As friends and family say their goodbyes to Singleton this week, we will remember him through the work he shared with us. From films like Poetic Justice to television shows like Snowfall, here’s some of John Singleton’s most memorable work.
Boyz n the Hood
The incredible directorial debut that launched John Singleton’s career, Boyz n the Hood is a coming-of-age story set in South Central Los Angeles. The film catapulted Singleton to stardom with the director making history at the 1992 Academy Awards as the first African-American and youngest person ever nominated for Best Director.
Written and directed by Singleton, Janet Jackson made her film debut in Poetic Justice, starring alongside Tupac Shakur. The romantic drama is one of Singleton’s most memorable films and in 2013 the director told ESSENCE that he was floored by the turnout for auditions.”Everybody just showed up at the office. It was a movie with a Black female lead, which is rare. But I wrote it for Janet. When I first met her I told her I wanted to do my next movie with her. Critics and frustrated sisters hated on her, but I understood it—not that many movies came out with Black female leads.”
Singleton’s third film, Higher Learning, explored race, sex, and the way these things collide on a college campus. The film’s ensemble cast features Omar Epps, Regina King, Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne, Busta Rhymes, and Tyra Banks.
Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time”
Singleton helmed one of Michael Jackson’s most iconic videos, “Remember the Time,” which featured Eddie Murphy and supermodel Iman as ancient Egyptian royalty. The video featured groundbreaking visual effects and was the first and only music video Singleton directed.
John Singleton / Instagram
Singleton continued to tell coming-of-age stories with 2001’s Baby Boy, starring Tyrese Gibson.The film was originally meant to star Tupac Shakur, but after the rapper’s untimely death, Gibson was cast to play the lead role of Jody. Gibson nailed the role and shined alongside stars Taraji P. Henson, Ving Rhames, Omar Gooding, Adrienne-Joi Johnson, Snoop Dogg, and Mo’Nique.
Hustle & Flow
Singleton stepped in as producer for Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow, a film that solidified its place in pop culture with insane performances, a memorable soundtrack, and gritty realism. It also earned star Terrence Howard an Oscar nomination, and earned Three Six Mafia their Oscar for writing the film’s hit song, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.”
Paramount Classics / MTV Films
More of a sequel than a remake, Singleton’s Shaft follows NYPD Detective John Shaft II, nephew of Richard Roundtree’s John Shaft I. Actors including Will Smith, Wesley Snipes, and Don Cheadle were considered for the role of John Shaft II, but it ultimately went to Samuel L. Jackson.
Based on the historic events of the 1923 Rosewood massacre, Singleton’s historical drama stars Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, and Jon Voight in what is one of the director’s most critically successful films. In 1996, Singleton told the Los Angeles Times that he wanted to tell the story because “I had a very deep—I wouldn’t call it fear—but a deep contempt for the South because I felt that so much of the horror and evil that Black people have faced in this country is rooted here…So in some ways this is my way of dealing with the whole thing.”
Singleton’s FX crime drama was renewed for a third season back in September. Filming was already underway when the director was hospitalized and the production will continue. Cast and crew honored Singleton on set following the announcement of his passing, with Snowfall executive producer Trevor Engelson telling Deadline, “Everybody is sad but everybody also is moving forward because that’s what John would’ve wanted.”