Shaft

100 mins.
Directed by Gordon Parks
R
1971
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While the Black Power movement was reshaping America, trailblazing director Gordon Parks made this groundbreaking blockbuster, which helped launch the blaxploitation era and introduced a new kind of badder-than-bad action hero in John Shaft (Richard Roundtree, in a career-defining role), a streetwise New York City private eye who is as tough with criminals as he is tender with his lovers.

After Shaft is recruited to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a Harlem mob boss from Italian gangsters, he finds himself in the middle of a rapidly escalating uptown vs. downtown turf war.

A vivid time capsule of gritty seventies Manhattan that has inspired sequels and multimedia reboots galore, the original Shaft is studded with indelible elements—from Roundtree’s sleek leather fashions to the iconic funk and soul score by Isaac Hayes.