Happy birthday Spike Lee! The visionary director turns 59 years young this week. His catalog of films have been some of the most discussed and critiqued pictures over the last thirty years. There’s no denying that Mr. Lee’s perspective on such issues as race, class structure, and post-modern urban femininity and masculinity has changed the way we look at society.
Though more known for his stories than his box office receipts, Lee’s films have in their own way proved that there’s an audience ready to engage with his work. Take a look back at 5 of his biggest box office earners. (light spoilers ahead).
5. 25th Hour
25th Hour could have been a straight up drama about the consequences a criminal has to deal with his last day as a free man before going to jail. Fortunately Lee weaves an intricate tale that shows that almost every character in 25th Hour was a product of their increasingly unstable environment.
Box Office Gross: $23.9 Million
4. Do The Right Thing
Do The Right Thing is a film classic. Full stop. Often critiqued at the academic level, audiences were in for a cinematic treat when the film was released in 1989. Taking place over the course of a day in a sweltering Brooklyn neighborhood, Do The Right Thing was really about the boiling over tensions between inhabitants that were present long before the summer.
Box Office Gross: $37.3 Million
3. Jungle Fever
Spike Lee never shies away from tackling racial issues in his films and 1991’s Jungle Fever was no different. Centering around an interracial couple during the changing dating attitudes of the ‘90s, Jungle Fever featured an exceptionally strong performance from future Nick Fury, Samuel L. Jackson.
Box Office Gross: $43.8 Million
2. Malcolm X
The Denzel Washington-starring Malcolm X was critically acclaimed when it was released in 1992. Tackling the civil rights leader in a biopic was to be no easy task, but Lee balanced the “leader” Malcolm X with “the man” Malcolm X. The result was a multi-faceted look at one of one of the most influential activists of the last fifty years.
Box Office Gross $48.2 Million
1. Inside Man
Spike Lee’s most financially successful film (by a wide margin) was 2006’s Inside Man. The film, a bank heist film featuring superstars Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Christopher Plummer, made over four times its $45 million dollar budget. Not too shabby, right?
Box Office Gross: $184.4 million
With more film in his development pipeline, it doesn't seem as if Spike Lee is slowing down any time soon. Which Spike Lee Join was your favorite? Sound off below!