Total Recall

Definitive Ice Cube Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we take a look at the films that helped define the Ride Along 2 star's career.

by | January 13, 2016 | Comments

By the time he celebrated his 20th birthday, Ice Cube had already helped found — and had departed — one of the most influential rap groups of all time. But as we soon learned, his time with N.W.A. was only the beginning: Cube quickly went on to start an acclaimed solo career, and with 1991’s Boyz N the Hood, established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the big screen. Since then, he’s amassed an eclectic filmography — one with room for action, dramas, comedies, and family-friendly fare, and plenty of critical highs and lows to match. With his latest release, Ride Along 2, appearing in theaters this weekend, we decided to take a look back at some definitive entries in Cube’s film oeuvre. It’s time for Total Recall!


Boyz n the Hood (1991) 96%

BoyzNTheHood

He wrote the song from which the movie takes its name, so it’s only appropriate that Ice Cube’s film debut should come as part of John Singleton’s 1991 breakthrough, Boyz N the Hood. What no one could have guessed, though, was just how effective Cube would be as Darrin “Doughboy” Baker, the Crip-affiliated ex-con who chooses to remain in his violent lifestyle, no matter how profound the consequences might be. An auspicious debut for Singleton — who earned an Oscar nomination — Boyz promised great things for Cube’s acting career, and earned the respect of critics like Netflix’s James Rocchi, who called it “remarkable — a film full of political discussion and thought that also manages to involve us in the real, human lives of its characters.”

Watch Trailer


Trespass (1992) 69%

Trespass

After the bloated misfire of 1990’s Another 48 Hrs., director Walter Hill needed a project that would get him back to basics, and he found it in Trespass, an urban update on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre that pitted two firefighters (Bill Paxton and William Sadler) against a gangster (Ice-T) and his bloodthirsty lieutenant (Ice Cube). Unapologetically nihilistic and gleefully violent, Trespass presaged future Hill vehicles like Last Man Standing (right down to the Ry Cooder soundtrack), with the added advantage of a cast filled with comically gifted character actors. Calling it “Claustrophobic, taut and efficient,” Chris Hicks of the Deseret News wrote, “like a streamlined car designed to simply get you there, Trespass wastes no time in setting up its premise — and then just barrels along with an in-your-face attitude and plenty of tightly wound tension.”

Watch Trailer


The Glass Shield (1994) 65%

GlassShield1

As he had with Boyz N the Hood — and would go on to do with Higher Learning — Ice Cube helped tackle racially charged topics in The Glass Shield, a police drama from director Charles Burnett about a rookie cop (Michael Boatman) who becomes the first black cop at an all-white station just in time to become involved in the wrongful prosecution of a murder suspect (Cube). Grossing a little over $3 million during its limited release, Shield slid under the radar, despite a cast that also included Lori Petty — but for a number of critics, it represented another solid entry in Burnett’s filmography. As Marjori Baumgarten summed it up for the Austin Chronicle, “Though The Glass Shield gets bogged down in some of its narrative byways, the journey, nonetheless, is rich and rewarding.”

Watch Trailer


Friday (1995) 78%

Friday1

How many laughs can you get out of a premise that basically revolves around a pair of unemployed twentysomethings sitting on the front porch? Ask anyone who’s seen Friday. Co-written by Cube and DJ Pooh, this low-budget cult classic follows the adventures of Craig (Cube) and Smokey (Chris Tucker) as they spend a Friday scrambling to come up with $200 to pay off Big Worm, the local dealer/ice cream man. A surprise (albeit minor) hit, Friday spawned a film and TV franchise — all of them unfortunately without Tucker, whose frenetic screen presence and easy comic chemistry with Cube helped jump-start his film career. Puffing new life into the moribund stoner comedy genre, it also earned the approval of scribes like eFilmCritic’s Scott Weinberg, who called it “an energetic and genuinely funny low-budget flick” and wrote, “This is why we wade through all the really bad ones; to find the unexpected pieces of comedy gold.”

Watch Trailer


Higher Learning (1994) 45%

HigherLearning

Cube reunited with Boyz N the Hood director John Singleton for 1995’s Higher Learning, an ensemble drama about racial and sexual tensions in mid ‘90s America, as seen and embodied through a diverse group of college students. As a black nationalist nicknamed Fudge, Cube gave voice to much of the movie’s political subtext, and provided a counterpoint to the unfocused rage of white supremacist Remy (Michael Rapaport). Learning’s thorny themes gave Singleton a lot to move through in a two-hour movie, and as far as most critics were concerned, he didn’t go deep enough — but others were simply happy to see a film with a message. As Todd McCarthy wrote for Variety, “Higher Learning has a great many things on its mind, which immediately places it in a rather exclusive category of American films these days.”

