Black Best Friends in Film

The BBF Phenomenon

The cherished Black best friend — a legendary figure in Hollywood that was once a mammy (“Gone with the Wind”), then became a maid (“Imitation of Life”) and eventually emerged as the diversity token to attract Black audiences (“Sex and the City”). Sometimes the Black best friend is an unknown actress on their grind. The Black bestie could also be A-list in the Black film scene. She offers gems of wisdom with a little urban or southern flair and sometimes she has magical powers to save the day.Check out some of American cinema’s black Best friends — White Hollywood’s greatest accessory.

Meagan Good as Romy in ‘The Unborn’ (2009)

Being a Black BFF in a horror film is no easy task.You are guaranteed to be axed off, especially if it is in one of the worst films of the yea,like 2009’s “The Unborn.” Even though Meagan Good was the most experienced actor out of the younger cast members, she was limited to a minimal supporting role. To make matters worse, Idris Elba was thrown in the cast and predictably died.

Kasi Lemmons as Ardelia in ‘Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)

“Eve’s Bayou” director, Kasi Lemmons, starred in one of the most iconic films of all time.She was supposedly Jodie Foster’s closest friend and roommate in the Oscar-winning “Silence of the Lambs.” After a jogging scene and a chat with Clarice, Ardelia vanished. What happened? Hannibal doesn’t like dark meat? Did Buffalo Bill kill her off in the deleted scenes?

A.J. Johnson as Shauna in ‘Dying Young’ (1993)

A.J. Johnson was Julia Roberts’ urban gal pal in the cancer tear-jerker “Dying Young.” By 1991, Johnson was famous among black folks for her role in “House Party.”But in “Dying Young” she was regulated to a tiny role that included random dancing scenes at a club. By the second half of the film, Miss Julia ran away to a beach house with her cancer-stricken boyfriend. Johnson’s character, Shauna (she didn’t get a last name) disappeared.Didn’t Shauna wonder where Miss Julia scampered off to?Why couldn’t she bring the club to the beachfront?We’ll never know…

Elise Neal as Hallie McDaniel in ‘Scream 2’ (1997)

Hallie McDaniel? Clearly a Hattie McDaniel reference.Does a mammy need to subliminally exist in horror films?Maybe horror icon, Wes Craven, considered the name a “tribute.” Whatever the case, Hallie, played by Elise Neal, was Sidney Prescott’s best friend in the “Scream” sequel. As soon as Black audiences saw her, we all knew she would be hacked off and she certainly was. In fairness, everyone around Sidney was killed.Even Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett Smith were murdered in the first ten minutes.

Brandy as Karla Wilson in ‘I Still Know What I Did Last Summer’ (1998)

Brandy was Jennifer Love Hewitt’s dearest friend and managed to avoid some of the Hollywood stereotypes in the 1998 sequel. Karla Wilson was thankfully void of neck-rolling and oddball racial references. Furthermore, she survived the movie. Ms. Norwood must’ve put it in her contract that she would not be killed off!

Rosie Perez as Cindy in ‘Untamed Heart’ (1993)

By 1993, Rosie Perez was the most popular Latina actress in the world; she had big roles in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and Ron Shelton’s “White Men Can’t Jump” and won Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in “Fearless.” Still, next to Marisa Tomei and Christian Slater, Perez was just the fiery Latina with an extra thick accent.

Alfre Woodard as Pat in Extremities (1986)

By 1986, Alfre Woodard was an Emmy winner and an Oscar nominee and the late, great Farrah Fawcett was trying to establish herself as a credible actress and not just a sexpot from “Charlie’s Angels.”In “Extremities,” Fawcett played a woman who turns the table on a rapist.As a BBF Woodard was nuanced, calm and helped build Fawcett’s role, which earned the legendary blonde a Golden Globe nod.

