Most Important Black Films – #17 What’s Love Got to Do With It


One of the most emotionally powerful movies of its era, What’s Love Got to Do With It? follows the true life rise of superstar Tina Turner and her notoriously explosive marriage to Ike.   A black biopic made at least ten years before the  musical biopic became one of the genre’s du jour in Hollywood.  On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  Tina Turner was already a global star before this movie (a large part of why it got made no doubt).  We can debate whether the nature of Ike and Tina’s relationship helped the film get made, but the bottom line is What’s is a film with two strong black lead characters.

Legacy:  Betty Shabazz, Katherine Jackson, Voletta Wallace…is it safe to say that this is the single role that Angela Bassett will be remembered for?  Hasn’t every brother playfully called his woman ‘Anna Mae’ at some point since this movie came out?  Was that too much information?

Craft:  Fishburne evidently kept turning down the role of Ike until he heard Angela Bassett won the role of Tina.  I highly doubt this will be the role Fish will be most remembered for (Morpheous and Furious Styles immediately come to mind), but was Ike his best acting performance?  Possibly…possibly.  One thing we can say for certain…

Crossover:  the Academy sure liked it, as both Fishburne and Bassett were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances in this movie.   Neither won, but Bassett did win the Golden Globe for her performance.

Apollo:  Do I even need to say it?  For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, there’s a powerful rape/abuse scene in the second act that’s still as emotionally powerful as any rape scene I’ve ever seen.  On a lighter note, I have a personal Ike Turner story (this is true).  About ten years ago, I was on a plane in Houston flying back to L.A.  I’m walking through first class and see this gorgeous, amazonian black woman sitting in the middle row.  One of those situations where no matter how smooth you are, you can’t help but look for a few seconds at least.  Who’s sitting next to her but Ike Turner.  And this cat gave me one of the hardest mean mugs I’ve ever gotten in my life!  I’m not joking when I say I slept with one eye open the whole flight home.  That’s a little bit reputation, and a little bit of the power of movies.

The hits keep coming as the next one should be up by the end of the month…

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