He Got Game (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

He Got Game (1998)

He Got Game



Critic 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.

He Got Game Trailers & Photos

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.more
Rating: R (For pervasive language, strong sexuality, some drug content and violence)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Spike Lee
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 10, 1998
Buena Vista


Denzel Washington
as Jake Shuttlesworth
Ray Allen
as Jesus Shuttlesworth
Milla Jovovich
as Dakota Burns
Rosario Dawson
as Lala Bonilla
Hill Harper
as Coleman `Booger' Syk...
Zelda Harris
as Mary Shuttlesworth
Jim Brown
as Spivey
Ned Beatty
as Warden Wyatt
Bill Nunn
as Uncle Bubba
Michele Shay
as Aunt Sally
Lonette McKee
as Martha Shuttlesworth
John Turturro
as Coach Billy Sunday
Roger Guenveur Smith
as Big Time Willie
Arthur J. Nascarella
as Coach Cincotta
Rick Fox
as Chick Deagan
Al Palagonia
as Dom Pagnotti
Leonard Roberts
as D'Andre Mackey
Saul Stein
as Prison Guard Books
Ron C. Jones
as Prison Guard Burwell
Jade Yorker
as Jesus Shuttlesworth ...
Shortee Red
as Booger (age 12)
Quinn Harris
as Mary Shuttlesworth (...
Dean Smith
as Himself
Lute Olson
as Himself
John Chaney
as Himself
Roy Williams
as Himself
Denny Crum
as Himself
Tom Davis
as Himself
Clem Haskins
as Himself
George Karl
as Himself
Jim Boeheim
as Himself
Rick Pitino
as Himself
Dick Vitale
as Himself
Bill Walton
as Himself
Gus Johnson
as PSAL Announcer
Stuart Scott
as TV Announcer
Ray Clay
as Tech U Announcer
J.C. MacKenzie
as Doctor Cone
Coati Mundi
as Clerk in Motel
Avery Glymph
as Sneaker Clerk
Ciara A. Shields
as Mary's Friend
Lin Que Ayoung
as `I Love You' Leech
Angela Meryl
as `I Love You' Leech
Dionne D. Phillips
as `I Love You' Leech
Gary Frith
as `I Love You' Leech
Jamie Hector
as `I Love You' Leech
Harry Philippe
as `I Love You' Leech
Kelli-Lin McMillan
as `I Love You' Leech
Lamar Tookes
as `I Love You' Leech
Mark Breland
as Man with Gat
Heather Hunter
as Female in Sex Montag...
Tony Paige
as Correction Officer
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for He Got Game

Critic Reviews for He Got Game

All Critics (61) | Top Critics (19)

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

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

He Got Game Quotes

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