After saving a Black Panther from some racist cops, a black male prostitute goes on the run from "the man" with the help of the ghetto community and some disillusioned Hells Angels.


Melvin Van Peebles
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Melvin Van Peebles ... Sweetback
Hubert Scales Hubert Scales ... Mu-Mu
John Dullaghan ... Commissioner
Simon Chuckster ... Beetle
Mario Van Peebles ... Sweetback / Kid (as Mario Peebles)
Max Van Peebles Max Van Peebles ... Sweetback / Young
Rhetta Hughes Rhetta Hughes ... Old Girl Friend
John Amos ... Biker (as Johnny Amos)
Megan Van Peebles Megan Van Peebles ... Kid (as Megan Peebles)
Wesley Gale Wesley Gale ... (as West Gale)
Lavelle Roby
Ted Hayden Ted Hayden
Sonja Dunson Sonja Dunson
Michael Augustus Michael Augustus
Niva Ruschell Niva Ruschell


Sweet Sweetback is a black orphan who, having grown up in a brothel, now works there as part of a sex show. When the police need a patsy for a murder in the black community, His employer gives him up to two white cops, whom he ends up killing. Suddenly the target of a massive manhunt, he decides to flee to Mexico. As he makes his way there, he is captured by, and escapes from, both the cops and a chapter of the Hell's Angels. Written by David Claydon <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Rated X by an all white jury See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Film debut of Mario Van Peebles. See more »


The fire truck that appeared at the end of the car explosion was not originally supposed to appear. Due to a permit still not filed, the fire department was unaware and proceeded to appear unannounced. See more »


Beetle: Like you gonna have to kinda lay out, stretch out a little while, be real cool. Kinda lay dead. Ol' Beetle'll let you know what's happenin', what's goin' down. You don't have to worry about nothin'. If you need anything, anything at all, brother, just keep the faith in Beetle, ol' Beetle goin' to bring you through, cause this is just a skirmish. You know how the game goes, baby. But you keep the faith in me and you my man. You my favorite man. Can you dig it, baby? Together, you know, maintain....
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Crazy Credits

Opening Credits Dedication: "Dedicated to all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man" See more »

Alternate Versions

The 2005 Region 2 DVD release from BFI Video has the opening sex sequences removed. A notice at the beginning of the DVD explains that the scenes were censored "in order to comply with UK law (the Protection of Children Act 1978)," See more »


Featured in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #2.21 (2011) See more »


Hoppin John
Written by Melvin Van Peebles
Performed by Melvin Van Peebles featuring Earth Wind & Fire
See more »

User Reviews

Raw and Ground-Breaking but It's Not All That Good
16 February 2017 | by Michael_ElliottSee all my reviews

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)

** (out of 4)

Male prostitute Sweetback (Melvin Van Peebles) gets tired of seeing a black man getting beaten by two white cops so he kills the cops. Sweetback takes off trying to evade the police who are hot on his trail.

Thanks to its classic title and the fact that it's a historically important film, SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG has become somewhat of a folk/cult movie. There's no question that the film was a very important one for black cinema because it kick-started the blaxploitation genre but it also showed a different type of black man on the screen. White audiences were used to seeing Sidney Poitier and his kindness but none of that was to be seen with this film.

Instead of taking it from the man, Sweetback decided to give it to the man and kill any white person who tried to hold him back. I'm sure a lot of people would watch this film today and call it all sorts of things but I think it's important that people realize that this was released just a few years after black people were still being beaten by the police and had water hoses turned on them. There's no question that Melvin Van Peebles broke all sorts of new ground and he deserves a lot of credit delivering this type of movie.

With that said, there's still no question that the film itself isn't all that good. Basically we get a 97-minute running film where we see the hero bang several women, kill a few others and then he runs around the entire time. There's no question that the low-budget actually works for the film but at the same time everything is extremely slow and rather boring as well. Van Peebles is good in the role. He's given very little dialogue but that look tells you everything you need to know.

SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG isn't a masterpiece but it deserves to be called a classic since it did break through so many new levels.

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Release Date:

22 March 1973 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Sweet Sweetback See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA


Box Office


$500,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Yeah See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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