In celebration of Black History Month, we’re making daily movie recommendations, presented in chronological order of the films’ stories.
Stay tuned to Noovie every day as we highlight an original, landmark film worth revisiting or discovering for the first time.
February 17 – Straight Outta Compton (1986 – 1995)
Several years in the making, “Straight Outta Compton” is the story of the formation, rise and fall of hip-hop legends and gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A.
The film’s producers include group founders Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E’s widow, Tomica Woods-Wright. Word of the project began to circulate as early as 2010, with directors John Singleton, F. Gary Gray, Craig Brewer and Peter Berg all being discussed to helm the film.
By 2012, F. Gary Gray, who’d worked with Ice Cube on the comedy classic “Friday,” and with Dre on the movie “Set It Off,” had won the job. Still, various drafts of the scripts were passed on, and casting took its time. Production began in fall 2014, and had its own share of controversies, including a shooting offset, and an actual murder committed by Suge Knight (who got an argue with people connected to the film, and ran two of them over). The film was finally finished and released on August 14, 2015…and, along with critical acclaim, became one of the biggest musical biopics of all time.
The film takes place over the course of several years, from 1986 to 1995, starting with the formation of the group in Compton, California, where producer Dr. Dre, rapper Ice Cube, and drug dealer Eazy-E team up with MC Wren and DJ Yella and start to attract a local following that would eventually turn into a world-wide phenonmenon.
The story follows the group as they sign with shady manager Jerry Heller, start up their own record label, Ruthless Records, and record their seminal album, “Straight Outta Compton.” That work would help them achieve global notoriety, and attention from the FBI for their controversial song “F@#* the Police.”
Success for the group would be short-lived, as Ice Cube and Dr. Dre would both end up leaving the group for profitable solo careers. Eazy-E would later be diagnosed with HIV/Aids. And while the members would ultimately attempt a reunion, Eazy-E’s health deteriorated before recording could begin.
In the end, Gray’s film manages to shed an honest light on the highs and lows of the group, which doesn’t shy away from the real-life violence that always seemed to threaten N.W.A.’s long-term future.
The performances from the cast, including Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson playing his father, are excellent, and help to celebrate a group that continues to provoke and inspire with their one-of-a-kind musical talent.
When it was released in 2015, “Straight Outta Compton” remained number one at the box office for several weekends, and until 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the film was the #1 musical biopic of all time.
The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, and brought the group’s music once again back to the limelight, with the film’s soundtrack going to #1 on both the Rap and R&B/Hip-Hop albums charts.
It remains a fascinating and triumphant tale of a group of artists who took their vision of the streets straight to the top.
Where to Watch
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.