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Harlem Nights (1989)

R  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Drama  |  17 November 1989 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.9/10 from 13,474 users   Metascore: 16/100
Reviews: 54 user | 19 critic | 14 from

"Sugar" Ray is the owner of an illegal casino, who contend with the pressures of vicious gangster and corrupt policemen who want to see him go out of business. In the world of organized ... See full summary »



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Title: Harlem Nights (1989)

Harlem Nights (1989) on IMDb 5.9/10

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Jenkins
Dominique La Rue
Richie Vento
Tommy Smalls (as Tommy Ford)
Uncle Ray Murphy ...
Willie (as Uncle Ray)


"Sugar" Ray is the owner of an illegal casino, who contend with the pressures of vicious gangster and corrupt policemen who want to see him go out of business. In the world of organized crime and police corruption in the 1920s, any dastardly trick is fair! Written by Murray Chapman <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They're up to something big.


Comedy | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

17 November 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Los reyes de la noche  »

Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)


$60,864,870 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


An unnamed actress in the film sued Eddie Murphy for $75 million for alleged sexual harassment. The suit was unsuccessful. See more »


A double yellow line dividing the road can be seen when Quick is being chased down the highway by Tommy Small's brother. Center lines in 1938 were painted white. Double yellow lines were not used on US Highways until 1971. See more »


Vera: Benny, you put this orange juice back in here, ain't nothin' left but a swallow!
Bennie Wilson: Then swallow it and shut the fuck up!
See more »


Featured in E! True Hollywood Story: Redd Foxx See more »


Mama, Eu Quero
Music by Jararaca and Vicente Paiva
English lyrics by Al Stillman (as Al Stillman)
See more »

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User Reviews

Trashed by critics with no logic at all
5 November 2001 | by (Montgomery County, PA) – See all my reviews

The most common thing critics said to trash Harlem Nights was that it was too profane to be set in 1938. Well, this statement here was completely without logic. Two points to back myself up:

1. In almost every 1930's/40's/50's gangster movie, the characters

are very profane. Look at any movie directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci for evidence of this

2. What do you expect from a movie starring Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Redd Foxx? If you expect these three men to watch their language, you are truly a stranger in the ways of their material

As for the movie's sexist feel, I cannot dispute this. However, I can defend it. I am not a sexist young man despite being only

twenty-one years of age. I feel that women should have the same rights as men. However, I think Eddie Murphy was young and dumb and only felt the way he did because he was not mature enough to understand women. Now he is happily married and expecting his fifth child, so I think he is a little wiser today.

As for one review I read that said every white man was a bigot in this movie. Guys, come on, it's Harlem in 1938!

Despite all of this, the movie is a well-made, well-characterized, entertaining film. It was taken too seriously when it was first released, and I'm glad many people here seem to agree with me.

The plot concerns Sugar Ray (Pryor, who was sadly the only disappointing performer here) and his adopted son Vernest Brown, a.k.a. Quick (Murphy) owners of the hottest nightclub in Harlem. It becomes the target of gangster Bugsy Calhoune (an impressive performance by Michael Learner) and his buddy Sgt. Phil Cantone (A terrific Danny Aiello). They plot with their employees to scam him out of his money by placing a fake bet on a boxing match and leave Harlem.

The movie is not without plot holes and the occasional bad line of dialogue, but other than that, it's funny and entertaining. A particular highlight are Foxx's nearsighted Bennie Wilson and Reese's Vera Walker, who exchange profane banter throughout the film, which is hilarious. A cameo by longtime Murphy friend Arsenio Hall (whom I usually dislike) as a crybaby mobster is also very funny. Don't listen to the critics, this movie is funny as hell!

51 of 63 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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