Watch Trailer


Anaconda (1997) 40%

Anaconda

Say what you will about Ice Cube’s script choices in general — or about 1997’s Anaconda in particular — but when Luis Llosa was casting this B-movie spectacular and looking for someone to play Danny Rich, the baddest documentary cameraman on the Amazon, there was really only one man for the part. Who besides Ice Cube can look equally at home wielding a lens and chopping a giant anaconda to death with an axe? And sure, this is a silly flick — but at least it embraces the silliness. As Lisa Schwarzbaum put it in her review for Entertainment Weekly, “Anaconda, directed by Luis Llosa with all of the subtlety of a snake-oil salesman, is in the great tradition of cinematic cheese, as processed as Kraft Singles slices.”

Watch Trailer


Three Kings (1999) 94%

ThreeKings

Combining dark political satire with a good old-fashioned heist flick, David O. Russell’s Three Kings starred George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and (of course) Ice Cube as disillusioned Gulf War soldiers who plan to abscond with Kuwaiti gold in what seems like the perfect heist. Things don’t quite turn out that way, of course, but as the plan unfolds, Kings unloads some unflinching commentary on the war’s motivations and aftermath. For Ice Cube, it was a chance to prove his mettle with a solid cast, talented director, and terrific script; for critics, it offered a rare opportunity to see a gripping action movie with something to say. As Roger Ebert put it, “It has the freedom and recklessness of Oliver Stone or Robert Altman in their mad-dog days, and a visual style that hungers for impact.”

Watch Trailer


Barbershop (2002) 82%

Barbershop

Ice Cube anchored an ensemble cast of character actors (like Keith David) and comedians (like Anthony Anderson) for this seriocomic look at a day in the life of disgruntled barbershop owner Calvin Palmer (Cube), who’s happy to sell his failing business to a local loan shark (David) — until he realizes what its disappearance will mean to his employees and the community at large. Like a number of Cube’s other efforts, Barbershop deals frankly with racial taboos, but it leavens its message with plenty of sharp laughs; it proved a potent combination at the box office, where the movie’s $77 million gross sparked a sequel, a spinoff, and a television series. It was popular with critics, too, among them Ty Burr of the Boston Globe, who called it “a broad, very funny, unexpectedly graceful comedy of character and community.”

Watch Trailer


The Longshots (2008) 41%

Longshots

Ice Cube hasn’t always had the best luck with family films (Are We There Yet? and Are We Done Yet? being prime examples), and when word got out that he’d be starring in an inspirational sports drama directed by Fred Durst, it seemed safe to assume that The Longshots would be more of the same. While far from successful either critically or financially, this fact-based movie — about the obstacles overcome by Jasmine Plummer (Keke Palmer) to play in the Pop Warner Super Bowl — proved a pleasant surprise for some, including Gary Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times, who mused, “The Longshots is a likable enough Cinderella story, one whose heart is clearly in the right place, even if it winds up on its sleeve once too often.”

Watch Trailer


The Jump Street Franchise

21JumpStreet

Every good police show needs a tough-as-nails captain barking orders back at the station, and for the majority of 21 Jump Street‘s five-season run, that role was filled by Steven Williams, whose knack for playing tough guys with a heart made him the perfect top cop for Johnny Depp and the gang. Williams left big shoes to fill when the series made its Jump to the big screen, but Ice Cube proved the perfect replacement, infusing his coarse Captain Dickson with a familiar (albeit slightly more profane) variation on his predecessor’s brand of no-nonsense menace. He reprised his role in 22 Jump Street, once again futilely attempting to rein in the madcap antics of Detectives Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), and he’ll presumably be back again when the series makes its inevitable return with 23 Jump Street.

Watch Trailer

  • TomNewYorker

    My 10 Favorite Ice Cube Movies are
    1-Boyz N the Hood
    2-Friday
    3-21 Jump Street
    4-Are We There Yet?
    5-Ride Along
    6-Barbershop
    7-Lottery Ticket
    8-Higher Learning
    9-Anaconda
    10-Trespass

  • jtedesign

    I love that there’s three 50% or lower rated (ROTTEN) movies on here. What a fruitful career.

