5 Best Frank Lucas Movies

Sunday, September 11 by Karen Lac

The 5 best Frank Lucas movies provide an in-depth look at the life of Frank Lucas and the New York drug scene he presided over. Frank Lucas was an organized crime boss and drug dealer known for his ruthlessness. Operating from his base in Harlem, Frank Lucas imported heroin from Southeast Asia during the 1960s and '70s. Sometimes vilified and sometimes glamorized as an African-American who broke the Italian mafia's organized crime monopoly in New York, Frank Lucas certainly had the life of movies. A few movies based upon Frank Lucas's life have been made. Here are what we consider to be the five best Frank Lucas movies:

  1. "American Gangster" Directed by Ridley Scott and responsible for legendary movies such as "Alien," "Blade Runner" and "Gladiator," "American Gangster" is almost guaranteed to be good. Throw in Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas and Russell Crow as Richie Roberts, the detective who arrested Frank Lucas but then defended him as a lawyer, and you have a highly riveting and stylized movie. Denzel Washington and Russell Crow are known for their badass roles (see "Training Day" and "Gladiator") and this movie features their best stares and scowls. While the 2007 movie, like many others, is low on authenticity, it takes top honors for pure entertainment. 
  2. "Superfly: The True, Untold Story of Frank Lucas, American Gangster" Released in 2008, this hour-long documentary uses interviews with the people who prosecuted and really knew Frank Lucas to give you a true account of what really went down. It debunks many of the claims made in "American Gangster." Obviously, it's not a flashy Hollywood blockbuster but certainly appeals to those who want more realism and less glam.
  3. "Fallen Empire: Making American Gangster" Also released in 2007, this documentary takes you behind the scene of "American Gangster." Interviews with the director, cast and Frank Lucas himself gives a better understanding of what it took to bring Frank Lucas's almost-forgotten life to the big screen.
  4. "Mr. Untouchable" "Mr. Untouchable" tells the story of Frank Lucas's ultimate rival, Leroy "Nicky" Barnes. While Frank Lucas bypassed the middleman, Leroy Barnes worked with Mafia partners to gain his huge clientele. Leroy Barnes, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. in "American Gangster," calls Frank Lucas a country bumpkin who didn't know how to speak. Although this documentary doesn't include Frank Lucas himself, it provides a deeper understanding of the 1970s New York drug scene that Frank Lucas was a part of and contrasts Leroy Barnes's portrayal in "American Gangster."
  5. "Hoodlum" To understand Frank Lucas, you also have to know Bumpy Johnson, Frank Lucas's mentor who passed his drug empire to him. Laurence Fishburne plays Bumpy Johnson in this 1997 movie that chronicles the war between Bumpy Johnson and Jewish mob boss Dutch Schultz. Clarence Williams III plays Bub Hewlett, a black gunman who worked for Dutch Schultz. Coincidentally, Clarence Williams III would later portray Bumpy Johnson in "American Gangster."