Italian neorealism, meta-sensationalism, and #ByeFelicia: Why ‘Friday’ is the apex of 20th century indy cinema

While it may just feel like yesterday, apparently enough time has passed where the 1990s are relevant again. We’re watching shows like CNN’s The Nineties and HBO’s The Defiant Ones. We’re setting box office records with movies like Straight Outta Compton and remakes like It and Beauty and the Beast. We will also likely buy even more tickets to other 90s-based remakes this year (Jumanji and Flatliners, to name a few. We’re reliving the OJ Simpson trial and story through an Oscar-winning documentary, an Emmy-nominated FX series, and the news again. Casting Jon Benet, All Eyez on Me, Soaked in Bleach — these 90s-inspired stories are selling and we’re buying.

But when I think of the 90s, I think of the movie Friday. Aside from being quintessential 90s in dialogue, fashion, soundtrack, and the like (I mean, look at this movie poster!), it is actually a film that, in many ways, is the perfect culmination of cinema from each of the preceding decades. Friday is as much, if not more, a 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s film as it is a 90s film, making it a truly fascinating case study that, if we’re lucky, won’t be turned into a cheap remake (though, did inspire some subpar sequels).

If we are to simplify the cinematic progression leading up to Friday in a single week, with Sunday being the beginning and Friday being, well, Friday, it might look something like this…

Sunday | 1940s & 1950s – The Italian Neorealist Period

After the Mussolini regime fell in 1943, Italian artists were suddenly able to freely depict the everyday life of Italians. No more censorship, no more propaganda — films were able to address real social, economical and political issues by real people in real ways. A new type of realism, or neorealism, was born. Some qualities of neorealist films include:

  • Stories following the poor or working class
  • Shooting typically takes place on location
  • Featuring nonprofessional actors
  • Often depicting the nuanced struggles of everyday life

The paragon of Italian neorealist films is Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 film, Ladri di biciclette, which translates to The Bicycle Thief. Or does it? There are some discrepancies surrounding the translation. In Italian, the direct translation would be The Bicycle Thieves — plural (ladri means “thieves”). But in the United States it is sometimes translated as Bicycle Thief — singular. While seemingly innocuous, the way this film is translated actually has a big impact on the way an audience may perceive the film’s events.

A poor man in a post-war torn Italy finally gets a job. But the only way to get to his job is by bicycle. So he pawns anything and everything he might have, including his bed sheets, to scrap up enough money to buy a bicycle. He succeeds, but not long after, his bike is stolen. To what lengths would a desperate man, trying to provide for his family, go to get back his bicycle?

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 1.52.21 PM   Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 1.52.38 PM

Ultimately, the entire film goes by with the main character, Antonio, unable to find his bike. And by the end, he is so desperate, that when he has the opportunity to steal another person’s bicycle, he takes it.

The translation of the film is an important part in how we view the ethics and morality of Antonio. If the title is The Bicycle Thief, then Antonio is somewhat more justified when he steals this random bike. After all, he is the victim, and a singular thief led him to this requiem. But if the movie is translated to The Bicycle Thieves, then Antonio was doomed from the getgo. We hold preconceived notions about Antonio before the movie begins, and we are now just witnessing and rationalizing why a fellow thief would behave amorally. So which is it: a moral character caught in an immoral world, or an amoral character fulfilling their destiny?

The same question can be used to illustrate the key themes of Friday. In Ep. 213 of the podcast “In Session Film,” the podcasters discuss The Bicycle Thieves and identify the movement between three key themes: Temptation, Desperation, and Degradation.

Like the films of the Italian neorealist period, Friday follows the everyday struggles of the working class – in this case, two unemployed friends, Craig (Ice Cube) and Smokey (Chris Tucker), on a Friday in South Central, Los Angeles.

The movie opens with a shot of the villain and neighborhood bully/bicycle thief, Deebo. He literally steals bikes, and we see his collection around his garage. Cut to the neighborhood klepto running with stolen speakers, and we can better understand Friday‘s setting and “the hood” as a central character of this story.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 4.26.30 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 4.31.02 PM.png

Temptation is introduced to us immediately via Smokey (Chris Tucker) and his obsession with  – or perhaps financial dependance on – marijuana. After a ‘wake & bake,’ he heads over to Craig’s house to hang. While there, he convinces the usually sober Craig to smoke. Craig takes Smokey up on his offer for a hit, but not without consequence. Smokey is visited by Big Worm, who demands Smokey pay him back for the weed he gave him – either by returning it or paying him the $200 owed. Of course, Smokey doesn’t have either. He smoked all the weed, and only has $100 in his pocket. Big Worm gives him a deadline:

“I’m going to be here at 10 o’clock on the dot. If you don’t have my money or my bud, I’m going to kill you and your friend.”

