BLAXPLOITATION -- This subgenre has some obvious classics, like Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song, Blacula, SuperFly, Coffy, Shaft, etc. And my own choice might seem obvious as well, but I couldn't resist.
PUTNEY SWOPE (1969)
Putney says she's gotta have soul! No list of exploitation movies is complete without this one. Directed by Robert Downey (original recipe), who also ended up dubbing the voice of the main character himself, this movie was kind of a forerunner of the blaxploitation subgenre. After the head of the executive board of an ad agency dies (in one of the most hilarious scenes I've ever seen -- "How many syllables, Mario?"), the token black man on the board (the titular Putney, played by Arnold Johnson) is accidentally made the new boss, and he proceeds to turn everything upside down. The story is a pretty basic "power corrupts" narrative, but the real magic of the movie is in the series of commercials made by the fictitious "Truth and Soul, Inc." -- particularly the ads for Face Off face cream, Ethereal Cereal and Fan-A-Way ("You can't eat an air conditioner.").
I had the privilege of seeing a 40th anniversary screening of this in Harlem in 2009, with Downey in attendance, and it's one of my favorite experiences of living in New York.
HICKSPLOITATION - I went a bit outside the box for this one. We tend to think of hicksploitation as strictly taking place in the American South, but I submit that you don't have to be southern to be a hick. In fact, you don't even have to be American.
THE WICKER MAN (1973)
I defy you to tell me this isn't hicksploitation. I'm sure most people familiar on any level with the horror genre have seen this, but I think it's kind of interesting to look at it through the hicksploitation lens. The plot is the plot of nearly every hicksploitation flick ever made. A city-dwelling interloper (Edward Woodward) goes into a remote, rural area. He almost immediately meets with resistance from the mysterious and creepy locals, but he doesn't do himself any favors by not respecting their customs and culture. He is tempted by the farmer's daughter (or in this case, the landlord's daughter -- a naked, wall-slapping Britt Ekland). He comes face to face with the village's leader (Christopher Lee), whose proxy in most of these films is a small-town sheriff. And no matter what he thinks is going on, the truth is way more messed up than he anticipated.
CANUXPLOITATION - I'm not sure I have a handle on what does or doesn't count as Canuxploitation and what's just a Canadian film, but after consulting the exhaustive list on canuxploitation.com, I settled on this one, which I saw a few years ago and highly enjoyed.
CANNIBAL GIRLS (1973)
Starring Andrea Martin and an extravagantly afro'd Eugene Levy, and directed by Ivan Reitman, this is your basic Texas Chainsaw setup, but plays much more as a spoof. One stand-out feature (which is explained in the film's amazing trailer) is that the movie sounds a kind of bell tone whenever something gross or scary is about to happen -- to alert the more squeamish members of the audience so that they can look away. It might not be the best movie of its kind, and it's frequently an uneasy mix of horror and humor, but it's certainly entertaining and you can see why Reitman and Levy and Martin all went on to have noteworthy careers.
SEXPLOITATION - I'm not as well versed as I might be in this particular subgenre, and there are a lot of "nearby" genres that often get mistaken for this one. But I went with a movie from a known purveyor of a very particular type of sexploitation -- Jean Rollin.
I was tempted to go with Rollin's Requiem for a Vampire (aka Caged Virgins), which I like slightly better, but that movie leans a bit more to the horror end. This movie also has a good bit of horror, but it leans more toward sexploitation. This subgenre often dovetails with horror, especially the surprisingly robust "lesbian vampire" canon, and Rollin made a lot of films like this. Like a lot of European erotic horror, it's best not to try too hard to nail down the plot. Basically, a thief, after cheating his partners out of their share of loot and running off, takes refuge in a mountain chateau. He encounters two beautiful women and tries to intimidate them, but he turns out to be in way over his head and gets caught up in a ... well, it's not entirely clear. A love triangle? A vampiric cult? Both? Whatever it is, there is no moment in this film more amazing than the scene depicted above, in which Eva -- clad in nothing but a black cloak and boots -- lays waste to the thief's remaining accomplices with a big ole scythe.
EXPLOIT ANYTHING - For the wild card slot, I'm swinging for the fences, exploitation wise. I've talked about this film before, but it's been a while. A classic I first encountered at BNAT back in 2004.
TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN (1972)
I guess this would most accurately be categorized as toysploitation? This movie might be easily discarded as trash, but while it's certainly sleazy, it's also pretty danged good. The narrative structure is provocative in a way that you don't normally see in films like this. Wait -- films like this? Scratch that, there are no films like this. The very first thing you see in the film is our heroine, Jamie, writhing on the bed, caressing a plush toy soldier and moaning "Daddy," so right away you know you're in for a wild ride. As you might guess, Jamie has severe daddy issues, brought on by her own father's abandonment and her mother's verbal abuse. She also has an unusually fierce attachment to toys (her main connection to her father being the toys he gave her when she was little). Not as lurid as it undoubtedly sounds, this movie nonetheless forces viewers to join Jamie on her obsession spiral, which takes her from toy shop employee to unhappy wife to New York prostitute as she gets closer and closer to realizing her twisted fantasy. The climax of this movie is just flipping unreal. I can't believe this movie exists.