HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: Spike Lee attends the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California.

Spike Lee, born Shelton Jackson, is an Academy Award-winning film director. Throughout his three-decade-long career, the proud Brooklyn native has brilliantly told stories through the gaze of the Black experience in America. His work does not shy away from exposing the effects of race relations and documenting historical figures and events.

Lee won his first Academy Award in 2019, following his honorary Academy Award in 2016. The director has four Oscar nominations, has also won two Primetime Emmy Awards, and has had three Emmy nominations, a BAFTA Award, and two Peabody Awards.

He has also given a lot of actors their first feature roles, such as Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Delroy Lindo, and Washington’s son, John David Washington. Lee also appears in his own films and has done so in 11 thus far.

Spike Lee Wins His First Oscar

Many times, Lee has been passed over for an Academy Award, but in 2019, he took the trophy home. Jackson, who has been in several of Lee’s films over the years, announced that he won Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman.

“All right. I wanna thank Tonya [Lewis Lee, his wife]. The word today is irony. The date, the 24th. The month of February, which happens to be the shortest month of the year, which also happens to be Black History Month. The year, 2019; the year, 1619. History, her story. 1619, 2019, 400 years. Four hundred years, our ancestors were stolen from Africa and brought to Jamestown, Virginia, to be enslaved. Our ancestors worked the land from morning to night,” he passionately said as he took the podium. He then went on to remind everyone to vote in the 2020 election before he added,”Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there,” referencing his 1990 film Do The Right Thing.

Relive the moment below and check out 10 of his best films ranked:

  • 10. Jungle Fever (1991)

    Jungle Fever tackles the taboo of interracial relationships at the time with an added layer of an affair. Wesley Snipes plays an architect who is married but has an affair with his Italian secretary, portrayed by Annabella Sciorra. The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, and more. Those closest to the Snipes’ and Sciorra’s characters react differently when they learn of the affair for many reasons. Stevie Wonder was nominated for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television for “Gotta Have You” in the film. You can stream Jungle Fever on Amazon Prime Video.

  • 9. Crooklyn (1994)

    Crooklyn is a semi-autobiographical film about a family from Brooklyn. Crookyln centers around Black girlhood and loss. The film is narrated by Spike Lee’s sister, Joie Lee, who helped co-write the project with Spike and their brother Cinqué. The film stars Alfre Woodard, Delroy Lindo, Zelda Harris, David Patrick Kelly, Spike Lee, and more. It was released in 1994. You can stream Crooklyn on Tubi, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Google Play.

  • 8. 4 Little Girls (1997)

    4 Little Girls | Watch the Movie on HBO | HBO.com

    Watch 4 Little Girls online at HBO.com. Stream on any device any time. Explore cast information, synopsis and more.

    4 Little Girls is a documentary about four girls who were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. The film delves into the murders of the four young girls, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Rosamond Robertson, taking interviews with the parents of the little girls, teachers, siblings, and more as they retold the horrific day in 1963. The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was a pivotal point in the civil rights movement. In 2017, the Library of Congress inducted the film into the United States National Film Registry. Lee was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Features in 1998. You can stream 4 Little Girls on Max (formerly known as HBO Max), Hulu, YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play.

  • 7. He Got Game (1998)

    He Got Game - Movies on Google Play

    Academy Award(R)-winner Denzel Washington stars in this must-see story about a convict given one shot at a second chance to be a father! With promises of a reduced sentence, Jake Shuttlesworth (Washington) is granted temporary release from state prison in order to persuade the nation's top basketball recruit ...

    He Got Game is a sports drama that is centered around an estranged relationship between a father and son. Denzel Washington portrays Jake Shuttlesworth, a convicted felon who is responsible for the accidental death of his wife. His son, Jesus Shuttlesworth, played by Ray Allen, is the top high school recruit for basketball. Jake is temporarily released from prison by the governor in return to persuade his son to play for the governor’s alma mater. If Jake is successful, he will get a reduced sentence. Alongside Washington and Allen, the film also stars Rosario Dawson, Milla Jovovich, Hill Harper, Zelda Harris, and more. You can stream He Got Game on YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and Google Play.

  • 6. She's Gotta Have It (1986)

    She’s Gotta Have It was Spike Lee’s first feature film. The black-and-white romantic comedy-drama follows Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) and her three suitors vying for her love. In addition to Johns, the film stars Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell, and Spike Lee. In 2017, it was adapted into a Netflix series by the same name, starring DeWanda Wise, Cleo Anthony, Anthony Ramos, and Lyriq Bent. Two years later, the Library of Congress selected the original film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. You can stream the original film and the series on Netflix.

  • 5. Da 5 Bloods (2020)

    Da 5 Bloods is a war drama centered on the lives of five  Vietnam vets. The group of men who have called themselves the “Bloods” must find a way to retrieve the gold bars they stole and hid in the war after their group leader is killed in a counter-attack. The film stars Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Lam Nguyen, and more. The film earned a nomination for Best Original Score at the 2021 Oscars. You can stream Da 5 Bloods on Netflix.

  • 4. BlacKkKlansman (2018)

    BlacKkKlansman is loosely based on the 2014 memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth. The film follows the an African-American detective who is looking to take down its local Ku Klux Klan group. It stars John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Alec Baldwin, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and more. Spike Lee won his first Oscar with the film for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2019. You can stream BlacKkKlansman on Hulu, YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and Google Play.

  • 3. 25th Hour (2002)

    The 25th Hour tells the story of a man’s last day free before he heads to prison for a seven-year sentence after selling drugs. It is based on the 2001 novel The 25th Hour by David Benioff. The film stars Edward Norton, Barry Pepper, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, and more. Lee’s integration of the September 11, 2001 attacks into the film and Norton’s monologue are prime reasons as to why this film is highly regarded in the director’s catalog. You can stream the 25th Hour on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and Apple TV.

  • 2. Malcolm X (1992)

    When you think of autobiographical films of historical figures, Spike Lee’s Malcolm X is a pristine example of how to get it done right. Denzel Washington embodies the empowering and often controversial human rights activist Malcolm X. The film also stars Angela Bassett, Delroy Lindo, and Lee. Washington was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Ruth E. Carter was nominated for Best Costume Design at the 1993 Academy Awards. You can stream Malcolm X on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Google Play.

  • 1. Do The Right Thing (1989)

    Do The Right Thing shows the racial tension between African-American and Italian residents in Brooklyn. The strained relations between the two groups come to an all-time high, which ultimately ends in violence. Do The Right Thing stars Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, and Lee himself. The film was nominated for two Oscars in 1990: Spike Lee for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and Danny Aiello for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. You can stream Do The Right Thing on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, MGM+, and Google Play.

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