The 7 Best Hip-Hop Biopics, Ranked
7. “All Eyez on Me”
Physically, Demetrius Shipp Jr. looks eerily similar to Tupac Shakur, the larger-than-life figure he portrays. But doing poetic justice to a complicated figure like Pac — in all of his charisma, compassion, unbridled energy, and thug lifestyle — is a tall task for a first-time actor, and the cursory script does him no favors. (Thankfully, Danai Gurira’s convincing transformation into Afeni Shakur earns this film its placement here.)
6. “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”
Sure, 50 Cent takes a lot of creative liberty in this depiction of his rise from the streets to superstardom — the beginning of a long legacy of pimping his origin story for Hollywood (*cough* Kanan *cough*). But his Queens-bred mythology, complete with one of hip-hop’s most legendary drive-by shootings, is too epic not to get the big-screen treatment, even if it laughably depicts famed crime boss Supreme as “Majestic” and curiously dons 50 “Young Caesar.”
5. “Roxanne, Roxanne”
Hip-hop pioneer Roxanne Shanté received her flowers via this captivating depiction of a Juice Crew-affiliated teenager (played by Chanté Adams) that only a fool would dare to battle. The straight-to-Netflix film ably walks viewers through obstacles that befell female MCs of the ’80s, from sexism to industry shadiness to domestic violence.
At times, these movies can feel like Hollywood folks playing dress-up (we see you, Anthony Mackie!). But Biggie’s life story found a suave doppelganger in Gravy, Angela Bassett effortlessly channeling Voletta Wallace, and Naturi Naughton (as Lil Kim) paving the way for an acting career, thanks in part to the film’s most rewind-worthy scene. (You know which one!)
3. “8 Mile”
We know. Like the aforementioned Get Rich or Die Tryin’, this is a fictionalized take on Eminem’s come-up (as B. Rabbit) that’s basically hip-hop’s Rocky. But with unforgettable rhyme battles (we still think Lotto should’ve won the penultimate showdown) and Em literally playing himself alongside the likes of Brittany Murphy and a struggle-loc’d Mekhi Pfifer (Future), it’s worthy of inclusion. Plus, the soundtrack still slaps.
2. “Straight Outta Compton”
There’s only one knock against N.W.A’s biopic: objectivity. The film conveniently sidesteps the brutal incident between Dr. Dre and Dee Barnes and perhaps lacks nuance in its demonizing of sketchy music mogul Jerry Heller. Otherwise, Straight Outta Compton lives up to the oversized nature of its subjects, hitting on censorship, police brutality, and the rise and fall of the world’s most dangerous group.
1. “Wu-Tang: An American Saga”
Granted, this Hulu series has an edge over the others in this list — 10 episodes provides a roomy canvas on which to capture the fictionalized formation of Shaolin’s finest. But RZA, Method Man, Ol Dirty Bastard, and the rest of Wu-Tang are so brilliantly portrayed that you’ll feel like you’ve entered the 36 chambers.