This film is known for its soundtrack, written and produced by soul singer Curtis Mayfield (see Super Fly (soundtrack)). Super Fly is one of the few films ever to have been outgrossed by its soundtrack.
Super Fly’s glorification of drug dealers serves to subtly critique the civil rights movement’s failure to provide better economic opportunities for black America. The movie’s portrayal of a black community controlled by drug dealers serves to highlight that the initiatives of the civil rights movement were far from fully accomplished.
Priest (Ron O’Neal) is an up and coming, successful cocaine dealer in New York City. On his way to a meeting point in Harlem early one morning he is mugged by two junkies. Priest beats one up and gives chase to the other where he gets his money back and kicks him in an apartment. Priest then goes to meet Eddie, (Carl Lee) his partner in crime who is playing craps downtown, to discuss his future plans. The pair go back to Eddie’s apartment where Priest tells Eddie he wants out of the business but wants to make one last big score and to make one million dollars in four months. Eddie who tries to talk him out of it as he loves the lifestyle, reluctantly goes along with Priest’s ambitions and the pair agree to make one last big score.
After Eddie leaves, Fat Freddie and Nate Adams (Priest’s main dealers) turn up at his apartment to make their payments. Fat Freddie is short and doesn’t have his money. Priest warns him that either he is going to get his money by robbing someone or he will put his wife out on “whore’s row”. Priest gives them a gun and the pair go out to rob a mafia member after they follow him to New Jersey. Priest meets Eddie at Scatter’s restaurant (Julius Harris). After watching the band play (The Curtis Mayfield Experience), the two go into the kitchen to discuss business with Scatter. Priest tells Scatter his plans and that he needs him to provide him with ’30 keys’(30 kilos) of coke.
Scatter, who has retired from the cocaine business, gets frustrated at them and tells them he can not help. Eddie angers Scatter by threatening him and Scatter puts a gun to his head. Scatter then agrees to supply Priest the 30 kees. The trio agree to a meeting time and Priest and Eddie leave to meet Fat Freddie and Nate. Freddie has Priest’s money from the successful holdup and the three of them talk over a beer. Priest accidentally reveals to Freddie and Nate that he is picking up one kee of coke from Scatter. Priest then goes home to a romantic evening with his girlfriend Georgia (Sheila Frazier).
The following day, Freddie is arrested in Harlem for assault and is questioned by narcotics detectives (cocaine was found on him) who beat him into a confession. Freddie rats out Priest and Eddie and tells the police that there is around 50 family members (dealers) and that Priest and Eddie are picking up a key of coke that night from Scatter (who pays off the same detectives). Freddie is released but tries to escape outside the police precinct and is hit by a car and killed. Meanwhile Priest and Georgia are in Central Park discussing Priest’s ambitions in getting out and leaving New York and taking her with him.
Later that night, Priest and Eddie go to pick up one key of coke from Scatter but the detectives are waiting. Alerted, Priest walks away but one of the detectives follows him down a dark street were Priest is ambushed and held a gun point with Eddie who was already arrested. The detectives make a deal with the pair and tell them they can operate but must make payments of $10,000 a month. Priest obviously is uncomfortable with this but Eddie happily agrees saying that ‘the man’ is on our side.
The pair then go on to sell their kilo of coke, which is shown in a classic photo montage scene with ‘Pusherman‘ playing. Priest and Eddie arrive in a bar in Harlem to meet a potential buyer. As they are waiting three black activists approach them who are trying to shake Priest down for money for their cause. Priest demands they leave as he has a meeting and will not be lured into their scam. They buyer arrives and samples the cocaine and agrees to make a deal and to ‘get it on!’.
Priest is at Cynthia’s apartment, his other girlfriend who is from Manhattan and has corporate contacts. Priest is unsure about staying with her and the pair have an argument. Scatter arrives at the apartment with information about ‘The Man’ and asks Priest for $20,000 in cash as he must leave town. After Scatter leaves, he is arrested by the narcotics detectives. The police no longer need Scatter and dispose of him in his Rolls Royce with a large dose of heroin to shut him up. Priest learns of this and, suspecting something is wrong, meets with two mafia contractors in a café and discusses business. Although words are not said, it is clear that Priest is asking them for a contract for murder. This is his insurance policy.
Priest arrives at Eddie’s apartment and discuss the murder of Scatter. Telling him the news that he was killed by the police, Priest suggests foul play and that the police were behind it in order to use him and Eddie to make larger buys and to stay in business. Priest demands his half of the money and wants to get out. Eddie tells him that he can’t do anything else, especially pimpin’ as he doesn’t have the ‘stomach’ for it. Eddie gives him his share and then calls the detectives and tells them that Priest has left with a briefcase full of money. Priest then exchanges his briefcase in the elevator with Georgia who is in disguise. By the time he arrives to his car, the police have arrived. They detain him until the narcotics detectives come and then they all leave. Priest watches Georgia leave with his money knowing its safe.
Priest is then escorted to the waterfront where Deputy Commissioner Riordan (Sig Shore) is waiting for him. Riordan, who is running the extortion racket, chastises Priest for wanting to leave the business as tells him he will be “nothing more than another two bit black junkie”. A fight breaks out and Priest uses his karate skills to overcome the detectives. Riordan then pulls his gun and the fighting stops. Priest then explains he has placed a murder contract on Riordan and his family if any harm comes to him from the police. He tells him that he’s smarter than those other “niggers” and that he has contracted the best killers there are, “White ones, baby! White ones!” Riordan claims that Priest doesn’t have any money for something like that as they open his briefcase. Dirty clothes fall out and Priest claims that doing his laundry will not help. Priest then hops into his tricked-out Cadillac Eldorado and drives off, victorious.
At the beginning of Super Fly, the movie is filmed in a manner that uses long takes and wide camera angles. This creates many powerful effects throughout the movie. In one of the opening shots of the movie, the audience sees the street corner as if they were looking down on it from a rooftop; it is fully in color, very lifelike, and rapidly moving with people and cars. As the camera shifts its focus from the street scene and zooms in on the meeting between the two men, a more direct narrative is created. It is from this point on that “a classic linear narrative develops from one long take to another, the camera voyeuristically documenting the journey of the two men in the crowd.”  To further add to the unique narrative, the films editing is rhythmically motivated by the main song in the soundtrack sung by Curtis Mayfield. “His voice makes you feel like a warrior, or just makes you feel invulnerable” states Diawara. The soundtrack album gives a realistic portrait of urban life and drug dealing without ever resorting to knee-jerk moralizing or clear anti-drug messages. This is what primarily what gives the album it’s appeal. Its just a more intelligent and down to earth record than most of what was released as soul during the era. Musically, its also leaps and bounds among the competition which influenced much more of the gangster rap.