5) Malcolm X (1992)
Written by: Spike Lee and Arnold Perl
Starring: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Michael Imperioli, Christopher Plummer, Peter Boyle and Nelson Mandela
An Epic Joint:
Malcolm X was a real labour of love for Spike Lee. This is a biopic of aggressive African-American Human Rights activist Malcolm X, played here by Denzel Washington. Malcolm X was a controversial figure on account of his radical views of segregation and black supremacy. This is a biopic on the grandest scale, Malcolm X, clocking in at 3 hours and 20 minutes, makes it as close to an epic film as Spike Lee is ever going to make. Malcolm X is also now notable for a cameo appearance by the late Nelson Mandela
4) 25th Hour (2002)
Written by: David Beinhoff
Starring: Edward Norton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson and Anna Paquin
A Redemption Joint:
Fast-forward 10 years later and Spike Lee presents to us the story of a New Yorker, Monty (Norton), documenting his last 24 hours of freedom before being sent down for dealing drugs. This is not so much a character study as a study of environment. Filmed just over a year after 9/11 in Lee’s beloved city, 25th Hour is a poignant commentary on a city in turmoil at the turn of the century. 25th Hour features a predominately white cast, a rarity in a Spike Lee Joint.
3) Summer of Sam (1999)
Written by: Victor Colicchio, Michael Imperioli and Spike Lee
Starring: John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, Jennifer Esposito, Anthony LaPaglia, Michael Rispoli, Michael Imperioli, Michael Badaucco, Spike Lee and John Turturro
A Serial Killer Joint:
Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam Joint highlighted the hysteria of one hot summer in New York. A serial killer who calls himself the Son of Sam is on the loose. Based on actual events in the summer of 1977, when a serial killer with an M.O. of shooting couples in their car went on a rampage, Lee expertly uses the natural claustrophobia of an Italian-American neighbourhood in New York City to evoke the panic, prejudice and intolerance that engulfed the time. Met with mixed reviews at the time of release, this film about a real-life serial killer was not topped until David Fincher released Zodiac in 2007. The film features a wonderful montage sequence to The Who’s Baba O’ Riley.
2) Jungle Fever (1991)
Written by: Spike Lee
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Annabella Sciorra, Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro, Frank Vincent, Anthony Quinn, Halle Berry, Michael Badaucco and Queen Latifah
An Interracial Joint:
‘I got Jungle Fever…She’s got Jungle Fever….We’ve got Jungle Fever….We’re in Love’ so sings Stevie Wonder over Jungle Fever’s opening credits which suggests the conservative attitude that when it comes to mating, human beings should stick to their own. Jungle Fever in this context is a slang term for sexual attraction between people of different races. This is exactly the focus of this Joint. African-American Flipper Purify (Snipes) has an affair with his Italian-American work colleague Angie Tucci (Sciorra). Their act of indiscretion tears both of their lives apart. On the surface, Jungle Fever can be read as a denouncement of its title, but the film’s sub-plots paint and different and more complex picture, highlighted by a tender performance from John Turturro and a tour-de-force by Samuel L. Jackson playing a crack addicted Gator in what was his breakout role.
1) Do The Right Thing (1989)
Written by: Spike Lee
Starring: Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro, Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence, Samuel L. Jackson and Frank Vincent
The Best Joint:
With Do the Right Thing Spike Lee made his voice heard. Coming off the back of critically successful, but commercially impotent She’s Gotta Have It (1986) and School Daze (1988), Spike Lee finally found a coherent cinematic voice that made everyone stand-up and listen. Never before or since has the melting-pot of New York’s inner-city neighbours been portrayed with so much honesty and intimacy. Set over a period of 24 hours in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant, it is the hottest day of the year and racial tensions rise. Spike Lee takes the lead for the first and only time in one of his films as Mookie, a pizza delivery boy employed by an oppressive Italian-American family. A Joint so colourful and energetic, with original and sometimes mesmerizing sequences, Spike Lee is yet to top this cinematic classic, ‘And that’s the double truth, Ruth’.