Malcolm X (1992) Poster

(1992)

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The Denzel Washington Show.
tfrizzell3 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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10/10
Excellent and interesting
awhyte232319 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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10/10
Epic film does justice to its subject.
Hermit C-219 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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A film that stands the test of time.....
rcj536523 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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Brilliant
QueenMakeda8415 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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8/10
Great but needed a better editor
bbraat21 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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9/10
The Truth seeker
safwanrulez3 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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4/10
Malcolm Big
Karl Self21 December 2008
There's two ways to look at this movie: as an entertaining evening filler, a roller-coaster of a movie, it's very successful -- strange, and no mean feat, for a biopic about a radical black leader from yesteryear. As a biography however, which is supposed to tell you the truth about a person, I think it's simply a piece of blatant propaganda. I see it as a lost chance to do the man Malcolm X Little justice, and also to show up the critical aspects of his persona.

The acting is great, I particularly enjoyed Angela Bassett as Malcolm X's wife Betty Shabazz, as well as director Spike Lee playing Malcolm's zoot era friend, the wily Shorty. Overall this movie is well made, as can be expected of a great director such as Spike Lee.

OK, let's focus on content, then. Malcolm X wasn't Martin Luther King, but this movie portrays him like he had been King's ghetto version. In his autobiography, Malcolm X describes himself as having started as a street thug, although one who was driven to this life by racism, who was transformed in prison to a black minister and leader. An alternative but possibly more enlightened way to describe his career would be that he took up the same profession as his father, that of a black separatist minister (his father had followed Marcus Garvey, Malcolm followed Elijah Muhammad instead).

Another fact that the movie didn't bring out is that the Nation Of Islam are no Muslims. They were an idiosyncratic black American sect which borrowed some formal aspects from Islam, and sold Elijah Muhammad instead of adhering to his prophet namesake. One interesting question to ask yourself about Malcolm X is, when did he figure out that the NOI were about as halal as ham hock? If he really only became wise to the game after Muhammad had kicked him out, that would have made him seem a bit dim in the intellectual department (and I don't think that he was anything but sharp). But if he found out before then why didn't he leave the sect by himself? Does anyone really buy his magic transformation into a proper Muslim and non-racist on the hadj he went on after he had been forced to leave NOI? In the movie, Malcolm starts to doubt Elijah Muhammad pretty abruptly when he finds out that he has fathered children with his -- very much younger -- secretaries. This is shown melodramatically where the mothers are dressed up in their full freaky NOI costume, have their darling children playing around their feet and profess that they are only worried about their toddlers' wellbeing, i. e. present the picture of purity. I didn't buy that either, neither in the film nor in Malcolm X's life.

There are simply some aspects this movie should have addressed, some questions it should have raised. Instead it "cultivates" and adulates Malcom X. Apart from being a fierce speaker and writer, what actual plans did Malcolm X have? Did he implement them, did they work out, did they fail? How serious was he about separating the races, or was that just rhetorics? Did he actually further or hinder the Civil Rights movement? Didn't he, especially in the light of Obama, fail quite badly by his own standards? One scene I didn't buy at all was when Malcolm liberates a black man from racist police imprisonment. He threatens the officer in charge by telling him to look out of the window, through which we see a thin row of NOI goons standing before the police precinct. Somehow the captain freaks at the sight of 20 dudes in suits and ties and immediately gives in. In the following scene, Malcolm gives them a sign and they turn around like robots and march off. Wow, that's how the NOI fought? Too bad Martin Luther King hadn't thought of that. Although I'd advise anyone not to don suit and tie and descend on the local police outpost yet. Spike Lee feeds us off with simple cinematic razzle-dazzle.

Spike Lee also tells us quite unambiguously that Malcolm's father was murdered by the KKK, where this is at best highly speculative.

Another point: were the NOI with their guru, their uniforms, their sex separation and their bodyguards not perhaps a pretty scary outfit? Scary not only in "the KKK had finally met their match"-sense but more as in "made the KKK seem like a regular bunch of guys with a hood fixation, and the John Birch Society like a bunch of hippies"? Just a thought.

