Top 10 A Nightmare on Elm Street Death Scenes

With this year marks the 35th anniversary, of the first time Freddy came into our nightmares, with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street.  In honor of this anniversary, we’ll look back at the top 10 kills, throughout the series, excluding Jason vs Freddy and the 2010 reboot.


10. Glen: Bloody Bed Geyser

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Making his acting debut, Johnny Depp, unlike other victims on this list, you don’t see him die.  You see Freddy’s claws come up from underneath Glen and drag into a hole in his bed.  Suddenly, a gigantic blood geyser sprouts from the hole, overtaking the room.  Though it was a very dangerous scene to shot, due to people getting electrocuted as a result of the liquid hitting lights (no major injuries), it’s by far one of the most surreal deaths in a Nightmare film.


9. Taryn: Overdose

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1985)

Taryn, a recovering drug addict, gets into a knife fight with Freddy, showing no fear as she stabs him.  However, when Freddy reveals his fingers have turned into drug filled syringes, she slips into her fear, immediately giving him the power to transform her arm’s track marks, into little mouths hungry for the drugs.  He injecting her with the drugs, slowly killing her, leaving those of us with a fear of needles, cringing at the edge of our seats.


8. Carlos: Hearing Aid

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

While many of the deaths on this list, do contain an element of comedy, like a funny line from Freddy, this is a funny kill overall.  The hearing-impaired Carlos, is able to get his hearing-aid back from Freddy, but it turns into a spider like creature clinging to his ear, amplifying every noise to an unbearable level.  Acting like a Loony Toons cartoon character, Freddy taunts Carlos, by dropping pins with cartoonish sound effects.  Then, he gleefully scratches his claws on a chalkboard, leading to Carlos’ head exploding.  As irritating as that noise is, the goofy way Freddy acts during this kill is hilarious.  Its hard not to laugh during this kill scene.


7. Jennifer: Television

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

This kill bough us the most quoted Freddy line, “Welcome to prime-time, bitch”.  However, this kill could also count as two kills in one.  As Jennifer starts to drift to sleep, while watching a television interview between famed talk show host Dick Cavett and actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dick turns into Freddy, about to kill Zsa Zsa, but the screen goes static.  Then, Freddy slams Jennifer’s head into the television, shocking her to death.  A kill that worked perfectly with the bulky and potentially dangerous electronics of the era.


6. Phil: The Puppet

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Taking advantage of Phil’s love of marinate puppets and his sleepwalking habits, Freddy rips veins out of Phil’s limbs, and controls him like a puppet.  Seeing the veins close up, makes your skin crawl.  Phil tries to resist, but is overpowered and taken to a high window, making it look like he’s going to commit suicide.  What makes this scene far more gut-wrenching, is seeing how helpless the Dream Warriors are in stopping Phil’s death.  Freddy cuts the veins like strings, and Phil falls to his death, with the Dream Warriors forced to watch their friend die.


5. Ron: Door Stabbing

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

While sleeping in Ron’s room, Jesse suddenly wakes in unbearable pain.  As Ron is unsure of how to react to Jesse, Freddy slowly rips out of Jesse’s chest and kills Ron, by stabbing him through his bedroom door.  It’s a stomach-turning Freddy entrance, with the lead up to Ron’s kill being far more terrifying than the kill itself.  The terror is increased when its revealed that Freddy possessed Jesse to kill Ron and his covered in his blood.  Freddy’s reflection can be seen in the wall mirror taunting and laughing at Jesse, making the kill that much more disturbing.


4. Freddy: Escaping Souls

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Without a doubt the most visually complex and dramatic Freddy death.  It’s a well-done kill, combining the use of different effects, including live actors and radio-controlled limbs.  With Alice’s help, the souls of Freddy’s victim destroy him from the inside out, breaking his jaw wide open, allowing their souls to escape.  As gory as it can seem, its also a scene of triumph for the victims, as they are no longer under Freddy’s control.  And hearing the voices of the child victims, some laughing, while others cry for their mom, as they float away, also makes the defeat a that much more rewarding, and eye watering.


3. Dan: Need for Speed

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

Despite Freddy initially tormenting Dan in his truck, the real focus of this kill, is during the motorcycle ride.  As Dan tires to escape Freddy on a motorcycle, the motorcycle is really Freddy in disguise.  The motorcycle takes over Dan, painfully stabbing itself into his limbs, face, and hands, absorbing his blood, and making him a part of the motorcycle.  A kill so gruesome, it was heavily edited by the MPAA (Motion Picture of America Association) in the original film debut.  However, this controversial kill can be seen in its entirety, unedited, in all of its horrific glory.


