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Mo' Better Blues (1990)

R  |   |  Drama, Music, Romance  |  3 August 1990 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 7,824 users  
Reviews: 30 user | 23 critic

Jazz trumpeter Bleek Gilliam makes questionable decisions in his professional and romantic life.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Shadow Henderson (Sax)
Left Hand Lacey (Piano)
Butterbean Jones
Indigo Downes
Bottom Hammer (Bass)
Moe Flatbush
Big Stop Williams
Clarke Bentancourt
Josh Flatbush
Jeff 'Tain' Watts ...
Rhythm Jones (Drums)
Eggy (as Charles Q. Murphy)


Opens with Bleek as a child learning to play the trumpet, his friends want him to come out and play but mother insists he finish his lessons. Bleek grows into adulthood and forms his own band - The Bleek Gilliam Quartet. The story of Bleek's and Shadow's friendly rivalry on stage which spills into their professional relationship and threatens to tear apart the quartet. Written by David <DGOWERS6@CHECLABA.SCU.EDU.AU>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

stage | friend | trumpet | jazz | comeback | See All (75) »


A Spike Lee joint.


Drama | Music | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

3 August 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Love Supreme  »

Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)


$16,153,600 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Denzel Washington's trumpet sound is played by Terence Blanchard and Branford Marsalis plays the sax for Wesley Snipes. The music you hear in the movie when the actors are "playing" was performed by Branford's working band which was used for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992) when Jay Leno took over. See more »


During the performance of Bleek's "Pop Top Urban 40 Funk Love ... Song", Bleek's headgear changes from hat to baseball cap. See more »


Giant: Shut up! Who asked you, Left Hand?
Left Hand Lacey: Nobody asked me, man.
GiantBleek: [in unison] Then shut the fuck up!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Flavor Flave of the rap group Public Enemy spells out the letters in "Universal" as the studio logo appears on the screen. See more »


References Mister Magoo (1960) See more »


Again, Never
Written and performed by Branford Marsalis Quartet and Terence Blanchard
See more »

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User Reviews

Not Spike's best, but still a great movie

Spike Lee is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting young filmmakers to emerge in the last 20 years. While "Mo' Better Blues" is not as wonderful as "Do the Right Thing" or "Malcolm X," it still deserves considerable recognition as one of his more solid efforts. The story is a bit uneven, but the acting and the music more than make up for it.

Denzel Washington plays Bleek Gilliam, a NYC trumpet player who fronts his own jazz quintet to sell-out crowds at a local club. He's managed by Giant (played by Lee), an irresponsible compulsive gambler who is only Bleek's manager because they're childhood friends. Meanwhile, Bleek is seeing two different women (played by Joie Lee [Spike's real-life sister] and Cynda Williams), and is torn between his passion for music and his inability to control his relationships.

Things go haywire when Bleek's sax player, Shadow (Wesley Snipes), vies for the affections of one of Bleek's women, promising her fortune and fame as a jazz singer since Bleek only cares about himself anyway.

Giant's gambling problems, Bleek's convictions as a "serious" musician, and the tightrope one walks between love and professional dedication are themes all visited in this exciting, vibrant film.

Besides the wonderful performances (by Washington, Snipes, and the always-underrated Lee standby Giancarlo Esposito, among others), Ernest Dicekrson's cinematography is stunning, and the music -- performed in real life by Branford Marsalis, who has a cameo in the film -- is dazzling. The way the "band" mimes the performances is thoroughlly convincing (although it must be noted that Bleek's drummer is played by Jeff "Tain" Watts, a real jazz drummer who actually performs on the tracks themselves).

If you're a jazz lover and a lover of Spike Lee's movies, check this out -- you'll be glad you did.

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