The reason Craig is dragged into this is because of Smokey. Smokey pushed him to smoke some of the marijuana, and then threw him under the bus when he mentioned Craig’s name to Big Worm.

The adventure to secure $200 ensues.

Desperation – Come sunset, Craig and Smokey have asked everyone for money, but can’t find $200. In an act of desperation, Craig goes to his room to grab his gun and prepare for a 10 p.m. visit. But his father walks in the same moment when Craig pulls the gun out of his drawer.

“What’s that for?” asks Craig’s father.

“Protection,” responds Craig.

“When I was growing up, this is all the protection you needed.” Craig’s father said, holding up his fists. “You win some, you lose some. But you live.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 11.41.22 PM

This scene would come into play later, but in the moment, Craig is still concerned about the violence that would be coming his way shortly. As 10 p.m. arrives, Big Worm’s gang rolls up and opens fire at Smokey and Craig. Craig and Smokey start firing back using Craig’s gun that he keeps in his pants. Like we did for Antonio from The Bicycle Thief, the audience is asking: Is Craig a moral character caught in an immoral world, or an amoral character living into a destiny?

Degradation — The gunshots get the attention of the block, and everyone comes out to see what’s happening. By this time, Big Worm’s gang drove away, and Craig and Smokey come out of hiding. In this moment, Craig’s crush, Debbie, stands up to bicycle thief Deebo who earlier in the day struck and bruised her sister Felisha. Deebo responds by also hitting Debbie. Craig comes rushing in, ready to take on Deebo. Deebo pulls out a knife, and Craig responds by pulling out his gun.

A point of desperation has arrived. Like Antonio staring at a stealable bike, Craig is faced with an ethical dilemma: Do I fight immorality with amorality, or do I work to switch the script?

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 12.08.13 AM

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 12.19.53 AM.png

Here’s where Friday deviates from the The Bicycle Thief. Unlike Antonio, Craig takes the high road and drops the gun; he and Deebo have an old-fashioned fist fight. The fight scene, as even admitted by director F. Gary Gray, “didn’t feel as real as I wanted it to.” But this worked to the benefit of the film’s message. It’s deviation from reality allowed a new type of reality, or neo-neorealism, to emerge. More on this later.

Monday | 1960s – Easy Rider and drugs in film

Just as there was a new reality happening in Italy, there was one also happening in Hollywood. In his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, Peter Biskind describes a “New Hollywood” that emerged:

“‘…the New Hollywood was a movement intended to cut film free from its evil twin, commerce, enabling it to fly high through the thin air of art.’ Biskind continues, ‘The avatars of the movement were ‘filmmakers,’ not ‘directors’ or ‘editors’ or ‘cinematographers’; they tried to break down the hierarchies that traditionally dominated the technical crafts’.” (p. 17)

Some of the new faces that emerged to the Hollywood scene were little known actors like Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Elliott Gould, James Caan, Harvey Keitel, and, notably, Dennis Hopper.

To understand how a “New Hollywood” was born, we first need to understand what an “Old Hollywood” looked like. Without this becoming a history course, here are only some of the many characteristics that exemplified film prior to the 1960s:

  • Known as the “classical period,” characterized by people being the focal points of the film (below, see how these movie posters advertise people first)
  • Movies only sought to feature well-known actors and actresses
  • Films were heavily studio driven and influenced — there was a type of formula that studios used to churn out hit after hit
  • Topics that might be seen as “taboo” were not discussed (alcoholism in film wasn’t addressed until 1945 in The Lost Weekend, which is on any respectable list of Most Dangerous Films Ever Made)

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.18.45 AM Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.19.44 AM Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.20.59 AM Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.22.05 AM

So when Dennis Hopper shows up to direct the independent film Easy Rider, a film that challenges the very dogma of studio-driven Hollywood of the time, you can expect there to be some waves. Easy Rider became the first completely independent film of New Hollywood. Further, Dennis Hopper really was the man responsible for introducing drugs into film.

Hopper said of the target audience:

“Nobody had ever seen themselves portrayed in a movie. At every love-in across the country people were smoking grass and dropping LSD, while audiences were still watching Doris Day and Rock Hudson!” – Biskind, p. 52

Like The Bicycle Thief‘s Vittorio De Sica, Hopper really figured out a way to appeal to the everyday man. He tapped into the nuances of quotidian life and society, giving audiences a new connection point in cinema.

