What's Love Got To Do With It: 5 Things I Still Love About The Tina Turner Biopic

Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in What's Love Got To Do with It

I first saw What’s Love Got to Do with It when I was in my early teens on cable TV. I was stunned by Tina Turner being a global superstar who endured such a violent relationship. Celebrities almost seemed invincible, so this was one of the first times that I realized that famous people bleed the same as everyone else. I remember being in awe of Turner’s strength and the way Angela Bassett brought her story to life. Laurence Fishburne transformed himself so relentlessly into this despicable character that Ike Turner became like the boogie man, a real monster to fear and dread.

Recently, I decided to watch the movie again, and see if it held up all these years later. I wanted to know if What’s Love Got to Do with It was just as powerful, memorable, and heartbreaking as I remembered. Watching it again gave me an even deeper respect for Tina Turner and everyone involved in bringing What’s Love Got To Do with It to a global audience. It also made me realize just how much I adored this film. It isn’t just a powerful story, but also a great movie.

Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It

The Empowering Story Of Tina Turner

What’s Love Got to Do with It is based on Tina Turner’s autobiography, Tina: My Life Story. It starts with her being abandoned at a young age by her mother, then flash-forwards to her being a teen moving in with her mother and older sister. Her older sister works at a bar, and Ike Turner (Laurence Fishburne) plays there.

Tina, known back then by her birth name Anna Mae Bullock, falls for Ike, so she practices singing every night to impress him. Immediately, Ike sees her talent and takes her under his wing. The two then begin a relationship, marry, and become a successful duo. They don’t get a fairytale happy ending. Ike is physically, emotionally, and mentally abusive to Tina. He’s also addicted to drugs, so he often acts irrational and paranoid.

Most of What’s Love Got To Do with It focuses on Tina Turner’s rise to fame and the abuse she experiences because of Ike’s jealousy and general abusive nature. The violence is hard to watch, and even more shocking because it’s based on true events. Of course, some scenes are embellished for the sensationalization of movies, but even if so, there is no denying that Turner had to survive a very violent, destructive, and life-threatening ordeal by the hands of her ex-husband.

Tina Turner’s story is so powerful because it shows how easily anyone can become the victim of abuse. Domestic abuse doesn’t know race, gender, sexuality, class status, or fame level. Abusers put their victims in a constant cycle of dependency and fear that makes it hard to escape. Seeing What’s Love Got to Do with It can help someone in an abusive relationship see that they’re not alone, and they can overcome this and have a better life. The movie is significant because it’s inspiring.

Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett in What's Love Got to Do with IT

The Beauty Of The Costumes And Set Design

Aesthetics matter in films, and I really love and appreciate beautiful costumes. What’s Love Got To Do with It has some of the most standout set and costume designs I’ve ever seen. It’s one of the first things I noticed rewatching the film. I had an “oh, I kind of want all these outfits” moment while watching. Everything from Ike’s slick colorful suits to Tina’s sparkly performance dresses made me appreciate the details and careful consideration that the crew put into the costumes.

What’s Love Got to Do with It knows how to use bright colors, especially during the 50s and 60s scenes. It was also fun to watch the outfits change with the decades. It was almost as much a quick history of fashion as it was a biopic. The props and sets also stood out. The red convertible, the houses, and even the recording studios all helped capture the eras in the film. What’s Love Got to Do with It should definitely get more recognition for the costume and set designs.

Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett as Ike and Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with IT

The Hilarity Of Ike’s Hair Evolution And The Iconicness of Tina’s Hair Styles

I’m sure Ike’s hairstyles were based on real looks he had because I can see many of his styles being in fashion at the time. However, intentional or not, they got progressively worse and seemed to indicate his spiral towards insanity. While on the other hand, Tina’s hairstyles seemed to show more confidence and finding herself with them. Each one got progressively better until we got to the hairdo most associated with Tina Turner’s iconic look.

The hairstyles in What’s Love Got to Do with It seemed to tell a story of the decade, the individual character, and the state of their mental health.

Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It

How The Film Immortalizes Tina Turner As A Great Performer And Strong Woman

“What’s Love Got To Do with It,” “Proud Mary,” “The Best,” and “River Deep, Mountain High” are timeless and some of my favorite songs of all time. One of the reasons that these songs have stood the test of time is Tina Turner’s amazing vocal and performing abilities. The film showcases why Tina continues to rise to fame while many others fade away.

Not only does she have an enduring spirit, but she has the passion and drive to continue to entertain and amaze. Angela Bassett completely showcases the star that refused to burn out that is Tina Turner.

Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett as Ike and Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It

The Way It Showcases The Talent Of The Main Actors

I’ve seen many movies and TV shows starring and featuring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne. They’re both great actors and shown their abilities in many projects, but there is something so breathtaking about their performances in What’s Love Got to Do with It. Bassett’s performance scenes were riveting to watch because her facial expressions and mannerisms, even the arm muscles, felt like Tina Turner.

Laurence Fishburne really made you want to see him get his comeuppance, and normally, I root for his characters, so this was a major departure from his usual roles. In my opinion, it shows real talent to play a despicable villain, even more so if it’s based on a real person. And based on what I’ve seen in the past from Fishburne, he really transformed into this character. Both actors also took on these very dramatic roles, while still adding a touch of comedy when necessary. I think any good drama has to show that even in the darkest hours, there is still stuff that makes you laugh and proves you’re human.

The ability to humanize Ike and Tina was also a major strength of both of these performances. Ike had moments that showed why he was such a messed up person, and Tina had moments of vulnerability along with her strength.

It took me years to watch What’s Love Got to Do with It again because the violence stood out the most, but now I can appreciate all the delicate layers put into the film. It feels real, raw, and expertly crafted. It’s now a film I would gladly watch again and again to see all the details, inspirational moments, and amazing performances.

Jerrica Tisdale
Freelance Writer

Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.