Reggae’s ‘Reel’ Global Impact in Film, TV and Games

Reggae as an art form is transformative in the way it impacts how we see, feel, and experience things. It’s all in the sound, or what we Jamiacans like to call the vibrations of the music, and how well it lends itself to all sorts of stories, whether love, struggle, resistance, or hope. That may be why it is such a popular and often-go-to genre for all types of media.

And so, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of International Reggae Day, we are taking a look at how reggae music has shaped and influenced global culture through media with our top list of movies, TV shows, series and even games with heavy reggae themes.

Reggae in Classic & Contemporary Films

Before we dive in, honorary mention must be given to classic Jamaican or Jamaican-inspired films like “The Harder They Come”, “Shottas”,  and “Cool Runnings”. These beloved films have immortalised Jamaican culture globally, making reggae music and Jamaica sound and feel cool to international audiences. They have also served as a reference point and influence for many films, like some of those on our list.

The “Bad Boys” Movie Franchise

“Bad Boys,”  an American buddy cop series, follows the adventures of two Miami narcotic detectives, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Barnett (Martin Lawrence), who team up to take on dangerous cases while navigating their complex friendship. 

The franchise has released four films between 1995 and 2024, grossing over $1 billion at the box office worldwide. Aside from the high jinx and spectacular action-packed sequences, what really makes the “Bad Boys” films is the energetic reggae-infused soundtrack that sets the tone for some of the best and funniest scenes in the movie. 

Reggae is the heartbeat of the film series, with infectious music from top reggae acts like the Grammy-award-winning band Inner Circle, whose song “Bad Boys” is the official, unofficial theme song. And who can forget that time Will and Martin appeared in the music video for Diana King’s Shy Guy, a song written for the movie that became a global smash hit? Legendary duo Chaka Demus & Pliers also sprinkled some reggae magic on the franchise with the classic “Murder She Wrote”.

It’s safe to say that the Bad Boys movies wouldn’t be the same without reggae music, which had such a massive influence on one of Hollywood’s most successful franchises.

Cops Television Show

Speaking of Inner Circle, their smash hit song “Bad Boys” is also the official theme song for Cops. Cops is an award-winning American reality TV series where camera crews ride along with police officers while they work to capture some of the craziness of the job. The TV show, now in its 36th season and with over 1000 episodes, is one of the longest-running television shows, first airing in March 1989.

According to producer John Langley, “Bad Boys” was the theme song because he was a huge fan of Bob Marley and he thought it’d be interesting to “counterpoint law enforcement with reggae.”

So he and his team went searching for reggae songs that would fit, and that’s how he came across the track. “I heard that song, and I said, “That’s it. That’s the song for the show.”

Shark Tale Animated Film

Shark Tale is a 2004 animated film by DreamWorks Animation Studio and features the voice of Will Smith, who plays the main character Oscar, a small fish with big dreams. 

The popular kids flick also features two Jamaican-inspired characters, Ernie and Bernie, who are DJ’s and the henchmen of Sykes, one of the main antagonists in the film.

Ernie is voiced by Ziggy Marley, and Bernie is voiced by Doug E. Doug, who starred in the film Cool Runnings. Now that’s what you call a full-circle moment.

The movie soundtrack also features a remix of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” by Sean Paul and Ziggy Marley.

Stranger Things Netflix Series

A combination of elements of science fiction, horror, and 1980s nostalgia, this beloved Netflix series revolves around a group of kids in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, who encounter supernatural events and government conspiracies. 

Running since 2016, the series has been a massive hit, and its eclectic soundtrack isn’t complete without a touch of reggae to build the vibe for one of the funniest scenes in season 4. 

Argyle, one of the main characters in season four, is portrayed as an easy-going, unaware stoner who is almost always high on “funny plants” and who makes a living doing the occasional delivery from his smokey Scooby Doo Mystery Machine.

The character got swept up in the action when he inadvertently happened upon a gunfight while blasting Musical Youth’s “Pass the Duchie,” which perfectly captures the essence of the chaotic scene with its catchy, upbeat tempo.

How Stella Got Her Groove Back Movie

This classic romantic drama adapted from the novel by Terry McMillan follows Stella (Angela Bassett), a successful but overworked stockbroker and divorcee who finds love and rejuvenation in Jamaica. 

On a vacation to the island, Stella meets and engages in a fling with the much younger Winston (Taye Diggs). In Winston, Stella has a second shot at real love if she can get out of her own way first. 

The star-studded all-black supporting cast included Whoopi Goldberg, who plays the best friend, Regina King, and Barry Henley.

Controversial accent aside, what makes this movie memorable is the heavy reggae and dancehall influences, featuring tracks such as “Escape to Jamaica” by Lady Saw & Nadine Sutherland, “Luv Me, Luv Me” by Janet Jackson featuring Shaggy, “Make My Body Hot” by Diana King, “The Art of Seduction” by Maxi Priest, and “Makes Me Sweat” by Big Pun & Beenie Man. 

The film’s music complements its tropical setting and romantic plot, showcasing the fusion of reggae with hip-hop and R&B.


This beloved animated children’s series aired on PBS from 1996 to 2022 and focuses on loveable aardvark Arthur Read and how he navigates relationships with family and friends. Each themed episode chronicles the adventure of the 8-year-old bespectacled character and presents many teachable moments for young viewers.

