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Spike Lee names his favourite moment from cinema history


As one of the most influential and prolific filmmakers in the history of cinema, Spike Lee has an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, often discussing the movies that have made him into the success he is today. Remaining a pertinent voice in the industry even 43 years after he first stepped foot in the world of cinema, Lee continues to bring poignant stories of the black experience to the big screen, with films such as Do the Right Thing, Get on the Bus, Malcolm X and BlacKkKlansman forcing Hollywood audiences to consider their place in the civil rights argument. 

Uncompromising in his approach to any given subject matter, Lee helped to formalise his style following the release of his second film School Daze released in 1988. A satirical look into the prejudice and snobbery in black academic industries, the film led Spike to create his third feature film, Do the Right Thing that would become the most iconic film of the director’s career, populairisng the ‘Spike Lee joint’.

Appointed as a subtitle to a large majority of his films, the mark of Spike Lee’s presence embodied a certain free-thinking ethos, with the director telling Atlantic in an interview in 2015, “‘A Spike Lee Joint’ is ‘…really all the ingredients that I put into my film”. Continuing, the filmmaker adds, “Whatever film it is, whatever subject matter is. Whether it’s a documentary or a narrative film. The connective tissue is that it’s coming through me, but all the stories I feel are different”. 

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

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For the director, studying the history of cinema became essential in his own growth as a filmmaker, with Lee now teaching such knowledge to students at NYU where he serves as a professor. Previously putting together a list of 95 films that were essential to all film students, including the movies of Ingmar Bergman, Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Jim Jarmusch, Francois Truffaut and Stanley Kubrick, the filmmaker recently went one step further, pinpointing the one movie moment he loves more than any other. 

Omitted from his own list of essential films, his favourite scene in film history comes from The Exorcist by William Friedkin, when Linda Blair’s head turns 360 degrees, with Lee remembering “standing in line in ten degrees for two hours to see The Exorcist at the Paramount Theater…When Linda Blair’s head started turning around, people were screaming”. 

Recalling the experience in an interview with Empire Magazine, Lee added that his experience watching the film was far different from a trip to the modern multiplex. “There was none of that ‘order your ticket in advance,’” Lee explained, clarifying, “We weren’t there yet. There were one-screen theatres and your ass had to wait in line, and you were happy to wait in line because you knew you were about to see some shit. Those are the films where you can feel the electricity, the energy in the theatre”. 

Clearly nostalgic for his memory of classic cinema, Lee continues to innovate modern cinema with his own classic take on contemporary moviemaking.