2. Debbie: Roach Motel

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Considered by many as the grossest kill of the Nightmare series, there are visual similarities between this scene and other iconic horror scenes.  For instance, Debbie’s slow and painful transformation into a cockroach, resembles David’s first transformation into a werewolf, in An American Werewolf in London.  You can’t help but to feel her pain and cringe, as her arms fall off, unveiling cockroach legs.  Also, like The Fly, you see and hear an insects-human hybrid’s spine-chilling call for help, knowing they cannot be saved.  After seeing Freddy squish Debbie to death, in a roach motel, you won’t be able to look at the traps the same away again.


1. Tina: Ceiling Death

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Both the first kill for the Nightmare series and the most infamous.  Tina is stabbed by Freddy in her nightmare.  An invisible Freddy, is able to cross into the real world, as he drags Tina on her bedroom’s ceiling, before dropping her lifeless body on her bed.  This iconic kill scene was filmed in a rotating set, without CGI, mystifying viewers.  Fun fact, this scene was inspired by the classic Hollywood musical star Fred Astaire’s ceiling dance, from Royal Wedding.  It is also listed by New York Magazine’s entertainment site Vulture, as one of, “The 100 Scares That Shaped Horror”, for the 1980’s.

The Frida Cinema Film Event Post #21

Rob Zombie Double-Feature — Presented by HorrorBuzz

Rob Zombie Double Feature poster

The family that slays together stays together! In morbid anticipation of Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell—resuming the adventures of everyone’s favorite murderous family, the Fireflys—HorrorBuzz presents the Rob Zombie Double-Feature!

On Friday, September 20th, the special ticket-price of $13 gets you in for the first two Firefly films: 2003’s House of 1,000 Corpses and its 2005 sequel The Devil’s Rejects.


House of 1,000 Corpses poster

House of 1,000 Corpses is Zombie’s directorial debut and his bloody love letter to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and the low budget slasher films of the 1970’s. A group of unsuspecting and naive teens are taking a road trip into the middle of rural America, searching for a local legend, a maniac named, “Doctor Satan.” They pick up an attractive hitchhiker, Baby Firefly (Sherri Moon Zombie), who lures the teens into a trap, where her homicidal family, the Fireflys, are just itching to make them the prey of their blood-lust debauchery.




The Devil's Rejects poster

Considered by many to be Zombie’s best film, The Devil’s Rejects picks up where House of 1,000 Corpses leaves off. The local Sheriff’s department, attempting to arrest the Fireflys for their crimes, are met with a hail of gunfire, leading to an intensely violent and deadly shootout. Baby (Sherri Moon Zombie) and Otis (Bill Moseley) Firefly escape and subsequently rescue their father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig). The united Fireflys then go on a murderous rampage, with Sheriff Wydell always one-step behind. An homage to 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, the film’s final shootout sequence is among the most memorable in the Rob Zombie oeuvre.



The Frida Cinema Film Event Post #20

Strangers on a Train — Film Club Members Screening

Strangers on a Train poster


Handpicked by you, members of The Frida Cinema, we present Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s psychological crime thriller, Strangers on a Train.

While on a train, tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger), innocently engages in a conversation with fellow passenger Bruno Antony (Robert Walker), half-listening to his wild homicidal theory of getting away with the perfect crime of “exchange murders.” Each man would kill the other’s undesirable person, giving them both the freedom they desperately crave. And with each murder committed by a motiveless stranger to the victim, neither man would be suspected of the crime. However, Guy doesn’t take Bruno or his “bargain” seriously, but acts as though he’s interested, giving Bruno the illusion of an agreement. After Guy’s estranged wife is found murdered, he’s thrown into Bruno’s whirlwind of death, destruction, blackmail, and madness.

Listed by Parade Magazine as #6 in its, “10 Greatest films of Alfred Hitchcock,” Strangers on a Train is “…one of Hitchcock’s most stylish and perfectly paced thrill rides” and an “…edgy and morbid take on human nature.”

