The 90’s are having a resurgence in the collective consciousness, and taking a look at the classic films turning 30 this year, it’s not hard to see why 1993 was such a special moment in pop culture.
From the now-iconic “Poetic Justice Braids” brought to us by Janet Jackson‘s eponymous role in Poetic Justice, to the “why-can’t-we-take-anything-seriously?” memes born of Laurence Fishburne’s imposing performance as Ike Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It? it’s plain to see why this year has had such a lasting impact on Black cinema history.
From Will Smith’s film debut to one of Larenz Tate’s most iconic film roles, this year helped set the tone for the golden age of Black film that the 90’s has become known as.
Take a look at the classic films entering their third decade this year.
The biopic that put Angela Bassett on the map, this film is an unflinching look at the life and tumultuous relationship of Tina Turner and her then-husband and collaborator Ike Turner. An iconic piece of Black cinema that examines the power and perseverance of the spirit through the most harrowing of circumstances, it takes a hard look at the subtle descent into and long-term mental effects of domestic partner abuse as well as the living legend’s rise to the status of Queen of Rock & Roll.
Hairdresser and amateur poet Justice (Janet Jackson) is seeking reprieve from ongoing grief in the wake of the murder of her boyfriend. Faced with a broken down car, she finds herself unable to get to a conference in Oakland until she enlists the help of her good fried Iesha (Regina King) making it a road trip in the back of Iesha’s boyfriend Chicago’s (Joe Torry) postal truck. Also along for the ride, Chicago’s coworker Lucky (Tupac Shakur), who forms an undeniable special connection with Justice. Middling through grief, is Justice ready to open herself up to love once again?
After growing up in the poverty-stricken and gang-ridden streets of Los Angeles, 18-year-old Caine (Tyrin Turner) is searching for a way out. With the encouragement of supportive teachers and his girlfriend Ronnie (Jada Pinkett Smith) there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. But with systemic forces against him and those around him, including his wild-card best friend O-Dog (Larenz Tate) resigned to a life of crime and violence, is an escape from his circumstances truly possible?
Jesse Lee (Mario Van Peebles) leads his band of Buffalo Soldiers on a mission to intercept a shipment of gold in Cuba during the Spanish-American war. Upon discovering that they were actually sent on a sucicide mission by a racist white colnel, the group must use their sharp-shooting skills to not only survive the ordeal, but a new quest across America with the evil colnel hot on their trail.
A young law student’s (Julia Roberts) legal brief detailing the assasination of two supreme court justices makes her a target for assassination herself. With those around her in danger and nowhere safe to run, she enlists the help of a New Orleans journalist (Denzel Washington), who helps her pry an intense government conspiracy wide open.
Will Smith made the acting debut that would soon lead him to sitcom fame and an eventual academy award in this 1993 adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name. Smith appears as Paul, a skilled conman who effortlessly works his way into New York’s Upper East Side elite, using their homes as his personal getaway and their luxurious social scene as his playground.
When a Jamaican sprinter is disqualified during Olympic trials in a freak accident, his refusal to give up on the dream of bringing Olympic gold home to his island leads him to a dishonored coach for a new sports avenue – bobsledding. Based on the true story of the debut of the Jamaican national bobsleigh team at the 1988 Winter Olympics, this film, starring Leon, Malik Yoba, Doug E. Doug, and Rawle D. Lewis, tells the tale of perseverence and determination despite being an underdog.
Treasury Agent Jimmy Mercer (Wesley Snipes) is working an undercover job when his partner is shot and killed by the protegé of an ageing con-man (Dennis Hopper). Crushed and angered, Mercer swears revenge, police protocol be damned. With only one week until he’s transferred out of his current precinct, Mercer is on the clock to avenge the death of his good friend by any means necessary.
Zora Matthews (Nia Long) is a promising high school student in her senior year of high school, but is taken by surprise when a simple biology class experiment reveals that her blood type can’t possibly come from the combination of her career-driven mother (Whoopi Goldberg) and her late father. Confronting her mother, she finds out that she is the product of an artificial insemination that her mother underwent shortly after her husband’s death. But instead of the “smart Black guy” she requested, they discover that the sperm used actually came from a local white used car salesman (Ted Danson). But eager to have a father, Zora opens her heart and her mother’s home to the man in search of a relationship she’s never had.
Frustrated at multiple failed attempts to make it in the rap game, Albert (Chris Rock) spots a perfect opportunity at borrowed street cred and a fast-track to fame when local nightclub owner Gusto (Charlie Murphy) is arrested and he assumes his identity. Living a faux life as a hardened street thug and recently released felon gets more eyes on his group and ears on his music, but with tensions rising among the group members and Gusto out of the pen and on the hunt for revenge, is the price of fame truly worth it?