Spike Lee's birthday special: Movies that demonstrate his electrifying filmmaking
With his daring and provocative storytelling, Hollywood actor-filmmaker Spike Lee upended the landscape of world cinema in a career spanning over four decades. Since the release of his directorial debut film, She's Gotta Have It (1986), the Academy Award-winning multihyphenate star has explored social issues, including racism and poverty. On Lee's 66th birthday, we explore the films that demonstrate his electrifying style of filmmaking.
With BlacKkKlansman, Lee once again sparked conversations about race and cross-cultural prejudices. It is based on the life of Ron Stallworth—the first black police officer in Colorado Springs Police Department—who successfully infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Lee—who's been directing critically-acclaimed films for nearly 30 years—won his first competitive Oscar for BlacKkKlansman. BlacKkKsman was widely praised by critics for its powerful storytelling.
'25th Hour' (2002)
The film 25th Hour—based on the novel by David Benioff—features a protagonist who is flawed and complex and has made many mistakes in his life. In this story, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) reflects on life and relationships before being imprisoned for seven years. With his signature visual style, Lee creates a mood with the character who embarks on a journey of regret and redemption.
'Malcolm X' (1992)
The film is based on the life of the influential and controversial black nationalist leader. Malcolm X delineates the early life of the titular activist as a small-time gangster to becoming a member of the Nation of Islam. Lee perfectly portrayed the dramatic key events in Malcolm's life—his criminal career, his conversion to Islam, his incarceration, and ultimately his assassination in 1965, among others.
'Do the Right Thing' (1989)
If you want to watch a quintessential display of "power of humor," Lee's Do the Right Thing is a classic example of his strong commentary on society and race in America. The 1989 comedy-drama film explores a Brooklyn neighborhood's simmering racial tensions between its African-American residents and the Italian-American owners of a pizzeria, resulting in violence on the hottest day of the year.
'School Daze' (1988)
Time and again, Lee used his filmmaking skills to comment on social issues, which otherwise did not find much space in the discussion panels. Another movie that addressed colorism, politics, and sexism, among others, was the musical comedy-drama School Daze. The film accurately depicted the cultural differences that exist among African-American students in college and the struggle for political power within the black community.