The goal of the show says PBS is to ‘help foster an interest in reading and writing, to encourage positive social skills, and to model age-appropriate problem solving”.

To set the positive and uplifting tone of the series, the producers needed a theme song that was fun and catchy with a ‘simple message’ that “millenials and Gen Z can practically sing in their sleep”.

The lyrics to the theme song “Believe in Yourself,” sung by Ziggy Marley, opines that life is wonderful when we can all work and play together, but only if we learn to listen to each other’s point of view.

In talking to The Hollywood Reporter about selecting Ziggy Marley to sing the theme song, executive producer Carol Greenwald says “the reggae artist presented an opportunity for kids to be exposed to music they might not be familiar with,” according to the article.

Ziggy agreed to do the song with the condition that it be recorded in Jamaica. And that it was at the iconic Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. The rest, as they say, is kids’ television history.

The Harder They Fall

Netflix’s award-winning black action and western film debuted in 2021 and follows the life of outlaw Nat Love, played by Jonathan Majors, who discovers that his enemy Rufus Buck, played by Idris Elba, is being released from prison. Love rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge. 

It’s no surprise that the film’s director, Jeymes Samuels, is himself a musician and music producer, given its sonically orgasmic soundtrack heavily ladened with infectious beats from reggae to hip-hop to deep soul. 

His ear for music allowed him to perfectly pair scenes with sounds to create motifs that beautifully assist the narrative.

Perhaps the best example of this is the opening scene where Treacherous Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield) ride towards the train where Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is being held in chains to the book and bass of Barrington Levy’s ‘Here I Come”.

According to Samuels, he has been listening to that song since he was a kid, and he has always heard galloping, so when he was writing the scene, that song lent itself well to the material.

It was also for this reason that Koffee’s “The Harder They Fall,” produced by Samuels, who co-wrote the lyrics with Jay-Z (who himself is a heavy sampler of reggae music), became the theme song for the film.

The James Bond Movie Franchise

Did you know that all 13 James Bond novels were written in Jamaica? What’s more, many of the iconic theme songs of the James Bond films were also completed in Jamaica. It’s no wonder then that the backdrop and music for some of the movies in the series are so heavily island-influenced.

Perhaps the most iconic James Bond scene was from the 1962 film Dr. No, when Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) emerges from the water in the legendary two-piece bikini that catapulted the actress to super stardom. That scene was filmed at Laughing Waters Beach in Ocho Rios. In fact, many scenes from the movie were filmed across Jamaica.

Several films in the franchise feature classic reggae sounds from the legendary band Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, “Jump Up,”  Buju Banton’s “Champion,” and Sister Nancy’s “BAM BAM,” blending espionage with reggae rhythms.

The James Bond franchise, which is inextricably linked to Jamaica, has also inspired local artists to pen their own James Bond-themed music, the most notable of which is “007 (Shanty Town)” by Desmond Deckers and the Aces.Check out this article form Dancehall Mag for a more in-depth look at the connection between James Bond and reggae music.

The Outer Banks Tv Series

Premiering in 2020, the Netflix hit series “Outer Banks” blends teen drama with action, mystery, and adventure. When teenager John B’s father disappears, he enlists his three friends to help in the hunt for treasure that could solve the mystery.

The beachy overtone of the series immerses viewers in a world where reggae is part of the lifestyle, featuring diverse sounds from Stylo G’s “Fimmi Gyal” to Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock” and Dawn Pen’s classic “No, No, No.” that enrich the series’ atmosphere.

Even the series’s closing credits song, “The Pogues Theme,” is heavily reggae-influenced. In fact, there are over 12 reggae tracks across three seasons that complement the show’s laid-back, coastal setting. You can find the full playlist here.

Grand Theft Auto Video Games

The “Grand Theft Auto” series is renowned for its eclectic music selection, and reggae has found a prominent place in its playlists. 

In some versions, like Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City, and Garden Theft: Sandreas Stories, it is baked into the storyline. 

A recurring character in both stories is Horace “the Pacifist” Walsh, a weed-smoking Jamaican DJ at the K-JAH radio station who uses reggae music to pacify the residents of Liberty City and encourage them to “put down their weapons.”.

Fun fact: there are over 32 reggae tracks that enhance the game’s urban landscapes and narrative intensity, including Desmond Dekkers and the Aces, Protege, Yellow Man, I-Roy, Black Uhuru, Busy Signal, and more.

There’s also quite a few tracks from dub artist The Scientist who seem to be a kind of Messiah figure for Horace. You can find the full playlist here.

Jamaica may be small, but she is very tallawah, and her talents are so varied, rich, deep, and bountiful that they cannot be contained by geographical or even cultural borders.

And so, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of International Reggae Day, we acknowledge the immense impact of her most valuable gift of reggae as a vibe setter, the good time giver, a catalyst for revolutions and a global cultural phenomenon.

From its roots in Jamaica to its influence in film, television, and gaming, reggae continues to inspire and unite audiences around the globe.


  • Jada Powell

    Jada Powell is a lifestyle writer, producer and overall lover of life. She has extensive experience in harmonising words and finding the sweet spot for her creative and consulting endeavours.

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