Jungle Fever & 10 Other Films That Have Tackled Interracial Relationships

Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock.
You probably don't remember what you were doing on June 7, 1991. You may not even have been born yet. But for Hollywood and anyone looking to have a dialogue about race relations, it was an important day. It's when Spike Lee's Jungle Fever opened in theaters.

Never one to shy away from a controversial topic, Lee delved into the politics of interracial dating. Wesley Snipes plays the married Black lover to Annabella Sciorra's Italian-American Brooklynite, and both catch flak from family, friends, and strangers. Various characters in the movie also float the theory that dating white or light-skinned Black women is a status symbol of sorts for African-American men, a fetish with the aim of elevating one's image.

Snipes and Sciorra's characters don't get their happy ending. There's not even a "happy beginning," really. The film starts with a dedication to Yusuf Hawkins, a Black man who was killed in 1989 by Brooklyn locals who wrongly thought he was in their Bensonhurst neighborhood to meet a white woman. Clearly, this very real issue needed addressing, and Lee stepped up.

How have things changed in the 25 years since the film's release? In pop culture, viewers don't flinch when they see Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope romance Tony Goldwyn's Fitz on Scandal, and shows like Black-ish and Empire have added to the dialogue. Movies are slowly introducing more interracial relationships, with two films in the pipeline — Cannes favorite Loving, and the David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike project A United Kingdom — that will explore real-life relationships in a historical context.

In the meantime, you can always sit down to a fresh (or first-time) viewing of Jungle Fever. Or click through the following slideshow, which features movies released since Jungle Fever that offer their own takes on the topic, with mixed results. Will Hollywood one day better represent the faces and families we see in the real world? Maybe — but there's still a ways to go.
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Video: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Made in America (1993)
Former real-life couple Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson star in this romantic comedy about a Black single mother who discovers that she accidentally used a white man's sperm donation. Their teen daughter (Nia Long) helps them bridge their cultural differences. Funnily enough, the movie didn't start out as an interracial comedy, since the original script didn't feature any Black leads. Goldberg's casting prompted a major rewrite.
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Video: Courtesy of New Line Cinema.
Corrina, Corrina (1994)
Whoopi Goldberg once again plays a Black woman falling for a white man in this family-friendly film. The movie's late-'50s setting adds complexity to the romance, with Corinna and her boss Manny (played by Ray Liotta) facing racial slurs on a night out.
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Video: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
Cruel Intentions (1999)
The simmering relationship between Cecile (Selma Blair) and music teacher Ronald (Sean Patrick Thomas) is derailed by her mother's racist accusations.
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Video: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Save the Last Dance (2001)
Sara and Derek (Julia Stiles and, again, Sean Patrick Thomas) find common ground through dance. But they still face grief over their interracial relationship, even from close friends.
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Video: Courtesy of Focus Features.
Far from Heaven (2002)
Julianne Moore plays 1950s housewife Cathy, who turns to her gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert), for company when her marriage crumbles. As you can see from this clip, their (unconsummated) relationship rubs her peers the wrong way.
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Video: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Guess Who (2005)
This comedy starring Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher didn't have quite the same impact as the classic on which it's based, 1967's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. The ill-conceived remake sees Kutcher as the surrogate Sidney Poitier brought home to meet his African-American girlfriend's family. It doesn't help that he comes armed with Black jokes.
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Video: Courtesy of Focus Features.
Something New (2006)
Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan) balks when she discovers that her blind date is white dude Brian Kelly (Simon Baker). In a refreshing reversal of gender and race roles, Kenya is Brian's boss, and the two grow closer as he landscapes her garden (not a euphemism).
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Video: Courtesy of Screen Gems.
Lakeview Terrace (2008)
Samuel L. Jackson, who also stars in Jungle Fever, plays an overbearing cop who takes issue with his new neighbors (Kerry Washington and Patrick Wilson) because of their interracial marriage.
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Video: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
2 Days in New York (2012)
Julie Delpy's Marion and Chris Rock's Mingus grapple with more than just racial differences in this funny little indie. Marion's French background and intrusive family cause additional farcical drama and misunderstanding.
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Video: Courtesy of Focus Features
Loving (2016)
This drama starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga got major buzz at Cannes for its portrayal of the real-life story of Richard and Mildred Loving. The couple's relationship resulted in a 1967 Supreme Court decision that struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
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