Strangers on a Train is an admirable demonstration of Alfred Hitchcock’s virtuosity in the area of suspense dramas.” — THR Staff, The Hollywood Reporter

“Hitchcock was above all the master of great visual set pieces, and there are several famous sequences in Strangers on a Train.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“Classic nail-biter is a must for thriller fans.” — Scott G. Mignola, Common Sense Media


The Frida Cinema Film Event Post #19

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (Atame!)



The Frida Cinema’s Pedro Almodóvar retrospective continues with the Spanish director’s controversial film Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

Lonely orphan Ricky (Antonio Banderas) has just discharged from a mental facility, his dreams of stability, love, marriage, and children focused squarely upon Marina (Victoria Abril), an actress with whom he once had a one-night-stand. Learning Marina is on a movie set, Ricky goes to meet her, but she dismisses him, not remembering their encounter. He then follows her home, making Marina his prisoner in the hope that she will eventually fall in love with him. Worried that Marina is not at the film’s after-party, her sister Lola (Loles Leon), begins to search for her. Meanwhile, sparks begin to fly between Marina and Ricky as she develops feelings for him. Will Lola ever find Marina? If she does, will Marina want to leave Ricky?

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is notable for its introduction of Antonio Banderas to American audiences. It was also among the first films to receive the MPAA‘s then-new NC-17 rating, which ultimately proved to be as stigmatizing as its predecessor. The film still carries the NC-17, meaning No Children 17 and Under Admitted.

“One of those movies that makes you laugh if you sit back and absorb the entire absurd situation at once” — Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

“A writer-director driven by his passion, Almodóvar allows his movies to moan and sweat and writhe.” — Rita Kempley, Washington Post

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! comes from a transitional phase in Almodóvar’s career, one in which he was using bigger budgets to home his aesthetic, create characters with greater depth, but still indulge a punkish urge to shock.” — Keith Phipps, The Dissolve





The Frida Cinema Film Event Post #18

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

Spotlighting two gifted Hispanic directors for Hispanic Heritage month is the Spanish animated film Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles—directed by director/visual affects artist Salvador Simo (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales)—about the one of the godfathers of the Surrealist Movement, director Luis Buñuel.

After his first solo film project, L’Age d’Or (Age of Gold), causes a scandal, Luis Buñuel is left with a shattered reputation and penniless. When his friend, Ramón Acin, offers to fund his next film, the short documentary, Las Hurdes: Land Without Bread, Luis jumps at the chance. Though Luis initially envisions the project as a shock documentary, the more involved he gets in the film, the more he has to face himself and the real-life impact of his artistic ambitions.

Based on the true story of Luis Buñuel’s adventure of filming Las Hurdes, the animated Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles beautifully depicts both surrealist imagery and the struggles of reality.

“Based on a graphic novel, this terrific Spanish toon explores the making of Luis Bunuel’s Las Hurdes—and by extension, the director himself.” — Peter Debruge, Variety

Buñuel is above all a good story elegantly told, transcending its obviously niche appeal and showing that Spanish animation, following last year’s multiple award-winning Another Day of Life, is looking healthy.” — Jonathan Holland, Hollywood Reporter

“[A] beautiful reaction of the filming of Las Hurdes.” — Adrea G. Bermejo, Cinemania

The Frida Cinema Film Event Post #17

Hairspray — Volunteer of the Month Pick

Our Volunteer of the Month pick is brought to you by Daniela Anguiano—John Waters’ original 1988 cult musical, Hairspray!

Baltimore, Michigan 1962—Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) and her friend Penny audition for The Corny Collins Show. Despite being a plus-sized teenager, she lands a recurring role on the show and inadvertently sparks a rivalry with reigning dance queen Amber Von Tussle. Tracy then uses her newfound celebrity status to promote racial integration. This leads to an explosive conclusion as the two compete for the title of Miss Auto Show 1963.

Featuring drag queen Divine in his final role, Hairspray‘s blend of quirky fun and rebelliousness is further complemented by performances from music icons Sonny Bono (Sonny and Cher), Deborah Harry (Blondie), and Ruth Brown.

