The 50 Best New York City Movies

33. Shaft (1971)

Director: Gordon Parks
Leading Actors: Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn
NYC Neighborhoods Featured: Harlem, Greenwich Village

While Shaft certainly has elements that scan as camp now, the social importance cannot be ignored. Even today, how often do mainstream films discuss issues of race, let alone give significant plot time to racially-motivated crime, in a way that isn't so heavy-handed you can feel message-moment waiting in the wings? The film's ridiculous profit ($13 million on a $500,000 budget) owes much to the success of Melvin Van Peebles' Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and forced studios to acknowledge the commercial viability of films with black casts. —GT

"Gritty Realism"

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