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The Five Heartbeats

336 customer reviews

Additional DVD options Edition Discs
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(Jan 10, 2006)
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15th Anniversary Special Edition
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(Jan 22, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Get ready to be rocked to your soul by The Five Heartbeats! This Motown-flavored masterpiece is the story of five young friends drawn together by music. Their dream of success takes them from amateur nights in ghetto clubs to the pinnacle of show business success and personal tragedy.

Few things can be more noble than a wholehearted effort to tell the story of black secular music in America, especially through the eyes of a mid-20th century rhythm-and-blues vocal group breaking through race barriers to popular success. Comedian and filmmaker Robert Townsend's The Five Heartbeats (1991) is one such ambitious effort. If its story frequently sags under epochal burdens, the film makes up for it with a surprisingly tough look at the music business and classy appearances by Diahann Carroll and hoofer Harold Nicholas. Townsend plays one-fifth of the titular act, whose collective life and times we follow from 1965 to the 1990s, through friendships, break-ups, and re-groupings. The director's script, cowritten with Keenen Ivory Wayans, is wobbly and short on good material for the women in the cast. But several of the male actors are quite strong, particularly John Canada Terrell as an original Heartbeats replacement. --Tom Keogh

Special Features

  • Robert Townsend profile (2 min.)
  • Featurette (4.5 min.)

Product Details

  • Actors: Robert Townsend, Michael Wright, Leon, Harry Lennix, Tico Wells
  • Directors: Robert Townsend
  • Writers: Robert Townsend, Keenen Ivory Wayans
  • Producers: Robert Townsend, Christina Schmidlin, Kokayi Ampah, Loretha C. Jones
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 4.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: January 22, 2002
  • Run Time: 121 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (336 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005RYOQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,142 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Five Heartbeats" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By stevey wundar on March 19, 2006
Format: DVD
"Some people run at the first sight of stormy weather ... But SOME people hold on and work it out together." -- Breakout lyric from the movie's soundtrack.

This movie has absolutely everything.

It's got comedy of all sorts, yet this movie really isn't a comedy.

And it's got compelling moments that'll make you think and make you feel some kinda way about given relatable characters and life circumstances, yet I wouldn't exactly fit this movie into a mold of your typical drama.

"The Five Heartbeats" is the loosely autobiographical tale of the rise, fall and ultimately triumph in life of a hit five-man R&B group from the 1960s (my father and uncles have an ongoing debate about whether this group's experiences were based upon The Temptations, The Four Tops or The Dells).

This movie seems like a real-enough, real life story about how money, fame and stardom can breed distrust, hate, disloyalty and an assortment of shady dealings that could undue any family relationship or close friendship.

The story follows five young men who start out as close friends who share a common passion and talent: singing.

Of course, they get "discovered" but as they start to and eventually make it big, they discover their moment at the top is filled with tragedy, anger, addictions and deceptions of all kinds -- realities totally different from the starry-eyed images they'd had of "making it big" once upon a time.

Overall, this movie is very much uplifting because, while it takes a life time, these five friends eventually overcome the past and learn some invaluable life lessons.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This is one of my all time favorite movies. It reveals the real life joys, struggles, and sorrows experienced by black music artists of the 60's era. This movie is a treat and monument to American music. It can be enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and nationalities. The Five Heartbeats tapped into my emotional highway. This movie is a classic. I only wish this movie would have recieved the publicity it deserved while it was playing at a theatre near you. Thank you Mr. Robert Townsend for a job well done!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Tempting Reviews TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 5, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Why? Because if you're here, you probably already saw the movie and are just curious about this release version. So I'll tell you about it.

First, the good:

- Comes with the official movie soundtrack. I mean the FULL soundtrack, it's a separate disc.

- Video transfer is done a lot better than the original DVD release.

- Case is designed a lot more appealing than the standard black and blue.

- Audio is better encoded and easier to hear at lower volumes.

- Lots of extras, including some fluff, but hey.

- Better aspect ratio, as the picture fills widescreen displays more evenly without stretching.

Now, the bad:

- The's so irritating to listen to, because they managed to do the true movie version of "Nothing But Love" and some other songs, fresh from the movie, but yet "Nights Like This" is that After 7 version. I don't mind the After 7 version, it's not bad, but I wanted to hear the movie version. This is especially troublesome when they even managed to do that Byrd song fresh from the movie.

- Some of the footage that never made it in the movie SHOULD have. Like the scene where Duck is explaining that all of the members can sing all different levels. It would explain a later scene when Choirboy offers to sing in Eddie's place - when I watched the first version I was confused. A soprano singing a baritone's parts? Also, there were some slight comedy pieces in there that should have been included.

- Some of the extras are just flat out pointless - or if they wanted to include them at least include the characters people cared about. There's one extra where the actors in kayfabe are giving their thoughts before accepting 'awards'.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By babysis85 on November 7, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is one of my FAVORITE movies of all time! I purchased this DVD because I only had the VHS version...and who plays VHS's anymore? Anyway, can you imagine my disappointment when I popped in this 15th anniversary edition and some of the most important scenes were cut out of the movie? It was like watching a shadow of the original. I will be re-purchasing The Five Heartbeats DVD...and this time, I'll make sure it's the regular DVD, not the chopped up anniversary edition. It cuts the heart out of a GREAT movie.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By The Fancy One on July 11, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
"The Five Heartbeats", one of my favorite films by Robert Townsend, is a wonderful movie about a fictional singing quintet's rise to fame in the 1960s. It somewhat echoes the story of the Temptations, but in actuality, it could have been a profile of just about any black male singing group of that era (it was supposedly based on the story of The Dells).

Reportedly, back in 1991, Robert Townsend said that the script, co-written by himself and Keenen Ivory Wayans, wasn't about any one group in particular, but the trials and tribulations of various black vocal groups of the 1960s. Watching this movie made me think of actual situations that happened to different soul music acts in those days, and even as recent as New Edition, Jodeci and Boyz II Men, so Townsend accomplished his goal successfully. The struggles to get to the top, what happens when you get there, the bonds of friendship, egos, trying to keep up with musical trends and of course, the racism, backstabbing, drug abuse and shady characters -- it's all included here as a very real look into just how ruthless and unforgiving the recording industry can be. "The Five Heartbeats" even touches upon how black music was ripped off by greedy industry executives and given to white acts to cover, therefore, "whitewashing" it for acceptance by white radio listeners and record buyers. This is a movie that weaves comedy, drama, romance, and music together into a singular treat for the eyes and ears.

I have a couple of beefs, though: Why are we hearing Delfonics hits from 1969 and 1970 in scenes that are supposed to be taking place in 1965?!
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