In Emanuel Levy’s article, “Easy Rider: Ideology, Politics, and Culture,” he writes,

“Easy Rider was ‘the’ statement of a generation when it was released in the summer of 1969. And it was a critical statement about America. It remains one of the most significant films of the decade in that it was such a new kind of American film. Easy Rider, the film equivalent of Jack Kerouac’s rambunctious On the Road novel, legitimatized new subject matter, including casual drugs and sex, and the questioning of the American system.”

For that reason, no studio really wanted to take on Easy Rider. And the same was the case for Friday. In the words of Ice Cube:

“We knew nobody in Hollywood would understand the comedy in Friday. Hollywood wasn’t ready for it. When we wrote it, we intended to raise the money ourselves and do the movie—it was always greenlit in our eyes. It was just about writing it and raising the money, keeping the budget low.” – Oral History of Friday

Easy Rider was eventually greenlit by United Artists, and with a modest budget of only $360,000, United Artists greatly profited. Racking in a whopping $60 million, the movie did indeed speak to audiences. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda tapped into American fervor, and used cinema as its countercultural vehicle.

The results were profound. For better or for worse, drugs became more prevalent in both film and society. Hopper cites the rise of cocaine on the streets as a result of Easy Rider (Biskind, 74). We began seeing more overt drug use in film and on Broadway — Woodstock (1970), Panic in Needle Park (1971), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Tommy and Hair. Easy Rider opened the doors for many (pun intended).

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 5.43.16 PM.png
Drug scene in Easy Rider when Wyatt (Peter Fonda) drops acid in a cemetery
Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.32.34 PM.png
Drug scene from Friday when Smokey (Chris Tucker) accidentally smokes PCP and ends up in a pigeon coop

More, independent cinema was now graspable for the new filmmakers that arrived onto scene.

“Recalls Peter Guber, who was then rising fast through the ranks at Colombia, ‘Everything seemed different after Easy Rider. The executives were anxious, frightened because they didn’t have the answers any longer. You couldn’t imitate or mimic quite as easily, churn them out like eggs from a chicken” (Biskind, 75).

New minds were empowered to make mainstream films. The only problem: Up to this point, most all of them were white men.

Tuesday | 1970s – The emergence of the minority

“If Cheech and Chong could make Up in Smoke, and the movies like that preceding it, certainly we could be part of a new paradigm.” – Patricia Charbonnet, Friday producer, Oral History of Friday

If Easy Rider was responsible for breaking cinematic barriers in the use of drugs, Cheech and Chong were responsible for breaking racial barriers. The film they did it with was the indy flick Up in Smoke.

“We made minorities real people,” said Chong in the mini-documentary, How Cheech & Chong Changed The Movies. Both Cheech and Chong were real guys who you wanted to hang with. The relatability of these characters helped paved the way for other minority, pot-smoking duos, notably Craig and Smokey.

Behind Craig is a poster of Cheech & Chong’s Up In Smoke

When Friday was released in 1995, viewers immediately took note of its nods to Cheech and Chong. Here are some lines from Friday‘s original film reviews:

  • “The plot centers on Craig’s friend Smokey (the comedian Chris Tucker), who in another era would seem like a refugee from a Cheech and Chong movie.” – Caryn James, New York Times
  • “Low-Key ‘Friday’ Goes Up in Smoke” by Mick LaSalle,
  • “Though I was able to enjoy the film for what it was, a plotless romp in the spirit of those Cheech and Chong flicks of the ’70s, much of the humor sailed right over my caucasian head.” – David Nusair, Reel Film Reviews

The connection to Cheech and Chong is intentional. Ice Cube was a fan of growing up, and the parallels between both movies are countless — I’ll leave them up to you to find on your own. The one parallel I’d like to call out is the way both films tackle race through a meta-sensationalism.

The very act of sensationalizing something is to call (usually an abundant amount of) attention to it, perhaps at the expense of accuracy. It could be shocking, exciting, outlandish — it gets your attention, and, in most cases, a reaction. In the case of both Up In Smoke and Friday, sensationalism is used to create laughter. But it also serves another purpose, and that’s to sensationalize the audience’s perception of a sensationalized “hood.” Hence a meta-sensationalism, and in the case of Friday, this is used to show the ‘lighter side’ of life in South Central. In the article, Oral History of FridayIce Cube says:

“In the hood, they was doing movies like Boyz N the Hood, which I did, Menace II SocietySouth Central, and even Colors, going back that far. Everybody was looking at our neighborhood like it was hell on Earth, like the worst place you can grow up in America. And I’m like, Why? I didn’t see it all that way. I mean, I knew it was crazy around where I grew up but we had fun in the hood. We used to trip off the neighborhood.”

Let’s take a closer look at Friday‘s ending. Please watch this short scene:

After Craig knocks out Deebo, and Deebo is laying on the ground groggily, many of the supporting characters step back into a mode that depicts each of them in a sensationalized version.

  1. Craig’s father, Mr. Jones, wearing a robe with white socks and sandals, is grinning from ear to ear. Craig’s sister says about Craig with an eye roll, “He thinks he’s a mack.” To which Mr. Jones says, “Macaroni” (at which point, the audience does an eye roll themselves).
  2. Smokey, seeing Deebo laying helplessly on the ground, steps over him and yells, “You got knocked the fugg out man!” And then proceeds on to shout a few more things and take back the money that Deebo took from him. This quote has become synonymous with Smokey’s character.
  3. Red (played by Friday co-writer DJ Pooh) looks around to see if anyone is looking. He then punches an already helpless Deebo. He says, “My grandmama gave me this chain,” and steals back what Deebo took from him earlier in the film.
  4. The village klepto is the last to get in on the action. He steals Deebo’s shoes and leaves a knife on Deebo’s chest, saying, “I steal, I don’t kill.”

Underneath this layer is another layer:

  1. In contrast to Smokey, who lives with his very young mother and has no father present, we know Craig to be part of a sound family. He lives with both his parents, who care deeply for their children, with a hands on father who trusts his son to do the right thing when tested, and a mother who was ready to jump into the fight. Mr. Jones’ character begins the movie as overly silly (we’re pretty much introduced to him in the bathroom on the toilet). But during this final scene, he quickly drops the sensationalized part of his character and gets serious, teaching Craig an important lesson about how and when violence may be appropriate. After the lesson is taught and the fight scene concludes, we see him go back to his quirky self. But through this, we understand that, unlike Smokey, Craig has direction.
  2. Smokey is all talk. He’d be the last to jump into that fight, but the first to run his mouth on the sideline. Smokey’s quote, “You got knocked the fugg out man!” perfectly sums up the character, and was actually improvised. Chris Tucker said, “You know in the neighborhood when you get in a fight, get beat up, there’s always somebody that comes over. They don’t ask you if you need help. They be like, ‘Man, God, you got your butt kicked. Man, he knocked you out!’ Like you don’t know what happened. You was right there, you were the one that got knocked out, he’s telling you how you got knocked out. So I was just trying to bring that to the screen, man, let people see that this is what goes down in the neighborhood everyday. The good side of South Central, not what they see on the news. A lotta love goes through the hood.”
  3. Red is a softy who wants to be hard. Trying to maintain a “tough-guy image,” he looks around before getting in a cheap shot on Deebo. He’s afraid like everyone else.
  4. Even the village klepto has a moral compass, dropping the knife and just taking Deebo’s shoes. A reminder that all people and situations are nuanced.

Life in the neighborhood is not black and white. It’s not just violence, or gangs, or whatever else outsiders might think it is. Each of the aforementioned sensationalisms are used to break the audience’s perceptions of their own pre-conceived sensationalisms of life in the hood; a way to better bring audiences not from South Central into that gray area. Cheech and Chong really laid the foundation for this, and such sensationalism in film would ultimately carry over into the next decade’s filmmaking.

Wednesday | 1980s – The rise of African American culture

Mexicans weren’t the only minority to impact 1970s indy film. African American films were also on the rise, and the “blaxploitation” sub-genre emerged as a way of empowerment for urban Black filmgoers. Films like Shaft, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, and even Live and Let Die would go on to exemplify this filmmaking style. In the 1980s, America saw an explosion of Black pop culture. We saw the emergence of rap music from groups like Run DMC, Public Enemy, and A Tribe Called Quest; television broke ground with sitcoms like The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show, and Diff’rent Strokes; and more and more African American filmmakers were making their mark on indy cinema: Spike Lee, William Greaves, and Jessie Maple, to name a few.

