10 Best Spike Lee Movies

Monday, January 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm

While the best Spike Lee movies offer unique views on race relations and crime, the man himself can be abrasive. But nobody can accuse the Georgia native of not speaking his mind. Since bursting onto the scene in the ‘80s, he’s called Larry Bird overrated, Clint Eastwood an “angry old man,” and he’s also been accused of antisemitism by the Anti-Defamation League.

Including his 1985 debut feature (She’s Gotta Have It), Spike Lee has directed 35 films, shorts, and documentaries. He’s been nominated for two Academy Awards, but he’s never been recognized in the Best Director category. He ’s also lent his talents to the world of music videos, providing the visual magic for songs from Anita Baker, Prince, and Michael Jackson.

Those familiar with the best Spike Lee movies will notice performers such as John Turturro and Ossie Davis turning up repeatedly, and don’t be surprised to see real-life figures such as Al Sharpton, Ray Allen, Jim Brown, and Nelson Mandela. Lee himself isn’t camera shy, as he’s turned up in his own films in everything from cameos to leading roles.

Whether you care for his opinions or not, it’s hard to deny the artistic merit of Spike Lee movies. That’s why I’ve put together the following listof his 10 best works to date. If you disagree with my choices, share your opinion in our comments section (Spike Lee would).

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Do the Right Thing (1989) – Set in a culturally diverse neighborhood of Brooklyn, Do the Right Thing is a powderkeg of a film about simmering racial hostilities during a summer heatwave. Spike Lee plays a morally conflicted pizza delivery boy, while the rest of cast includes Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, John Turturro, Bill Nunn, Samuel L. Jackson, Ruby Dee, and Giancarlo Esposito.

4 Little Girls (1997) – Lee’s powerful documentary looks at the 1963 bombing of an African-American church in Birmingham, Alabama that took the lives of four young girls.

Inside Man (2006) – Clive Owen is Dalton Russell, a man who sets out to pull off the perfect bank robbery. Denzel Washington is Detective Keith Frazier, the complicated cop who tries to stop in. Filled with intrigue and corruption, the film co-stars Willem Dafoe, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

25th Hour (2002) – Based on the novel by David Benioff, this Spike Lee film follows Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), a convicted drug dealer who enjoys one last day of freedom and self-discovery before reporting for a seven-year prison sentence. Co-starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Rosario Dawson, and Barry Pepper.

He Got Game (1998) – Denzel Washington stars as Jake Shuttlesworth, a convicted killer released for one week in order to convince his son (Ray Allen of the NBA) to sign with the prison warden’s college alma mater. If Jake can pull this off, he’ll get a reduced sentence. But the son is determined to do anything to spite the father, especially since he’s in prison for killing the young man’s mother. It’s the rare sports film where most of the important events take place off the court.

She’s Gotta Have It (1986) – Set in Brooklyn, this film revolves around Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla John) and her ongoing romances with three very different men. Lee co-stars in his famous Mars Blackman persona.

Malcolm X (1992) – Denzel Washington plays the title role in this epic biopic about the life and death of controversial black leader Malcolm X. Co-starring Angela Bassett, Ossie Davis, Peter Boyle, Karen Allen, Christopher Plummer, and Albert Hall.

Jungle Fever (1991) – The ultimate in interracial relations, Jungle Fever stars Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra as a couple who start off working together and then wind up knocking boots. This pisses everyone off. Co-starring Spike Lee, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Quinn, Tim Robbins, Brad Dourif, Charlie Murphy, and John Turturro.

Clockers (1995) – A precursor to projects like The Wire, Clockers follows a group of drug dealers in Brooklyn, as well as a pair of homicide detectives (Harvey Keitel and John Turturro) out to solve a murder. Mekhi Phifer makes his film debut, and Delroy Lindo is appropriately menacing as a local drug lord.

Summer of Sam (1999) – Set during the summer of 1977, this Spike Lee crime movie focuses on the serial killer known as the Son of Sam and the fear and paranoia he instilled in the residents of New York City. Starring John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, and Jennifer Esposito.

Besides being a prolific director, Spike Lee is also a big fan of the Knicks. You can expect a new Spike Lee joint every year or two. If you’ve missed any of these in the past, you can catch up on your Spike Lee films by becoming a member of Netflix.

See also:

  1. Good Black Movies for Black History Month
  2. Martin Scorsese Movies
  3. Top 10 Steven Spielberg Movies
  4. Peter Bogdanovich Movies
  5. 10 Best Robert Altman Movies
  6. Good Warren Beatty Movies
  7. Woody Allen Movies

This entry was posted on Monday, January 17th, 2011 at 6:04 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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