×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

9 Essential Spike Lee Movies to Stream: ‘Do the Right Thing,’ ‘Crooklyn,’ and More

In the mood for a Spike Lee joint? Check out our list of must-watch movies from the Oscar-winning director.

Spike Lee

Spike Lee

Stephen Lovekin/Variety

All products and services featured by IndieWire are independently selected by IndieWire editors. However, IndieWire may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links, and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.

From “Do the Right Thing” to “Da 5 Bloods,” Spike Lee’s film catalog is packed with classics that have shaped Black cinema, and film at large. The Brooklyn-born auteur is known for a unique storytelling style, and of course, his signature double-dolly shot (where the character remains stationary while the background moves), which he’s used in several films including “Mo’ Better Blueseppice” and “Malcolm X.”

Last week, Film at Lincoln Center presented Lee with the Chaplin Award during the 46th Chaplin Award Gala, held at New York City’s Alice Tully Hall. The celebration, which was delayed a year because of the pandemic, included an excerpt from Lee’s HBO documentary “Epicenters 9/11→2021½” (currently streaming on HBO Max).

In the spirit of Lee’s latest honor, we put together a roster of Lee’s movies that you can own stream on Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and more platforms. See our list of movies below, and for additional recommendations read our roundup of Christopher Nolan, and Martin Scorsese films that you should watch.

DO THE RIGHT THING, Paul Benjamin (center), Robin Harris (2nd from right), Frankie Faison (right), 1989, © Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

“Do the Right Thing”

©Universal/courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

“Do the Right Thing”

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime, Vudu, Netflix

“Do the Right Thing” is one of Lee’s most popular films, and a great place to start if you’re doing a deep dive into his resume. In the film, Lee plays Mookie, a delivery worker for a Brooklyn pizzeria run by Mookie’s Italian-American boss Sal (Danny Aiello) and his two sons. The film’s overall plot deals with issues of racism, discrimination, and police brutality in a neighborhood already at its tipping point. One of the more devastating scenes in the film occurs when Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) gets choked to death by a police officer. If you want to own a physical copy of this brilliant film, purchase the special edition “Do the Right Thing” Criterion Collection Blu-ray.

HE GOT GAME, Ray Allen, Denzel Washington, 1998, (c)Buena Vista Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

“He Got Game”

Everett Collection

“He Got Game”

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu, HBO Max

“It’s the will of the man, it ain’t the skill of a man.” Denzel Washington plays the formerly incarcerated, absentee father of a top-rated high-school basketball prospect (played by Ray Allen). Washington’s character gets released from prison so that he can persuade his son into playing for the state governor’s alma mater (he only has a week to get it done). Washington has of course worked with Lee in “Malcolm X,” “Mo’ Better Blues,” and “Inside Man.”

SCHOOL DAZE, Giancarlo Esposito, Spike Lee, 1988

“School Daze”

Everett Collection

“School Daze”

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime

Two years after making his feature film debut with “She’s Gotta Have It,” Lee released “School Daze,” a 1988 dramatic comedy about undergrads attending a historically Black college. Laurence Fishburne stars in the film as a socially conscious college student, while Lee plays a student crossing into a fraternity. The cast also features Giancarlo Esposito, Tisha Campbell, and Ossie Davis. “School Daze” was partially inspired by Lee’s time at Morehouse College.

Spike Lee’s autofiction “Crooklyn.”

Universal Pictures

“Crooklyn”

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime, Starz, Hulu

Family and love are the centerpieces of “Crooklyn,” a 1994 dramatic comedy offering another look at growing up in Lee’s neighborhood. The story centers around a Brooklyn couple with four sons and a daughter, Troy (Zelda Harris), who doesn’t mind facing off with her brothers and anyone else in the neighborhood. Alfre Woodard stars as the fearsome, hardworking mother Carolyn. Delroy Lindo plays her affectionate but stressed husband Woody.

BAMBOOZLED, Tommy Davidson, Savion Glover, 2000, (c)New Line Cinema/courtesy Everett Collection

“Bamboozled”

Everett Collection

“Bamboozled”

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime

A satirical comedy with an all-star cast, “Bamboozled” is another example of Lee’s expert use of film as a form of social commentary. The plot is based around the only Black writer at an all-white network who creates a modern-day minstrel show. Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tommy Davidson, Yasiin Bey, Savion Glover, Paul Mooney, and Michael Rapaport, star in the movie. “Bamboozled” was also restored by the Criterion Collection; click here to purchase the film on Blu-ray.

SHE HATE ME, Dania Ramirez, Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, 2004, (c) Sony Pictures Classics/courtesy Everett Collection

“She Hate Me”

Everett Collection

“She Hate Me”

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime

An unconventional take on sperm donors, “She Hate Me” is an indie comedy-drama about a biotech executive (played by Anthony Mackie), who loses his job for exposing his bosses in an insider trading scandal and subsequently takes his ex-fiancee up on an offer to impregnate her, and other lesbian women, for money. Kerry Washington stars in “She Hate Me,” along with Kerry Washington, Monica Bellucci, and Ellen Barkin.

25TH HOUR, Barry Pepper, Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, 2002, (c) Walt Disney/courtesy Everett Collection

“25th Hour”

Everett Collection

“25th Hour”

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime

“25th Hour” has been hailed as one of the most important 9/11 movies ever made. The story unfolds in the days after the terrorist attack, but the film is about Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), a convicted drug dealer enjoying his final day of freedom before starting a seven-year prison bid. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosario Dawson, Barry Pepper, Anna Paquin, and Brian Cox also star in the film, which Lee adapted from a 2001 novel of the same name.

FOUR LITTLE GIRLS, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Robertson, 1997

“4 Little Girls”

Everett Collection

“4 Little Girls”

Where to Stream: HBO Max, Amazon Prime

Stepping into the realm of documentary film, “4 Little Girls” retells the harrowing story of the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. The explosion, set off by the KKK, left four innocent girls dead and injured around two dozen (some of the survivors share their stories in the film). Lee directed and produced the HBO documentary through his 40 Acres and Mule imprint.

BLACKKKLANSMAN, from left: Adam Driver, John David Washington, 2018. ph: David Lee /© Focus Features /Courtesy Everett Collection

“Blackkklansman”

Everett Collection

“BlacKkKlansman”

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime, HBO Max.

Thirty years after “Do the Right Thing,” “School Daze,” and “She’s Gotta Have It,” Lee finally won his first Academy Award for “BlacKkKlansman.” The 2018 spy crime comedy, starring John David Washington and Adam Driver, is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first Black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, who embarks on a mission to infiltrate and expose the KKK.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Shop and tagged ,


Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox