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Check Out Spike Lee’s List Of Essential Films Every Filmmaker Must See

Check Out Spike Lee's List Of Essential Films Every Filmmaker Must See

At the beginning of the week, Spike Lee launched a Kickstarter campaign for his next film, once again prompting the whole debate about crowd-sourcing by folks who could feasibly raise the cash themselves. And while it says something about our movie culture that both “Veronica Mars” and Zach Braff had far, far exceeded the $240,000 or so Lee has raised so far (we suppose people like the familiar over the new and potentially challenging), we’ll leave that debate for a later date. But if this Kickstarter has been good for anything so far, it’s increased presence of the always intriguing Spike Lee.

And today, the filmmaker, who also teaches at the New York University Film School, decided to drop his list of Essential Films that he believes every filmmaker needs to see. It’s something he hands to students at the start of each year, and as he explains in the video below, he’s always surprised by how many of the classics have not been viewed by kids who want to make movies. You can check out the complete list below, which expectedly has all the heavyweights you might expect: Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, David Lean, Frederico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa and more. But the oddest choice? “Kung Fu Hustle.” Also, of all the Woody Allen films to choose from, it’s “Zelig” that made the list.

Anyway, have seen them all? Agree/disagree? Watch Spike and then check out the full list below.

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bilal a jan

want to new film misen en- scene technique, i mean what innovation we see in the making of film-in terms of shot divisions in the fiction and documentary film, since the word CUT was born.
Are new filmmakers creating or inventing new misen-en scene which can be matched with Sergi Enisentine, D W Griffth, and other masters of cinema, apart from SVFX.

Jim P.

He picks the weakest films from the greatest directors. Great fan list (everyone has their own taste), but a terrible list from a professor of cinema.


What a sap. He chose the one Kubrick film that even Kubrick thought wasn't his best work, aka Spartacus. Also, not seeing Lynch, Chaplin, Tarkovsky, Herzog, Antonioni, Ford or Bergman is a big no no for future filmmakers.


Really misses something more experimental in my opinion or offbeat. Could really use Brakhage for instance or Tarkovsky. The above list presents a far too classical semi-American with a light Lee-flavour (obviously) approach to movies in my opinion.

Benny Salz

Well Done


Bergman obviously goes way over Spike's head.

Adam Scott Thompson

"Kung Fu Hustle" is a masterpiece. Just sayin'.


Wow. Cool list. They all seem to make sense in a way. Would love to see if and how this list would change in the next 5/10 years. I'm sure it will.


Interesting there are so few mentions of post-millennium films. Seeing sci-fi District 9 on there is a bit of a shock considering Lee never deals with the genre, but I suppose the whole racial/allegory thing must have hit a soft spot.


No Wong Kar Wai?! But I guess we all will have a film that we feel like should have been mentioned…guess that's why it's Spike's List. :)

John N

Good list, but no silent films? No films before 1941???


only 5 films after 2000
1/2 credit to a female filmmaker
no Asian filmmakers outside of HK/Japan (not even the guy that directed the original OLD BOY)
no Arab filmmakers
and stunningly no Black filmmakers from Africa


    So Lee has to have a quota of female filmmakers, Arab, Asian,etc.
    The deadening of Art by the PC crowd.


Nothing by Roger Corman? No love for "The Telephone Book," "Dolemite" or "The Spook Who Sat By The Door?" Just another massive list that looks like it could have been cranked out by any film theory instructor at a junior college. At least he didn't do a massive sellout and put down Pulp Fiction.


useful list. high-five for 'Fat City'! In fact his choice of Huston is great. 'Kung Fu Hustle' is a bit dubious. No? Good to see some love for George Miller though. Between two Mad Max pictures and 'Apocalypto' I admire Spike Lee's unabashed appreciation of the great Mel Gibson. Yes!


I love that it's organized alphabetically by director's first name…huh?


It looks like Spike Lee has a great taste, but not so cool that he hasn't included anything from Tarkovskiy, Herzog, Antonioni, Wenders, Tarantino, Fincher, Lynch and Bergman… I've seen only 46 of these movies on Spike's list and I own another 12 of them… And from Spike Lee's movies, the ones that would fit in here could've been "Do The Right Thing" or "Malcolm X". Good of him for being modest.


did not expect to see Apocalypto.


Zelig is one of my most favorite movies! Incredibly funny! The film made me laugh so much, so it helped me dealing with my break-up with a girl at that time! Seriously!


Wouldn't have pegged Lee for a Malick fan. Interesting.

Rahul Ray

Where’s Satyajit Ray in all of this?


What about Sidney Lumet’s Network and Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


seriously, Empire of the Sun is terrible

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