks, solidifying this album as one of the best film soundtracks from this decade.
6. “The Nutty Professor”
This 1996 science fiction comedy is actually a remake of a 1963 movie of the same name. This remake stars Eddie Murphy and Jada Pinkett. Murphy plays the part of Sherman Klump, who creates an experimental DNA-altering formula designed to make someone lose weight. Sherman takes the formula himself, hoping to reduce his size and succeed professionally, but quickly discovers that the formula only works temporarily.
“The Nutty Professor” soundtrack included several chart-topping tracks, such as “Ain’t Nobody” by Monica, featuring Treach of Naughty By Nature, and “I Like” by Montell Jordan featuring Slick Rick. Other songs also include tracks by Jay-Z, Foxy Brown, Mary J. Blige, and many talented R&B artists. The album peaked at number eight on the US Billboard 200 and was also number one on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
For the drama lovers in the house, “Belly” is the perfect balance of action and stunning cinematography. While it wasn’t particularly well received during its release in the fall of 1998, the film later developed a cult following, partially due to the iconic rappers who starred in it. Featuring both rappers Nas and DMX, as well as Taral Hicks, Method Man, and T-B, “Belly” explores life on the streets of New York City’s Queens neighborhood.
Combining genres like East Coast hip hop with contemporary R&B, the soundtrack for “Belly” includes songs such as “What About,” “Movin’ Out,” “Tommy’s Theme,” and “Grand Finale,” which is performed by DMX, Ja Rule, Method Man, and Nas. The album charted at number five on the US Billboard 200 and was also second on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart in 1998.
8. “The Bodyguard”
“The Bodyguard” was released 1992 and is a romantic thriller film with a star-studded cast that includes Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, Gary Kemp, Bill Cobbs, and Ralph Waite. In the movie, musical performer Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston) is being stalked and threatened by an obsessive fan, who ultimately bombs her dressing room. When her manager hires a former secret service agent (Kevin Cosner) to protect her, the two become close friends and eventually develop feelings for each other.
It’s hard to name a more iconic movie track from the nineties than Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” from this film. The entire album was performed by Houston and features songwriting from Dolly Parton, Babyface, and Houston herself. “The Bodyguard” soundtrack debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, as well as the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It has received numerous awards and accolades since its release and is widely considered to be one of the best movie soundtrack albums ever.
The Best ‘90s Black Movies on BlackOakTV
As we reach the end of our list, it’s abundantly clear that the music from the era of Black ‘90s movies still has a lot to offer. Whether you’re a fan of romantic comedies, sports dramas, thrillers, action movies, or something in between, this list of incredibly scored films has something for everyone.
Love the titles on this list. Find one you haven’t seen yet. For even more great Black movie recommendations like these, check out our full lineup at BlackOakTV!