Harry Belafonte leaves a lasting legacy, not just for his music and civil rights leadership, but also as an occasional actor. Here are his four greatest movies during his long, storied career.
Carmen Jones (1954)
Based on the famous opera Carmen, this film adaptation features Harry Belafonte as Joe, a soldier who falls in love with the titular character, played by Dorothy Dandridge. The film is notable for its groundbreaking representation of black characters on screen, and for its portrayal of a complex and passionate romance between two people of color. Belafonte’s performance as Joe is both tender and intense, and his chemistry with Dandridge is undeniable. Carmen Jones remains a classic of American cinema and a landmark in the history of black representation in film.
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
This film noir thriller stars Harry Belafonte as Johnny Ingram, a former criminal who teams up with two other men to pull off a bank robbery. The film is notable for its tense atmosphere, its stylish cinematography, and its depiction of racial tensions in America. Belafonte’s performance as Johnny is nuanced and understated, and his portrayal of a man struggling to escape his past is both sympathetic and complex. Odds Against Tomorrow is a gripping and powerful film that has stood the test of time as a classic of the genre.
The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (1959)
This post-apocalyptic drama stars Harry Belafonte as Ralph Burton, a man who emerges from a mine to find that the world has been devastated by a nuclear war. As the last surviving man on Earth, Ralph must navigate a new and dangerous landscape, encountering a woman named Sarah (played by Inger Stevens) along the way. The film is notable for its themes of loneliness, isolation, and the search for human connection, as well as for its exploration of racial tensions in a post-apocalyptic world. Belafonte’s performance as Ralph is both poignant and powerful, and his portrayal of a man struggling to find meaning in a world without hope is truly unforgettable.
Uptown Saturday Night (1974)
This comedy classic stars Harry Belafonte as Geechie Dan Beauford, a wealthy and powerful crime boss who is targeted by two working-class friends, played by Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. The film is notable for its lighthearted tone, its clever dialogue, and its portrayal of African American life and culture in the 1970s. Belafonte’s performance as Geechie Dan is both humorous and menacing, and his portrayal of a charismatic and powerful criminal is truly memorable. Uptown Saturday Night remains a beloved classic of American cinema and a testament to the enduring power of Harry Belafonte’s talent and charisma.