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Spike Lee Adds 7 Films By Female Filmmakers To His List Of Essential Movies

Spike Lee Adds 7 Films By Female Filmmakers To His List Of Essential Movies

Everyone has got their cinematic blind spots but not everyone recognizes it. Then again not everyone is Spike Lee. The director is coming off his successful Kickstarter campaign for his next film and part of that crowd-funding effort saw the director reach fans and folks new to his work like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Part of that process in raising awareness for his next Spike Lee Joint was dropping his list of Essential Films that every filmmaker must see. It was an interesting round-up of titles, leaning heavy on American cinema classics, while also making room for oddball entries like “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Apocalypto.” But it seems it wasn’t quite so definitive.

The director recently revised the list to his both on Kickstarter and his 40 Acres and A Mule site, to include seven films by female filmmakers. “As The Fall Semester Nears At NYU Grad, We Thought We Would Reprint My Revised Essential Film List (With Women Directors). Many Of You Informed Me Of That Omission. Thank You For That Coat Pulling,” he wrote. So what are they?

Well, most notably are four films by Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmuller, along with more contemporary selections in the form of Jane Campion‘s “The Piano” and Kathryn Bigelow‘s “The Hurt Locker.” And a bit lesser known is Julie Dash‘s 1991 effort “Daughters Of The Dust,” a Sundance award winner for cinematography and a picture selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Thoughts? Any other films or niches Spike missed out on? Let us know below. [via Shadow & Act]


“The Piano” Jane Campion (1993)

“Daughters of the Dust” Julie Dash (1991)

“The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow (2008) 

“The Seduction of Mimi” Lina Wertmuller (1972)

“Love and Anarchy” Lina Wertmuller (1973)

“Swept Away” Lina Wertmuller (1974)

“Seven Beauties” Lina Wertmuller (1975)

Original list: 

“Bad Lieutenant,” Abel Ferara (1992)

“Rashomon,” Akira Kurosawa (1950)

“Yojimbo,” “Akira Kurosawa (1961)

“Ran,” Akira Kurosawa (1985)

“Rear Window,” Alfred Hitchcock (1954)

“Vertigo,” Alfred Hitchcock (1958)

“North by Northwest,” Alfred Hitchcock (1959)

“Bonnie and Clyde,” Arthur Penn (1967)

“The Conformist,” Bernardo Bertolucci (1970)

“Last Tango in Paris,” Bernardo Bertolucci (1972)

“Ace in the Hole,” Billy Wilder (1951)

“Some Like It Hot,” Billy Wilder (1959)

“Killer of Sheep,” Charles Burnett (1977)

“Night of the Hunter,” Charles Laughton (1955)

“Raising Arizona,” The Coen Brothers (1987)

“The Bridge on the River Kwai,” David Lean (1954)

“Lawrence of Arabia,” David Lean (1962)

“On the Waterfront,” Elia Kazan (1954)

“A Face in the Crowd,” Elia Kazan (1957)

“La Strada,” Federico Fellini (1954)

“La Dolce Vita,” Federico Fellini (1960)

“8 1/2,” Federico Fellini (1963)

“City of God,” Ferando Meirelles, Katia Lund (2002)

“The Godfather,” Francis Ford Coppola (1972)

“The Godfather: Part II,” Francis Ford Coppola (1974)

“400 Blows,” Francois Truffaut (1959)

“Day for Night,” Francois Truffaut (1973)

“Patton,” Franklin J. Schnaffner (1970)

“Mad Max,” George Miller (1979)

“The Road Warrior,” George Miller (1981)

“Battle of Algiers,” Gillo Pontecorvo (1966)

“The Last Detail,” Hal Ashby (1973)

“Breathless,” Jean-Luc Godard (1960)

“West Side Story,” Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise (1961)

“Stranger than Paradise,” Jim Jarmusch (1984)

“The Train,” John Frankenheimer (1964)

“The Maltese Falcon,” John Huston (1941)

“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” John Huston (1948)

“Fat City,” John Huston (1972)

“Midnight Cowboy,” John Schlesinger (1969)

“Marathon Man,” John Schlesinger (1969)

“Boyz n the Hood,” John Singleton (1991)

“Los Olivdados,” Luis Bunuel (1950)

“Black Orpheus,” Marcel Camus (1959)

“Home of the Brave,” Mark Robson (1949)

