The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. In 2002, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Ten-year old Tre Styles lives with his single mother, Reva in Watts, Los Angeles. After Tre gets into a fight at school, his teacher informs Reva that Tre is highly intelligent but has a volatile temper and lacks respect. Worried about Tre's future, Reva sends him to live in the Crenshaw neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles with his father, Jason "Furious" Styles (Laurence Fishburne), from whom she hopes Tre will learn valuable life lessons and to be able to mature, but assures him he will be permitted to return to her one day.
In Crenshaw, Tre reunites with his friends, Darrin "Doughboy" Baker, Doughboy's maternal half-brother Ricky, and Chris, their mutual friend. After chatting for a bit, Furious immediately has Tre rake the leaves off the front lawn. That night, Furious tells Tre that he has him work to teach him how to be responsible. That night, Tre hears his father shooting at a burglar who tries to rob the house. Two policemen arrive an hour later, and while the white officer is civil and courteous, the black one is disrespectful towards Furious. The next day, Tre and his friends go out with Chris who shows them a dead body. While there, a group of older boys in the Watts Crip gang steal Ricky's football and Doughboy tries to retrieve it, but is defeated. While the older boys walk away, one of them gives Ricky his ball back. Later in the day, Furious spends father/son bonding time with Tre, taking him fishing by the seaside and tells the boy more about his life prior to having him, including his military experience in the Vietnam War, in hopes of making his son proud of him. He concludes his story by advising Tre to never join the army, stating that a black man has no place in the army. When returning home, they see Doughboy and Chris being arrested for shoplifting (Doughboy had said earlier on that they were going to the store, but had no money), while Ricky and Tre look on.
At a barbecue, Doughboy (Ice Cube) is now a Crip gang member and is celebrating his recent release from jail, along with most of his friends, including Chris, who is now paralysed and uses a wheelchair as a result of a gun wound, and new friends Dooky and Monster, also now Crip members. Ricky (Morris Chestnut), now a star running back for Crenshaw High School, lives with his single mother Brenda, girlfriend Shanice, and their infant son. Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) has grown into a mature and responsible teenager, works at a clothes shop at the Fox Hills Mall, and aspires to attend college with his girlfriend, Brandi (Nia Long), but their relationship is somehow deteriorating over Tre's desire to have sex, while Brandi, a devout Catholic, wishes to wait until after marriage.
Ricky hopes to win a scholarship from USC. After a visit from a recruiter, a mildly embarrasing experience for Ricky due to his unkempt home and his brother's rudeness, he is informed that he must score a 700 or higher on the SATs test in order to qualify. Ricky and Tre sit the test on the same day. Afterwards, they go to see Furious at his office to unwind. Furious takes Tre and Ricky to Compton, California to talk about the dangers of decreasing property values in the black community. That night, during a local street racing gathering, Ricky is provoked by Ferris, a 27-year old member of the Bloods. In response, Doughboy brandishes his handgun, leading to a brief argument between the two gangs. When the two gangs are finished arguing, Ferris fires his gun in the air causing everyone to leave. While Tre talks about leaving Los Angeles, he and Ricky are pulled over by the police. The cop is the exact same one who was disrespectful towards his father seven years earlier; he intimidates and threatens Tre with his gun, knowing he can't do anything. Distraught, Tre goes to Brandi's house, where he finally breaks down. After she consoles him, they have sex for the first time.
The following day, Ricky has a fight with Doughboy. While Ricky and Tre walk to a nearby store, they see Ferris and his gang driving around the neighborhood and in an attempt to avoid them, the pair cut through back alleyways and split up. Ferris' car closes in on Ricky, and one of Ferris' gang members shoots Ricky, killing him. Doughboy and his gang, who had sensed that Tre and Ricky were in trouble, catch up with them, but are too late. Devastated and helpless, the boys carry Ricky's lifeless body back home. When Brenda and Shanice see Ricky's corpse, they break down in tears and blame Doughboy, who unsuccessfully tries to comfort them and explain the truth. That night, a distraught Brenda reads Ricky's SAT results, discovering he scored a 710, enough to qualify for the scholarship he wanted.
The remaining boys vow vengeance on Ferris and his crew. Furious finds Tre preparing to take Furious' .357 Magnum, but convinces Tre to abandon his plans for revenge. However, Brandi and Furious catch Tre sneaking out of his bedroom window to join Doughboy. That night, as the gang drives across the city, Tre asks to be let out of the car and returns home, realizing that his father was right to keep him from falling into an endless cycle of violence. When Tre gets home, Furious is waiting for him. They both look at each other without saying a word, and then Furious retreats to his bedroom. Meanwhile, Doughboy finds Ferris' gang at a local fast-food outlet, and Monster opens fire on them, killing one and wounding the other two. Doughboy gets out and kills the other wounded gang member and executes Ferris.
