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Six Definitive Films: The ultimate beginner's guide to Regina King

Regina King has emerged as one of the most prominent actresses in the American film industry, known for her formidable body of work in television as well as cinema. Having recently released her debut feature as a director with One Night in Miami, King is currently looking to further her career as a top director as she is set to direct a political monster film called Bitter Root for her next project.

Born in Ohio, King could have had a very different career had she stuck with the pursuit of a communications degree from USC. However, during her time there, she realised that her real passion was for the performing arts and she decided to drop out after two years of attending classes in order to see whether her dream of being an actress could be a real possibility.

Starting out in television, King eventually went on to land stellar roles in major films as well but her work as an actress definitely revolves around what she has managed to achieve in TV. Ranging from classic gems such as The Boondocks to The Leftovers and Watchmen, King’s film career has been propelled forward by her attachment to some of the finest television projects in recent years.

Check out a list of Regina King’s definitive works below.

Regina King’s six definitive films:

Boyz n the Hood (John Singleton, 1991)

King’s debut film role came in 1991 when she got a minor part in John Singleton’s 1991 masterpiece Boyz n the Hood, a film that would go on to be cited as one of the greatest cinematic explorations of the issues plaguing the Black community in urban America.

Boyz n the Hood was a critical and commercial success, immediately resonating with audiences who could feel the raw power of its challenging narrative. King featured alongside other future stars like Cuba Gooding Jr. whose careers were heavily influenced by the success of this particular project.

Enemy of the State (Tony Scott, 1998)

Another major project for King, Tony Scott’s 1998 thriller gave her the opportunity to work with stars such as Gene Hackman and Will Smith. She plays the role of a powerful lawyer, just like Smith, but it is the latter’s character who is targeted for the murder of a congressman.

A very successful effort by Scott, Enemy of the State is now regarded as a classic ’90s production that fulfils the promises that one comes to expect from big-budget spectacles. A potential Enemy of the State television series was also in the works but that never really took off in the end.

Ray (Taylor Hackford, 2004)

Often cited as her breakthrough performance, King starred as American singer Margie Hendricks in this critically acclaimed biopic about the legendary Ray Charles (played by Jamie Foxx in what was one of the major works of his career as well).

For her fantastic work, King picked up multiple accolades including an Award for Best Supporting Actress from the NAACP. Just months before the film was released, Charles passed away due to complications caused by liver disease which is tragic because he was planning to attend a screening.

If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2018)

Barry Jenkins is undoubtedly one of the most original filmmakers in the landscape of contemporary cinema, revered for his celebrated projects such as Moonlight and the recent series The Underground Railroad. His 2018 film If Beale Street Could Talk definitely belongs up there on the list of his greatest achievements.

A competent adaptation of James Baldwin’s famous eponymous novel, If Beale Street Could Talk features King in one of her finest performances. The story revolves around a woman fighting the corrupt institutions of America to free her wrongfully convicted lover.

One Night in Miami… (Regina King, 2020)

King’s directorial debut was one of the highlights of 2020, depicting a fictionalised account of a meeting between cultural titans – Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown after Ali managed to shock the world by defeating Sonny Liston.

The film went on to earn several major nominations, including Best Director bids for King. While she is certainly going to keep her fantastic career as an actress going, One Night in Miami… proved that King has what it takes to make it as a director as well.

The Harder They Fall (Jeymes Samuel, 2021)

The latest acting work by King came in this interesting 2021 revisionist western by Jeymes Samuel titled The Harder They Fall. She starred alongside the likes of Idris Elba and Zazie Beetz as Trudy Smith, one of the leaders of an outlaw gang.

The director noted: “I just grew up wanting to know more about people of colour and women and all of these ideas of the Old West that I was not getting from the Hollywood movies. And so I would just buy books and would…uncover amazing characters — both heroes and villains, both men and women of all colour.”