“A deliriously fast and funny satire of the ’60s that marks John Waters’ best shot yet at mainstream audiences.” — Kevin Tomas, Los Angeles Times 

“The movie is a bubble-headed series of teenage crises and crushes, altering with historically accurate choreography of such forgotten dances as the Madison and the Roach.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“John Waters’ appreciation for the tacky side of life is in full flower in Hairspray, a slight but often highly assuming diversion about integration, big girls’ fashions and music-mad teens in 1962 Baltimore.” — Variety

The Frida Cinema Film Event Post #16

A Boy Named Charlie Brown

The Peanuts gang makes its way from the comic strip to the big screen in the 1969 classic, A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

After his little league baseball team lose the first game of the year, Charlie Brown doubts if he could ever win at anything. The next day, Linus suggests that he enter in the class spelling bee. Surprisingly, Charlie wins and goes on to the national spelling bee. To bring him luck, Linus lends Charlie his beloved blue blanket. But Linus soon cannot live without his blanket, so he and Charlie’s dog Snoopy travel to New York to retrieve it. When Charlie misplaces it, the three find themselves on a series of misadventures.

A beloved animated classic, A Boy Named Charlie Brown garnered an Academy Award nomination for jazz musician Vince Guaraldi’s original score.

“Classic Peanuts film is as charming and relevant as ever.” — Renee Schonfeld, Common Scene Media

A Boy Named Charlie Brown, is a fun leaning experience.  It was for me and millions of other kids in the early 1970’s.  it has a great message and an uncompromising way of making its point at the end.  Kids need this movie.” — Paul Chambers, Movie Chambers

“The appeal of Schultz’s pop philosophy hasn’t faded in forty years: this kind of sincerity can’t be faked.” — Peter Canavese, Groucho Reviews

The Frida Cinema Film Event Post #15

Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over The Rainbow

Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow

Funimation Studios presents  Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie Over the Rainbow.

Aqours reigned over all in Love Live, the last time they would be representing Uranohoshi Girls’ High School. Now, the first and second-year students are preparing for life at their new school—only to face a litany of unexpected trouble! Most alarming of all, the third-year students have set off on a graduation trip—only to have gone missing! As the group’s members drift apart, they quickly realize just how much they mean to each other. What will Aqours do to compel themselves to take the next step forward?

The shine they have been seeking is just ahead in this inspiring, live-entertainment movie dedicated to everyone taking flight toward a new future!

Arrive to the theater early and you could receive an exclusive, straight-from-Japan, giveaway: Day 1 — an adorable shikishi board featuring all the members of Aqours! Day 2 — an Aqours passport with special messages!

Tickets are $15, and are available at box office or online by clicking here!  A Special Live Event Presentation: Frida Cinema comp passes and Film Club discounts not accepted.

The Frida Cinema Blog Post #3

The Frida’s Top Folk Horror Picks

Christopher Lee - The Wicker Man

In honor of our screenings of the Japanese folk horror film Horrors of Malformed Men, we here at The Frida Cinema asked our writers to pick their favorite folk horror movie and tell us why they like it. We will also be acknowledging the “Unholy Trinity” of British horror films responsible for the birth of the folk horror genre and other folk horror films worth watching.

Folk Horror: A small thriving horror subgenre, whose stories are based on folklore, the occult, legends, urban myths, and paganism.

The Unholy Trinity of Folk Horror

The Conquering Worm / Witchfinder General (1968)

The Conquering Worm / Witchfinder General

Witch hunter Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price) goes on a campaign of terror in East Anglia, sadistically torturing and killing over 300 suspected witches, until a young soldier tries to stop his killing spree.

Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)

Blood on Satan's Claw

After the skeleton of a demonic creature are accidentally unearthed, a group of teenagers in a small 17th century farming village become a satanic cult, performing blood sacrifices to bring the demon to life.

The Wicker Man (1973)

The Wicker Man

Described as the “Citizen Kane of horror movies” by Cinefantastique, The Wicker Manfollows a Scotland Yard police officer who is sent to an isolated Scottish island village to find a missing girl, only to have no cooperation from the villagers. He soon learns the deadly secret everyone has been hiding.

The Writers’ Picks

November (2017)


Logan Crow: I first learned about director Rainer Sarnet’s fantastic Estonian film November when its dreamy black-and-white poster caught my eye at a film conference. And after the team at Oscilloscope described it as a “dark Estonian black-and-white folk tale involving love, monsters, and the devil”, I was sold and booked it at The Frida, sight unseen.  After our audiences had nothing but positive things to say about it, I finally checked it out, and was completely blown away. It’s just one of those films that has a singular mood to it. It looks like a beautiful monochromatic nightmare, complete with shadows, eerie characters, and some very dark dealings. But, seems to have its tongue firmly in its cheek throughout, self-aware enough to add an extra level of surrealism to the proceedings, and not enough to make the whole thing feel hokey or farcical.  It’s surprisingly engaging, and often quite humorous, for what is essentially the very sad tale of star-crossed lovers who make an ill-advised go of using dark magic to live happily ever after. (Don’t these kids ever learn!?)