Then in the final scene Spike Lee serves up a "I'm Malcom X" scene which wouldn't have looked out of place in a Stalinist propaganda film.

Malcolm X once said that all his achievements should be blamed on Allah, and only his failings on himself. Spike Lee should have taken his word. If you want to learn more about Malcolm X, then even his autobiography is a better choice.
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10/10
Spike Lee's best movie ever
lee_eisenberg26 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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10/10
One of the Best Films In History
bxrenaissanceman15 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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1/10
Malcolm X: Almost The Truth
mrezyka26 May 2005
"The nation was founded in the late '20s by traveling salesman Wallace D. Fard, whose preachings combined Islam with an Afrocentric cosmology. He taught that blacks are descended from Shabbaz, a tribe that came from the moon 66 trillion years ago, and that whites were the laboratory concoction of Yakub, an evil scientist."

FROM: http://slate.msn.com/id/1075

9/10ths of the way into this movie, I was thinking "I can't believe it. Spike Lee actually has the balls to tell this story truthfully" and expose the Nation of Islam for what it really is: a lying, racists, hate cabal, that murdered Malcolm X.

But just short of the end, he (Spike) just had to throw it in; The Nation Of Islam could not have murdered Malcolm X without help from "The Man". In this case, as usual; the CIA. Forget that there are no actual facts behind this claim, it just NEEDED to be thrown in.

I'm tired of Hollywood re-inventing history. You think the Nation of Islam is just another religious sect? You think Louis Farrakhan is just another " religious" leader? You need to consider that this anti–Semite claims that white people were created in a laboratory in Mecca around the year 1000, and are all decedents of the devil. Look it up, I'm not kidding.

http://slate.msn.com/id/1075

Why is none of this mentioned in the movie, I wonder?
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8/10
An important film
itamarscomix12 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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2/10
Myths
lanea-214 July 2006
I have been working on a book for some time now titled "The Deification of the American Niggah: Whole Lotta Lies Don' Make No Truth". The thesis is of the book is that the severe bigotry and injustice experienced by Negroes in America has been replaced by an equally inaccurate and unjust expectation of perfection. There is an attempt to correct the errors of slavery, prejudice and brutal discrimination by recreating reality in an equally tragically inaccurate set of expectations. Blacks have been miraculously transformed from ignorant, vile, sub-humans to noble, perfect, superior beings that have been unjustly suppressed for reasons of racist ambitions, greed, envy, etc. Neither of these depictions is accurate and both misconceptions degrade the social and economic ascendance that is the answer to the issues of black society.

This film and its writers, producers, directors, critics, etc. are an example of the extremes to which myth has attempted to transplant error. The protagonist is depicted as a humble, gifted, noble and superior hero who conquered white oppression through "self-enlightenment". In reality, Malcolm Little was a felon, a convict and a miscreant who sought advancement through narcotics, prostitution and illegal gambling. His "enlightenment" through the spiritual experience of the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims) was depicted in his statement about President Kennedy's assassination "…the chickens would come home to roost…." Malcolm's association with the Black Muslims ended in his own brutal assassination by other peaceful, enlightened members of the Nation of Islam.

But Spike Lee directed this movie as a tribute to a hero who transcended racism though enlightenment and moral superiority. This is a terrible film not only because of its betrayal of reality but because it perpetuates the myths that are as evil as the bigotry and persecution that it assaults. There are no mythical heroes just as there are no sub-humans among the black races. Miraculous transformation of history does no more to elevate society than prejudice does. Greater lies cannot correct other lies.

Richard Pryor made the best statement on reality I have ever heard. Its majesty lies in its simplicity and accuracy. On a trip to Africa he attended a large community celebration of ethnic music, dancing, revelry, etc. As he sat among the hundreds of revelers he thought to himself, "Now look around you. Do you see any Niggahs here?" He answered to himself, "No, there aren't any. There never were any. Just people. That's all there ever were." In the same way, if the filmmakers as well as the multitudes of activists who advocate societal betterment would just see that all they have to deal with are people, the issues could begin to be resolved. Fantasies like this movie only prolong the hatred and incomprehension.
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6/10
There Are Issues Here That I Don't Buy
eric2620038 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Directed by Spike Lee, this over-budgeted very lengthy biopic, "Malcolm X" tells most of every facet of his life as he begins as a gangster to becoming a Muslim convert, to becoming an outspoken African- American who wanted to believe that his fellow people should never be afraid to stand up to themselves and to be happy with the skin they have.

In the early scenes we see Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) starting out as a criminal under his accomplice named West Indian Archie (Delroy Lindo). He starts by robbing houses along with his assistant Shorty (Spike Lee) and joining his for the ride is a hot young blond named Sophia (Kate Vernon) with whom he chooses as a love interest over a much well-behaved African-American girl named Laura (Theresa Randle).

Later on, Malcolm ends up incarcerated and opposing the Biblical teachings from Chaplain Gill (Christopher Plummer) and seems more on the side of African-American Muslim convert Baines (Albert Hall). Once he's discharged, he become the top followers of the Nation of Islam under the influence of Elijah Muhammad (Al Freeman Jr.)

Malcolm X becomes a charismatic celebrity, which the white press so arbitrarily decided to lash out controversy towards this young radical. As his bravado increased proportionately, the Nation of Islam became very envious about it while the Nation of Islam becomes a part of a scandal involving Elijah's illegitimate children.

Malcolm eventually married Dr. Betty Shabazz (Angela Bassett) and raise three wonderful daughters. He then makes a religious journey to Mecca and declares that not all Caucasians are not entirely evil. When he returns to America, he breaks ties with the Nation of Islam and establishes a rival church that fits the modern spirit at the time. The Nation of Islam did not take this very well and at the Audubon Hotel in Manhattan on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was beginning a speech when a disturbance takes shape, Malcolm tries to calm everybody down and was gunned down (one of the shooters was his former friend Baines).

The movie itself was very high in terms of budget in spite of the very gargantuan production costs. Denzel was nominated at the Oscars for Best Actor in a leading role, but sadly was ousted by Al Pacino for his role in "Scent of a Woman." Washington had to wait several years before winning the Leading Actor Oscar in the film "Training Day."

The film itself was quite accurate in the time period clothes making it very authentic and the lingo spoken by the characters was very appropriate during the time period. The costume design was also in Oscar contention as well. The other high point was that many scenes were very well filmed, especially the uproar during Malcolm X's assassination.

Sure it was praised by many including myself, there are still quite a few issues that didn't sit very well with me. Some of these were small nit-pickings while others were much more bigger that truly hindered the film from being anything but perfect.

Where to start was the singing performance by Miki Howard, who was supposed to play the part of Billie Holiday, but her voice doesn't even come close to even sounding like her. Anybody who listens to jazz and Big Band music know Holiday's familiar voice. It wouldn't have hurt if she just lip-synched from a Holiday soundtrack and it would have been more convincing. Lee really should have known better.

The more obvious falsifications come from the character Sophia. She's hanging out at an all black girls nightclub and just freely throws herself in Malcolm's arms with no indication as to he is. I'm sorry but that is very illogical. It's just a scene designed to get male viewers' attention. It would never happen to you even if you have Washington's looks.

It seems strange that the Nation of Islam has a hostile attitude to Washington who at the time looked decent, well-caring family man who loved his wife and kids. Did he munch on pork rinds at the time? Who knows?

Another unanswered question stems from the scene where he stands up the cops after they unmercifully beat the tar out of a black man. Malcolm brings in a group of identically dressed black men to await for his command. Where did he find them and how did they fall into his lead? And what's the purpose of them acting like soldiers? To me they're there to look cool behind the camera if nothing else.

