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Malcolm X
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Reviews & Ratings for
Malcolm X More at IMDbPro »

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96 out of 109 people found the following review useful:

The Denzel Washington Show.

Author: tfrizzell from United States
3 July 2002

A stunning performance by Denzel Washington (Oscar-nominated) carries this film literally into cinematic excellence. He stars as the titled character, the controversial Black Nationalist Leader who is easily one of the most interesting people who lived during the 20th Century. Spike Lee's uncompromising direction focuses on X's life. From his very early childhood to his violent death, the audience is given lots and lots information on the character as the film runs about 195 minutes. A good supporting cast helps, but this is Washington's show from the very start. His performance is very dominant and this is easily one of the best jobs that was never honored with an Academy Award. Brilliant biopic. 5 stars out of 5.

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63 out of 74 people found the following review useful:

Excellent and interesting

10/10
Author: awhyte2323 from Canada
19 April 2005

I was only familiar with the history and influence of Malcolm X before I saw the film so I can't really judge it's faithfulness or accuracy. But as a film, I thought it was great. I really like Spike Lee; he keeps things fast-paced and interesting with his camera angles and colours/lighting. For awhile after Malcolm first begins his activism with the nation of Islam, you find yourself conflicted, both respecting the man and often disagreeing with him. Lee handles it well without condemning or supporting really, just showing Malcolm's gradual transition in his beliefs. The inserted documentary footage, especially at the end, shows how Malcolm's words still relate today. Someone commented that they only watched an hour of the movie and Lee doesn't know how to tell a story but maybe if they would be slightly more open-minded, realize it's not a literal adaptation of the autobiography, and actually finish the film, they could understand that Lee does not just want to tell the story of one man but rather wants it to reflect the struggle of a race. I really enjoyed the film; it was long but never slow and definitely worth watching.

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72 out of 93 people found the following review useful:

Epic film does justice to its subject.

10/10
Author: Hermit C-2 from Marietta, GA, USA
19 June 1999

Spike Lee struggled mightily to get 'Malcolm X' made, financially and artistically. But when all was said and done, he produced an epic blockbuster and a definite treatment of the man's life.

There's great differences between the two as well, but to me Lee has many things in common with Oliver Stone. Both of them seem to have been born to make films. Both of them are uncompromising in bringing their artistic (and moral) vision to the screen, and neither will try to seduce the public by catering to their tastes. Both present their own interpretation of facts without apology. (For example, from what I've read it's not certain that Malcolm's father was actually killed by Klansmen. But Lee isn't in the same league as Stone when it comes to playing fast and loose with the "truth.") Stone even ends his movie 'Nixon' in a similar way to 'Malcolm X,' with footage of real-life figures blended in, though I'm not accusing Stone of imitation.

This movie has an epic sweep and scope and as a director Lee is up to the challenge. He is served well by being able to direct in several styles, one of which is almost cartoonish: witness the scene where Malcolm (Denzel Washington) and Shorty (played by Lee himself) go stepping out at the Roseland Ballroom, resplendent in their zoot suits. Some comic relief is welcome at times because otherwise the serious, heavy message of the picture might be overwhelming. For instance, the movie opens with a full-screen shot of an American flag while we hear a voice-over of one of Malcolm's most rousing, or inflammatory speeches, depending on how you look at it ("I accuse the white man of being the greatest murderer on the planet!") The flag begins to burn and eventually forms a flaming 'X' as the fiery rhetoric continues. But if you haven't been scared away, the next scene shows the young man Malcolm Little in a funny situation, having his hair straightened by a concoction that threatens to burn off his scalp.

Denzel Washington has won beaucoups of rightly-deserved accolades for his amazing performance in the title role. If you've ever heard or seen Malcolm X's speaking, you will be astounded at the similarities in tone and cadence. The illusion is so real one may not recognize that real archival footage of Malcolm is used late in the film. But this is not a case of style over substance here. Between Washington's talent and Lee's directing and screenwriting, an unforgettable character emerges. The film boasts other fine performances by Al Freeman, Jr. (especially good as Elijah Muhammad, a controversial figure in society, and eventually to Malcolm himself), Delroy Lindo, Albert Hall, Kate Vernon, Ernest Thomas and many others in its large cast.

It's clear that Lee doesn't care for the Motion Picture Academy and they don't particularly care for him. But the snubbing he and his picture got at Oscar time would be comparable to Richard Attenborough and 'Ghandi' not being nominated the year that film was made. Ordinarily, one would think this film is the kind of production Hollywood loves to honor. But Academy Award nominations or not, the film 'Malcolm X' is like the man himself: impossible to ignore.

