On April 29, 2019 director John Singleton passed away after suffering from stroke. He was only 51 years old.
Singleton had a somewhat successful career in Hollywood. Even though he was the youngest film director ever to have been nominated by the Oscars for his first film BOYZ N’ THE HOOD, his career never reached the heights of some of the more well-known directors today (David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and Ang Lee) that started their careers in the late 80s and early 90s. For the last few years before his death, Singleton has been working mostly on TV shows. He’s the creator of one of my current favorite TV shows called SNOWFALL.
As a tribute to his work, I’m listing my favorite films that he directed. In no particular order, here are some of his best work. Just a side-note, I didn’t see two of his films, BABY BOY and ABDUCTION.
Boyz n the Hood (1991)
Before this film came out, not many films dealt with the tough life in the ghetto of Los Angeles. To many outsiders, it was an eye opener of what life is like living in those rough neighborhoods. The film was a critical and commercial success. Not bad for a filmmaker who was only in his early 20s. The performances by Laurence Fishburn and Cuba Gooding Jr. were pretty great.
After doing a few smaller budget films, Singleton decided to jump into a big budget studio film. A sequel to the 70s Blaxploitation films, it didn’t become the franchise starter the studio had hoped. In fact, the film was more well known for its behind the scenes dramas. According to reports, Singleton and his leading man Samuel L. Jackson constantly argue on the set. Singleton also had disagreements with the film’s producer and writer on the tone and script. So basically, it’s the usual nightmare that many young filmmakers would run into in their first big budget film.
The film opened in the summer of 2000, it did okay at the box office. Despite the difficult shoot, Singleton apparently wanted to do a sequel and tried to convince Sam Jackson to reprise the role. But Jackson was not happy with the film and also with the modest box office returns, Paramount didn’t want to invest their money on the sequel.
This might be one of the most underrated films of the 90s. A film about the horrific lynch mob attack on an African America community in 1923. For anyone who’ve never seen it, I would highly recommend it. It contains great performances by Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle and Jon Voight. When the film came out in 1997, it received mostly positive reviews but it bombed at the box office. Maybe because of this film’s failure at the box office that Singleton decided to jump into doing big budget studio films such as Shaft and Fast Furious 2.
A great performance by Janet Jackson and the late Tupac Shakur. I also loved this film’s soundtrack. This is a film I need to revisit soon since I haven’t seen since it came out over 20 years ago.
Higher Learning (1995)
This film’s about race relation in college campus is probably more relevance in today’s world than many would think back in 1994. I haven’t seen this film since I saw it on opening weekend with my friends back in early 90s, so I don’t remember much about it. I do remember that I liked it but some of the stuff that happened in the film were kind of over the top and a bit cliché. This is another one of Singleton’s work that I need to revisit.
This was Singleton’s last big-budget production film. A kind of strange action thriller that I still didn’t know how it got green lighted by the studio. The film starred Mark Wahlberg playing Mark Wahlberg. It wasn’t bad, just wasn’t that interesting and the action scenes were pretty lackluster.
John Singleton was not one of my favorite directors but he had enough talents that I thought he can make a big comeback. Sadly, we’ll never know if he could but I appreciate his films.
Rest in Peace Mr. Singleton.
What are some of YOUR favorite films by John Singleton?