Spike Lee‘s latest film, “Da 5 Bloods,” premieres exclusively on Netflix on June 12, 2020. It’s another blistering, enlightening entertainment from the always provocative filmmaker, who has spent his career examining the ugly truths about American racism. But where does it rank within the rest of his filmography? Let’s take a look back at 16 of Lee’s greatest films, ranked worst to best.
Lee earned his first Oscar nomination in Best Original Screenplay for “Do the Right Thing” (1989), a startling look at how racial tensions explode into violence on the hottest day of the year in a Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The Academy largely ignored the film, nominating it only for Lee’s script and Danny Aiello‘s supporting performance. They opted instead for a more sweet-natured probe of racism, “Driving Miss Daisy,” in Best Picture.
His second Oscar nomination came for his documentary “4 Little Girls” (1997), which recounts the notorious racial terrorist bombing of an African American church during the Civil Rights Movement that left four young girls dead. The film also contended at the Emmys for Best Non-Fiction Special. Lee later won Emmys for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking and Best Non-Fiction Directing for his four hour Hurricane Katrina opus “When the Levees Broke” (2007).
He was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2016, although he was far from finished. His “BlacKkKlansman” (2018), a true life drama about a black police officer (John David Washington) infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s, earned six Oscar nominations, half of which went to Lee for writing, directing and producing. (It also earned a Supporting Actor bid for Adam Driver, plus nominations in editing and score.) The film was a constant presence on the awards circuit, reaping multiple bids at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice, SAG, DGA, PGA, WGA and BAFTA, where Lee was awarded their Best Adapted Screenplay prize. It all culminated in his triumphant victory in that same category at the Academy Awards, where he received a much deserved standing ovation.
Lee shows no signs of resting on his laurels, and could very well find himself back in the Oscar race thanks to his latest outing, a wildly ambitious epic about four African American veterans (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock Jr.) who return to Vietnam to recover their fallen comrade (Chadwick Boseman) and millions of dollars in stolen gold.
Tour our photo gallery above of Lee’s 16 greatest films, and see where your favorite ranks.