Shaft, smooth-talking Black detective made famous both by Richard Roundtree’s portrayal and Issac Hayes’ Oscar-winning theme song, has been a pop culture icon for more than 50 years. He has appeared in five theatrical films as well as a short-lived TV show in the 70s. The character is recognized as the first Black action hero and was the most successful entry in the blaxploitation genre.
If you’re looking to watch the adventures of this bad mother (shut yo mouth) in order in the wake of star Roundtree’s death in October 2023, it can be tough to know where to start. After all, three of the twelve films, all of which take place in the same continuity, are simply titled Shaft. Here is everything you need to know about the films and how to watch them.
How to watch the Shaft series in order
Despite the long gap between the movies, each of the Shaft films take place in a single timeline. This means that you can watch them in release order and chronological order at the same time. This includes the seven made-for-TV movies released on CBS in 1973-74.
- Shaft (1971)
- Shaft’s Big Score (1972)
- Shaft in Africa (1973)
- Shaft and the Enforcers (1973)
- Shaft and the Killing (1973)
- Shaft and the Hit-Run (1973)
- Shaft and the Kidnapping (1973)
- Shaft and the Cop Killer (1974)
- Shaft and the Capricorn Murders (1974)
- Shaft and the Murder Machine (1974)
- Shaft (2000)
- Shaft (2019)
Are the Shaft TV movies considered canon?
After the disappointing performance of Shaft in Africa in 1973, the series shifted to television for a series of films released in late ‘73/ early ’74. Though these movies were noticeably lower budget and significantly more conservative than the theatrical releases, they are considered part of the same Shaft storyline that began in 1971.
Does Samuel L. Jackson play the original John Shaft?
There is a confusing bit of continuity with the Shaft movies. Both the 2000 and 2019 Shaft films – confusingly both titled Shaft – are sequels to the Richard Roundtree movies, taking place years later in New York City. Samuel L. Jackson plays John Shaft II, the son of Roundtree’s character, who also appears in these two films as John Shaft I.
To add a further layer of confusion, Jackson’s character is originally referred to as the original Shaft’s nephew in his first outing in the series in 2000. By the 2019 Shaft movie, it is established that John Shaft I is actually the father of Jackson’s character, having spent decades pretending to be his uncle. This establishes a more direct connection between the Roundtree films and the later movies.
Where can you watch the Shaft movies?
How to watch the Shaft movies depends entirely on where you live. Within the US, you will have to rent the movies through Amazon Prime if you want to watch the five theatrical films, while you can only see the Shaft TV films by purchasing them on DVD.
Outside the US, you can stream 2019’s Shaft on Netflix, but will still need to rent the other movies from Amazon Prime to stream them or purchase the films on DVD.
What is next for Shaft?
2019’s Shaft was a commercial and critical disappointment for everyone involved, so the future of the Shaft franchise was in doubt even before the death of Richard Roundtree in 2023. At the moment, there are no plans for further Shaft movies or series, but it wouldn’t surprise us if Hollywood decides to dip into familiar territory once again.
Looking for more movies to watch in the coming months? We’ve got every major theatrical and streaming release together in one handy guide for you.