Total Recall: We Rank Spike Lee's Joints

RT runs through the Miracle at St. Anna director's body of work, from worst-reviewed to best.

by Tim Ryan and Jeff Giles | Wednesday, Sep. 24 2008

This week, Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna hits theaters, telling the story of the struggle of African American soldiers in World War II. So RT thought it would be a good time to take a closer look at the work of Lee, one of cinema's most provocative, probing, and stylistically audacious filmmakers. Here, from worst to best reviewed, is every single Spike Lee joint.

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She Hate Me (2004)
Tomatometer: 20%

With a tagline that boasts "One heterosexual male. 18 lesbians. His fee: $10,000... each," anyone could tell just from looking at the poster that She Hate Me was either going to be an incredibly pointed look at sexual politics and modern gender roles, or the source of some of the worst reviews of Spike Lee's career. Unfortunately, the latter proved to be the case; critics piled onto She Hate Me, calling it a muddled, overreaching mess. (One of the only critics to give it a positive review was Roger Ebert -- and in his writeup, he correctly predicted its eventual 20 percent Tomatometer.) Trying to summarize the plot -- whistleblowing executive loses his job, agrees to impregnate his lesbian ex-girlfriend for cash, and ends up turning it into a lucrative business -- is enough to give a person fits; toss in a few confused subplots, a title inspired by XFL player Rod Smart, and some heavy-handed allusions to the story of Watergate security guard Frank Wills, and it isn't hard to understand why She Hate Me prompted such a negative reaction. Still, some scribes were able to see the good in the film, such as the Chicago Tribune's Michael Wilmington, who says it's "Chock full of provocative statements about corporate morality, sexual hypocrisy, and what's wrong about both today."

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Girl 6 (1996)
Tomatometer: 32%

Spike Lee directing a movie about a phone sex operator (with soundtrack duties held down by Prince!) sounded like a failsafe winner in 1996 -- at least until Girl 6 reached theaters, at which point critics loudly proclaimed their inability to figure out what to do with it, and audiences pretty much just ignored it. (As an indicator of Girl 6's position in the Lee canon, consider that it didn't receive a proper DVD release until a full 10 years after it reached theaters.) In retrospect, the film was a courageous choice for Lee; he had, after all, been accused of misogyny throughout his career, and in tackling this subject matter, he had to know he was opening himself up to further criticism. Indeed, more than one critic complained that Lee was the wrong director for Suzan-Lori Parks' script; he came under particularly heavy fire for the film's opening scene, in which the cameras play right along with the lechery of Quentin Tarantino's character. On the bright side, Theresa Randle's performance as Girl 6 was repeatedly singled out as the film's high point; Variety's Todd McCarthy was just one of the critics who praised her for her "luminous presence and dignity."