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Posterized: Spike Lee

by Nathaniel R

Currently in love with this image of Spike Lee and Topher Grace on the set of BlacKkKlansman. But let's get to the point. After a long hiatus, we're back with a new season of our Friday series "Posterized"... I know it's Sunday. Shush. What better way to kick off than with the films of Honorary Oscar Winner Spike Lee? His latest joint, BlacKkKlansman, which we've reviewed, is new in theaters. We hope you'll go as it will surely prove to be one of 2018's defining films. But for now on to his filmography as a whole.

People often disagree on what his best work is aside from Do The Right Thing (1989), his consensus masterpiece. That's probably because he's a natural risk taker so naturally his output is uneven.  For the purposes of this exercize we had to limit it to traditional features because Spike Lee has always done everything: short films, commercials, music videos, tv movies, miniseries, documentaries, segments within movies, filmed stage shows. The two most acclaimed pieces not included below are his Emmy-winning docuseries When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) for HBO and his Oscar-nominated documentary4 Little Girls (1997). How many of his joints have you seen? All the posters are after the jump...

Act 1 - a bold new cinematic voice  (1986-1989)


Act 2 - Established A lister (1990-1992)


Act 3- Diminishing rewards? or merely misunderstood/underappreciated? (1994-1999)


Act 4 - Truly Over the Place: A Big Hit, Some Misses, Weirdly Ignored Awesomeness, Polarizing Stuff (2000-2012)


Act 5 -Creative Burnout Followed By Immediate Rebirth (2013-2018)



So how many of his 22 features have you seen?

 I've seen half of them, but I'm always meaning to catch up with Crooklyn and School Daze  which somehow escaped me. Where would you rank BlacKkKlansman within his filmography? My five personal favs as of this writing...


  1. Do The Right Thing (1989) - masterpiece
  2. The 25th Hour (2002) - amazing
  3. BlacKkKlansman (2018) - too new to know its staying power but a must-see
  4. Summer of Sam (1999) - I'd argue his most misunderstood / underappreciated
  5. Chi-Raq (2015) - fun, provocative, electric



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Reader Comments (22)

Do The Right Thing
Malcolm X
25th Hour
Crooklyn- This film reminds me of my childhood

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNikki

Funny you should post his, I watched Inside Man last night and thought it was great, perfect Saturday night on the couch movie.

Clockers and Girl 6 I used to love as a teen, and to be honest I don’t think I realised they were Spike Lee. And remember seeing Summer of Sam at the cinema as a teenager and loving it.

Agree with your top 2, Do The Right Thing and 25th Hour are genuine masterpieces.

Never seen Malcolm X. Really need to get round to that.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJB

My favorites by a mile are 25th Hour and Do the Right Thing. Both masterworks.

I've seen and liked most of his other films, but I have a special fondness for the underrated Jungle Fever and the fearless, totally batshit Bamboozled.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

I really need to see "25th Hour".

I have seen:

Do The Right Thing (Kim Basinger was right!)
Jungle Fever
Malcolm X
Crooklyn (with that weird color / mm thing in the middle. What was that?
School Daze
Inside Man

Summer of Sam (which I was so close to being good, but was missing something)

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

You need to watch Crooklyn. Alfre Woodard is terrific in it, and the young lead is mesmerizingly believable.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Crooklyn is a masterpiece - you really should get around to seeing it, Nathaniel.

So is 25th Hour.

Some of my other personal favorites are
She's Gotta Have It, Malcolm X, Clockers, Girl 6.

Jungle Fever is a little too simplistic and on the nose for my taste and the awful Stevie Wonder (barf!) soundtrack completely ruins the movie for me.

Mo' Better Blues is just all right - but I love the music and the images and Denzel.

He Got Game is quite good.

Don't like Summer Of Sam that much - the italian characters and community: very stereotypically presented. But the depiction of paranoia, fear and heat
that permeated that summer of 77, is very palpable.

The less said about Oldboy, Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus, Miracle Of St. Anna, Red Hook Summer, She Hate Me, the better!

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Do The Right Thing
25th Hour
Malcom X
Inside Man
He Got Game
School Daze
Jungle Fever
Mo Better Blues
Summer Of Sam
Get On The Bus
She's Gotta Have It
Miracle At St. Anna
Girl 6

Haven't seen Sweet Blood and Red Hook.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcus

Here is my list of the films that I've seen from Spike Lee so far ranked which includes documentaries and TV specials.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

1. Do The Right Thing - as electrifying as anything that year
2. Malcolm X - Denzel Washington's single best performance
3. The 25th Hour - a beautiful chamber piece
4. Summer of Sam - Mira Sorvino and John Leguizamo do great work
5. Crooklyn - see it for no other reason than Alfre Woodard

Jungle Fever is imperfect, yes, but a provocative time-and-a-place movie that had us talking back in the day. Inside Man was weirdly not all that enjoyable, despite appearances. Still haven't seen Chi-Raq (need to get on that), and am looking forward to BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee is a singular joint.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Seems to me that Spike Lee is this kind of director/author who hasn't found his own audience like Woody Allen, Almodovar, Wes Anderson. Always thought that Tarantino somehow stole his thunder(not only Samuel L. Jackson). Tarantino directed movies that have a Spike Lee mood, like Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. When Django Unchained was released the only thing I could think was that Spike Lee should have directed that movie. It would be his masterpiece. The guy who directed Bamboozled and Chi-Raq could have directed Django Unchained.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGiovanni

Personal favourites:
1 Do The Right Thing
2 Jungle Fever
3 Malcom X
4 Summer of Sam
5 Clockers

I revisited 25th Hour recently and it didn't hold up for me, so I've dropped that out of this list where it probably would've originally been. I also have a lot of love for Mo' Better Blues and if anyone knows whether Harlem Blues was Original Song eligible, I'd love to know.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobUK

I've only seen HE GOT GAME and I was at a sleepover so the reaction was like "Boobies! Boobies!" (While I, at 10, found Ray Allen to be hunkalicious....)

I haven't seen SUMMER OF SAM in full but from what I have seen, I like Ulrich's point of depicting the fear and paranoia of '77 NYC, which I think is why it struggled with an audience that was expecting a biopic of a serial killer. The excellent book THE BRONX IS BURNING also does this while ostensibly being about baseball.

It's easy for me to say this while having seen so little of his work, but objectively I think Spike Lee takes a lot of risks and tells the stories that HE wants to tell, and I find that admirable.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

Of the ones I've seen, Do the Right Thing is my favourite. But boy did I love that Mo' Better Blues poster when I was growing up.

Looking forward to seeing BlacKkKlansman.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I've seen 12. My favs are Do the Right Thing, 25th Hour, Summer of Sam, Malcolm X and Crooklyn. Nola Darling is damn sexy and I should probably rewatch Get on the Bus.

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

ugh, i'm so white - i've only seen four

[but i've seen crooklyn three times]

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I've seen 13 (not including BlacKkKlansman which I hope to see very soon).

My personal top five would be:

1. Do the Right Thing
2. Malcolm X
3. He Got Game
4. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
5. 25th Hour

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

For me Spike Lee is at is best doing doc 4 Little girls and When the Leeve breaks are masterpieces purely and simply!

August 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

Well this is interesting. I've seen nine but they are the first nine. And I saw every one of them in the movie theater, and then I just...stopped. What happened? I think it's me and not Spike Lee. Did I run out of disposable income? Time? Interest?

August 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Hollywood

Dave -- GIRL 6 killed you! haha

August 13, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Have seen:

She's Gotta Have It
Do The Right Thing (literally dozens of times - a great great film)
Mo Better Blues
Jungle Fever
Malcolm X
Crooklyn (love itttt)
Girl 6
Get on the Bus
He Got Game (should be discussed more - I remember really liking it)
Summer of Sam (flawed but under-rated)
25th Hour (so good)
Inside Man

August 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRob

As I look over these titles, I am ashamed that I haven't seen all of his work. People are very passionate about his films, so I must watch more!

August 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

25th Hour
Do the Right Thing
Jungle Fever

I've seen 12, and the worst was She Hate Me.

August 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

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