Six reggae films with great soundtracks, from Bob Marley to The Harder They Come

New biopic about revered reggae singer adds to growing list of movies that keep viewers jammin'

Kingsley Ben-Adir plays the lead role in Bob Marley: One Love. Photo: Paramount Pictures
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The Sun is shining over the new Bob Marley biopic. Released in UAE cinemas this weekend, Bob Marley: One Love has already topped the US and UK box office charts with critics hailing the film as a vibrant yet slightly sanitised look at the life of the revered reggae singer.

Featuring an evocative soundtrack packed with Bob Marley and the Wailers hits, the film joins several titles exploring some of the creative and socio-political roots of reggae music and associated genres.

Here are five others to watch to begin your reggae-inspired film collection.

1. The Harder They Come (1972)

The film and soundtrack are viewed as bringing reggae music to western audiences.

Directed by Perry Henzell and starring burgeoning reggae singer Jimmy Cliff, the film follows Ivanhoe "Ivan" Martin's ill-fated journey from growing up in rural Jamaica to the gritty hustles and bustle of its capital Kingston.

This action and drama is juxtaposed by an influential reggae soundtrack featuring genre staples such as You Can Get It If You Really Want, the title track by Cliff, as well as Rivers of Babylon by The Melodians.

The Harder They Come was adapted into a UK musical in 2005.

2. Rockers (1978)

Rockers is another critically lauded effort renowned for its visuals and soundtrack.

Starring influential reggae studio drummer Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace as himself, the fictional Rockers follows his struggle to make a living in a Jamaican music scene bursting with the popularity of reggae and dancehall music.

The soundtrack is another keeper featuring works by reggae pioneers Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs and Jacob Miller.

3. Dancehall Queen (1997)

Directed by British Jamaican filmmaker and DJ Don Letts, Dancehall Queen is a celebration of dancehall music and culture in Jamaica.

On the run from neighbourhood criminals, street vendor Marcia Green (Audrey Reid) enters a dance competition for a cash prize that could save her life.

As well as brilliant dance sequences and an infectious soundtrack, the film is also a reflection on the poverty and social inequalities plaguing Jamaica's urban centres.

4. Third World Cop (1999)

One of the highest-grossing films in Jamaican box office history, the film is a taut crime thriller about an undercover cop (Paul Campbell) and his quest to bring down a ruthless Jamaican gun ring.

The action sequences are laced with a pulsating soundtrack by revered reggae producers Sly Dunbar and bassist Robert Shakespeare. The gritty track list of reggae and dancehall numbers features fine cuts by Lady G (Man a Bad Man) and Luciano (Police and Thieves).

5. Lovers Rock (2020)

Directed by Oscar-winner Steve McQueen, the film was released as part of the BBC anthology series Small Axe, which examines the lives of West Indian communities in London.

Set in the 1980s, Lovers Rock is as much a tender love story as a tribute to the sensual balladry of reggae-subgenre Lovers Rock.

The soundtrack features songs by Dennis Brown, Junior English and Lee Scratch Perry.

Updated: February 26, 2024, 6:47 AM