Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

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

by Kevin Jagernauth
July 26, 2013 1:17 PM
  • |

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.

  • |

More: Spike Lee

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • bilal a jan | July 31, 2013 9:03 AMReply

    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. | July 28, 2013 9:00 PMReply

    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.

  • thedudeabides | July 27, 2013 7:09 AMReply

    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.

  • 77ships | July 27, 2013 6:18 AMReply

    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 | July 27, 2013 2:49 AMReply

    Well Done

  • james | July 26, 2013 8:27 PMReply

    Bergman obviously goes way over Spike's head.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | July 26, 2013 7:03 PMReply

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

  • Chris | July 26, 2013 6:51 PMReply

    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.

  • Tyler | July 26, 2013 4:16 PMReply

    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.

  • Cetre | July 26, 2013 4:16 PMReply

    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 | July 26, 2013 3:43 PMReply

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

  • sk | July 26, 2013 2:49 PMReply

    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

  • brian | July 28, 2013 12:36 PM

    Charles Burnett

  • James | July 27, 2013 4:59 PM

    Yep, another racist list created by one of the white men who control Holly... wait a minute...

  • Yojimbo-bo | July 26, 2013 3:43 PM

    SK, Affirmative Action doesn't apply to movie lists, ya dingus.

  • Cribbster | July 26, 2013 2:55 PM

    What are you gonna do about it, SK?

  • Corey3rd | July 26, 2013 2:37 PMReply

    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.

  • MistaTMason | July 26, 2013 6:24 PM

    I'm pretty sure he hates Tarantino. Also, that movie (no mattered how cliche' it's become in pop culture) is a masterpiece that was totally unique in its genre bending style and dialogue when it came out. It also unleashed the entire generation of VCR directors and was the spark that led to all of the major studios opening their own indie divisions (i.e. Magnolia, Fox Searchlight, Paramount Vantage). It is essential.

  • ghostofjohnneville | July 26, 2013 2:15 PMReply

    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!

  • 3456 | July 26, 2013 2:07 PMReply

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

  • DUDDI | July 26, 2013 2:06 PMReply

    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.

  • thedudeabides | July 27, 2013 6:57 AM

    There's no Chaplin or Bergman. Those two should be at the top of anyone's viewing list. Period.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | July 26, 2013 7:06 PM

    I think there's room for both. Tarantino owes a debt to Leone, but Leone said he was inspired by John Ford when composing his spaghetti westerns. Just paying it forward, is all.

  • MistaTMason | July 26, 2013 6:32 PM

    Leaving out Bergman is about inexcusable. I love a lot of Lynch work, but I can see why he would be inessential to anyone who can't seem to be engulfed by any of his films. The reaction they should get from the viewer is almost entirely subjective. Also, no Chaplin? Or a single film from the horror genre?

  • Duddi | July 26, 2013 5:14 PM

    I don't know why but i always forget "master" Leone ;-) ... We have to make a compromise and quote 'em both ...

  • A-Man | July 26, 2013 2:23 PM

    Replace 'Tarantino' with 'Leone' and I'm 100% behind you.

  • hank | July 26, 2013 2:01 PMReply

    did not expect to see Apocalypto.

  • spiceislife | July 27, 2013 6:21 PM

    racism or anti-semitism should not influence someones opinion on the quality of a film. It's about the finished product, not whether someone deems the filmmaker a good or bad person. At least what I think.

  • cirkusfolk | July 26, 2013 6:19 PM

    Me either considering most people find Gibson to be a racist/anti Semite.

  • Lukas | July 26, 2013 1:46 PMReply

    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!

  • MistaTMason | July 26, 2013 6:35 PM

    The Dissolve (the great new film site owned by Pitchfork) is spending the whole week doing discussions and roundtables on Zelig this week.

  • yer | July 26, 2013 1:31 PMReply

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

Email Updates