The best movies of all time according to Spike Lee

We all know him with the nickname Spike, given by his mother because he was skinny and reckless, but his real name is Shelton Jackson. A true experimenter in production and shooting techniques, his style is easy to recognize, with those close-ups where the characters look straight at the camera and move together with it, as if the actor was floating with the spectator, usually surrounded by warm colours.

He has filmed many cult movies: Do the Right thing, Jungle Fever, Malcom X, The 25th hour, Inside Man, Miracle at Sant’Anna and many others. Spike Lee was born in Atlanta in 1957: son of Bill, jazz musician, and Jacquelyn Carroll Shelton, a teacher of humanistic subjects, first among four children in total. After Atlanta, the family moved to Chicago and then to Brooklyn, New York, which became the city of Spike Lee: the one with which he was identifying himself most and the one that he showed so often in his movies. He did an internship at Columbia, but it was Hollywood that convinced him to become a filmmaker. He also directed famous commercials, documentaries and music videos collaborating with various artists: Michael Jackson, Chaka Kahn, Naughty by Nature, Arrested Development, Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker, Miles Davis, Prince, Public Enemy among others.

What not everyone knows is that Spike Lee is also a professor of films and fine arts at the University of New York. And the curiosity that is worth rediscovering is the list of 86 films that he drafted for his students, as l list of movies to study if you want to know the basics of great cinema. A list that also represents the essential films according to his perspective, covering several illustrious colleagues: from Hitchcock to Truffaut, from Kurosawa to Billy Wilder, from Fellini to Francis Ford Coppola. The list is below, a nice way to verify that our cinematographic knowledge covers what must be known. Otherwise, you won’t pass at Spike Lee’s tests.

  • Bad Lieutenant by Abel Ferrara (1992)
  • Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa (1950)
  • Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa (1961)
  • Ran by Akira Kurosawa (1985)
  • Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock (1954)
  • Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock (1958)
  • North by Northwest by Alfred Hitchcock (1959)
  • Bonnie and Clyde by Arthur Penn (1967)
  • The Conformist by Bernardo Bertolucci (1970)
  • Last Tango in Paris by Bernardo Bertolucci (1972)
  • Ace in the Hole by Billy Wilder (1951)
  • Some Like It Hot by Billy Wilder (1959)
  • Killer of Sheep by Charles Burnett (1977)
  • Night of the Hunter by Charles Laughton (1955)
  • Raising Arizona by The Coen Brothers (1987)
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai by David Lean (1954)
  • Lawrence of Arabia by David Lean (1962)
  • On the Waterfront by Elia Kazan (1954)
  • A Face in the Crowd by Elia Kazan (1957)
  • La Strada by Federico Fellini (1954)
  • La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini (1960)
  • 8 1/2 by Federico Fellini (1963)
  • City of God by Ferando Meirelles, Katia Lund (2002)
  • The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola (1972)
  • The Godfather: Part II by Francis Ford Coppola (1974)
  • 400 Blows by Francois Truffaut (1959)
  • Day for Night by Francois Truffaut (1973)
  • Patton by Franklin J. Schnaffner (1970)
  • Mad Max by George Miller (1979)
  • The Road Warrior by George Miller (1981)
  • Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo (1966)
  • The Last Detail by Hal Ashby (1973)
  • Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard (1960)
  • West Side Story by Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise (1961)
  • Stranger than Paradise by Jim Jarmusch (1984)
  • The Train by John Frankenheimer (1964)
  • The Maltese Falcon by John Huston (1941)
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by John Huston (1948)
  • Fat City by John Huston (1972)
  • Midnight Cowboy by John Schlesinger (1969)
  • Marathon Man by John Schlesinger (1969)
  • Boyz n the Hood by John Singleton (1991)
  • Los Olivdados by Luis Bunuel (1950)
  • Black Orpheus by Marcel Camus (1959)
  • Home of the Brave by Mark Robson (1949)
  • Mean Streets by Martin Scorsese (1973)
  • Raging Bull by Martin Scorsese (1980)
  • Apocalypto by Mel Gibson (2006)
  • Casablanca by Michael Curtiz (1942)
  • Thief by Michael Mann (1981)
  • The Red Shoes by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger (1948)
  • Coolie High by Michael Schultz (1975)
  • I Am Cuba by Mikhail Kalatozov (1964)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Milos Forman (1975)
  • District 9 by Neill Blomkamp (2009)
  • In the Heat of the Night by Norman Jewison (1967)
  • Touch of Evil by Orson Welles (1958)
  • Blue Collar by Paul Schrader (1978)
  • White Heat by Raoul Walsh (1949)
  • Is Paris Burning? by Rene Clement (1966)
  • M*A*S*H by Robert Altman (1970)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Robert Mulligan (1962)
  • Rome Open City by Roberto Rossellini (1945)
  • Paisan by Roberto Rossellini (1946)
  • Chinatown by Roman Polanski (1974)
  • Black Rain by Shohei Imamura (1989)
  • Dog Day Afternoon by Sidney Lumet (1975)
  • Singin’ in the Rain by Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly (1952)
  • Paths of Glory by Stanley Kubrick (1957)
  • Spartacus by Stanley Kubrick (1960)
  • Dr. Strangelove by Stanley Kubrick (1964)
  • Kung Fu Hustle by Stephen Chow (2004)
  • Dirty Pretty Things by Stephen Frears (2002)
  • Hoop Dreams by Steve James (1984)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven Spielberg (1977)
  • Empire of the Sun by Steven Spielberg (1987)
  • Cool Hand Luke by Stuart Rosenberg (1967)
  • Badlands by Terrence Malick (1973)
  • Days of Heaven by Terrence Malick (1978)
  • The Wizard of Oz by Victor Fleming (1939)
  • An American in Paris by Vincente Minnelli (1951)
  • Lust for Life by Vincente Minnelli (1956)
  • The Bicycle Thief by Vittorio De Sica (1948)
  • Miracle in Milan by Vittorio De Sica (1951)
  • Dead End by William Wyler (1937)
  • Zelig by Woody Allen (1983)
Rating: 5.0/5. From 2 votes.
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