In an industry of fake it ’til you make it, one thing’s certain: You know when you’re watching a Spike Lee Joint. With his latest, Red Hook Summer (trailer above), opening today, we thought it a good time to pore over his impressive, authentic body of work. So we booked it to Brooklyn and came up with this highly scientific list. Behold: our New York editorial team’s top seven.
7. He Got Game
Sum it up: Jesus is a teenage basketball god whose convict father tries to reconnect with him.
Tidbits: This was Lee’s first film to open No. 1 at the box office.
Editor’s note: I love White Men Can’t Jump. Oh, wait, Spike Lee movies. Yeah, this one.
Sum it up: One man’s idea to revive the minstrel show takes off.
Tidbits: It was nominated for top prize at Berlinale. And we hear Alec Baldwin was supposed to cameo but didn’t show up for work that day so it was Matthew Modine to the rescue.
Editor’s note: It’s so weird, so why not?
5. When the Levees Broke
Sum it up: Katrina hit, then the real disaster began. Lee’s four-act documentary recounts the devastation.
Tidbits: Technically a TV miniseries, it took home three Primetime Emmys.
Editor’s note: Lee has a way of capturing an emotional setting as it’s happening.
4. Inside Man
Sum it up: Denzel Washington and Clive Owen play cops and robbers — but with actual guns.
Tidbits: Rumor had it a sequel was in the works. Put that to rest.
Editor’s note: It’s by far the most commercially successful film of his. But it still manages to keep his trademark voice.
3. Malcolm X
Sum it up: Denzel Washington embodies the famed civil rights activist.
Tidbits: It was nominated for two Oscars and received many festival nods and awards, most importantly, Washington’s Best Male Performance win at the MTV Movie Awards.
Editor’s note: Love the cameo by
Morgan Freeman Nelson Mandela.
2. 25th Hour
Sum it up: The tale clocks a drug dealer’s final 24 hours before heading off to the big house.
Tidbits: Lee used NYC’s raw post-9/11 setting as a backdrop. Star and co-producer Edward Norton reportedly spent all his Red Dragon monies to finance the film.
Editor’s note: We could listen to Terence Blanchard’s score and Ed Norton’s five-minute F-bomb rant for three weeks straight.
1. Do the Right Thing
Sum it up: It’s hot out, and people are mad at each other. And that’s the double truth, Ruth.
Tidbits: Lee commissioned Public Enemy for the theme song, and “Fight the Power” was born.
Editor’s note: Do the right thing and include Do the Right Thing.
Photo: David Lee / Courtesy of Variance Films