“In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a new wave of acclaimed black filmmakers, particularly Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing) and John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) focused on black urban life in their movies. These directors made use of Blaxploitation elements while incorporating implicit criticism of the genre’s glorification of stereotypical ‘criminal’ behavior.” – Wikipedia, “Blaxplotation”

Ultimately, these two directors would greatly influence F. Gary Gray and his directorial debut, Friday. Do The Right Thing is perhaps the most famous example of 1980s urban indy* cinema, which, like Friday, also takes place on a neighborhood block over the course of a single day. Both films have a neighborhood figure not to be reckoned with. In Friday it’s Deebo, and in Do The Right Thing it’s Radio Raheem. Both characters are typically framed from a low angle – slightly tilted – with the character often speaking directly into the camera (not quite breaking the 4th wall, but almost). This framing depicts the characters in a larger-than-life status, but it also acts as a nod to blaxploitation films, whose characters too take on powerful, independent, larger-than-life personas.

Foxy Brown in Foxy Brown (1970s)
Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 10.21.32 PM.png
Radio Raheem in Do The Right Thing (1980s)
Deebo in Friday (1990s)

While blaxploitation may have started for African American audiences, its appeal widened beyond, and this became another opportunity to use a style of filmmaking to redirect preconceived notions.

“The term remains misunderstood, and some of the genre’s stars even object to it, but ‘blaxploitation’ is the term that stuck. Here’s the score: It isn’t and wasn’t a pejorative term that signified black people were being exploited. In fact, just the opposite.” – Mark Rahner, The Seattle Times

In the 1980s, Spike Lee capitalized on this very notion to turn blaxploitation elements to opportunities for mature, race-related conversations. One way he did this was through the depiction of Radio Raheem — a character at the beginning of the film and a symbol by the end. Adorning African neckwear and walking around with an oversized juke box blasting Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power,” Radio Raheem, like Deebo, is an exploited version of the perceived stereotypical bully from the ‘hood. But every person is complex, and elements of both love and hate factor into how we come to understand Radio Raheem: hate when he’s bombarding an Asian shop owner with racial slurs, but love when he’s teaching us important life lessons about, well, love. Before he dies, Radio is a human being. After he dies, a symbol… Of what though?


In 1983, graffiti artist Michael Stewart was strangled at the hands of eleven white New York City police officers after being caught for spray painting graffiti in Manhattan’s subway system. The police officers would go on later to be acquitted, which lead to nationwide protests. Radio Raheem’s death too came at the hands of white police officers via strangulation. At the end of Do The Right Thing, after an altercation with Sal, the pizza shop owner, police officers pull away Radio Raheem and ultimately kill him in an homage to Michael Stewart’s death.

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 12.07.48 AM.pngRaheem’s death his becomes the catalyst that leads to neighborhood protests, the burning of Sal’s restaurant, and the climax of the day’s racial tensions. But more importantly, this scene acts as a mirror for American race relations over the past 25+ years. Do The Right Thing is as honest a film as it comes. Some view it as dangerous, others as controversial, and some as ambiguous. Any way you slice it, it’s a conversation starter and also trailblazer for many directors to deal with race, including Friday‘s F. Gary Gray who cites Spike Lee as an “idol.”

If Cheech and Chong in the 1970s helps us look at race, then Spike Lee in the 1980s helped us talk about it. Before we segue to the early 1990s, I want to conclude with this quote from Spike Lee:

“For me racism in this country is always perking underneath the surface and it takes OJ, or whatever you want, some incident where it becomes flash point, and then it dies down till next thing happens” – Spike Lee, HuffPost, 2014

Thursday | Early 90s – Videotape and the LA race riots

The 90s saw the emergence of a new type of independent film: the home video. Indy films like sex, lies, and videotape (1989) and Clerks (1994) used video – and sometimes without color – because it lowered the expense. It also gave it a gritty, real feeling — a sort of cinema verite of the time. F. Gary Gray gives a nod to this style in his use of the flashback sequences in Friday. 

But the reason I bring it up is because as home video cameras became more affordable, more vigilante filmmaking emerged — none more famous than two 1991 videos from Los Angeles: the Latasha Harlins shooting and the Rodney King beating.


The indy documentary LA 92 uses rarely seen footage – taken by both news outlets and by vigilante filmmakers – and edited it together in a seemingly real-time story that feels like the riots are taking place outside your window.

While the film was released in 2017, it was technically made in 1992, and there may not be a better film that captures 90s racial tensions in America and the LA violence that ensued.

