The Best Movie Performances From Rappers-Turned-Actors Over The Years

A look at hip-hop’s greatest contributions to film, from 1981 to now.

Complex Original

As Complex continues to celebrate hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, we would be remiss to gloss over the power of the moving image in cementing the genre as a global cultural phenomenon. Music videos were the first introduction to the ways hip-hop so beautifully tells stories. Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five's 1982 video for "The Message” comes to mind as one that could easily be seen as a short film exploring the ills of NYC in the '80s. This was also the same year that Wild Style was released, leading to four decades of hip-hop on the big screen. 

From blockbusters to self-funded indie features, rappers like Queen Latifah and Tupac have proved it's not just pop stars who can be triple threats. Below, Complex highlights some of hip-hop’s greatest performances in film.

1981: Kool Kyle in Downtown 81

1982: Grandmaster Flash in Wild Style

1983: The Sugarhill Gang in Style Wars

1984: Kool Herc in Beat Street

1985: LL Cool J in Krush Groove

1986: Roxanne Shante in Big Fun in the Big Town

1987: The Fat Boys in Disorderlies

1988: Run-DMC in Tougher Than Leather

1989: Public Enemy in Do the Right Thing

1990: Kid 'n Play in House Party

1991: Ice T in New Jack City

1992: Tupac in Juice

1993: MC Eiht in Menace II Society

1994: Tone Loc in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

1995: Ice Cube in Higher Learning

1996: Queen Latifah in Set It Off

1997: Will Smith in Men in Black

1998: Nas in Belly

1999: Lil' Kim in She’s All That

2000: Black Thought in Brooklyn Babylon

2001: Q-Tip in Prison Song

2002: Cam’ron in Paid in Full

2003: DMX in Cradle 2 the Grave

2004: Yasiin Bey in Something the Lord Made

2005: Saul Williams in Lackawanna Blues

2006: T.I. in ATL

2007: RZA in American Gangster

2008: Ludacris in RocknRolla

2009: Sticky Fingaz in A Day in the Life

2010: Common in Just Wright

2011: Idris Elba in Thor

2012: Method Man in Red Tails

2013: David Banner in They Die by Dawn

2014: De'Aundre Bonds in Imperial Dreams

2015: ASAP Rocky in Dope

2016: Nicki Minaj in Barbershop: The Next Cut

2017: Queen Latifah in Girl’s Trip

2018: Junglepussy in Support the Girls

2019: Cardi B in Hustlers

2020: Meek Mill in Charm City Kings

2021: Pop Smoke in Boogie

2022: Kid Cudi in Entergalactic

2023 - Yung Miami in You People

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