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He Got Game (1998)

He Got Game


Average Rating: 6.9/10
Reviews Counted: 61
Fresh: 49
Rotten: 12

Critics Consensus: Though not without its flaws, He Got Game finds Spike Lee at or near the top of his late-period game, combining trenchant commentary with his signature visuals and a strong performance from Denzel Washington.

Average Rating: 6.6/10
Reviews Counted: 19
Fresh: 14
Rotten: 5

Critics Consensus: Though not without its flaws, He Got Game finds Spike Lee at or near the top of his late-period game, combining trenchant commentary with his signature visuals and a strong performance from Denzel Washington.


Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 43,766


Movie Info

Denzel Washington does some of his best work as a prison inmate trying to earn himself an early release by talking his estranged son into playing basketball at the governor of New York's alma mater.

R (For pervasive language, strong sexuality, some drug content and violence)
Directed By:
Written By:
Spike Lee
In Theaters:
Nov 10, 1998
Buena Vista


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Critic Reviews for He Got Game

All Critics (61) | Top Critics (19) | Fresh (49) | Rotten (12) | DVD (2)

Lacking the moral indignation and militant politics of Lee's former work, this vibrantly colorful father-son melodrama is soft at the center, but it's one of the most accessible films Lee has made and Denzel Washington is terrific.

Full Review… | March 25, 2008
Top Critic

At the end of Mr. Lee's movie, all you feel is the distraction of Mr. Lee's stylistic exhibitionism, without which, I concede, he might not be regarded as a genius in some quarters.

Full Review… | April 27, 2007
New York Observer
Top Critic

[Lee] gets a charming performance from Allen, who, in his acting debut, occupies his pedestal with grace and diffidence.

Full Review… | March 25, 2007
Top Critic

As usual, Lee tries many kinds of stylistic effects and uses wall-to-wall music (by Aaron Copland and Public Enemy); what's different this time is how personally driven the story feels.

Full Review… | March 25, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Most scenes play too long, with a surplus of ideas, textures, tones and characters, and after 134 minutes it's clear Lee's problem with closure hasn't gone away.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Washington's Jake Shuttlesworth looks tough and hard, an odd but refreshing turn for an actor long associated with handsomely heroic roles.

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

A long, boring, meandering, dog of a movie.

Full Review… | January 7, 2009

Lee's attack on how big business is not only ruining the game he loves but also playing with people's lives is direct and brave, while his passion, insight and intelligence are evident and admirable.

Full Review… | March 25, 2008

Though too long by a good half hour, Lee's latest film packs a genuine emotional punch.

Full Review… | March 25, 2007
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Lee paints intimate characters who are about more than the game. Themes of integrity, honesty, loyalty and familial love are woven through the film resulting in a complex, thought-provoking human drama.

Full Review… | April 9, 2005
Reeling Reviews

Shrewdly exposes the underbelly of college recruiting and the pressures exerted on talented high school basketball stars.

Full Review… | June 28, 2004

Flawed but powerful.

Full Review… | June 7, 2004

It is a wonderful thing to watch two artists work so well together. I am speaking, in this case, of Spike Lee and Denzel Washington.

Full Review… | February 8, 2003
Film Quips Online

The hypocritical misogyny of He Got Game is a fundamental weakness that reviewers so far have been happy to downplay or even to dismiss.

Full Review… | January 10, 2003
Nick's Flick Picks

Lee should have drawn up a tighter game plan but just the same his hoops hoopla still has enough game (mostly in the form of Washington) to win over the audience.

Full Review… | December 8, 2002
Film Threat

As brilliant and perplexing as the filmmaker himself.

Full Review… | October 15, 2002
Cincinnati Enquirer

Only a director as good as Spike Lee could make a coherent movie out of this messy, jejune set-up ...

Full Review… | July 31, 2002
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

As much a technical achievement as a narrative one.

Full Review… | June 5, 2002
Boxoffice Magazine

You can be sitting on top of the world but if your heart is weighed down with hate, you're going to be one sorry, sad soul for a very long time.

Full Review… | March 2, 2002
Spirituality and Practice

Audience Reviews for He Got Game


Spike Lee, dare I say, is the first Hollywood spokesman of black culture, and what do you know, Denzel's involved with another one of his projects, "He Got Game".

"He Got Game" may just seem like just another basketball movie but underneath the hood is a compelling story about tension between a father and son. And for the most part, the story sells itself. Coupled with the great Denzel and even Ray Allen, there's a lot of opportunity. However, because this film was made near the beginning of the permeation of black culture into Hollywood, it fails to develop a true tone that encapsulates what black culture is truly about. Don't get me wrong -- Spike Lee vividly portrays the culture through the narrative, but the writing and the score becomes extremely tacky. Raw and gritty scenes occur throughout which is, at times, shocking but it's all paired with a very "Disney" like music. It's extremely jarring.

In the end, it's all about how effective the movie was. And was it? Absolutely. With the sharp direction from the eyes of Spike Lee, to the superb acting from Denzel, "He Got Game" not only sells itself as a captivating story, but also as a solid film.

Albert Kim
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer


Great visuals and performances though it falls short in the end, still a worthwhile minor work from Spike Lee.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

Spike Lee is one of the very few filmmakers possessing the heart and soul of an auteur, but none of the self righteousness. He Got Game is a perfect example of the directors sensibilities. Most basketball movies tell coming of age stories against gritty backdrops that all lead up to some big game. Lee's film is practically void of all such cliches. The central narrative does build around a father trying to reconnect with his son, but the narrative progresses in ways that most screenwriters or directors would be afraid to allow.
The movie explores how everyone - agents, politicians, legal guardians, even girlfriends - scrambles to get a piece of the possible glory and money behind a rising high school basketball star. But it also maintains a central focus on the basketball star and how close he is to reaching his dreams. This allows for an interesting mix in tones, where the character's field of dreams mixes with the harsh reality of the sport as a commercial entity, filled with people who's only goal, like in all business, is to make money.
At the heart of it all is Denzel Washington, a convicted murderer who happens to be this young star's father. He is let out on temporary parole to try and get his son to sign with a particular university basketball team. If he does, he might be released permanently. Regardless of the outcome, this allows the father to find some redemption in helping his son figure out his life. The end is anti-climactic, but beautifully executed, displaying Spike Lee at his artistic best.

Edward Boxler

Super Reviewer


I must say that Spike Lee did a great job in making this movie. Jake (Denzel Washington) plays a prisoner who is in jail for murdering his wife years ago. He is given a chance to get out of prison if he does one thing. He has to convince his son, Jesus (Ray Allen) to attend a certain college. If he does that, Jake is a free man. Of course, it won't be easy because Jesus has to first forgive his dad for what he did to his mom before he can even think of going to a certain university in his dad's favor.
Denzel Washington and Ray Allen both put on great performances to make this a great movie. The basketball sequences in the movie are exciting, but the drama in "He Got Game" is what makes the movie work so well. I recommend anybody to get "He Got Game." NOTE: That was my Amazon review from the year 2000. I'm not as big on the movie now, but still good.

Jason Owens

Super Reviewer

He Got Game Quotes

Jake Shuttlesworth:
Even I can't save this movie from the awkward direction of poser Spike Lee.
– Submitted by Jesse K (18 months ago)

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