In 1971, Shaft hit cinema screens. The movie introduced audiences to John Shaft – a black private dick (that’s a sex machine to all the chicks) – and was a huge hit.

The success of Shaft led to a sequel, which in turn led to another film, as well as a collection of TV movies, and a big screen reboot. In short, there’s a lot of Shaft out there!

But what are all the Shaft movies and what is the viewing order?

Well, if you’re new to Shaft, let this post be your guide. It’ll give you the correct viewing order, taking you from 1971 through to the 2000 reboot and beyond.

Can you dig it?

You’re about to!

Shaft I (aka the Richard Roundtree films)

Image: ©MGM

Let’s begin with the first collection of films which introduced John Shaft. Richard Roundtree played the title character, first in Shaft, then in its two sequels: Shaft’s Big Score! and Shaft in Africa.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the first movie was a big hit and turned John Shaft into a pop cultural icon. The sequels were not quite as successful, but they still added to the Shaft legacy.

If you wish to watch the John Shaft trilogy in order, then view the films as follows:

  • Shaft (1971)
  • Shaft’s Big Score! (1972)
  • Shaft in Africa (1973)

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The Shaft TV movies

Image: ©Warner Bros. Television

In 1973, after three big screen adventures Shaft switched to small screen tales via a television show. The series – which aired on CBS in the US – comprised a collection of seven TV movies.

Richard Roundtree reprised the role of John Shaft for the series, however the TV movies took a more conservative approach to Shaft. John Shaft was still a bad mother (shut your mouth), but he couldn’t quite get away with the same content he could at the cinema.

If you want to (re)visit the seven Shaft TV movies then watch them as follows:

  • The Executioners (1973)
  • The Killing (1973)
  • Hit-Run (1973)
  • The Kidnapping (1973)
  • Cop Killer (1974)
  • The Capricorn Murders (1974)
  • The Murder Machine (1974)

Should you want to check out the TV movies, The Shaft TV Movie Collection is currently available on DVD via Amazon UK and Amazon US. The DVD boxset is a Region 1 release (no Region 2 I’m afraid) and includes all seven movies.

You can find more details about the DVD boxset via the Amazon links above.

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Shaft II & III (aka the Samuel L. Jackson films

Image: ©New Line Cinema/Netflix

And now onto a new(ish) era for Shaft.

In 2000, after a 27 year absence from cinema screens, the Shaft movie series received a soft reboot from Paramount Pictures. The movie – titled Shaft – was directed by John Singleton and introduced a new John Shaft, this time played by Samuel L. Jackson.

But keen not to alienate long-time fans, this new movie established that Jackson (Shaft II) was actually the nephew of Roundtree (Shaft I). This little plot point helped link the film back to the original Shaft movie series, while it also allowed the franchise to move in a new direction.

Shaft was a critical and financial hit, but Paramount Pictures did not produce a sequel. Instead, the reboot came and went with little fanfare and Shaft remained on hiatus for almost two decades.

Eventually, New Line Cinema purchased the rights to the property and with some financial assistance from Netflix a follow-up was put into production. Both Roundtree (Shaft I) and Jackson (Shaft II) returned to their respective roles for this new entry, while Jessie T. Usher took on the role of John ‘JJ’ Shaft Jr (Shaft III).

Shaft set Usher up as a potential successor to the franchise, leaving new options for the future. The movie also altered the Jackson/Roundtree relationship from nephew/uncle to son/father, to make the story feel more like a spiritual passing of the torch.

Shaft was released theatrically in the US, but direct to Netflix for international audiences. If you want to watch the Shaft II/Shaft III era of Shaft, view the films as follows:

  • Shaft (2000)
  • Shaft (2019)

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Production order

Image: ©MGM

OK, so time to put everything together now, including the original trilogy, the TV movies, and the reboot. Here you go:

  • Shaft (1971)
  • Shaft’s Big Score! (1972)
  • Shaft in Africa (1973)
  • Shaft TV movie: The Executioners (1973)
  • Shaft TV movie: The Killing (1973)
  • Shaft TV movie: Hit-Run (1973)
  • Shaft TV movie: The Kidnapping (1973)
  • Shaft TV movie: Cop Killer (1974)
  • Shaft TV movie: The Capricorn Murders (1974)
  • Shaft TV movie: The Murder Machine (1974)
  • Shaft (2000)
  • Shaft (2019)

And now you know.

So, what is your favourite era of Shaft? Do you like the original trilogy (and nothing else) or do you prefer some of the modern entries? Whatever your thoughts and feelings, let me know in the comments section.

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