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40 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant

Author: Shari (AfricanVenus84@aol.com) from United States
15 March 2003

This film was absolutely brilliant. Spike Lee is a genius. We're studying him in my film class and a lot of his works are controversial, but I think they're necessary. Malcolm X was beautifully acted by Denzel. He took Malcolm's mannerisms and passion into himself and carved this wonderful character. The film traced him from a young kid to his Nat'list days to his death. His beliefs were different, but he never compromised himself. Considering where he came from and the time he grew up in, no one can really yell and scream about why he was the way he was. So many want to glorify King as the only leader of the time, but X was a leader in his own right. His ideas weren't that different from King's. His approach was honest and a response to the times. Denzel shows every emotion in his face that seemed to formulate in his mind. I seriously thought of him as Malcolm. He really had to earn people's respect from the background he came from and I liked that. Nothing was glossed over and no stone left unturned. Malcolm X is a great film and worth the watch!

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37 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

The Truth seeker

9/10
Author: Safwan Akram (safwanakram@gmail.com) from Cambridge, UK
3 August 2005

I think the major success of Alex Haley with this movie is that he tells the story of a dynamic person known as 'Malcolm X' with such a skill that no man from any part of any society get his feelings hurt. I think it is a commendable effort from Alex Haley, Spike Lee and Danzel Washington that they made a hero out of Malcolm X. I think he deserved it because he was the man who was not after money or popularity......he changed his statements, his way of life , even his faith as he knew that those were true. The theme of the movie is very clear that Malcolm X was not a hardliner rather he was always open for truth. Secondly, it also emphasized though in the end that negotiations and reforms is a better way than the violence. But yet it also gave the message that the ruling races reap the violence which they breed themselves; sometimes in the hegemony of their power or sometimes due the wrong interpretation of their religious verdicts. I think it was right to hit at the ' Black organization known as nation of Islam' and Elijah Muhammad. Muslim community is itself greatly indebted to this movie because Elijah Muhammad's teaching were very far from Islam. The real Islam practiced worldwide does not believe in the continuance of prophet-hood after Muhammad (P.B.U.H)and the Black supremacy by Elijah Muhammad was a ridiculous idea as Islam does not believe in Nationalism. Any Muslim anywhere in the world whether black or white are equal in Islam's teachings. It was great to see the scenes of pilgrimage to Makkah ....... these were not unnecessary ......because they helped us to understand the sudden change in the teachings of Malcolm X. Denzel's acting is really superb and also that of Al Freeman Jr. I think this movie is an invaluable resource for the people who want to take an insight into the Malcolm X's life.

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36 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

A film that stands the test of time.....

Author: rcj5365 from Durham, North Carolina
23 April 2004

This was a stirring tribute of a film that to this day still stands the test of time even after its release more than a decade ago. This was in fact a autobiography and educational film which some of the most electrifying performance ever displayed on film,and it is the reason to see why. This was Denzel Washington's finest piece of work and most notably the best of his career in which he should have been nominated for Best Actor Oscar category,instead of his work which he won the Best Actor statue for 2001's "Training Day". Anyway,"Malcolm X",was a brilliant tribute to the controversial black activist,a leader in the struggle for black liberation as well as black pride and one of the most outspoken individuals who had a different side of the civil rights movement where a time when America was at war with itself.

Based on the best-selling autobiography by Malcolm X and Alex Haley,and with spellbinding direction by Spike Lee,it traces the story of Malcolm himself,from his days as a hustler and drug runner and hitting rock bottom during his imprisonment in the 1950's,he became a Black Muslim and then a leader in the Nation Of Islam under the guidance of the honorable Elijah Muhammad. His assassination in 1965 left a legacy of black nationalism,self-determination and racial pride that continues to the day and within a new generation whom for the first time has witnessed a masterpiece of cimematic work. This is marked by strong performances throughout with powerful direction by Spike Lee,cimematopgrapher Ernest Dickerson,and riveting breathtaking performances by Denzel Washington,Angela Bassett,and most notably from Al Freeman,Jr. as Elijah Muhammad. The real centerpiece of the film is from Denzel Washington himself,whose convincing performance in the title role brings this film alive. When this film came out,it only receive one Oscar nomination but however,the film garnered a lot of awards including the NAACP Image Film Award,The New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor,The Los Angeles Times Film Award for Best Director and Best Actor,and MTV Movie Awards for both Denzel Washington and Al Freeman,Jr.--all of this happened in 1992,when the film came out.

As far as the cameos go,this film had a lot of them in one picture including Black Panther Bobby Seale,Reverend Al Sharpton,The Honorable Nelson Mandela,Reverend Jesse Jackson,along with Hollywood walk-ons: Christopher Plummer,Karen Allen,Peter Boyle and Danny Glover,and Whoopi Goldberg.

Brilliant!-Five Stars

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34 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

Great but needed a better editor

8/10
Author: bbraat from new york
21 February 2006

A great movie if overlong and slightly unfocused.

Washington carried the film with a great performance worthy of an Oscar nomination if not a win which might have been guaranteed had the director managed to focus.

Spike Lee did a good job as director which is saying a lot, given the historical scope, danger of offense, and controversy of the project. His one weak area in this film was editing. There is no reason this movie couldn't have been half an hour shorter. Right off the bat, there were unnecessarily lingering camera shots and scenes that could have omitted. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking of Spike himself sliding under a woman's skirt and mugging the camera. That scene not only failed to further the story but instead made the audience stand up and say, "Hey, that's Spike looking at us!" Lee's biggest editing mistake was based on his desire to tell the story of Malcolm X AND tell the story of the African-American experience. That's more than enough for several movies so why cram it all under one title? After a clear scene illustrating X's life, Lee would move to a large dance hall to illustrate the richness of the African-American experience. A quick shot of the dance hall would have been sufficient. Instead the far away shots were maintained for too long and when the focus moved back to specific characters it moved to the character played by Lee himself. Why? I don't know. It certainly didn't help us to understand X any better. The ending with children saying "I am Malcolm X" also went on too long and should have been part of a separate feature. The cameos were distracting. The movie could have been tighter, shorter, and better except that Spike Lee wanted to put everything, including the kitchen sink, into it.

That being said, it is a great movie and I'm glad I invested the three and a half hours to watch it.

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31 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Spike Lee's best movie ever

10/10
Author: Lee Eisenberg (lee.eisenberg.pdx@gmail.com) from Portland, Oregon, USA
26 October 2005

Reaching his apex of greatness, Spike Lee created a perfect biography of the Black Nationalist leader. In the title role, Denzel Washington literally becomes the character. From the opening, when he accurately accuses the white man of all the injustices that the white man has perpetrated, to his conversion to Islam (and rejection of his slave surname), to his eventual assassination, the movie is top-notch in every respect.

Having read Malcolm X's autobiography, I can affirm that the movie followed it very closely. Reading his autobiography will actually help you understand him even further. As will his indication that African-Americans bled for the white man in Korea, Japan, Italy, etc., so why shouldn't they bleed for their freedom at home? Anyway, "Malcolm X" is a perfect movie in every way.

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35 out of 56 people found the following review useful:

One of the Best Films In History

10/10
Author: bxrenaissanceman from United States
15 October 2005

Malcolm X is one of the most influential, positive, and empowering movies I've ever watched. I knew little of Malcolm X before watching this film. Now, I've seen it a total of 10 times. I've also downloaded and read many of Malcolm's greatest speeches, " Ballot or the Bullet" is an example of one. As is visible, this movie has touched me in many ways. Denzel Washington's performance of the ex-Muslim leader is amazing. The only thing more amazing is the fact that he lost out in the Oscar race to Pacino, who portrayed a less important figure, by far. Angela Bassett, a beautiful black actress, plays his wife, Betty Shabazz, in a magnificent role. Delroy Lindo, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Theresa Randle, and Spike Lee himself all play great roles in the movie. Spike Lee was right. I found this movie to be more informative than two six hour days of any school, grade school, middle school, high school, and/or above.

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22 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

An important film

8/10
Author: itamarscomix from Israel
12 October 2005

Malcolm X cannot truthfully be said to be one of Spike Lee's best films, but it was an important step for him, perhaps the most important one of his career. This biopic, and Spike's fifth full-length feature, makes only partial sense as a follow-up to his greatest classics, Do The Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues and Jungle Fever, the three films in which he created and developed his unique voice and made a name for himself as one of the most prominent independent filmmakers in the US; Spike's own voice can barely be heard in Malcolm X, and his usually immediately recognizable trademarks are tough to point out. The reason is that for the first time in his career Spike Lee took a step back, and he is not the dominant personality in the film; the dominant personality is Malcolm X himself, and Spike let Malcolm's voice be heard throughout the film louder than anything else.

So Malcolm X is less a work of art and more a statement than Spike's previous films. It's scope is immensely larger than anything he did before – it does, after all, span 200 minutes – and is therefore, naturally, not as tight and focused as Do The Right Thing or Jungle Fever; but in Malcolm X Spike tackles head on the very subjects he treated with symbolism and subtlety in those films, and it was therefore a natural and important progression for him, and a logical continuation of those movies, and in it he proved that he has more than one voice. In a biopic, and for that matter, in any docu-drama, the most important factor is for the director to care about the subject, and I'm yet to see a director who's more passionate about his subject than Mr. Lee.

Malcolm X boasts a huge ensemble casts, with wonderful performances by Delroy Lindo, Angela Bassette, Al Freeman Jr. (in a harrowing performance as Muslim extremist Elijah Muhammad) and Spike Lee himself – but the movie is still entirely Malcolm X's, and therefore Denzel Washington's. Spike's protégé gave a lifetime performance in Mo' Better Blues two years earlier, but he surpassed it with his gut-wrenching portrayal of Malcolm X, which earned him an Oscar nomination (unfortunately lost to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman) and based him as one of the best actors of his generation.

Although Malcolm X is not Spike Lee's best film, it's an important film that needed to be made, and it's a good thing that Spike was the one to do it. More than it's an impressive, moving, beautiful movie – and it is - Malcolm X's story is a story that must be heard, and this biopic is a film that, truly, every cultured and intelligent person needs to watch.

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