Craig Jones (Ice Cube), a young man living in Los Angeles, has just lost his job, after being framed for stealing. Not having any plans, he hangs out on his front porch with his best friend, Smokey (Chris Tucker), a carefree, mischievous drug dealer who sells weed for Big Worm (Faizon Love), the psychopathic neighborhood supplier.
Throughout the day, Craig and Smokey observe the goings-on in their neighborhood. They encounter Ezail, who supports his drug habit with petty crime; Debbie (Nia Long), an attractive girl on whom Craig has an interest in; Craig's neighbor, Stanley, whose wealth-like supercilious attitude bemuses Craig; Red (DJ Pooh), Craig's former co-worker and childhood friend whose bike and necklace have been forcibly taken by Deebo (Tiny Lister Jr.), the neighborhood bully and also enlists Smokey's aid in a burglary of Stanley's house; Pastor Clevor (Bernie Mac), the neighborhood pastor, who is caught sleeping with Mrs. Parker (Kathleen Bradley) by her husband Mr. Parker (Tony Cox); and Felisha, Debbie's sister and Deebo's girlfriend, who irritates everyone in the neighborhood with her constant begging.
Smokey, who has been smoking rather than selling his consignment of marijuana, has a confrontation with Big Worm. In an attempt to explain his money shortage, Smokey incriminates Craig. Big Worm threatens to kill them both if they do not give him two hundred dollars by 10:00 P.M.
Craig angrily confronts Smokey about his lack of initiative in selling the marijuana before deciding to help Smokey. Craig unsuccessfully attempts to borrow money from his mother Betty (Anna Maria Horsford); his sister, Dana (Regina King); and his insanely jealous girlfriend, Joi (Paula Jai Parker). Craig's father, Willie (John Witherspoon), eventually learns of Craig's plan, as well as the fact that Craig is carrying a gun. Willie talks to him, explaining that Craig should use his fists, instead of guns, to resolve his problems, all the while telling Craig the story of how his uncle, who was Willie's brother, lost his life at the age of 22 due to gun violence.
Later on, while Craig and Smokey discuss their dilemma, they are interrupted by the arrival of Rita (Yvette Wilson), a girl whom Debbie set Smokey up with earlier. Smokey then discovers she lied about her looks: instead of resembling Janet Jackson as she originally claimed, Rita is obese and bald.
Smokey heads to Debbie's house to complain and notices Red's bike on the lawn. He sneaks in and finds Deebo asleep with Felisha. Smokey tries to reclaim the money that he and Deebo stole from Stanley earlier, but is interrupted by Ezail. Both escape without the money before Deebo wakes up. Smokey returns to Craig's house to tell him, and Craig agrees to go back with Smokey to try again, but at that moment, Deebo rides past them.
The two notice a black car driving slowly and hide, suspecting a possible drive-by shooting. Scared, they run to Craig's room. Then, after Willie confronts them with the situation with Big Worm, and with 10:00 approaching, they decide step out. Once outside, they notice the van parked in the street with its headlights off. The two flee as men in the van start shooting at them.
The neighbors emerge from their homes upon hearing the gunshots. Debbie then confronts Deebo for assaulting Felisha after Deebo falsely accuses Felisha of Smokey's attempted theft. Deebo eventually assaults Debbie, as Craig and Smokey arrive.
Angered that Deebo has struck Debbie, Craig stands up to him, and threatens him with his gun. Deebo scoffs at the threat and Willie encourages Craig to put down the weapon and fight with his hands. Craig and Deebo fight. After nearly losing, Craig emerges victorious by using various objects as weapons.
As Debbie tends to Craig, Smokey steals the money from an unconscious Deebo and flees the scene. Red punches Deebo again to ensure he doesn't wake up and retrieves his chain and bicycle while Ezail steals Deebo's shoes. Craig and Debbie agree to meet up the following day and Craig breaks up with Joi over the phone.