The next day, Doughboy visits Tre, now understanding Tre's reasons for leaving the gang. Doughboy knows that he will soon face retaliation for Ferris' death, and accepts the consequences of his crime-ridden lifestyle. He plaintively questions why America doesn't care about the life in the ghetto. He sorrowfully says that he has no family left now after Ricky's death and Brenda's disownment of him, but is embraced by Tre, who says to Doughboy that he still has one brother left (referring to himself).
The epilogue reveals that Doughboy saw Ricky buried the next day and was murdered two weeks later. Tre and Brandi resume their relationship, and go on to attend Morehouse and Spelman Colleges in Atlanta, respectively.Cuba Gooding Jr. as Tre Styles
Desi Arnez Hines II as Tre age 10
Ice Cube as Darrin "Doughboy" Baker
Baha Jackson as Doughboy age 10
Morris Chestnut as Ricky Baker
Donovan McCrary as Ricky age 10
Laurence Fishburne (credited as Larry Fishburne) as Jason "Furious" Styles Jr.
Nia Long as Brandi
Nicole Brown as Brandi age 10
Angela Bassett as Reva Styles
Tyra Ferrell as Brenda Baker
Redge Green as Chris
Kenneth A. Brown as Chris age 10
Dedrick D. Gobert as Dooky
Baldwin C. Sykes as Monster
Tracey Lewis-Sinclair as Shaniqua
Alysia Rogers as Shanice
Regina King as Shalika
Lexie Bigham as Mad Dog
Raymond Turner as Ferris
Lloyd Avery II as Ferris' Triggerman (Knucklehead #2)
Singleton wrote the film based around his life growing up and events that either happened to him, or people he knew. When applying for film school, one of the questions on the application form was to describe "three ideas for films". One of the ideas Singleton wrote was a movie to be titled Summer of 84, which would later evolve into Boyz n the Hood. Singleton was protective of his script, insisting that he be the one to direct the project, later explaining at a retrospective screening of the film, "I wasn’t going to have somebody from Idaho or Encino direct this movie."
The role of Doughboy was specifically written for Ice Cube whom Singleton met while working as an intern at The Arsenio Hall Show. Singleton claims that the other two leads, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Morris Chestnut, were cast simply because they were the first ones who showed up to the casting auditions. Despite having a member of one of the best-selling rap groups, N.W.A, this, at least according to Singleton, was not a selling point to the studio who were not aware of them. Rather, Singleton opined, the studio greenlit the film in the interest of making a film similar to the Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing. The film was shot in sequence, with Singleton later noting that, as the film goes on, the camera work gets better as Singleton was finding his foothold as a director.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 96% based on 61 reviews and an average score of 8.3/10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 73 out of 100 based on 18 reviews, which indicates "Generally favorable reviews".
The film has been referenced many times in other works, including works by Lupe Fiasco, Game, and Ice Cube himself. In 1994, British jungle DJ duo Remarc and Lewi produced a song titled "Ricky". The song itself is built up of various sound bites from the movie, particularly the scene where Ricky is murdered. Ice Cube's song, "Check Yo Self", also references the film.
On the July 12, 2011 episode of her self-titled talk show, Mo'Nique celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of Boyz n the Hood with director John Singleton, Cuba Gooding Jr., Yo-Yo, and Regina King.
In Vince Staple's hit song "Norf Norf" (2016), Staples references the scene where Ricky gets shot in the back, letting the listener know how much of an impact the movie had on his upbringing.
Academy Awards: 1992Nominee, Best Director, John Singleton
Nominee, Best Original Screenplay, John Singleton
BMI Film Music Award: 1992Winner, Stanley Clarke
Image Award: 1993Winner, Outstanding Motion Picture, Boyz n the Hood
MTV Movie Award: 1992Nominee, Best Movie, Boyz n the Hood
Winner, Best New Filmmaker, John Singleton
National Film Preservation Board, USA: 2002National Film Registry, Boyz n the Hood
New York Film Critics Circle Award: 1991Winner, Best New Director, John Singleton
Political Film Society, USA: 1992Winner, PFS Award, Peace
Nominee, PFS Award, Exposé
Nominee, PFS Award, Human Rights
Writers Guild of America, USA: 1992Nominee, WGA Award (Screen), Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, John Singleton
Young Artist Awards: 1992Winner, Young Artist Award, Outstanding Young Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture
In 2007, Boyz n the Hood was selected as one of the 50 Films To See in your lifetime by Channel 4.
American Film Institute ListsAFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated