Spike Lee is one of the most prolific directors of our time. With over 40 years in the business, he has made a name for himself by creating movies that tackle social issues and offer a new perspective on race relations in America.
While some of his movies have been more controversial than others, there is no denying that they are all thought-provoking and memorable. If you’re looking for a list of the best Spike Lee movies to watch, you’ve come to the right place. From Do the Right Thing to Blackkklansman, his films tend to stay with viewers long after the credits have rolled.
Read some of his incredible interviews and conversations here.
The Best Spike Lee Movies
Do The Right Thing
It is always important to do the right thing, no matter the consequences. This is a lesson that Spike Lee’s movies often explore. In “Do the Right Thing”, Lee looks at race relations in America through the eyes of those living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn on a hot summer day. The film shows how even well-meaning people can be drawn into conflict and violence when tensions are high. While “Do the Right Thing” is certainly an important film about race, it is also a universal story about human nature and the importance of treating others with respect.
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IMDb Rating: 7.9
See the trailer here.
Jungle Fever is a film directed by Spike Lee that was released in 1991. It tells the story of an interracial love affair between a black man and a white woman and the obstacles they face due to their racial backgrounds.
The film was controversial when it was first released but has since become a cult classic. It is considered one of the best Spike Lee movies and features excellent performances by Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra.
IMDb Rating: 6.6
Wanna take a feel first? Watch the trailer here.
Malcolm X is one of the most influential and controversial figures of the Civil Rights Movement. He was a passionate advocate for black nationalism and equality, and his call for violent resistance to white oppressors made him a target of government surveillance and harassment. Despite his notoriety, Malcolm X was an intelligent and articulate man who profoundly impacted the civil rights movement. His autobiography is required reading for anyone interested in understanding the struggle for racial justice in America. Read it here.
Malcolm X was Lee’s 1992 biopic about the iconic civil rights leader. Denzel Washington gave an electrifying performance as Malcolm X, tracing his journey from street hustler to Nation of Islam minister to passionate voice for black equality. The film was controversial at the time for its depiction of Malcolm X’s life, but it is now considered one of Lee’s masterpieces.
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Watch the trailer here.
He Got Game
Spike Lee’s 1998 film “He Got Game” is a sports drama about a high school basketball player named Jesus Shuttlesworth (played by Ray Allen), who is being recruited by colleges across the country. His father, Jake (played by Denzel Washington), is serving a life sentence in prison but is given a temporary release to convince his son to sign with the University of North Carolina.
The film was praised for its realistic portrayal of the recruiting process and the relationship between father and son. It was also noted for its excellent basketball action sequences.
Why not start with its trailer here.
Watch the movie here.
IMDb Rating: 6.9
Summer of Sam
The Summer of Sam was a hot and humid summer in New York City punctuated by a series of killings by the so-called “Son of Sam” killer. The heat and fear led to racial tensions boiling over, and Spike Lee’s film captures that feeling perfectly. The movie follows several characters as they navigate the dangerous summer, and it’s an intense and harrowing ride.
Read more on the thoughts of Spike Lee on the influence race & ethnicity have on American films here.
Watch it here.
IMDb Rating: 6.7
In “Inside Man”, Denzel Washington plays a police detective trying to track down a bank robber, played by Clive Owen. The movie is set in New York City, and Spike Lee uses the city as a character itself. The movie is full of twists and turns and is one of the most suspenseful Spike Lee movies.
Watch this incredible crime thriller here.
But before that, watch its trailer here.
IMDb Rating: 6.6
Red Hook Summer
Red Hook Summer is one of the most underrated Spike Lee movies. It’s a coming-of-age story about a city kid who spends the summer with his grandparents in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The film captures the harsh realities of life and warmth and love within the community.
Lee has said that he wanted to make a film about Red Hook because it’s often portrayed as a place of violence and despair when in reality, it’s much more than that. And he definitely succeeds in portraying the complex reality of life in Red Hook. The film is funny, touching, and, ultimately, deeply rewarding.
IMDb Rating: 5.3
Watch its trailer from Rotten Tomatoes here.
Da 5 Bloods
When it comes to Spike Lee movies, “Da 5 Bloods” is definitely one of his best. This film follows the story of four African-American Vietnam veterans who return to the country to find the remains of their fallen squad leader and retrieve a cache of stolen gold. Along the way, the men face many challenges from the Vietnamese people and their own personal demons.
Although “Da 5 Bloods” is not perfect, it is a powerful and moving film that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it. Lee’s direction is spot-on, and Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Norm Lewis’s performances are simply outstanding.
If you’re looking for a film that will make you think about war, race, and brotherhood, this is the movie for you.
Let’s take a glimpse first here.
Watch it here.
IMDb Rating: 6.5
Spike Lee’s Oscar-winning film is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, an African American detective who infiltrates the KKK in the early 1970s. The film is powerful, funny, eye-opening, and encompasses some of Lee’s best abilities.
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Want to sneak peek? Watch the trailer here.
She’s Gotta Have It
She’s Gotta Have It was Spike Lee’s first feature film. It follows the story of Nola Darling, an African American woman who juggles three different men in her life. The film was groundbreaking for its frank portrayal of female sexuality and its depiction of an African American woman as an independent individual.
Watch it here.
IMDb Rating: 6.8
To have a glimpse, watch the movie’s trailer here!
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In a Nutshell…
While Spike Lee is certainly best known for his controversial films, there is no denying that he is a master filmmaker who has created some truly amazing films over the course of his career.
In the 32 years since She’s Gotta Have It, Lee has continued to make films that are entertaining, enlightening, and controversial. He’s never been afraid to take risks or stir up controversy, and his body of work is all the better for it.
If you’re looking for a great film to watch, pick one from the list and watch it now!