Sunday, May 26, 2019

Pam Grier's Top 10 Movies

The goddess known as Pam Grier turns 70 today! I'm wishing her a happy birthday the best way a lowly movie blogger with a lifelong crush on her can. I'm listing my top 10 Pam Grier movies. Research shows me she's done a little over 50 films. I've seen about half. Let's talk about my faves.

10. Scream Blacula Scream
In this sequel to 1972's Blacula, Pam Grier plays Lisa, the object of the main character's desire. She's also a newly minted voodoo priestess, making her doubly attractive to Blacula. Truth told, it's not as good as its predecessor, but Ms. Grier isn't in that one. She is in this one. And that's enough to keep me coming back for more. (full review)

9. Bucktown
Duke Johnson (Fred Williamson) has come home to the eponymous Bucktown, the small, hick town where he grew up, to bury his brother. While trying to get his brother's affairs in order he has some run-ins with the local, all white law enforcement. Thankfully, there's more to it than that. It really is Williamson's movie, but he couldn't be the hero without our Pam's Aretha, the local girl he falls for. She comes up key in several moments. 

8. Friday Foster
Pam plays the title character here, a photographer for a fashion mag who accidentally uncovers a plot to "kill all the black leaders." Our heroine doesn't do much ass-kicking in the physical sense, she's more a super sleuth, who works through situations using her wits...and something that rhymes with wits. I mean, it was the 70s, after all. The other selling point is the who's who cast including Carl Weathers, Eartha Kitt, Ted Lange, Jim Backus, Yaphet Kotto, and Scatman Crothers. (short review)

7. Posse
Like The Man with the Iron Fists, it's others who make this movie, but Grier certainly has her moment. Posse is a western focused on Jessie Lee, played by writer/director Mario Van Peebles. He's definitely doing his best Clint Eastwood impersonation, but it works. Grier is one of the townspeople who has to learn to fight.

6. Black Mama, White Mama
Of the many women-in-prison movies Pam Grier did, this is my favorite. She dominates the screen as Lee, the black mama. She's been sent up on prostitution and possession charges thanks to her no good pimp. She winds up performing daring escape while handcuffed to Karen (Margaret Markov), the white mama. Imagine The Defiant Ones as a 70's exploitation flick and including fun turns by B-movie icons Vic Diaz and Sid Haig. (full review)

5. In Too Deep
From the mid-80's throughout the 90's, Ms. Grier often found herself playing a cop without a ton to do. Of those movies (that I've seen), this is the best of the bunch. She's the most effective form of support for the main character, an undercover cop that seems to be losing his way. She manages to keep him grounded. It doesn't hurt that this movie includes one of my other crushes, Nia Long. All that said, In Too Deep is really about the cat-and-mouse between the cop, Jeff AKA J. Reid (Omar Epps) and God (LL Cool J), the drug kingpin he's trying to bring down.

4. Foxy Brown
After her boyfriend, a government agent, is gunned down by members of a drug syndicate, the one and only Foxy Brown swings into action to infiltrate this organization and get revenge. When people hear the name Pam Grier, this is often the movie and character that pops into their head, and with good reason. She oozes cool, kicks lots of ass, and is sexy as hell doing it.

3. Coffy
Our wonderful Pam plays the titular Coffy, a nurse out for revenge against whoever got her sister strung out on dope. To do so, she poses as a hooker out for a fix and does her thing. To be honest, this is largely the same movie as Foxy Brown, but done just a little bit better. And it was first.

2. Fort Apache, The Bronx
Here, we have a film that is a vehicle for its star, Paul Newman. Grier only has a tiny role in this urban crime drama, but she makes quite the impression as a murderous working girl. It stands in startling contrast to her other work, but she grabs that bull by the horns and is downright frightening.

1. Jackie Brown
Ms. Grier plays the eponymous Jackie, a flight attendant who supplements her income by working for gun runner Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). And that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's based on an Elmore Leonard novel and sprinkled with lots of Quentin Tarantino magic dialogue dust. Over the years, it's gotten overshadowed by the director's more bombastic features, but for my money, this is one of QT's best. It also contains the very best performance by our subject, the incomparable Pam Grier.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical): 
The Big Dollhouse
Escape From L.A.
Greased Lightning
Original Gangstas
Sheba, Baby


  1. Happy 70th B-day Pam Grier. I'm glad she still gets some love as I do think she was robbed of an Oscar nod for Best Actress and should've won as well. I also loved her in Foxy Brown as she was just a total badass. It's been years since I've seen Posse but it is an underrated film.

    1. Posse is very underrated. And yeah, an Oscar nod should've been in order for Jackie Brown.

  2. It's depressing how little of Pam Grier's films I've seen despite being familiar with her. I've only seen Jackie Brown from this list.

    1. Well, I guess this serves as a watchlist.

  3. Gosh I have to see Jackie Brown. It is sacrilege that i haven't seen it yet. She is a true beauty and a strong one at that. Love those movies from the 70's.

  4. Great list! I've seen most of these and completely agree with your top pick. But I have to see Fort Apache, The Bronx. I'm so curious to see how it contrasts with her other work, like you say. Thanks for pointing that one out!

    1. Oh, it's nothing like the rest of her work. Come for Grier, stay for Paul Newman.

  5. Great post. i haven't seen enough of hers to say too much but big fan of what i've seen. Which of her films you haven't seen is next on your list to see?

  6. I've seen Foxy Brown, Coffy, and Jackie Brown, she was excellent in all three. I'm glad Tarantino allowed her to fly and show her talent although was a pity her comeback was short lived compared to John Travolta's run in the 90s following Pulp Fiction.