Shaft (1971)

R  |   |  Action, Crime, Thriller  |  2 July 1971 (USA)
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Reviews: 79 user | 48 critic

Cool black private eye John Shaft is hired by a crime lord to find and retrieve his kidnapped daughter.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Stars: Richard Roundtree, Eddie Barth, Judie Stein


Cast overview, first billed only:
Charles Cioffi ...
Vic Androzzi
Christopher St. John ...
Ben Buford
Gwenn Mitchell ...
Ellie Moore
Tom Hannon
Victor Arnold ...
Sherri Brewer ...
Rex Robbins ...
Camille Yarbrough ...
Dina Greene
Margaret Warncke ...
Joseph Leon ...
Byron Leibowitz
Arnold Johnson ...
Dominic Barto ...
George Strus ...


John Shaft is the ultimate in suave black detectives. He first finds himself up against Bumpy, the leader of the Black crime mob, then against Black nationals, and finally working with both against the White Mafia who are trying to blackmail Bumpy by kidnapping his daughter. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Wanna see Shaft? Better ask yo' mamma. (Trailer) See more »


Action | Crime | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

2 July 1971 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Les nuits rouges de Harlem  »

Box Office


$1,125,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Gordon Parks:  [Essence Magazine]  Shaft is seen reading a copy of Essence Magazine in his girlfriend's apartment. Parks is a co-founder of Essence. The magazine is spotted when Shaft is engaging in a conversation with a blind newsstand vendor during the opening sequence. See more »


When Shaft pushes one of Bumpy's goons into his office, the sound of glass breaking is heard, but the glass window in the office door is clearly undamaged until a short time later. See more »


[first lines]
John Shaft: [holding up his middle finger to a cab driver who is honking his horn at him] Up yours! Get out the way!
See more »


Spoofed in Good Burger (1997) See more »


Ellie's Love Theme
Composed by Isaac Hayes
Performed by Isaac Hayes
See more »

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User Reviews

A classic black movie
2 October 2013 | by (Poland) – See all my reviews

I can understand why modern viewers aren't too impressed with „Shaft". Compared to modern action movies there isn't really much action here and it isn't anything spectacular – no huge shootouts , kung fu fights , big explosions , car chases and so on. There is lot of dialogue and the pacing is rather slow.

You know what ? Those are the reasons why I really like "Shaft" . It feels like a REAL LIFE story . Not every movie has to be an over the top spectacle for simple minded audience. For me less is more . I can hardly care for action hero when he's doing impossible stuff like jumping over the missile with a truck. Here the danger feels real . There is no villain . A simple bad guy with a gun can end your life and you have to be very careful . Shaft uses his muscles only when necessary . He prefers to outsmart his enemy , because violence can lead you as far. When he's fighting for life , you FEEL that he's fighting for life.

The movie captures the gritty atmosphere of 70's New York City . In this world everybody is walking a thin line between law and law of street . I also like that Shaft is a detective and the investigation actually plays important part through whole movie . Not to mention that characters here feel like they could exist in real life.

Richard Roundtree is great as the charming bad ass Shaft who is one foot in the world of black people and the other foot in the world of white people. He easily dominates the whole movie with his tough , confident and wise cracking personality. Women , both black and white are attracted to him (We get to see naked women – something you can't see in action movies anymore). The other actors give him solid support. I liked Charles Cioffi as Vic Androzzi and Moses Gunn as Bumpy.

The movie is worth watching for the delightful dialogue. Believe me – there is more tension in a scene when Shaft talks to Bumpy than in many car chases. The movie is very dialogue heavy , yet it's a true pleasure to listen how characters talk with each other . Most of the dialogue is quite humorous . You should prepare pen and paper to note .

The action scenes are nicely photographed . There is a great title song by Isaac Hayes (it won Oscar) and during the movie you can hear few other nice songs. "Shaft " is mostly entertainment , but it was also an important movie for black people. It's one of those rare movies where the black guy is a hero . The situation now changed , but long time ago it was a breakthrough movie . "Shaft" also captures really good the tension between white and black people back in the 70's.

I give it 7/10.

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