Most Important Black Films: #25 – Car Wash


Car Wash was Michael Schultz’ follow up to the cult classic Cooley High.  In the style of Robert Altman, the main character of the film isn’t a person at all; it’s the car wash which serves as the meeting place for pimps, preachers, militants, capitalists, and everyone in between.

Now, on to the tale of the tape:

Relevance: Well, a major part of the plot revolves around the direction the black community is moving in politically.  Oh, and as I mentioned, the director was black.  And off the top of my head, I can name Bill Duke, Richard Pryor, the Pointer Sisters, and Franklin Ajaye as playing major roles.

So yes, I’d argue that this is a black film.

Legacy: For all the people I just mentioned, I don’t know if I would say Car Wash is the single biggest film for any of them.  You know who really made a name for themselves off Car Wash?  Rose Royce.

Craft: I can’t say there’s anything here that’s going to knock you our of your boots.  But for the time it was made, it’s solid.  Frankly, I wish more black filmmakers would experiment with how to structure the stories they’re telling.

Crossover: George Carlin has his memorable part, but I honestly don’t put Car Wash the movie that high on this category.  On the other hand, I still hear “Car Wash”, “I Wanna Get Next to You”, and “I’m Going Down” on the radio on a regular basis.  Did you know the music from this movie won a Grammy?  I call that crossover my friends.

Apollo:  You know, Car Wash isn’t really trying to be that kind of movie.  I’ll give it a little leeway for Richard Pryor cracking jokes in his prime.

So Car Wash holds down #25 on the list of Most Important Films to the Black Experience.  Before we move on, let me put something out there.  Yes, I’ve already ranked up to number one, but I’ll be delighted to move things around if something shakes us up before I get there.

And I chose the words “Most Important” for a reason.  I’m not arguing these are the best black films; truthfully these aren’t even my 25 favorite black films.  I’m a student of the Game, a student of history, a student of black history, a student of film history.  In simple terms, I’m arguing the 25 films I’m listing had the biggest overall influence.

#24 should be up around New Years…

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