The Blair Witch Project (1998)

The Blair Witch Project

Trevor Dillon: My favorite folk horror film of all time is 1999’s genre game-changer The Blair Witch Project. To say that it totally revolutionized Horror as a whole is an understatement. For better or worse, it took effective folk horror and mixed it with a new thing (at the time) called “found footage”. I put it up in the ranks with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead in terms of pure ingenuity. Twenty years later, it still manages to scare me, and I know I’m not alone on that. Also, how many other films on this list have folklore so strong that audiences actually thought the movie was real?

Trollhunter (2010)


Adrienne Reese: In André Øvredal’s 2010 film Trollhunter, one of the hunters pretends early on that “fairytales don’t usually match reality”. But, the subsequent events in this found-footage-style movie would beg to differ, as it dives headfirst into Norwegian folklore and pulls out a surprisingly stunning, yet dark action/adventure. In the film, a trio of college students go in search of the truth behind some peculiar events that the government is blaming on bothersome bears. However, they instead find an ex-navy ranger turned badass troll-hunter who has been tasked with tracking and researching these creatures, thought to only belong to storybooks. Fairytale is blurred with reality, in this thriller that teeters on horror, full of violent and giant trolls, unlikely heroes, and suspense and mystery that has mythology collide with modern times in order to produce a pseudo-documentary. You may feel like you are being trolled yourself with a plot-line based around Norwegian trolls and government control, but you will find out pretty early on that this is a heart-racing film. I wondered myself if it was real or not. But of course, trolls aren’t real… right?

The Wicker Man (1973)

The Wicker Man

Reggie Peralta: There’s a long-running debate about whether Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man can be classified as a horror movie or not, yet somehow it manages to be scarier than many other titles in the genre. Everything from the haunting soundtrack, to the creepily-off behavior of the islanders, conspires to disturb the viewer on a much deeper level than jump scares and wanton gore might. Some argue that it’s hard to sympathize with Sgt. Howie on account of his Bible-thumping ways. But, they may do well to consider that he’s a paragon of reason compared to the movie’s villains. Add in an iconic performance by Christopher Lee and you have a most literal cult classic!

Cat People (1942)

Cat People

Justina Bonilla: This is a hauntingly captivating and influential film by Val Lewton, one of the godfathers of early Horror. He was mostly known for his heavy use of shadows and the creation of the modern jump scare. Cat People follows Irena, a young Serbian woman, in modern New York City who falls in love and marries Oliver, an American man. However, the marriage is doomed from the beginning, because Irena believes a family legend that she is cursed to turn into a panther and kill if she is angered or aroused . . . sexually. Oliver confides in Alice, his assistant, and the two begin a relationship which spirals the three down a path of death and destruction. This psychological horror and its atmosphere of impending doom and tragedy intertwines the legends of the old world with our modern society—a movie that, no matter how many times I see it, still sends shivers down my spine.

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook

Isa Bulnes-Shaw: Every culture has its own unique version of “the boogeyman.” The Babadook gives a specific name, face, and even a top hat to this elusive figure. It’s through this story that we realize the monster truly haunting us all is the inescapable darkness and grief left to fester within ourselves. Since watching it in 2014 (and thereby discovering The Frida Cinema through it), the film remains one of my all-time favorites. By establishing its lore through a pop-up book, Jennifer Kent crafts a gorgeous combination of realism and German Expressionist fairy tale to express a mother’s torment and loss that resonates with me to my core.  Everyone meets Mr. Babadook at some point in their lives–some of us sooner than others. One thing’s for sure: once you see what’s underneath, you won’t be able to forget.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Martin Angelo: An often-overlooked little gem from 2010 that should be required viewing for any die-hard Guillermo Del Toro fan, Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark fits perfectly into that twisted, black forest fairy tale sensibility we know and love.  The superb creature design of the tooth fairies, (not the benevolent dollar-giving kind, but more so the ravenous tooth-eating monstrous kind), have to be owed to Del Toro’s influence as a producer. It’s an atmospheric, albeit traditional movie that’s equal parts creepy and entrancing, with some good performances from some solid actors. This one deserves a second look.

