Ten Best James Brown Appearances in Movies and on TV

With Get on Up opening tonight movie audiences will be reintroduced to the hardest working man in show business, the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Dynamite, and yes, this is all the same person: Mr. James Brown.

Though early reviews of the film are solid, the fact that it's directed by the visionary behind The Help has us a little worried that the portrayal of this complex, insanely talented man might be oversimplified. But fortunately, we have YouTube where James Brown still lives.

The man was not afraid to stand before the camera and do what he did best. Here are the ten most fantastic instances in movies and television where James Brown got down.

See also: James Brown Killed Dumb Biopics: Why the Messy Get On Up Gets It Right

10. Playboy After Dark

Whereupon James Brown leads a nearly all white crowd of 1970 Hippies to "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud." With an introduction by Hugh Hefner no less.

9. Black Caesar

James Brown did the score for this 1973 Blaxploitation flick after Isaac Hayes soundtracked Shaft and Curtis Mayfield did the same for Super Fly. Like those other movies, the music for Black Caesar holds up a lot better than the jive turkey dialogue.

8. Miami Vice

In the fourth season episode of Miami Vice titled "Missing Hours," not only can you see what Cocowalk looked like in 1987, but also see why James Brown never pursued an acting career from his performance as a UFO cult leader. Brown also has the indignity of having only the second best hair in the episode after Don Johnson's mullet, which had a touch of feathery hairspray.

7. When We Were Kings

This 1996 movie won the Oscar for Best Documentary as it followed the brouhaha surrounding a 1974 fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman known as the Rumble in the Jungle. A mustachioed Brown is one of the many who made the trip to Africa where he funks it up and offers his position on race relations.

6. Rocky IV

It's probably not a good thing to show up to a boxing match with James Brown as Apollo Creed did in the fourth installment of the Rocky series, especially when you're about to fight Ivan Drago. Rocky dug James Brown's performance of "Living in America," but he wasn't too pleased with the outcome of the fight.

5. The Blues Brothers

The 1980 comedy classic based on a Saturday Night Live skit has Jake and Elwood Blues (played by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) unsure of where to take their lives until they get some church in them.

Inspired by the preaching of Reverend James Brown singing "The Old Landmark," they realize they need to get the band back together. Hilarity and great performances by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Cab Calloway ensue.

4. Ski Party

Though obviously lip synching "I Got You (I Feel Good)" in his appearance in this 1965 Frankie Avalon ski movie, JB's dance moves are 100% genuine. You can see how he influenced Michael Jackson's moonwalk, though Jacko didn't follow Brown's fashion sense. Look at him in that pompadour and red and white Christmas sweater.

3. Doctor Detroit

Dan Aykroyd couldn't get enough of James Brown in the 1980s, roping him into a scene in this 1983 movie where Aykroyd plays a literature professor who gets mistaken for a pimp known as Doctor Detroit. The movie is as silly as it sounds, but James Brown takes every performance seriously even when he's playing for Doctor Detroit.

2. James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub

Kind of a cheat as it is Eddie Murphy imitating James Brown in this Saturday Night Live skit, but Murphy gets him so right, in a way we can only hope Chadwick Boseman can emulate. This sketch brings out both laughter, awe and ultimately regret that this Eddie Murphy was lost to us making bad children films.

1. The T.A.M.I. Show

This 1964, black and white concert film shows James Brown at the height of his powers playing amongst a legendary line-up including the Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, and the Supremes. Brown was miffed that the Rolling Stones got headliner status and made certain his four song set was an impossible act to follow.

New Party Rules for Millennials

Top 20 Sexiest R&B Songs from the '90s to Today

Ten Best Florida Metal Bands of All Time

Ten Most Annoying Drunk Dudes You Meet at a Bar

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories