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Spike Lee Admits He’s Wrong, Adds Eight Films By Women to His List of Essential Movies

Spike Lee Admits He's Wrong, Adds Eight Films By Women to His List of Essential Movies

It’s been an educational month for Spike Lee. He’s been schooled in the ways of Kickstarter (to excellent results) and now he’s (slightly) adjusted his list of Essential Films to reflect female filmmakers. 

READ MORE: Spike Lee’s List of Films All Aspiring Filmmakers Must See 

Spike Lee wrote a post with his amended list to his Kickstarter and 40 Acres and A Mule sites, with this intro: 

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.

Peace And Love,


However, Lee’s addendum reflects the addition of only five filmmakers: Half of his essential films were directed by Lina Wertmuller.

That brings his total list of films to 92. Eight films accounts for a very small percentage — 8.7% — which is about the same as the 9% of films directed by women, according to the latest Celluloid Ceiling report. 

READ MORE: Here’s Where to Watch Spike Lee’s Essential Films for Filmmakers Online

What do you think of the new list? A step in the right direction, or too little too late? Tell us in the comments. 


“The Piano” Jane Campion (1993)

“Daughters of the Dust” Julie Dash (1991)

“The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow (2008) 

“Sugar Cane Alley,” Euzhan Palcy (1983)

“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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NO surprises.

AGAIN —-with what's clearly unfolding all aorund us,
WHY did Lee choose 3 Kurosawa films, while leaving out
his greatest, and most cosmically relavant —'IKIRU'.

CAP-stone sleaze, the scuzziness of 'secret brotherhoods',
and EUGENICS, treated like never before —–and a real heart stopper.

GE Fukishima cesium
———AUTISM 'friendly' CHEM-trails
—————-Closed system USURY reduction
———————–GMO 'food'
————————————–and DENIAL

2013 —IS—- 'IKIRU'. . .


The mere fact that Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust is an addendum is simply mind boggling. What "lens"is he looking through to leave that film off his initial list.


It's embarrassing that a filmmaker should be forced to add women directors to his list for the sake of political correctness. Historically, there were not that many women directors, and Spike does not seem like the type to praise Leni Reifenstahl. Even as someone enlightened on so-called "world cinema", I still would only count a couple great female directors. Forced political correctness is the opposite of progress, and it is patronizing to women, who are just as capable as their male counterparts.


This list of film titles suggests that Lee has either had limited exposure to world cinema, or his choices are politically correct. The seven female directed films chosen for the addendum gives the game away, a narrow selection that completely ignores the truly great female directors of world cinema. Not shameful so much as embarrassing.


A lot of his listed movies is "old", so I'm not surprised that there aren't many women there. I mean, there weren't that many women directors 50-60 years ago, right?
I'm a girl, but I'm uncomfortable with forcing women directors on the list because they're women. If it was me, I'd be left wondering if the placement is due to my skill or gender only… :/

All in all, it's his list… He can like whatever he wants… Who cares. The fact he's a big director doesn't mean that his list the THE ultimate list.


8 FILMS. EIGHT. Euzhan Palcy is a woman. Can't believe this hasn't gotten a correction yet.


Joe Calabrese

Curious as to why 'Django Unchained' was omitted from this list

Boomer Here

Films "by" women means films written by women. Let's see which films written by women you like, Spike.

W. keith

Boy Spike, you's a natural-born World-shaker! 'No Apocalypse Now' or 'Platoon' or Nora Ephron movies come to mind?


Let the man like what he likes. This whole effort by indiewire and other sites to pay special attention to women filmmakers is infuriating, and I say this as a woman filmmaker. I would never want my work to be judged by my sex. Isn't feminism based on equal opportunity? This kind of attitude is overcompensating and is almost just as offensive as denouncing women filmmakers for being less qualified – if we can get job then we can take the heat.

Will S.

I wouldn't have gone back. You like what you like. Fuck everybody else's opinion.