The VVitch (2015)

The VVitch

Mina Rhee: My favorite folk horror film is The VVitch.  Set in 1630, it’s about a Puritan family that faces the terror foretold by their religious zeal when they are cast out to live in isolation at the edge of the woods. As their crops die and children go missing, the family must reckon with the questions of both physical and spiritual survival, as paranoia about manifestations of sin both outside and inside the home set in. Subtitled “A New England Folktale”, the movie explores how religion can make the horror of the outside unknown intensely personal, especially when it deals with female sexuality. The film insists on historical realism, complete with dialogue taken from historical documents, and sparse direction that make the supernatural elements more unnerving when they creep in. Marking an impressive film debut from writer and director Robert Eggers, The VVitch is an assured and haunting vision of religious devotion curdling into hysteria.

The Other (1972)

The Other

Sean Woodard: Set in a sleepy Connecticut farming community in 1935, The Other follows two twins, Niles and Holland, who learn something called “the great game” from their Russian grandmother. But, their idyllic summer is shaken when people begin dying in mysterious accidents. While primarily known as a psychological horror film, I’d argue The Other also qualifies as folk horror, because its elements of superstition and pastoral setting add to the overall atmosphere as the narrative builds up to its shocking twist.

Honorable Mentions

  • Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)
  • I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
  • Night of the Demon (1957)
  • Kwaidan (1964)
  • Plague of the Zombies (1966)
  • Viy (1967)
  • The Devil Rides Out (1968)
  • Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)
  • Kuroneko (1971)
  • Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
  • Children of the Corn (1984)
  • Pumpkinhead (1988)
  • Candyman (1992)
  • A Field in England (2013)
  • Lords of Salem (2013)
  • Krampus (2015)
  • Apostle (2018)
  • Midsommar (2019)


10 Spike Lee Joints to See


Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Spike Lee’s groundbreaking film and Oscar nominated hit, Do the Right Thing, here are ten unique Spike Lee joints, you should see at least once.


10. Bamboozled (2000)

This satire comedy/drama, critically commentated on stereotypical images in film, with influences from Network and elements of The Producers.  Pierre Delacroix, an African-American employee under contract to a television station, is frustrated by his White boss, who rejects every script he submits, portraying African-Americans in positive roles.  Wanting to break his contact with the station, by getting fired, Pierre pitches his boss an idea of a modern minstrel television special, with African American actors, in blackface, telling bluntly racist jokes and performing in a stereotypical style.  To Pierre’s horror, the minstrel show is aired on television and is a hit, leading him down a path of unforeseen consequences.  A bold film which it makes you analyze just how powerful, both in the sort and long term, these images have on audiences and their society.


9. Jungle Fever (1991)

A tale of how an interracial relationship, built on heat, A.K.A. “jungle fever”, especially when it leads to an affair, affects not only the couple, but everyone around them, including their families and communities.  Flip (Wesley Snipes), a Black man, who despite being married, begins an affair with his secretary Angie, a White woman.  This leads to a series of consequences, including both Flip and Angie separated from their families, as well as losing the romantic relationships they where in.  Further complications hit the couple, when they face harsh scrutiny for being in a mixed relationship, from both sides, forcing them to reevaluate their relationship.  It includes an all-star cast, including Wesley Snipes, Samuel L. Jackson, the film debuts of Halley Berry, and film icon Antony Quinn, in outstanding and impactful performances.


8. The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)

Unlike previous comedy specials, which focus on just one comedian, this film, filmed as a documentary/comedy special fusion, follows The Kings of Comedy Tour, featuring Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hugely, and Bernie Mac, both on and off the stage.  Viewers are given access to the behind the scenes, including the processes of promoting a show and how the comedians prepare for a show.  With each comedian, while unique in his own comedic style, shows the similarities and diversity of the African-American experience.  The success of this film inspired numerous spin-offs, including The Queens of Comedy, The Latin Kings of Comedy, and The Blue-Collar Comedy Tour.  It stands as an essential stand-up comedy film of the early 21st century.


7. Get on The Bus (1996)

As diverse as a community can be, a common goal can bring everyone together in unity, as Lee showed with this road-trip drama.  Fifteen African-American men, all strangers, from very different backgrounds, from a biracial police officer, to a father and son, with a strained relationship, to a gay couple, are all taking a bus to participate in The Million Man March, in Washington D.C., on October 16th, 1995.  While on the 72-hour journey from Los Angeles to Washington D.C., through a series of unforeseen events, they grow closer as a group and end their bus ride as a band of brothers.  A deeply moving film about how the right situation can bring us together and keep us united.


