John Singleton‘s Boyz n the Hood begins in the year 1984. 10-year-old Tre Styles lives with his single mother in Inglewood, California. Tre is an intelligent and sensitive boy, but he lacks respect for his teachers and the other students, and his aggression often gets him into trouble. After getting into a fight at school, he breaks an agreement with his mother, and she sends Tre to live with his father, Furious Styles, in the Crenshaw neighborhood of South Central. Tre’s mother feels that her son needs the influence of a man in his life to temper his temper. Furious, played by Laurence Fishburne, is a stern father, who expects his son to follow the rules and pull his weight.
Tre quickly finds out that life with his father will be far different than living with his mother. On Tre’s first night at the house, his father shoots at a burglar who was trying to rob the house. Police officers arrive nearly an hour after the incident. The crime isn’t as important since the thief didn’t take anything or harm anyone. Tre also sees that the police, particularly the African American officer, treat Furious with disrespect and contempt.
The next day, Tre hangs out with his friends Doughboy, Ricky, and Chris. Doughboy and Ricky are brothers who live with their mother, Brenda, across the street from Furious and Tre. While only sports interest Ricky, Doughboy is aggressive and street-smart.
The quartet go on an adventure one day to see a dead body that, presumably, no one has reported to the police. After seeing the decomposing corpse, Doughboy gets into a fight with a teenage Crip who has taken Ricky’s football. They beat up Doughboy, but the foundation for the two brothers’ characters is already established. Doughboy will not back down to anyone, and Ricky will not follow the path that his older brother is on.
Tre continues to live with his father, who always tries to educate and mature his son. Furious tries to teach his son to be responsible, and to act mature. After coming back from a fishing trip together, Tre and his father watch the police arrest Doughboy and Chris for shoplifting at a nearby store.
The film then jumps ahead seven years to 1991. The state has released Doughboy from jail, and his family throws him a party. Doughboy, played by Ice Cube, in his film debut, is hanging out with his “crew”, Chris (now in a wheelchair from a gunshot wound), Dookie, and Monster. Ricky is now the star running back at his high school and is looking to continue playing in college. Ricky still lives at home with his mom, but now has his girlfriend and his young son living there as well.
Tre is now a very mature and responsible teenager with a steady job and a steady girlfriend, Brandi. Tre has hopes to go to college as well, but he wishes to follow his girlfriend where she goes. However, everything is not perfect between the two lovers. In the universal constant of teenagers, Tre wants to have sex, and Brandi wants to wait. The couple’s difference of opinion causes strife between them.
Life on the streets of Crenshaw has a unique flavor. We see drug addicts trying to steal property, gang members pointing guns at people for no reason, and children of drug users wandering the street. One night, a man from the University of Southern California comes to interview Ricky about college, but Doughboy and his friends make a bad impression to the recruiter as they sit on the porch drinking “forties”. The recruiter is optimistic about Ricky’s chances of getting into USC, but he needs a 700 SAT score for entrance into the school. However, Ricky appears nervous about his prospects over scoring over 700 on the exam.
Soon after, the boys get together at a local street gathering where everyone gets together to show off their cars and hang. Ricky gets into a verbal argument with a Bloods member, Ferris. Doughboy comes to his brother’s defense, just as he did when they were kids. Doughboy shows his gun, and cocks it to scare Ferris off. The Blood member walks away from the fight, but later fires his automatic weapon into the air, ending the get together and showing his defiance to both Ricky and Doughboy.
While leaving the scene of the shooting, an LAPD patrol pulls over Tre and Ricky. The lead officer turns out to be the same one who responded to the burglary call made by Furious seven years earlier. The officer shoves a gun in Tre’s neck and taunts him, asking what he will do about it. The other officer interrupts The tense situation; pleading with the racist black officer to go.
The distraught Tre arrives late to Brandi’s house after the confrontation with the officer and breaks down crying; the scared and angry little boy that Tre was before living with Furious returns with all his frustration, confusion, and animosity for the world that he has to live. After seeing Tre’s’ vulnerability, Brandi consents to having sex with Tre, ending both of their virginities.
The next afternoon, Ricky, annoyed by his girlfriend, has a fight with Doughboy. Brenda rushes to Ricky’s aid while berating Doughboy; showing who she believes is her true son. After the fight, Ricky and Tre go to the store to get some groceries, and encounter Ferris and the Bloods. Ricky and Tre begin running through yards and alleys to avoid the gang members. Doughboy, upon seeing Ferris and his fellow Bloods roll up on the block, senses that Tre and Ricky are in trouble, and rushes to their defense. Ricky and Tre successfully avoid the Blood crew for a short time and decide to separate to further avoid them. But the Bloods find Ricky and shoot him once in the leg, followed by one fatal shot to the back. Tre cradles Ricky’s corpse as he mourns his friend while Doughboy and his friends arrive too late.
The boys take Ricky’s body home where Brenda and Shanice hysterically blame Doughboy, who unsuccessfully tries to comfort them. During their grief, Brenda opens Ricky’s SAT test results and discovers that he earned a 710. High enough that he could have qualified for a scholarship and escaped his life in the “Hood”.
Fueled by anger and grief, the remaining boys, including Tre, vow revenge on the Bloods. Furious comes home to find his blood soaked son holding Furious’ pistol and ready to go out and turn his back on everything that Furious has taught him over the last seven years. Furious has to convince Tre to give him the gun, which Tre does. However, Tre soon sneaks out the window and joins Doughboy and the Crips in their hunt for Ferris and the Bloods.
Later that night, the gang drives around the city, and Tre asks to get out of the car. Doughboy pulls over, and lets Tre out at a bus stop. While Tre heads back home, Doughboy finds the Bloods eating at a fast-food restaurant, and Monster opens fire on them with an assault rifle in a drive-by shooting through an empty parking lot. They shoot three Blood members, and Doughboy personally kills Ferris and the other wounded gang members execution-style with his pistol. Meanwhile, Tre returns home and finds his waiting father. Furious and Tre silently exchange glances for a moment, and then Furious enters his own room, and slams the door.
The next morning, Doughboy visits Tre, now understanding Tre’s reasons for abandoning the gang. Doughboy — having killed three men — knows that he will soon face retaliation for Ferris’ death, and accepts the consequences of his crime-ridden life. He plaintively questions why America “don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the Hood.” He sorrowfully says that he has no brothers left now after Ricky’s death, but Tre embraces him, and says Doughboy still has “one brother left.”
Doughboy then walks away, pouring out his malt liquor simultaneously. The film ends with an epilogue text, that the Bloods murdered Doughboy two weeks later. Tre and Brandi continue their relationship, and go on to attend Morehouse and Spelman in Atlanta, respectively. Ultimately, all three boys, Ricky, Tre, and Doughboy were able to leave the violence that is the streets of Crenshaw behind them. Some more tragically than others.