As we celebrate an emergence of films with diverse talent and voices, we sometimes need to remember those who went it alone as “the only black dude.”
They were the shining stars of bright lights in horror, action, and comedy for years, and now we've captured these brave souls in a top ten list to celebrate their fight against oppression, while also fighting werewolf cops or whatever. Which, if we’re being realistic, the cop part would be more scary than the werewolf because at least with the werewolf, there would be some sort of justice served for their murderous rampages.
10. Julius Gaw (Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan)
You’d expect a movie with “Manhattan” in the title to have more black people, but then you realize the majority of the film is actually on a boat and you’re like, “Nah, we don’t really fuck with boats like that.” Early on we see boxing dynamo Julius and his passion for boxing, because he’s literally boxing in every scene.
Eventually Jason throws Julius off the boat and you’re like, “Oh no!” but then he reemerges and makes it to New York. Jason chases him to a rooftop and Julius uses his boxing prowess to punch Jason for a full minute before defiantly letting Jason have one free punch which KNOCKS JULIUS’ HEAD OFF. It’s remarkable to remember a team of professional people invested money for that to be made.
9. Spider (Return of the Living Dead)
Spider makes it to the end, which was a rare feat for black dudes in horror movies in the 80's, especially when remembering that the actor playing Spider, Michael Nunez, also went by “Demon” in Friday the 13th V. Why did this brother never have a real name in movies? Maybe that’s the punk lifestyle.
As Spider, we were treated to both hysterics and intelligence. When the little white girl is triggered (as they do) 'cause her boyfriend is a zombie and she thinks she can save him (as they do), Spider is the one who picks her up to get her to run, starting up the chain of black men having to uplift white women that ultimately leads to everything involved getting blown up.
8. That Nigga That Got Kicked in the Chest in 300 (300)
Man. What a line to go out on, huh?
Leonidas and them were mad rude to my guy. They didn’t ask him his name, just called him “Persian,” which felt very dog-whistley. My man had a whole thing planned out and choreographed with his message of “Earth and water” and they roasted him for it. Leonidas had this whole speech that would definitely not pass the progressive test, calling the Athenians “boy lovers” like damn dude, they’re not even there to defend themselves!
Side note, how did my guy manage to literally walk to the edge of a giant pit while at a hostile location and not be like, “Oh, I should probably walk to my left a few feet in case this dude with the sword, no shirt, and ponytail is crazy.”
Lowkey, “This is Sparta!” was the MAGA of 300. RIP bottomless pit black dude.
7. Benny (Total Recall)
He’s got five kids to feed, man. Shout out to Benny being able to drive a cab on Mars but also a high-powered drilling murder machine. Homeboy definitely went to Mars Technical College.
Benny was super charming! He had style and pizzazz and wanted to show Quaid a good time before killing him because of the revolts and stuff. Damn Benny, we had faith in you. I hope those kids get fed.
6. Keith (La La Land)
OK, John Legend is the nicest guy in the world. Everything he and Chrissy Teigen do are adorable to the max, so I was thrilled to see him in La La Land, where they tried to make him the antagonist (?) because he wanted to give Ryan Gosling a job (?) touring the world performing jazz to a massive audience (?!).
Woo, y’all really stretched with the villainization of black people trying to make money and help others there. He didn’t even do anything remotely awful! His song was probably the best one in the movie.
5. Lamar (Revenge of the Nerds)
Lamar was in shape. He rapped. He sang. He danced. He could throw wonky javelins. And he was maybe the first openly gay black character in cinema. This dude was crushing all the feats in a movie that was essentially about white people trying to usurp power from other white people, 'cause they love a good power struggle.
Now granted, the other black fraternity shows up, but Lamar had so many varying character dynamics he really stuck out among the main cast. We’re all a little more Lambda because of you, Lamar.
4. Sam (Casablanca)
I’ve never actually seen Casablanca but I’ve seen Sam. Really, we’ve all seen a Sam in our life. Just playing piano. Trying to get through the day. *sigh*
But yeah, I’ve never seen Casablanca.
3. Oogie Boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Granted, he looked like a Scarecrow Klansman but Oogie Boogie was the only black character in The Nightmare Before Christmas, and maybe any Tim Burton film. Let’s face it, he sings jazz, is full of roaches, and loves to gamble; Burton basically saw one episode of Sanford & Son and was like, “I have my villain!”
At the end, he’s scared of Jack and unravels and like…I feel you, Oogie Boogie. You just wanted to sing, look at legs, and eat Santa but were not given many joys in life.
2. Bubba (Forrest Gump)
My man Bubba opened up a conversation asking if Forrest had ever been on a shrimp boat. Not his name, not “oh boy, look at this weather,” he NEEDED TO KNOW if Forrest had been on a damn shrimp boat.
It was great character from the jump. He liked shrimp stuff, he had shrimp goals, and then as soon as we’re thinking he’s going to make it, he gets shot and never has a chance at being a shrimp boat captain. But hey, at least we now have Bubba Gump Shrimp companies franchised at malls around the United States. You did it, Bubba!
1. Ben (Night of the Living Dead)
The legend. Ben was the protagonist, the logical one, the hero. He calmed white woman hysteria, he planned, he saved lives even when they were too foolish to save themselves. Ultimately, a group of white hunter dudes kill him 'cause America, but damn, did we follow him the whole way through that journey of fighting zombies.
It’s a night we’ll always remember, Ben.
Honorable Mention: Roland (Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors)
HE LIVED ‘TIL THE END!!! IN AN 80'S HORROR MOVIE! But…he…did get killed quickly in the next one. Leave the memories alone. Or dreams rather.