Later, Smokey settles with Big Worm, and ends the feud. He announces that he is giving up drug dealing and going to drug rehabilitation. After hanging up, Smokey looks up, lights a joint and ends the film, saying to the audience, "I was just bullshittin'! And you know this, man!"
Prior to "Friday"'s release, movies such as Boyz n the Hood (also starring Ice Cube) and Colors portrayed life in the hood as violent and menacing. Ice Cube felt that these films did not portray the full picture of living in the ghetto, specifically missing a more lighthearted element, with Cube telling Complex, "we had fun in the hood. We used to trip off the neighborhood." Therefore, Cube, and his partner DJ Pooh, decided to create a film that would portray their environments in such a manner.
The script was only the third Cube had ever written: the two previous had been underdeveloped." With the film Cube intended to make a "Hood classic" which would be "a movie that the neighborhood would want to watch over and over and over again" According to Cube "Damn near all of" the movie is autobiographical, with most of the movie being based on events that occurred in his neighborhood growing up. Smokey was based on DJ Pooh's stint as a drug dealer, while Craig's situation of being fired on his day off was based on Cube's cousin, who at the time was working for UPS.
From the start, it was realized that the movie was unlikely to attract big named studios and that they would have to finance it themselves. For a time the idea of making the film in black and white to save money was floated although this did not happen. The team decided on approaching New Line Cinema about producing the movie, as they considered the House Party series, to be close to what they were trying to do.
New Line agreed to front the production but requested that the role of Smokey, initially to be played by Pooh, to be played by someone with more experience. Cube and Pooh discovered Chris Tucker while watching Def Comedy Jam of which he was a performer. Tucker's first audition was disastrous but he was asked to prepare more and try again. Afterward Tucker called Angela Means hoping she would hook him up with her acting coach. Instead, Means and Faizon Love held a spaghetti dinner where they workshopped the role of Smokey out with him, according to Means "By the time that spaghetti was gone, Chris was Smokey."
Cube chose F. Gary Gray, at the time a music video director, to direct the film. Gray had previously worked with Cube shooting videos for various songs, and mentioned to him that he was trying to make a short film, instead Cube gave him the script to Friday which Gray accepted. Cube was attracted to the fact that he and Gray grew up with similar backgrounds and felt that he would not have to coach him too much on various aspects of the film.
Gray would later note that "It being a comedy scared the shit out of me" doubting whether audiences would buy Cube in a role so different from his public persona at the time, explaining to complex "Ice Cube was the nigga you loved to hate. He was like the toughest man in America, and when you take someone you’re used to delivering on hard-hitting social issues in hardcore gangster rap, and who has a hardcore point of view on politics, you would never think comedy."
Friday was released on April 26, 1995 in the United States, June 30, 1995 in the United Kingdom, and October 5, 1995 in Australia. The film saw a limited, theatrical re-release in honor of its 20th anniversary on April 20, 2015 for one night only.
The film was released on DVD on March 2, 1999 and Blu-ray on September 8, 2009 with a new director's cut (97 minutes). The single disc DVD contains a theatrical trailer, a featurette on the film, and cast and crew interviews.
Friday received mostly positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 74% approval rating, based on 23 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "What Friday might lack in taut construction or directorial flair, it more than makes up with its vibrant (albeit consistently crass) humor and the charming, energetic performances of its leads." Metacritic gives the film a score of 54 out of 100, based on 9 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
The film was recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
Craig/Smokey: "Damn!" – Nominated
Director Quentin Tarantino counted Friday as one of his twenty favourite movies from 1992 to 2009.
The film has obtained a large cult following since its release. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison is nicknamed Deebo in reference to the character from the film.
Friday grossed $6,589,341 on its opening weekend debuting at #2 in the box office in 865 theaters, averaging $7,617 per theater. The film grossed $27,467,564 in North America and $748,354 internationally, with a total of $28,215,918 worldwide.
The success of the film inspired an animated TV series: Friday: The Animated Series.