Tag Cloud

2019 Epix Kids & Family CMT richard e. Grant 2018 Elton John adaptation Drama Winter TV Certified Fresh American Society of Cinematographers miniseries PBS Trivia Fox News Valentine's Day Podcast Premiere Dates ESPN TV free movies romance latino Quiz festivals Awards BBC movies Vudu Red Carpet Showtime disaster cults Rocky children's TV dragons Cartoon Network psycho Peacock mutant spain romantic comedy See It Skip It FXX Star Wars Schedule Esquire National Geographic Universal strong female leads renewed TV shows biography A24 DC Comics Reality Competition Netflix Christmas movies Watching Series crime thriller First Reviews Holiday DGA Biopics sitcom A&E slashers south america rotten movies we love werewolf Paramount USA Network TruTV Marathons ghosts comiccon spider-man Disney streaming service Music Family Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Marvel thriller SDCC Ellie Kemper space Trophy Talk Tarantino vampires Countdown Chernobyl Box Office MTV The CW Comics on TV Dark Horse Comics Warner Bros. Cannes TNT FOX foreign Columbia Pictures GoT Writers Guild of America independent joker blaxploitation Hallmark El Rey what to watch tv talk Paramount Network hist Apple TV+ mockumentary Spike Tumblr CNN TCA 2017 Interview Amazon Prime Video SundanceTV Ovation war Calendar IFC Films VH1 ABC Western USA game show Infographic golden globes cancelled TV series Christmas Masterpiece Character Guide Crunchyroll Sundance Now video serial killer Arrowverse christmas movies canceled TV shows teaser Action screenings finale travel DC Universe President quibi halloween Britbox stand-up comedy historical drama psychological thriller award winner Amazon Prime ratings ABC Family History cars green book streaming Thanksgiving Crackle YouTube Premium Song of Ice and Fire anthology Pop X-Men harry potter indie Toys Superheroes Lucasfilm sequel Trailer natural history zombie CBS YouTube Red game of thrones Mary Poppins Returns Fall TV Set visit animated crime diversity cinemax Captain marvel facebook Hulu Pet Sematary Food Network jamie lee curtis Teen 2017 Spectrum Originals Reality Amazon 2015 Lifetime based on movie Year in Review Cosplay Creative Arts Emmys Acorn TV VICE Rock 45 cancelled TV shows First Look E3 Disney+ Disney Plus 2016 Superheroe Walt Disney Pictures TCM Shondaland Oscars Women's History Month Super Bowl Grammys batman Lifetime Christmas movies Mudbound Freeform science fiction anime Brie Larson Musical series discovery Logo Martial Arts transformers Marvel Studios RT History Binge Guide BBC America cops GIFs elevated horror Apple TV Plus Winners crime drama aliens CBS All Access Tomatazos MCU Hallmark Christmas movies Sony Pictures YouTube dc DC streaming service WarnerMedia DirecTV crossover YA talk show TV Land San Diego Comic-Con spy thriller politics BET 21st Century Fox nature medical drama Turner Mary poppins technology LGBT Sundance Anna Paquin E! Black Mirror Turner Classic Movies FX cats Ghostbusters Rocketman doctor who TLC boxoffice unscripted MSNBC Holidays NYCC Pixar The Purge spanish language AMC Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt CW Seed Photos Horror cartoon casting Heroines APB Lionsgate Musicals docudrama Bravo Television Academy blockbuster NBC singing competition robots justice league SXSW The Walking Dead Disney Disney Plus Stephen King The Witch TV renewals Awards Tour revenge adventure spinoff WGN comic breaking bad The Arrangement book 2020 Video Games Marvel Television RT21 Opinion toy story Pirates Syfy OWN Rom-Com Election Fantasy PaleyFest canceled zero dark thirty New York Comic Con Nickelodeon HBO Pride Month 24 frames Shudder cooking social media Film zombies Comedy Disney Channel true crime Starz Apple period drama Nominations theme song Comic Book HBO Max hispanic Mary Tyler Moore Animation sports Nat Geo Sneak Peek IFC Polls and Games Sci-Fi 007 comics kids Spring TV 71st Emmy Awards cancelled television Emmy Nominations Adult Swim versus supernatural cancelled composers witnail GLAAD Star Trek Netflix political drama Comedy Central Mindy Kaling Extras TBS Summer television Film Festival Mystery Emmys dceu dramedy Best and Worst binge LGBTQ ITV Classic Film Country 20th Century Fox TIFF TCA police drama