Viola Davis as Delia Shiraz in “Eat, Pray, Love” (2010)

Viola is a veteran in Hollywood and a two-time Tony Award-winner. However, it has taken her over 15 years to land a lead role (Davis will star as the lead in the upcoming film “The Help.”).Davis’ breakthrough roles were playing the coveted Black bestie.She was Diane Lane’s best friend in 2008’s “Nights in Rodanthe” and, more famously, shared a friendship bracelet with Julia Roberts in the lackluster “Eat, Pray, Love.” She was the voice of reason and the only African-American in the movie who had a speaking role.

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Nia Long as Donna in “Stigmata” (1999)

Nia Long was practically a legend in the Black community by 1999, staring in classics like :Boyz ‘N The Hood,” “Friday” and “Love Jones.” However, playing alongside Patricia Arquette in the horror film “Stigmata,” Long was the concerned “sistah gurl” working at a hair salon.I remember thinking, “Isn’t Nia Long bigger than Patricia Arquette?”Not by Hollywood’s standards.

Kerry Washington as Chenille Reynolds in Save the Last Dance (2001)

There were many uncomfortable stereotypes perpetuated in 2001’s “Save the Last Dance,” which starred Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas.Washington made this role tolerable as the only Black girl who saw a little soul in Stiles’ character. She even gave her a thirty second, urban makeover. Nonetheless, Washington proved to be the breakout star from the film and has since starred in “The Last King of Scotland,” “Night Catches Us” and the critically acclaimed “Mother and Child.”

Wanda Sykes as Ruby in Monster-In-Law (2005)

Jane Fonda plays J-Lo’s menacing soon to be mother-in-law in this romantic comedy about families coming together. Wanda Sykes played Fonda’s assistant—aka maid.That said, the comedic brilliance of Sykes shined in all of her scenes and her one-liners made the film.

Stacy Dash as Dionne in “Clueless” (1995)

Stacy Dash as Dionne — Cher’s sidekick — in “Clueless” is one of the better Black BFF roles. Dionne was a fully developed character and had scenes throughout the film. Cher didn’t cry on Dionne’s shoulder and Dionne never had to save the day. Sometimes Hollywood gets it right.

Alicia Keys as Lynette in The Nanny Diaries (2007)

Unlike some singers-turned-actors, Keys got her feet wet in small roles like The Nanny Diaries.If you blinked, you missed Keys but she was Scarlett Johansson bestfriend.Lynette was a disposable role and Keys would show her real acting chops in 2008’s “The Secret Life of Bees.”

Jennifer Hudson as Louise in ‘Sex & the City’ (2008)

J-Hud is considered A-list in the Black community and is even an Oscar-winner. But, when she became the Black best friend (beating out Kelly Rowland for the role) in “Sex & the City” those credentials were useless. As Louise, she was living beyond her means and looking for love in the Big Apple. In the end, she became Saint Louise saving Carrie Bradshaw’s predictable love life—reminiscent of the magical negro who always saves the day.

Regina King as Rhonda A Cinderella Story (2004)

Regina King is a leading lady, but don’t tell Hollywood that. The critically bashed “A Cinderella Story” starred Hillary Duff as another girl searching for love. King played Duff’s co-worker and helped her pick out a gown for a dance. Clearly, no romantic comedy is worth making without the resident Black girlfriend.

Regina King as Grace Rossiter Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)

Regina King’s character in “Legally Blonde 2” — which starred Reese Witherspoon — was a departure from the BBF dropping “sistah gurl” wisdom.She wasn’t necessarily a Black BFF, but would eventually bond with Witherspoon’s character.Still, the film failed to meet expectations of the original.

Regina King as Sam Fuller in ‘Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous’ (2005)

Yes, King goes down as a legendary Black best friend. In 2005, she played opposite Sandra Bullock in the action-comedy “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous.”In one scene, Regina was dressed undercover as Tina Turner and Bullock’s character said, “I just don’t see why I couldn’t be Tina.”King answered with, “You don’t see that?”Say what you want, Regina stays working!