(Credit: Athena LeTrelle)


Spike Lee named the 95 essential films every film fan needs to watch


Spike Lee, the American film director, producer, writer, and actor who finally won his first Academy Award in 2019, has offered some advice to all budding filmmakers trying to find their way into Hollywood.

Having made his directorial debut with back in 1986 with his film She’s Gotta Have It, Lee has since built his cinematic reputation by challenging issues such as urban crime, poverty, race relations and discrimination against the black community in running themes through his work.

Lee’s films, typically referred to as ‘Spike Lee Joints’, range from the critically acclaimed comedy-drama Do The Right Thing – which earned Lee mainstream success in 1989 – to his most recent feature film BlacKkKlansman which secured victory at the Oscars in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.

For Lee, studying the history of cinema and those that pioneered specific genres is an essential part of finding your own identity. In the early 1990s, Lee began teaching a course about filmmaking at Harvard and, in 1993, he started teaching at New York University’s acclaimed Tisch School of the Arts in the Graduate Film Program.

Lee’s desire to continually teach film led to him receiving his master of fine arts from Tisch and, subsequently, to his appointment to artistic director in 2002. Even now, Lee is a tenured professor at NYU. Lee, being the forward thinking man he is, opted against the idea of providing his students with a mountain of reading material and, instead, handed them a list of films which he considers essential for all students of cinema.

The list, which includes names such as Ingmar Bergman, Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Jim Jarmusch, Francois Truffaut and Roman Polanski, also cooks up a few surprises which, most notably, includes Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus instead of his pioneering sci-fi effort 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The list though, which is made up of 95 films in total, was initially just 87 names upon its first release. However, after the internet pointed out that Lee had failed to include a single female filmmaker and, in response, Lee added the following eight films:

Spike Lee’s 95 favourite films:

  • The Hurt Locker by Kathryn Bigelow, 2008
  • Sugar Cane Alley by Euzhan Palcy, 1983
  • Swept Away by Lina Wertmuller, 1974
  • Seven Beauties by Lina Wertmuller, 1975
  • The Piano by Jane Campion, 1993
  • Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash, 1991
  • The Seduction of Mimi by Lina Wertmuller, 1972
  • Love and Anarchy – Lina Wertmuller, 1973

Below, see the remaining 87 films as part of Spike Lee’s essential list.