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Mo' Better Blues (1990)


Average Rating: 6/10
Reviews Counted: 33
Fresh: 24
Rotten: 9

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 4.4/10
Reviews Counted: 10
Fresh: 4
Rotten: 6

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 9,222



Movie Info

Spike Lee's 1990 directing effort is a jazz film, the story of a fictional trumpeter named Bleek Gilliam (Denzel Washington). He leads a quintet at the Beneath the Underground club with a flashy saxophonist named Shadow Henderson (Wesley Snipes). Though Shadow takes a few too many solos, everything seems fine in Bleek's life. Trouble soon arises, however, and he is forced to make decisions regarding both his best friend Giant (Spike Lee), and his relationships with two women. Giant, his manager … More

R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Directed By:
Dec 28, 2004
MCA Universal Home Video


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Critic Reviews for Mo' Better Blues

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (24) | Rotten (9) | DVD (5)

Personal rather than social issues come to the fore in Mo' Better Blues, a Spike Lee personality piece dressed in jazz trappings that puffs itself up like Bird but doesn't really fly.

Full Review… | September 22, 2008
Top Critic

Though it's full of striking visual ideas and actorly turns, it never fully convinces.

Full Review… | September 22, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Despite stylish camerawork and sturdy acting, this lengthy indulgence succeeds neither as jazz movie nor as cautionary tale.

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

Mo' Better Blues is not a great film, but it's an interesting one, which is almost as rare.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

From characters to camera angles, this story of a self-absorbed jazz trumpeter is one long cliche, the kind that might make his most loyal admirers wince and wonder, 'Spike, what happened?'

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

For the only time in his remarkable career, Spike Lee has failed to tell it like it is.

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

It's a burning, feeling film of impulses, bringing out the best in the filmmaker, who used to create miniature moviegoing events with his releases, before He Got Game came along and smothered his good taste.

Full Review… | August 7, 2010

It's tight, suspenseful, funny and packed with great music.

Full Review… | September 22, 2008
Empire Magazine

Full of wonderful music, grand visuals, and melodramatic plot twists, the movie is laced with very funny moments, as well as interesting insights into the world of jazz and the plight of the dedicated musician.

Full Review… | September 22, 2008
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Denzel, Wesley and Co are fine, but Mo' Better Blues hits too many bum notes.

Full Review… | September 22, 2008

Centering on the career of a jazz musician (well played by Denzel Washington, just before he became a star), this mid-range picture has nice production values but the drama is too diffuse, lacking the edge of Spike Lee's more overtly political works.

Full Review… | June 24, 2008

Spike Lee's film is filled with promising ideas and moments of technical virtuosity.

June 14, 2007

Atmospheric character study by Lee with a bravely unlikable Denzel Washington.

September 9, 2004
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Denzel Washington really comes into his own in this one, as a struggling jazz musician. Worth a rental for his performance, alone!

July 25, 2002
Juicy Cerebellum

Spike Lee's creative film revolving around the difficulties modern men have in finding the proper balance between work and love in their lives.

Full Review… | January 15, 2002
Spirituality and Practice

Mo' Better Blues, in thrall to the cliches of the star-is-born musicals of the past, is a stillborn academic exercise.

Full Review… | January 9, 2002

There's no getting around Lee's talent, but in this case his script could have used some polish -- or perhaps collaboration.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Audience Reviews for Mo' Better Blues

what an incredible movie. i dont care for spike lee's themes of racial distinction in most of his films, and some of it that was present in this film were annoying, but this film was too brilliant not to love. it has quickly become one of my favorite movies of all time. i tried to identify wether this was a film about love or music, and then i realized its not about either, its a memoir of a musician. i think i like this film more than most for musical reasons and not film reasons, because im such a HUGE jazz fan, but the movie was well made and well acted. the diologue and ending were not typical rehearsed hollywood, they were genuine. many scenes were pointless and didnt further the plot at all, and in this film it was a good thing. it made the characters more real. denzel was incredible as usual, but the entire cast with the exception of indigo was chosen perfectly. the music scenes were really great and because i know jazz, i know that the things that happen to denzels character in this film happen to jazz musicians all the time. i may not always care for spike lee, but he did a wonderful job on this film.

danny d

Super Reviewer

Benefits from the fact that this is Spike Lee's debut and doesn't feature the preachiness that brings down his later efforts.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

Middling effort from Spike Lee. It had some good scenes and it was well acted, shot etc. I just didn't really like Denzel's character and I think I kind of was supposed to. It also went on longer than the material required.

Sean Lass

Super Reviewer


For Anyone who loves Jazz.

Anthony Valletta

Super Reviewer

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