Female First always likes to shine a spotlight on the leading ladies in film. After all, without them, we'd miss out on some of the most memorable moments film has to offer: think Whoppi Goldberg in The Color Purple and Sister Act , Viola Davis in The Help , Halle Berry in Monster's Ball and Angela Bassett in What's Love Got to Do with it .
To celebrate the BFI's upcoming Hip Hop Weekender as part of their BLACK STAR season, we are taking a look at 90s films where hip hop stars crossed over to the big screen and 5 great female performances where the leading women made our heads turn and glued our eyes to the screen.
Nia Long in Friday
Before she charmed her way into our hearts as Will Smith's fiancé in the hit TV series 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air', Nia Long got her big break in F. Gary Gray's Friday , the hilarious stoner-buddy comedy starring hip hop star Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. Long plays Debbie, Ice Cube's love interest and adds tenacity and humour to this film that spawned two sequels.
Thandie Newton - Gridlock'd
It's no small feat to stand out when starring alongside the late, great hip hop artist Tupac Shakur, but Thandie Newton manages to do just that as Shakur's girlfriend Cookie in Vondie Curtis-Halls' dark indie comedy, Gridlock'd . The film takes place in Detroit and follows two musicians (Shakur and Tim Roth) on the run when they decide to quit heroin after Cookie's addiction lands her in the hospital. As a sultry jazz singer and poet, Newton brings strength and beauty to an ultimately flawed character.
Queen Latifah - Set it Off
One of the first female hip hop stars, Queen Latifah rose to fame in the late 80s with her debut album "All Hail the Queen" and quickly made the move to both the small and big screens. In F. Gary Gray's Set It Off , Latifah is joined by Jada Pinkett-Smith, Vivica A. Fox and Kimberly Elise as they take on the system, robbing banks in an attempt to overcome financial hardship. Latifah stands out as the strong, protective and fierce Cleo, who finds it thrilling to work on the other side of the law.
Angela Bassett - Boyz n the Hood
Before her Oscar-nominated® turn as Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It, Angela Basset co-starred in John Singleton's groundbreaking Boyz n the Hood as the mother of a teenage son (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) who sends him to live with his father (Laurence Fishurne) in a crime-ridden suburb of Los Angeles. Angela plays Reva, a courageous and passionate woman who knows what she wants for herself and her family and is not afraid to tell it like it is: " What you did is no different from what mothers have been doing from the beginning of time. It's just too bad that more brothers won't do the same. But don't think you're special."
The Women of Set It Off - Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Vivica A. Fox, Kimberly Elise
In first place, we have the four women of the unforgettable action-filled heist thriller, Set It Off . We already saw Queen Latifah come in at third for her stand-out performance, but it's definitely the iconic quartet of Latifah, Pinkett-Smith, Fox and Elise who make this film shine as no nonsense bank robbers with a moral compass. In the 90s, it was rare to see women lead the charge, but these women bring their A-game, with riveting portrayals of three-dimensional characters in a film about female empowerment. What more could we ask for?
The BFI's Hip Hop Weekender will take place from 4-6 November at the BFI Southbank in London, with screenings of Boyz n the Hood, Set It Off, Friday, Juice, New Jack City, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, House Party and Gridlock'd.
BLACK STAR will be available to audiences everywhere in the UK; in cinemas including BFI Southbank, on BBC Television, on BFI DVD/Blu-ray and online via BFI Player until 31 December. http://www.bfi.org.uk/black-star