6. BlacKKKlansman (2018)

Lee’s first film to win an Oscar (Best Original Screen Play), is based on a true 1970’s undercover sting of the Ku Klux Klan, by Officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American police officer in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The film follows the undercover investigation of a possible Klan terrorist attack, which includes Stallworth infiltrating the Klan, by both communication with the local and national Klan leaders by phone, and having a White officer portray him at Klan meetings.  During this investigation, Stallworth is forced to deal with the consequences of the racism he witnesses and experiences, both as a Black man and a police officer.  Though this is set in the 1970’s, this film shows that the racism and hate of yester-year is still living today, with an ending that will leave you speechless.


5. 4 Little Girls (1997)

Lee showed is ability to make a documentary as impactful as his fiction films, in this heart wrenching historical documentary, about the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, on Sunday, September 15th, 1963.  The bombing, caused by a local Ku Klux Klan chapter, killed four little girls.  These senseless and devastating deaths, outraged a nation, and contributed to the signing of to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by President Johnson.  Instead of just focusing on the horrors of this act, Lee combined home movies, interviews, and archival footage, to give viewers the individual story of each girl and the continuous impact this bombing had on American society, politics, and history.  In 2017, this film was selected by the United States Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry, because it was “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


4. Malcolm X (1992)

Not one to shy away from controversial film topics, Lee took on the life story of one of the most iconic, yet controversial African-American civil rights leaders, Malcolm X.  Malcolm Little (Denzel Washington), is a hustler and thief, sentenced to jail for ten years.  During this time, Malcolm converts to Islam, transforming himself into Malcolm X.  Once Malcolm X is released, his actions and lectures rapidly gain public interest, launching him to a major social position of power.  This causing outrage in mainstream America, and he is put under FBI surveillance.  Although he was tragically assassinated by members of The Nation of Islam, after leaving the group, the film ends with the impact of his legacy.  Known as Lee’s longest feature film, 3 hours and 22 minutes, Malcolm X is both visually stunning and an artistic risk.


3. She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

The joint that brought Lee both critical acclaim and launched his career as a director.  Nola, is a young African-American woman, with three male lovers, all of whom want her to commit solely to himself.  She values the freedom of her lifestyle, and has no intention of being imprisoned by monogamy.  Until, she and her lovers are forced to evaluate their relationships and what could be if Nola choses one of them.  Questioning if this really the best way for them to live.  The social standards of female sexuality are challenged, with a woman enjoying the freedom of multiple lovers, typically encouraged for men, but taboo for women.  A film that has continued to push boundaries and inspired a modern a series on Netflix, also created by directed by Lee.


2. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) &

If God Is Willing and da Greek Don’t Rise (2010)


Both of these HBO documentaries documented the heart-breaking devastation, of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (August 23-31, 2005), immediately after the hurricane, and five years later.  A wide variety of the those impacted by Katrina’s destruction, where interviewed, such as engineers, politicians, journalist, celebrities, and victims, including Lee’s frequent film score collaborator, Terrence Blanchard.  These powerful, pull no punches documentaries are both critical of the epic failure of the federal, state, and local governments reaction to the victims and their communities. But, also an ode to the strength and resilience of the victims.

If God Is Willing and da Greek Don’t Rise:

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts:


1. Do the Right Thing (1989)

The main jewel in the crown of Lee joints, which earned him his first Oscar nominations (Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor).  On the hottest day of the year, racial tensions rise in a multi-ethnic community, especially between the Black and Italian residents, revolving around a pizza parlor.  Stories of multiple characters, intertwine with Mookie (Spike Lee)’s daily life, a pizza delivery-man, who works for the pizza parlor.  As the heat rises, so does the racial tension, building up the pressure until it dramatically explodes into a riot.  The film’s blunt commentary on race, racism, and race relations is as reverent today as it was 30 years ago.  And like, 4 Little Girls, it too is preserved in the United States Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, for being, “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Honorable Spike Lee Mentions:

School Daze


Pass Over


 Inside Man

25th Hour

A Huey P. Newton Story

Public Enemy: Fight the Power (1989)

Pavarotti & Friends 99 for Guatemala and Kosovo 

John Leguizamo: Freak 

He Got Game

Tracy Chapman: Born to Fight (1989)