It is common knowledge that the late and great Tupac Shakur will eternally hold a profound and powerful impact on the genre of hip-hop and rap. But, one tends to wonder how his career would have further flourished had his magical talents been lent towards the crafting of hit motion pictures.
The ”Keep Your Head Up” maestro has produced various film-making credits since the peak of 1991 with his very first feature role per the dark comedy flick Nothing but Trouble (1991) before tragically concluding his film career through the cult classic Gang Related (1997). Here is a complete break-down of 2Pac’s filmography released while alive or otherwise posthumously:
Nothing but Trouble (1991)
A horror comedy movie that centers on a traveling, wealthy New York clique who are all apprehended by police after running a stop sign in a poor village and are held hostage at a 106-year-old judge’s run-down courthouse. The group is then met with disturbing encounters with the judge’s inbred family as they plot on how to escape before their grotesque punishment is revealed to them.
The bizarre feature not only involved A-listers like Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters) and Demi Moore (Ghost, G.I. Jane) but also entailed assistance from 2Pac and his former collective Digital Underground. The group makes a cameo in one scene where they are performing their club hit “Same Song” (1990) before the decaying judge’s podium as hopeful effort to be released from the mad house. Subsequently, they end up walking away scot-free with their musicality while the wealthy New Yorkers are left behind concocting their next getaway plan.
What makes this film not only stand out as 2Pac’s debut acting feature, but it also marks his first time piecing material for an original motion picture soundtrack. He recorded “Same Song” and “Tie the Knot” as cuts for Nothing but Trouble’s score.
Despite his appearance, the film did little to save itself from harsh criticism from both the public and the press. It secured a dishonorable Golden Razzie win for Worst Supporting Actor. It was later dubbed as one of the biggest box office duds in cinematic history.
One year following the disastrous phenomenon with Nothing, 2Pac gave acting another shot. But, this time on his own terms without musical restraints from Digital Underground. He returned to his birth-state New York to begin readings for the thriller Juice. He was cast as fictionalized troubled character Roland Bishop. The film follows four friends caught in a domino effect of peril after Pac’s character’s begins scouting out for homicidal trouble in an ill-ridden attempt to achieve power and respect.
The film became an outstanding hit with both critics and viewers, generating over $20 million at the box office. It secured a 79% favorable rating with Rotten Tomatoes and a “B+” rating given by Entertainment Weekly.
Poetic Justice (1993)
As another year went by, so came forth another acting shot for Mr. Shakur. The next deal on the table was co-starring with reigning pop queen Janet Jackson for the drama feature Poetic Justice.
Directed by John Singleton, the film narrates South Los Angeles poet Justice (Jackson) who is battling with depression. This was stemming from the murder of her late boyfriend. Mail clerk Lucky (Shakur) is dealing with emotional abuse and trauma sustained from his crack-addiction. As the plot progresses, the characters who were initially reluctant towards one another begin to grow close during a road trip. They soon develop a strong bond with one another.
Though the film failed to appease critics it did not waver one bit with viewers. Poetic successfully generated well over $27 million against its $14 million budget. Both Janet’s and Tupac’s groundbreaking appearances would later be recognized as one of the earliest films to help shine the light on how depression can be riddled in the black community
Above the Rim (1994)
Spring 1994 welcomed the release of Above the Rim, which follows two key characters training for a basketball game. One out of the two is a star athlete-turned-coach who is heavily disliked by the film’s protagonist (Kyle, played by Duane Martin) but comes around after 2Pac’s character Birdie tries his hardest to deviate the young man’s chances of winning the basketball game through humiliation and attempted murder.
Tupac’s excellent and convincing performance of the antagonizing b-ball player helped accumulate over $16 million at the box office against the film’s $6.5 million budget. Additionally, Pac contributed two tracks to the original motion picture soundtrack (“Pour a Little Liquor”, “Loyal to the Game”. These both attained rave reviews from critics and topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
Conclusively, this would be Shakur’s overall second-to-last film that would be released during his lifetime.
Murder Was the Case: The Movie (1995)
The final film of 2Pac released during his lifetime, and his role is a bit ironic. In the movie, 2Pac makes a cameo in the 18-minute flick as a sniper. The film essentially narrates the fictional tale of Pac’s colleague Snoop Dogg being murdered in the wee hours of the night, only to be resurrected by an evil force following a sealed deal with the devil.
Much like Above the Rim, Pac agreed to make musical contributions for Murder’s soundtrack; however, the emblem “Life’s So Hard” would be saved in the vault for two years to make entry for another one of 2Pac’s filming soundtracks. The reasoning for the “Hard” tune to be opted remains unclear to this very day.
The first posthumous film of Tupac Shakur; this particular movie was shot two years prior to Pac’s murder and centers on the fictional narrative of two dealers. They go at each other’s neck over previous disturbances and long-held grudges that have troubled their day-to-day operations as dealers, thus in turn intensifying a brewing gang war.
The film co-stars esteemed actor Mickey Rourke and Dominican performer Manny Perez. The film hit theaters in October 1996, one month after Pac was shot to death.
Another feature film co-starring the late Shakur that was released posthumously four months after his death. The movie takes viewers on a ride with Tupac’s fictional posse of struggling heroin addicts. They try to make it big in the music world amid their troubles with their spoken word musicality.
The film did not do so hot at the box office, but Tupac was the one that received critical praise. The film’s director Vondie Curtis-Hall who took a liking to Shakur’s on-screen chemistry with lead star Tim Roth.
Gang Related (1997)
The final film that would conclude 2Pac’s short-lived filming career. The movie revolves around two corrupt detectives (one played by Pac), who are both looking to frame anyone in sight for a murder they committed upon an undercover DEA agent.
As the film progresses, the two lead characters turn on one another as their devious blame game falls through. This resulted in the immediate death of 2Pac’s character firstly and then conclusively lead portrayal James Belushi’s character.
Shooting for the film took place one month prior to Tupac’s harrowing death.
Tupac's Canceled films
Long before his saddening passing, the legend was due to be a part of over five filming projects. These included: Menace II Society (1993), Low Down Dirty Shame (1994), Higher Learning (1995), Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), and Baby Boy (2001). The latter of which paid tribute to the fallen star with use of archival footage.