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Old School Archives

The films that use Coolio's 'Gangsta's Paradise' in their trailers

When Michelle Pfeiffer sat across from Coolio as his supposed teacher, and he gave her a life lesson about living on the streets, history was made. It may not have felt like it at the time, but Coolio’s 1995 song ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ became one of the ultimate anthems of the decade. But while the track was seemingly custom-made for the blockbuster hit Dangerous Minds it has been used in a few more films too.

For a while, in the mid-90s, it was sincerely impossible to walk down any street without hearing this song blasting out of a stereo. It became an anthem and is rightly considered the greatest hip-hop track ever made for a film. But it also has a few other, less glamourous films that have used the song to sell their movie.

Originally, the song was eyed up by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence for the title track of their upcoming action thriller Bad Boys but, clearly with his mind on his money, Coolio went for the highest bidder. It would make perfect sense for the Compton rapper. By giving the song to Dangerous Minds, he got himself a music video with the now-iconic Antoine Fuqua and got Michelle Pfeiffer to star in it.

As well as being a classic hip-hop anthem, the film the song was attached to was also a huge hit. The school-based drama focused on Pfeiffer’s efforts to get through to her classroom full of troublemakers as their teacher. Through Bob Dyan and alternative teaching methods, she tries to help them fall in love with learning and achieve their high school graduation certificates.

The track is a reworking of Stevie Wonder’s classic ‘Pastime Paradise’ and sees Coolio drop some street knowledge on a sensational beat. “I wasn’t really familiar with ‘Pastime Paradise,’ as much of a Stevie Wonder fan as I was,” Coolio explained to Rolling Stone. “My very first album I ever bought was the one with ‘Superwoman’ on it. [1972’s Music of My Mind.] I got that for my 12th birthday, that one and Fight the Power by the Isley Brothers. Songs in the Key of Life, my mother had that album at the house, so it was kind of weird that I didn’t know the song.”

As well as giving Coolio his first-ever Grammy, the song would keep the rapper smiling all the way to the bank. But it’s the more recent inclusions of the song in new trailers, the most unusual being the inclusion of the track on 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog. A film that few people wanted to see made, the project starring Jim Carrey, is adapted from the blockbuster video game.

Elsewhere, 2014’s Tammy starring Melissa McCarthy as the titular role, takes us on a profanity-filled trip across America with her grandmother in order to mend her broken heart. The more usual inclusion of the song is on 2017’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets from director Luc Besson, which is as sci-fi as the name suggests.

While many have adapted the smoky aura of the song into their own work, nothing beats its first spot selling Dangerous Minds.