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



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



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Cast overview, first billed only:
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


SHAFT's his name. SHAFT's his game. 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?


The background singers in the film's theme song are Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson from Tony Orlando & Dawn. 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 Get Cheeky with Pete Walker (2016) See more »


Bumpy's Blues
Composed by Isaac Hayes
Performed by Isaac Hayes
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User Reviews

The movie that kicked in the 1970s blaxploitation and changed the face of Hollywood forever!
27 April 2003 | by (Perth, Australia) – See all my reviews

Gordon Parks' 'Shaft' may not have been the first blaxploitation movie but it was the most important and commercially successful of the initial batch, and it kicked open the door for other dynamic 1970s screen heroes like The Hammer, Coffy, Black Caesar, Foxy Brown and The Jones' (Black Belt and Cleopatra). In some ways it is one of the most conventional of the blaxploitation genre in the sense that all it really is is a black man (the charismatic Richard Roundtree) playing a part that up until then would have been played by a white one (Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, even Sean Connery). A super cool, hard as nails hero/anti-hero who is as handy with his fists as he is with the ladies. But of course, that is what made 'Shaft' so revolutionary and influential at the time. Personally my favourite blaxploitation movie is 'Superfly', released the following year and directed by Gordon Parks' son, but I can't deny that if you accept 'Shaft' for what it is, and not what it COULD be, it's difficult to fault, and still one of the coolest and most entertaining action thrillers of the 1970s, as good as 'The Getaway', 'Dirty Harry' or 'The French Connection' (the latter being also written incidentally by Ernest Tidyman who created the John Shaft character in a popular series of novels). The main reason 'Shaft' really works is because of the casting of virtual unknown Richard Roundtree, and the music score by soul legend Isaac Hayes. Roundtree probably had more potential than any black star of the period to cross over into major Hollywood stardom, but for some reason (typecasting, bad breaks) he faded away quickly, and ended up playing small character roles, usually cops, in cult favourites like Larry Cohen's 'Q' and William Lustig's 'Maniac Cop', and more recently bit parts in 'Se7en' and John Singleton's ill advised "remake" of 'Shaft' itself. Hayes' title theme is an utter classic, and one of the most recognisable and imitated pieces of music from the early 70s. Hayes had already released the brilliant 'Hot Buttered Soul' before this, but 'Shaft' made him a superstar, and even gave him a career as an action here himself for a while with 'Truck Turner'. I don't think overall Hayes' score for the movie is as consistently impressive as Curtis Mayfield's work on 'Superfly', but the main theme is still a sensational piece of music. Roundtree is backed up with a strong supporting cast, including Moses Gunn ('Rollerball') as Bumpy, a great baddie, Charles Cioffi ('Klute') as Androzzi, the cop who is frequently exasperated with Shaft's behaviour, and Muhammad Ali associate Drew Bundini Brown as Willy, a former childhood friend of Shaft who is now a black panther and disgusted with his decadent lifestyle. Also keep an eye out for a small bit by Antonio Fargas, who is best known as Huggy Bear in 'Starsky And Hutch' and also went on to appear as Pam Grier's brother in 'Foxy Brown', and as Doodlebug in 'Cleopatra Jones'. 'Shaft' is a movie that changed the face of Hollywood forever, and is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys 1970s movies, music or fashions.

16 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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