1. The Color Purple (1985)

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%

Storyline

“The Color Purple” is an adaption of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel. The film explores the life of Celie, an African-American woman in the South who shows us her world in the early 20th century. She faces myriad hardships, including poverty, sexism, and racism. Despite her bitter and miserable existence, Celie survives with her spirit intact and ultimately achieves a triumph that goes beyond vengeance or violence.

Why it’s a major movie

“The Color Purple” is an essential film in Quincy Jones’ career as a movie producer. It was a groundbreaking film as it was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to tackle the hardship faced by African-American women in America, told through an empathetic and intimate lens. The film’s success is a testament to Quincy Jones’ instinct for recognizing powerful narratives and his subtle understanding of music’s role in enhancing a film’s emotional resonance.

Its importance to cinema history is also underlined by the controversy it stirred up in discussions about race and representation in Hollywood. With powerful performances by Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, and Danny Glover, the film elevated the visibility and recognition of black actors in Hollywood.

2. In the Heat of the Night (1967)

IMDB Rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%

Storyline

“In the Heat of the Night” is an intense crime thriller set amidst the racially charged atmosphere in the southern United States during the Civil Rights era. The plot revolves around Virgil Tibbs, an African-American detective from Philadelphia, who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation in a racially prejudiced small-town in Mississippi.

Why it’s a major movie

The film is quintessential Quincy Jones, blending intense drama, hard-hitting social commentary, and seamless integration of music. His work on the musical score underlines the tense and complex narrative, providing a poignant commentary on race relations in America during the 60s. Jones’ music accentuates the plot, without overshadowing the acting and the narrative.

Furthermore, the film held a mirror to the society and had a profound impact on American culture and cinema. It won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is remembered for Sidney Poitier’s iconic dialogue, “They call me Mister Tibbs”, which became a rallying cry against racial prejudice. This film remains a classic example of how Jones used his musical genius to bolster the emotional depth and realism in cinema.

3. The Italian Job (1969)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%

Storyline

“The Italian Job” is an action-packed caper that combines British wit with high-speed chases. The story revolves around Charlie Croker, who assembles a motley team of criminals to steal $4 million worth of gold in the streets of Turin, Italy. Their iconic escape uses Mini Coopers, creating one of the most unforgettable car chase scenes ever filmed.

Why it’s a major movie

Quincy Jones lent his distinct musical touch to “The Italian Job,” creating a quirky and memorable score that perfectly captured the film’s essence. His fusion of upbeat tunes, jazzy interludes, and ambient sounds flawlessly complemented the movie’s unique blend of comedy and high-stakes heist moments.

Moreover, “The Italian Job” is a classic caper film that has not only entertained audiences worldwide but also influenced the genre. It’s iconic for its exceptional storytelling, thrilling car chases, witty dialogue, and charismatic performances. Jones’ music was pivotal in establishing the offbeat energy and excitement that continue to define the film’s enduring appeal.

4. Sanford and Son (1972-1977)

IMDB Rating: 7.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 87%

Storyline

“Sanford and Son” is a beloved sitcom featuring Fred Sanford, a cantankerous junk dealer living in Los Angeles, and his son Lamont. The show portrays their humorous exploits and squabbles, providing plenty of laughs alongside heartwarming glimpses of their father-son relationship.

Why it’s a major movie

Quincy Jones, as the composer for “Sanford and Son,” created a funky, catchy theme tune that became as well-known and popular as the show itself. His music offered a vibrant soundscape that accentuated the humor and heart of the show.

“Sanford and Son” was groundbreaking television, offering a portrayal of African-American life that was rare to see on mainstream television in the early 70s. The positive reception of the show and its impact on television history further attest to Jones’ skill at selecting and enhancing projects with cultural significance and entertainment value.

5. The Pawnbroker (1964)

IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%

Storyline

“The Pawnbroker” follows the life of a tormented Holocaust survivor, Solomon Nazerman, who now runs a pawnshop in Harlem. Struggling with his traumatic past, Solomon has become indifferent to the suffering of others around him until an unexpected event forces him to confront his tragic history.

Why it’s a major movie

Regarded by many as one of the earliest American films on the Holocaust, “The Pawnbroker” had Quincy Jones behind the beautiful yet haunting music score. Jones’ profound understanding of the narrative resulted in a musical arrangement that encapsulated the protagonist’s emotional journey very effectively.

The film is also considered a classic because of its raw depiction of the Holocaust’s lingering effects on a survivor. Jones’s music played a major role in the film’s success by intensifying the emotional impact of the storyline. “The Pawnbroker” stands as a testimony to Jones’s ability to use his musical skills to amplify the narrative depth of films exploring complex social themes.

6. In Cold Blood (1967)

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%

Storyline

“In Cold Blood” is a gripping crime drama based on Truman Capote’s groundbreaking nonfiction novel of the same name. The story follows two drifters who plot and execute a brutal robbery, which spirals into a senseless and tragic murder of a Kansas family.

Why it’s a major movie

Quincy Jones’ enthralling and tense score for “In Cold Blood” was a critical part of the movie’s success. The way he uses his music to build suspense and anticipation is, to this day, widely acknowledged as a masterclass in scoring for film.

As a film, “In Cold Blood” is remembered as a chilling exploration of the senselessness of crime and the human capacity for evil. It’s a classic of the true crime genre and a shining example of how Jones’ music goes beyond the soundtrack to become a part of the film’s narrative.

7. Mirage (1965)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%

Storyline

“Mirage” is a suspenseful thriller that revolves around a bewildered accountant who finds himself hunted by unknown entities after a power outage in his high-rise office building. Caught in a web of deceit, danger, and duplicity, he must strive to uncover his own past and unravel the truth.

Why it’s a major movie

Quincy Jones created a wonderfully tense and atmospheric score for “Mirage,” vividly capturing the film’s suspenseful, anxious, and thrilling moments. Jones’ knack for amping up the on-screen stakes with intriguing musical choices is evident throughout the film.

Besides its griping storyline, “Mirage” stands out for its significant contribution to the suspense genre. It is an engaging psychological thriller that elevated the status of the genre, and Jones’ striking score was instrumental in its success. His music added another layer of suspense, making it a classic in both the film and music world.

8. For Love of Ivy (1968)

IMDB Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 57%

Storyline

“For Love of Ivy” is a unique romantic comedy-drama that revolves around Ivy Moore, a housemaid for an upper-class white family. When Ivy decides to leave and find a life beyond serving others, the family comes up with a convoluted plan to make her stay by finding her a suitable boyfriend.

Why it’s a major movie

“For Love of Ivy” is a standout film that represents Quincy Jones’ ability to craft music that not only enhances the story but also underscores the emotions of the characters. From upbeat tracks to somber melodies, his soundtrack helped define the film’s mood and character depth.

This film was groundbreaking for its time, as it was one of the first mainstream films to focus on a romantic storyline centering around African–American characters. “For Love of Ivy” showed Jones’ commitment to bringing diverse stories to the screen, using his musical talents to underscore the films’ dramatic elements. Its boldness in placing a black woman as the romantic lead made it invaluable in the canon of American film history.