Reggae In Film

Reggae In Film

A roundup of movies that spread reggae around the world.

Hello Superstars!

I remember visiting my cousins in California during the summers and the thrill I felt when a snippet of reggae music drifted through the movie theater. Did you know that film played a major role in spreading reggae music across the globe? It’s true. Take a look at this roundup of movies featuring reggae songs:

The Harder They Come (1972)

I mentioned in a previous post that one of the most significant ways the music was transmitted from Kingston to the world was via the movie, The Harder They Come, starring reggae star Jimmy Cliff. The 1972 film had an all-star soundtrack, obviously dominated by Cliff’s title track, as well as “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” “Sitting In Limbo,” and “Many Rivers to Cross,” as well as “Rivers of Babylon” by The Melodians, “Sweet and Dandy” and “Pressure Drop” by The Maytals, and Desmond Dekker’s “007 (Shanty Town).”

Rockers (1978)

I’m still not sure if 1978’s Rockers is a documentary or a comedy. One thing’s for sure—the soundtrack features some epic superstars including Inner Circle, Bunny Wailer, Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear, and Third World.

Countryman (1982)

In the early 80s, Island Records dipped their toe into the movie making pool with Countryman, which was filmed in Jamaica. The soundtrack includes Bob Marley & the Wailers, Toots & The Maytals, and Steel Pulse.

Club Paradise (1986)

This is the first film I remember seeing at the movie theater in California that showcased West Indian culture—if comedically—and reggae music. I was in the 6th grade, it was campy, and I loved it. Jimmy Cliff, who not only performed his music but continued his acting legacy next to Robin Williams, Peter O’Toole, and a host of comedy geniuses, including Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin, and Eugene Levy. In addition to Cliff, the soundtrack included calypso legend Mighty Sparrow, and Blue Riddim Band—a respected Stateside reggae band. Since the soundtrack was featured in a mainstream U.S. movie, it was released by Columbia Records with wide distribution.

Image from IMDb

The Mighty Quinn (1989)

I was a boy-crazy tween when The Mighty Quinn came out. I’m not sure if it played much in the States because I’ve only seen it on St. Croix. It was about a police officer, but I couldn’t tell you much more about the plot because we were all too distracted by a young Denzel Washington. 🔥 The title song is joyfully catchy and showcases the vocal talents of Cedella and Sharon Marley, children of Rita and Bob Marley. My beloved UB40, and Soca star Arrow are also featured.

Cool Runnings (1993)

I still love this movie that includes Jimmy Cliff’s legendary “I Can See Clearly Now,” “Cool Me Down” by Tiger, and Marley classic “Stir It Up.” Cool Runnings is a Disney-marvelous take on Caribbean Life—somewhere between a cartoon and reality. And the fish-out-of-water trope pairs well with John Candy in one of his final roles.

Sliver (1993)

Nothing about Sliver has anything to do with reggae. I remember it being a very sexy movie and wildly popular the summer of ‘93. For we Crucians sweating on the Hondo’s dance floor, that had more to do with its banging soundtrack that inexplicably skewed reggae-heavy. Hits included UB40’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” “Oh Carolina” by Shaggy, and “Sweat (A La La La La Long)” by Inner Circle. So good.

Bob Marley: One Love (2024)

These days, reggae is well-known and respected throughout the planet. So while the songs in this year’s Bob Marley: One Love are not new, they are beloved. Marley classics like “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Natural Mystic,” “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” and “Exodus” come to life in this thoughtfully made film. I highly recommend seeing it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list—especially when you include documentaries and concert footage—but these films informed my life and experience with reggae music.

I hope that your week is filled with music and love.


*Player Image by Devon Breen from Pixabay
an examination of reggae, rockers & ska music