films seen
14
average score
2.39*
nationality
USA - 63 years old
status
Alive and kicking
more info

One of the most prominent black directors in the US. His oeuvre is a bit all over the place, ranging from fresh and slightly experimental cinema to basic character dramas, but always with an activist edge to them. Not always great, but definitely worth exploring.

The good stuff

Do the Right Thing

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [1989] - 120m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Do the Right Thing poster

25th Hour

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [2002] - 135m
Genre
Crime
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
25th Hour poster

When I first watched 25th Hour the film left a bigger impression on me. Maybe it's because I hadn't seen that many films back then, maybe it's because time has blunted some of its initial impact.

Solid pieces

Chi-Raq

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [2015] - 127m
Genre
Comedy, Drama, Crime, Musical
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Chi-Raq poster

Inside Man

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [2006] - 129m
Genre
Drama, Crime
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Inside Man poster

Worthy but flawed

BlacKkKlansman

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [2018] - 135m
Genre
Crime
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
BlacKkKlansman poster

A pretty straightforward film by Lee's standards. BlacKkKlansman is the story of a young but passionate black cop who infiltrates the KKK and uses a white (Jewish) stand-in for his face to face confrontations. Based on a biographical book, Lee sticks closely to the genre conventions.

That's a nice and easy way to honor the work of Stallworth, but it also makes for a slightly duller film. You don't need to know the history to predict how it all pans out and without Lee's stylistic flourish it's little more than a plot moving from beginning to end, at a pretty consistent pace.

Performances are nice though and while predictable, it's still quite fun to see how it all comes together. BlacKkKlansman isn't a bad film, it's just a little basic and by the numbers. The references to BLM and America's current political climate at the end of the film don't do much to change that.

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [2006] - 255m
Genre
Documentary
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts poster

A Spike Lee documentary on the havoc Hurricane Katrina unleashed on New Orleans. Not just the physical destruction, Lee also looks for the broader impact on society, how several governmental institutions failed, what part race played in the unraveling and how failures from the past facilitated the disaster.

The first part is mostly focused on the actual disaster, the second part digs around in past failings and the long-lasting impact on the people who suffered through this event. Lee is smart enough to let different people give their version of the story, so it's not just endless complaining/blaming, though in my opinion the balance still felt a little off.

There's also an addendum for those who really love this doc, after four hours though I figured I had a pretty good idea of how this documentary framed the disaster. I would've preferred a slightly more balanced approach and the runtime really is quite excessive, but overall it was a pretty interesting film that is a must for people looking for a thorough look at Hurricane Katrina's history and its aftermath.

Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet

by Kaige Chen, Víctor Erice, Werner Herzog, Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismäki, Spike Lee, Wim Wenders
Specifics
USA, Spain [2002] - 92m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet poster

He Got Game

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [1998] - 136m
Genre
Drama, Sport
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
He Got Game poster

Dubious filler

She's Gotta Have It

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [1986] - 84m
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
She's Gotta Have It poster

Plain forgettable

Da 5 Bloods

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [2020] - 154m
Genre
Action, War
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Da 5 Bloods poster

Spike Lee must've had a clear vision when he started this project, but I dearly hope it wasn't anything close to this devastating mess. Da 5 Bloods feels like a film that wanted to say a lot of important things, but ultimately it comes off as a very bad pastiche. Not once does Lee find the right tone for his film.

With four black veterans returning to Vietnam to honor their fallen friend, the film has a perfect setup to revisit the Vietnam War and tell it from a black perspective. Throw in some gold hunting plot for a little adventure and suspense, and you have all the ingredients for a great film. Why then did it feel like a bad comedy, something that holds the middle between a bad Apocalypse Now rip-off and a subpar jungle-set JCVD action flick.

Performances are poor, the action scenes are drab, the dramatic moments are laughable and the political inserts are completely overshadowed by the incompetence surrounding them. The entire film is such a big mess that it is actually quite amusing to watch (at least to see where it is going), but in the end if feels like Lee overreached tremendously and couldn't stop himself from falling flat on his face. This wasn't any good.

All the Invisible Children

by Mehdi Charef, Emir Kusturica, Spike Lee, Kátia Lund, Jordan Scott, Ridley Scott, Stefano Veneruso, John Woo
Specifics
France, Italy [2005] - 124m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
All the Invisible Children poster

Freak

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [1998] - 89m
Genre
Comedy, Biography
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Freak poster

Big nopes

Oldboy

by Spike Lee
Specifics
USA [2013] - 104m
Genre
Mystery, Thriller
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Oldboy poster

Lumière and Company

by Theodoros Angelopoulos, Vicente Aranda, John Boorman, Youssef Chahine, Alain Corneau, Costa-Gavras, Raymond Depardon, Francis Girod, Peter Greenaway, Lasse Hallström, Hugh Hudson, Gaston Kaboré, Abbas Kiarostami, Cédric Klapisch, Andrey Konchalovskiy, Spike Lee, Claude Lelouch, Bigas Luna, Sarah Moon, Arthur Penn, Lucian Pintilie, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Jerry Schatzberg, Nadine Trintignant, Fernando Trueba, Liv Ullmann, Jaco van Dormael, Régis Wargnier, Wim Wenders, Yoshishige Yoshida, Yimou Zhang, Merzak Allouache, Gabriel Axel, Michael Haneke, James Ivory, Patrice Leconte, David Lynch, Ismail Merchant, Claude Miller, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Jacques Rivette
Also known as
Lumière et Compagnie
Specifics
France, Spain [1995] - 88m
Genre
Drama, Anthology
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Lumière and Company poster