One area the film did a comprehensive job of documenting were the tensions between Korean Americans and African Americans in South LA. In brief, many Korean immigrants were shop owners in Koreatown, located in Central LA. Just as Do The Right Thing captured so brilliantly, there were high tensions between Korean American shop owners and African American customers. This simmer came to a boil when Soon Ja Du, a Korean liquor store owner, shot and killed Latasha Harlins in her store for allegedly attempting to steal a bottle of orange juice. There’s video tape that show the events. Despite being found “guilty” by the jury for voluntary manslaughter, the judge only sentenced Du to five years probation, community service hours, and a small fine. So when the Rodney King beating happened, also caught on video, and the acquittal that followed, many Compton residents took out their anger on Korean American store owners — looting, burning, and destroying much of their worth.

Korean American shop owners defending their stores from looters and arsonists during LA riots

What does this have to do with Friday?

Ice Cube and his lyrics became a motto the LA riots. The song he wrote, “F*ck Tha Police,” performed by his group N.W.A., became one of the anthems for the riots. Ironically, the other was “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy from Do The Right Thing (read more).

In a 2015 interview with Billboard, Cube said,

“We wanted to show the neighborhood affecting us, but then we had an effect right back on the neighborhood. We wanted to show that when we did a song like ‘Fuck Tha Police’ that it wasn’t just about us, it wasn’t just about what happened to us. It was more of an anthem for people to be able to fight back and to have a song they can all rally around that feels the same way they feel. We wanted to show that our music had an impact on the community as a whole.” – Ice Cube, Billboard

With this influence, Cube also had an opportunity to convert some of that neighborhood fight into humor. Friday became his vehicle to do just this. If you watch Friday today, there is some early 90s references that may not resonate with audiences in the same way they might once have. Here’s one such example:

Smokey, Craig, and the neighborhood klepto go to pick up some items from the local “black owned” store. If you watch this scene today, unaware of the events of the early ’90s, this may not make much sense. But for Friday‘s target audience of the time, perhaps this poking fun at a Korean American shop owner was an opportunity to take a shot a neighborhood rival. Or, perhaps, maybe just an opportunity for the audience to release, via laughter, some pent up energy from the events of three years prior. There are a number of quick bits like this throughout the film, balancing both the timely with the timeless.

Friday | Friday

With a modest budget of $3.5 million, Friday grossed almost $28 million in its theatrical run, and has gathered a cult following after its release to video. Distributed by New Line Cinema, in a decade rife with independent cinema, Friday emerged as a film that has withstood the test of time.

Saturday | Friday’s lasting impact



Yup – this insanely popular meme is from Friday. The Felisha character is the neighborhood drug addict, and is always bothering Smokey for weed. In one scene, Felisha won’t leave Smokey and Craig alone, which is when Ice Cube says the famous words:

Most people today use it similarly — when they’ve had enough of something or someone and want them to go. But many of these same people don’t know that the phrase originated in Friday.

Newfound fame

We know their names now, but we didn’t back in 1995. An insane number of commonly known actors got their starts in Friday. 

“Michael Clarke Duncan was an extra shooting dice. Nobody knew him! Everybody on that set was brand new! Wasn’t nobody really big but Ice Cube.” – A.J. Johnson, Oral History of Friday

Here are a few more names:

  • Chris Tucker
  • Nia Long
  • Faizon Love
  • Bernie Mac
  • John Witherspoon
  • Tony Cox
  • F. Gary Gray

Again, the use of nonprofessional actors was a characteristic started by Italian neorealist films.

Influence on future films and filmmakers

Quentin Tarantino, perhaps the foremost director to emerge from the video store era of new filmmakers, cited Friday as one the top 20 films since 1992. Coincidentally, Tarantino is also a one-man preservationist of many the aforementioned filmmaking techniques that heavily influenced Friday, notably blaxploitation. In fact, his 1997 nod to blaxploitation, Jackie Brown (starring Foxy Brown herself – Pam Grier – in the title role), features both Chris Tucker and Tommy Lister (who plays Deebo).

More, here’s what Ice Cube had to say about Friday‘s influence on movies post-1995:

“When the mainstream did eventually understand Friday, people started to try to emulate it in a lot of ways. When I saw There’s Something About Mary, I was like, ‘Damn, that’s a lot like the middle of Friday right there.’ It had the same flavor. I started seeing people pluck a little bit from it—you know you doing the right thing when you see that.” – Oral History of Friday

In many ways, all roads from all eras lead to Friday.

Have more to add? Feel free to contact me.


*Note: While Do The Right Thing is often perceived as an indy film since it was made by a lesser-known director of the time, with a limited budget, and gained popularity through the festival system, it was actually distributed by Universal Studios. So while, by definition, not an independent film, for the purposes of this argument we’ll categorize it as such.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s