Throughout the four decade history of hip-hop, there have been many movies that have attempted to capture the essence of the culture. Many have been OK, plenty have been good, but it’s the rare film that has been great. “8 Mile,” which hit the silver screen 10 years ago today (Nov. 8), stands among the best. Eminem’s acting debut showcased a man’s struggle along his road to musical success. Audiences found it easy to relate to the story of resilience, and the soundtrack’s lead single, “Lose Yourself,” with its empowering message of facing fears, seized “the moment” all the way to an Oscar for Best Original Song.
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of “8 Mile,” The Juice delves into hip-hop cinematic history to rank the 10 best movies ever made about hip-hop, from documentaries to dramas.
10. “Get Rich Or Die Tryin'” (2005)
50 Cent followed in Eminem’s footsteps when creating this semi-autobiographical film of his own life, showing the ups and downs he had to face to make himself into a successful entrepreneur and artist.
9. “Hustle & Flow”(2005)
It’s not easy to break into the rap scene, especially if you have to transition from a life of crime. Director Craig Brewer and producer John Singleton capture the setbacks and run-ins of pimp-turned-rapper DJay, played by Terrence Howard. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and won for Best Original Song with Three 6 Mafia’s “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.”
8. “Krush Groove” (1985)
Writer Ralph Farquhar and director Michael Schultz gave hip-hop aficionados a window into the early days of record label Def Jam Recordings. Though fictionalized, the film includes performances and cameos by Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, and LL Cool J.
7.”Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” (2011)
The ’98 break-up of one of hip-hop’s most influential groups, A Tribe Called Quest, left many saddened and confused. Ten years after their last album, director Michael Rapaport took fans inside Tribe’s 2008 reunion tour, interweaving artist commentary and archival footage to tell the group’s tumultuous tale.
6. “Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap” (2012)
“The Art of Rap” is the one film that truly dives into the craft of rap. Director Ice-T goes beyond his personal experience to feature the perspectives of legendary rappers including Afrika Bambaataa, Run-DMC, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kanye West.
Director Joel Silberg documents the trying yet well-worthwhile effort behind break dancing as three dancers work to perfect their moves and get recognized. The film’s motto speaks for itself: “Push it to pop it! Rock it to lock it! Break it to make it!”
4. “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” (2005)
“Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” directed by Michel Gondry and inspired by seminal soul doc “Wattstax,” captures the unity in hip-hop as Chappelle gathers innovative hip-hop and R&B acts ( The Fugees, The Roots, Kanye West ) together to perform for fans that have traveled from across the states to Brooklyn, NY.
3. “Beat Street” (1984)
While hip-hop was taking its baby steps, director Stan Lathan helped introduce the genre to the mainstream with his drama about an aspiring Bronx-bred DJ.
2. “8 Mile” (2002)
The Curtis Hanson-directed film made us feel every heavy step Eminem (who portrayed Jimmy Smith) took in going from the streets of Detroit to success in rap. “8 Mile,” which was inspired by Eminem’s own life, is a harsh, yet hopeful, story of an aspiring rapper which motivates till this day. Em won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for film’s soundtrack single, “Lose Yourself.”
1. “Wild Style” (1983)
“Wild Style” is not only one of the first hip-hop films to ever reach a wide audience, but it remains the best document of the richness of hip-hop’s five pillars (DJing, MCing, beatboxing, grafitti, breakdancing) and the beauty of its birth place (New York). The film also features several of rap’s originals ( Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, and more).