Steady are you ready?? It’s likely a bit tough for many a millennial to believe that 1998 was actually twenty-five years ago, and many of the pop-culture images and references that defined our formative years (and let’s be honest, still influences and informs Gen Z culture at this very moment) were fresh so far in the past.
Among these golden moments were several classic films that surely many can recite word for word. Gangster cool was defined by Hype Williams’ stylized eye with his meandering crime drama Belly. City Girl chic was encapsulated in the gritty underground strip club culture documented in The Players Club. A new generation was introduced to the profound work of Toni Morrison through Oprah Winfrey’s starring role in Beloved.
Check out the films that wowed, delighted, and shaped a generation in the slides below. Did your favorite 1998 classic make the list?
Spike Lee’s joint about the broken bond between father and son and the dark side of the promise of fame and fortune showcased NBA player Ray Allen as number one high school basketball player Jesus Shuttlesworth and Denzel Washington as his incarcerated father, Jake. Jake, who trained Jesus into greatness, is granted a work release to convince his son to sign to a top college – but Jesus wants nothing to do with his father, who went to prison after accidentally killing his mother during an argument. Pulled in dozens of directions by people who want to use his talent for their own gain and tempted by the promise of money and white women at top colleges across the nation, will Jesus listen to the man that raised him or the noise around him?
THE quintessential “rapper movie,” even directed by famed 90’s music video director Hype Williams, finds Nas and DMX as Sincere and Tommy Buns, two mid-level drug dealers with conflicting aspirations in this highly visually stylized drama. While Tommy seeks the big time and greater respect and glory in the drug game, Sincere is thinking about family, legacy, and a life of peace outside the game. Will their diverging paths ultimately lead them to their desires or to their downfalls?
This strip club dramedy touched on topics that were considered quite taboo in the late 1990’s, yet remain relevant to this day. After a conflict with her parents leaves her finding her own way to pay for college and support her son, Diamond (LisaRaye McCoy) ends up at the local strip club for what should be quick easy cash to fund her dreams. Sex work is still honest work, and Diamond has an airtight game plan…but will the unsavory characters, misogynist attitudes, social stigma, and predatory customers (and co-workers) drag her down before she can get to the other side of this means-to-an-end job?
It’s 1956, and teen doo-wop singer Frankie Lymon has found a hit with his song “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” His smooth voice and newfound fame unsurprisingly make him a hit with the ladies – and he takes full advantage. While enjoying the spoils of fame, he eventually takes on three wives across the country; singer Zola Taylor (Halle Berry), hustler Elizabeth Waters (Vivica A. Fox) and schoolteacher Emira Eagle (Lela Rochon). After his descent into addiction leaves him dead at age 25, each woman believes they have a claim to the remnants of his estate as his tragic life is told in flashbacks during their court proceedings.
The buddy cop comedy that launched two sequels and solidified Chris Tucker as a bonafide star. This film finds action superstar Jackie Chan as Lee, an inspector from Hong Kong seeking the FBI’s help in investigating the kidapping of a Chinese diplomat’s young daughter. Disinterested, the bureau dumps the case into the lap of LAPD Detective James Carter (Tucker), who doens’t exactly get along the best with Lee at first. But high speed chases and criminal capers make fast friends, and their partnership helps them blow the case wide open on the streets of Los Angeles, delivering unforgettable one-liners along the way.
This film adaptation of Terry McMillan’s classic summer read finds Stella Payne (Angela Bassett), a successful yet unfulfilled stockbroker, taking a spontaneous solo vacation to Jamaica where she gets swept up by a local chef’s assistant over 20 years her junior (Taye Diggs). With life’s circumstances constantly pushing them together and pulling them apart, Stella must evaluate if her self-criticism, lifestyle, and desires can align to let an unlikely love like this into her life.
Did you realize that Wesley Snipes technically had the first Marvel superhero franchise? The actor’s turn as the half-mortal, half-vampire enforcer armed with UV bullets and swordsmanship stalking the night in vengeance of his mother’s death was the first successful trilogy featuring the now-iconic comic book franchise’s original characters. With these technologically advanced vampires hot on his trail in search of his unique blood to complete their rituals to rule the world, who will prevail in the battle of the night?
This adaptation of Toni Morrison’s classic novel was the first production from Oprah Winfrey’s then newly-formed Harpo Films. Following the plight of a former slave with a dark secret, haunted by poltergeists and visited by a reincarnation of the spirit of her deceased infant daughter, the film stars Winfrey as Sethe, the former Kentucky slave whose psyche was all but broken by her former slavemaster. Danny Glover, Kimberly Elise, and Thandiwe Newton round out the cast in this supernatural, psychological, emotional ride that deals with the pain of memory and facing the darkest notes of the past.
This political action drama film predicted much of the surveillance and tracking technology that is commonplace today. Will Smith stars as lawyer Robert Clayton Dean, a dedicated family man (with a star performance from Regina King as his wife) who is framed for the murder of a congressman blocking the passage of an expansive new surveillance legislation. With cameras tracking his movements at every turn and a corrupt NSA officer hot on his trail, can Reynolds prove his innocence before government officials take him away forever?
A smoker’s film in the tradition of the 70’s Cheech & Chong franchise, this early Dave Chappelle comedy romp finds the comedian and two fellow stoners dropping everything to raise bail money for a friend locked up over feeding junk food to an NYPD horse, to fatal results. With friendship and eventually love on the line, Thurgood (Chappelle) is faced with the tough choice of leaving his first love of Mary Jane behind for his new possibilities in life.
Denzel Washington stars in yet another classic with this supernatural crime thriller. After detective John Hobbes (Washington) witnesses the execution of a serial killer that taunted him for years, he’s shocked when he runs into copycat cases with his signature MO. Stumbling accross a theologist with some insight, Hobbes realizes he may actually be up against an ancient evil entity that has its sights set on him as it transfers from person to person in his orbit, taunting the futility of his attempts to fight off its murderous crimes.