A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No real positive messages.
Positive Role Models
No real positive role models.
Violence & Scariness
A man is thrown out of a window two or three stories above street level. Characters get into shoot-outs with guns, leading to killing, some blood. Punches. Character hits another with a bottle.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Shaft has sex with a woman he meets at a bar; brief nudity (breasts), female moaning over a psychedelic montage of the woman's hands and fingers going across his back. When asked where he's going, Shaft says that he's "going to get laid."
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"Motherf----r" used once. "F--k" used once. A white mafia antagonist calls Shaft the "N" word. African Americans call each other various racial epithets, including "Uncle Tom." "S--t," "b.s.," "goddamn," "crap," "damn," "bitch." Middle finger gesture.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Cigar and cigarette smoking. Drinking in a bar. Talk of how Bumpy Jonas has made his money by supplying heroin in Harlem.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Shaft is a classic 1971 action movie in which Richard Roundtree plays a private detective in the middle of an impending war between the mob, the police, and a drug kingpin. While it's not as violent as most action movies, there are some gun battles -- including a climactic shoot-out scene in a hotel involving machine guns and plenty of casualties. A man is thrown out of a window two or three stories above street level. Profanity is frequently used, including "motherf----r" (used once) and "f--king" (used once), a mafia antagonist who calls Shaft the "N" word, and assorted racial epithets used by African Americans, including "Uncle Tom." There's an extended sex scene between Shaft and a woman he meets in a bar, with brief nudity (breasts), female moaning, and a psychedelic montage of the woman's hands and fingers moving up and down Shaft's back. Overall, this is a classic, groundbreaking, and perhaps definitive movie of the "blaxploitation" genre, and a radical statement at a time when it was still a big deal to have interracial kissing, a time when Hollywood seldom (if ever) cast African Americans in lead roles, portraying characters who were, like all other action movie heroes, strong and assertive. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
With its funky Isaac Hayes soundtrack, bold fashions, and signature style and attitude, it could be reasonably argued that this film is more '70s than the actual 1970s. Years since its initial release, Shaft seems to get better with age, and viewed through a 21st century lens, what's incredible is just what a landmark statement the movie was. It's easy to forget that at the time Shaft was released in 1971, it was rare to cast African Americans in lead roles in movies, to say nothing of African American lead characters who were so much more than the decades of rotten stereotypes, at a time when even interracial kissing was considered controversial by some, to say nothing of Shaft's escapades.
It's not a perfect movie, but it's still fun to watch, as much for the fashion and depictions of old crumbling '70s New York as for the actual story. Richard Roundtree's performance as Shaft, a hero/antihero in a corrupt world, displays so much style, attitude, and humor throughout the movie. There have been, and continue to be, remakes and contemporary takes on Shaft, but this original version remains the gold standard by which the others are to be measured.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.