That's great, Spike, but the choices are so obvious. It's as if he just did a quick Google search and entered the first films that showed up. I was somewhat surprised that he didn't include any films by Shirley Clarke (THE CONNECTION, COOL WORLD) on the list. Another filmmaker that comes to mind is Agnes Varda (CLEO FROM 5 TO 7, VAGABOND) or Darnell Martin (I LIKE IT LIKE THAT, CADILLAC RECORDS). Ms. Martin actually worked on DO THE RIGHT THING and acted in NOWHERE FAST, a film directed by Spike's brother, Cinque.


Ummm…No P.T. Anderson? This guy is so clearly out of touch.
It's no wonder he hasn't made a good movie in ten years.


JEANNE DIELMAN — Chantal Akerman


everyone check out 'DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST' by Julie Dash .


what is the criteria for a film to be 'essential'. The plot ? camera shots ? directing angles/
Since Linda W is on here 7times I guess I should see 1 of her films right ?


I didn't realize until just now that my two favorite films from 2012 were directed by women: Cloud Atlas and We Need to Talk About Kevin


You're supposed to judge art works by their intrinsic qualities and not by who produced them. If you do the latter you're the people you claim to oppose.

Bb black sheep

Yes, as someone said Add Mira Nair. Also add Sally Potter for Orlando


Its his list, should it not reflect his view?


I would add Deepa Mehta, Agnes Varda, and Maria Luisa Bemberg…


Spike Lee must include "A Fool and His Money" (1912), directed by Alice Guy-Blache, produced by her studio Solax. It is the earliest existing film with an all African-American cast, so it's important not only for the history of cinema, but also for the history of the US. The film was shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Hollywood on the Hudson, and the actors appear in the film in contemporary clothes. The shots composition, the lighting, the settings, everything shows that Alice Guy-Blache was not just the first woman director, but one of the first geniuses of cinema. You can see parts of the film if you go to kickstarter and look for the update #2 on the Be Natural project. It's amazing!


Guy is as irrelevant as tits on a bull


And, none of Sofia Coppola's movies? ("C'mon!")

Joyce Mary

Kazan was a snitch.


I agree on the Mira Nair and Kasi Lemmons suggestions


Yeah there's a lot more room on there for a million other films, but what are you gonna do? At least he's trying and taking the message from people. But c'mon! No Leni Riefenstal (despite the possible connotations of admiring such work) or Maya Derren? Whaaa? Oh my god! Ahhh! Also The Piano is essential. Good choice.


Shame on y'all for not recognizing Euzhan Palcy's addition to the list… Someone literally just skimmed looking for names like Jane, huh?


"More than half of his essential films were directed by Lina Wertmuller." If that were true, there would be 46 Line Wertmuller films on the list. It should be rewritten as ""More than half of his NEWLY ADDED FEMALE-DIRECTED essential films were directed by Lina Wertmuller.

when are you hiring some proofreaders?


Eve's Bayou


Nothing by the most influential female filmmaker of our times: Patti Kaplan.


What the hell does it matter? Not one female director was listed in these filmmaker's top 10 so why the focus on Spike's?


You know, in the end, it comes down to taste. And I think Spike has really lame taste. As others have said – he is stuck in a pretty narrow mind frame, and listing 4 Lina Wertmuller movies while ignoring Varda, Akerman, Denis, Campion, et al – it's just lazy.


American Psycho or bust


But nothing from Taantino?

Other Recs

Essential films every student should see? Won't argue with Bigelow, but I'd also add Claire Denis, definitely for "Beau Travail" (possibly the best film of the '00s) and maybe "35 Shots of Rum." Jane Campion's best work was for "Sweetie" and "An Angel at My Table," I'd add those. Chantal Akerman's "Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles" definitely belongs. Agnès Varda "Cléo from 5 to 7" and maybe a few others (love her most recent doc). Barbara Kopple for "Harlan County USA." Plenty of my friends would add "Lost in Translation" (which I think is overrated, but it's more or less a classic now).

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