“Mean Streets,” Martin Scorsese (1973)

“Raging Bull,” Martin Scorsese (1980)

“Apocalypto,” Mel Gibson (2006)

“Casablanca,” Michael Curtiz (1942)

“Thief,” Michael Mann (1981)

“The Red Shoes,” Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger (1948)

“Coolie High,” Michael Schultz (1975)

“I Am Cuba,” Mikhail Kalatozov (1964)

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Milos Forman (1975)

“District 9,” Neill Blomkamp (2009)

“In the Heat of the Night,” Norman Jewison (1967)

“Touch of Evil,” Orson Welles (1958)

“Blue Collar,” Paul Schrader (1978)

“White Heat,” Raoul Walsh (1949)

“Is Paris Burning?,” Rene Clement (1966)

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” Robert Mulligan (1962)

“Rome Open City,” Roberto Rossellini (1945)

“Paisan,” Roberto Rossellini (1946)

“Chinatown,” Roman Polanski (1974)

“Black Rain,” Shohei Imamura (1989)

“Dog Day Afternoon,” Sidney Lumet (1975)

“Singin’ in the Rain,” Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly (1952)

“Paths of Glory,” Stanley Kubrick (1957)

“Spartacus,” Stanley Kubrick (1960)

“Dr. Strangelove,” Stanley Kubrick (1964)

“Kung Fu Hustle,” Stephen Chow (2004)

“Dirty Pretty Things,” Stephen Frears (2002)

“Hoop Dreams,” Steve James (1984)

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Steven Spielberg (1977)

“Empire of the Sun,” Steven Spielberg (1987)

“Cool Hand Luke,” Stuart Rosenberg (1967)

“Badlands,” Terrence Malick (1973)

“Days of Heaven,” Terrence Malick (1978)

“The Wizard of Oz,” Victor Fleming (1939)

“An American in Paris,” Vincente Minnelli (1951)

“Lust for Life,” Vincente Minnelli (1956)

“The Bicycle Thief,” Vittorio De Sica (1948)

“Miracle in Milan,” Vittorio De Sica (1951)

Dead End,” William Wyler (1937)

“Zelig,” Woody Allen (1983)

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It's patronizing to women to have to include them in a personal list based on their sex. But it's not like logic or honesty has any place in cultural conversation anymore.


That whole controversy was stupid. He made a list of films he personally considers to be essential viewing based on their content, not on whether or not the directors fulfilled a certain quota. If I were to make a list of my favorite movies I doubt I'd have more than two films by female directors on it. That has nothing to do with whether or not I think women are talented behind the camera and everything to do with personal taste. And if you don't like my personal taste tough shit, do something productive like making your own list instead of whining. The American media's relentless need to politicize everything is getting to be ridiculous. I bet if this exact list happened to be released by a white director someone would complain that there's only one black filmmaker featured.


If he trying to throw female directors or whomever a bone with this sidenote I'd just throw the bone right back. You mean out of the whole history of filmmaking of the films he's seen he can only count FOUR women filmmakers??!! And he's an educator!!


The lesson in all this: before you can empower yourself you have to play the victim. Btw, doesn't it defeat the purpose of a personal list if it has to fact-checked by politically correct censors and focus group tested?


Hmm… I'm not sure how giving women their own little postscript, and then choosing more than half of the films on that list from the same woman, really makes the situation better. Fells a bit too "Oh shit, I need to add some women to this list, what's on my DVD shelf…"


Personally, I don't give shit about the gender or race of a director. All that matters is if you're good at the craft or not, and dedicated to making something worth discussing/watching/analyzing/loving.


Elaine May, A New Leaf, The Heartbreak Kid, Mikey and Nicky.


A lot of Wertmuller. I haven't seen her films in years, but I remember being unimpressed. If I remember, I thought they were narcissistic and stuffed with doggerel melodramatics, but maybe I should re-watch them. I don't know anyone who thinks "The Piano" or "The Hurt Locker" are "essential" films. "Daughters of the Dust" is pretty good, but I don't think it's essential. But that's also a title I haven't seen in awhile, I'll have to check it out again.

Frankly though, I just don't understand how anyone could make an essential list that's intentionally designed to include female filmmakers and leaves out names like Chantal Akerman, Agnes Varda, Maya Deren, Vera Chytilova, Barbara Loden, or Kira Muratova (and surely others I've neglected to mention).

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