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
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Did You Know?


Ron O'Neal auditioned for the role of John Shaft. He was turned down because the producers felt his complexion was too light. See more »


In the beginning when Shaft is walking across a street, an overhead shot shows him walking past a taxi and nearly getting hit by a taxi. However, a street-level shot shows Shaft standing in front of and giving the finger to the brown car. 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 »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Fugitive Alien (1991) See more »


Early Sunday Morning
Composed by Isaac Hayes
Performed by Isaac Hayes
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User Reviews

A Few Good Moments But "Shaft" Is Too Slowly Paced, Runs Out of Gas, and Ends Absurdly
9 September 2007 | by (western US) – See all my reviews

"Shaft" starts with promise, opening with the popular tune by Isaac Hayes as the camera explores a business district in New York City. For example, we see a theater playing 'Little Fauss and Big Halsey,' a motorcycle cult classic starring Robert Redford, Michael J. Pollard, and Lauren Hutton, then Shaft wends his way across a busy boulevard with no regard for the fact that it's strictly "DON'T WALK" time, a feat reminiscent of the arcade game, "Frogger." Soon, we are introduced to the police lieutenant who is so understanding and laid back that Shaft's disdainful attitude toward him as just another cog in the honky establishment seems a bit difficult to comprehend. Actually, Shaft tends to mix with white society rather easily, even taking a white chick home with him and screwing her in the shower, then letting her sleep it off while he goes out for a few hours to take care of business. We've already seen him with his regular girl, who is attractive in her form fitting body suit, their love scene having been photographed imaginatively. His discussion with the black hoodlum whose daughter has been kidnapped is also interesting, as are other conversations, and the initial action in his office, where a thug practically dives out a high window, displays some interesting camera and editing techniques. On balance, however, this movie is too slowly paced for an action flick. With the number of times one might wish to stop and replay certain bits of important dialog, it tends to drag a bit, but I disagree with those who think the talk is too dated or not believable. Generally, it's the best thing about this movie, which isn't half bad, at least up until the ending, which is completely ridiculous. Midway through the concluding scenes, I turned to my wife and said, "What is this, 'Mission Impossible?' It's really absurd the way the supposed Black militants who are aiding Shaft seem thoroughly unfamiliar with the proper handling of weapons or what tactics to employ in a dicey situation, and the way they "go up against the mob" is just plain laughable. Here, the gangsters are holding the young black woman as hostage and yet there are just a few dumb palookas guarding her, none of whom seem to be paying sufficient attention. Nobody's on tenterhooks watching out for a rescue attempt, nor does anyone appear to be running the operation from Thug HQ. The primary function of these morons appears to be that they are racists who like to insult black people on general principles. It's a disappointing conclusion to what might have been a much better movie had it been more skillfully written and directed. Richard Roundtree, as Shaft, hands in a credible performance and the police lieutenant is pretty good, too. He's the same guy who played the middle-aged nut-job in "Klute," but in this movie, he's a much more likable character. The way he extends his hand for Shaft to slap is an interesting bit of cinema. They are supposed to be at odds but the guy obviously is one of the black private eye's biggest fans, without coming off as phony, insincere, or patronizing, even though Shaft still treats him with unrelenting disdain.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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