More Than Shaft: 8 Serious Black Dramas of the 70s

I love shaft, I love Superfly, most blaxploitation films in fact, but there is a campiness to them and more importantly they often casted negative stereotypes. I think they have a place, not all black narratives need to be deep and sombre, but because they were the most popular black film in the 70s,, there was backlash. To help balance the options of black 70s films, I’ve made a quick list of other films of that era with more artistic expression and serious topics.

The Education of Sonny Carson

The Education of Sonny Carson, 1974 – A movie based on the book written by Sonny Carson. It chronicles the life of Sonny Carson from childhood to incarceration later in life. Carson later rose to be a prominent figure during the civil rights movement. This is Blaxploitation at it’s best with a serious and upfront message.

Aaron Loves Angela

A new variation on the “Romeo and Juliet” theme set in Harlem focuses on an African-American youth and his Puerto Rican girlfriend as they struggle against the prejudice of their families and the harsh realities of life in the ghetto.

Cooley High

Richard “Cochise” Morris (Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs), a local basketball hero, and Leroy “Preach” Jackson (Glynn Turman), who dreams of a career in writing, are likable Chicago high school students in 1960s Chicago. They’re into hanging out with friends, pretty girls and the Motown sounds so popular during the era. Each wants to make it big in his own way, but not everybody they meet is looking out for them, as they learn when a seemingly harmless outing goes awry.


Based on the true life story of legendary blues and folksinger Huddie Ledbetter. Master of the 12-string guitar and long-time convict on Texas and Louisiana chain gangs Leadbelly is the story of struggle perseverance & most of all music.


Richard Roundtree (Shaft) and Roy Thinnes (The Fugitive, The Invaders) star in this savage, hard-hitting 1973 spaghetti Western. On the run in the desert near the Mexican border after killing an officer, a black soldier (Richard Roundtree) stumbles upon a lame Indian wanderer (Roy Thinnes). Struggling to survive, they reach a deserted church mission and set up camp. But the area is home to ruthless Mexican bandits – and a bounty hunter (Nigel Davenport) is on the trail of the deserter.

Final Countdown

After being shot by the police during an ongoing revolution, militant leader Johnny Johnson (Billy Dee Williams) reflects on events that brought him to his current existence. Accompanied by his best friend (D’Urville Martin) and girlfriend (Pamela Jones), Johnson must figure out how to sustain the revolution while receiving medical attention from a doctor that has limited resources.


The oldest son of a loving and strong family of black sharecroppers comes of age in the Depression-era South, after his father is imprisoned for stealing food. The family has struggled to find enough to eat despite the help of their hunting dog, Sounder. A timeless classic for all ages.