And finally I must wonder what does Malcolm X himself truly stand for? He transforms from a thief in his early years, to a radical Islamic radical and finally reconsiders his thoughts long enough and before you know it he's murdered. Sure his mission was to for equality, but his execution was more radical rather than peaceful. He was separated from most of his life and wanted his fellow people not to anticipate with anything the white majority did and joined a church who eventually turned against him by having him killed.

These quibbles are what brought this movie down. I think some editing should have been greatly desired as this movie went on too long and many scenes needed further explanation. But other than that, the performances were excellent an Washington acted his heart here as the the other performers. But the illogical scenarios brought this film down from being an absolute masterpiece.
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4/10
Slick But Spiked With Too Much Bias
ccthemovieman-126 June 2006
Here we go with more Spike Lee bias. I'm not talking blacks vs. whites. We've come to expect that with Lee's films. What I'm referring to in this picture is another thing Lee does in many of his films - take cheap shots at Christians. What better stage than this one about a man who leaves his Christian roots and converts to Islam?

Here, Lee goes out of his way to have the KKK mentioned several times and how they are "good Christians." An accomplice to many of Lee's bigoted films, unfortunately, is the fine actor Denzel Washington. Check how often Washington and Lee collaborate on films and how many of them play the "race card." Too bad because Denzel is a likable guy and a great actor. Lee is neither.

At 201 minutes this a long film but an interesting one nonetheless. I can't say I was ever bored watching this. It's also beautifully photographed with some slick visuals. You can tell a lot of love went into this movie. Too bad Lee can't put this much effort into a biography of, let's say, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa or Billy Graham.
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Sadly one of Lee's flattest film but still a story worth hearing and features a good performance from Washington
bob the moo13 April 2004
Malcolm Little was a young man when his father was murdered by the KKK and he and his siblings were taken from their mother and separated. As a young man he became a hustler and eventually a full robber with his friends, before eventually getting 8-12 years in prison for his crimes. While inside he learns the ways of Elijah Muhammad and coverts to Islam. Once released he rises in the ranks of the Nation of Islam to be an uncompromising leader of the black movement , tackling white oppression head on.

Lee does not want any question about the tone of this film. Opening with footage of the Rodney King beating projected onto an American flag that chars before bursting into flames while Malcolm's `American nightmare' speech is played over the top, Lee leaves us in no doubt that this film will not step back from being provocative and incendiary. Unlike many reviews on this site, I will not review the politics of Malcolm X but I will try and view this as a film. I do not need to agree with the stance of X to be interesting in this film - I did not watch this film to fight with it or get annoyed by it, I watched it to listen to Lee tell the story of Malcolm X.

Substance wise, the film is too long - Lee did not allow the editors to be as ruthless as he should have been. I can understand why though, this was a labour of love and he must have felt that he needed that long to do the job. As a flow it works reasonably well, although it is too baggy quite often, but it is an interesting story nonetheless. Many critics have lambasted the film for it's bias. In that regard the only thing that surprised me was that they genuinely seemed surprised by this fact - what did they expect from Spike Lee? However, I don't believe that this is a fair accusation to make at Lee. He tells the story in a fair light - he doesn't hide the double standards of the Nation of Islam nor does he spin the anti-white teachings to paint Malcolm in a better light. Of course Lee is going to bring his own pro-black politics to the film, but that is his right and he doesn't rewrite history to serve himself.

In fact I admired some of Lee's touches as they actually produced a more balanced view. For example, where Malcolm is talking to Betty about his thoughts on women, Lee cuts to Malcolm being told the same opinion (word for word) by Muhammad - a brave move that implied the spoon feeding of his views that I didn't expect from Lee. Of course the other way to look at it would be Lee excusing Malcolm's stance on women by pinning it on Muhammad and in fairness to that view, Lee does tend to gloss over the NOI's view on woman's place. The film is a little kind to Malcolm but not to the point where the absurd claims about bias and spin would really stick - well, for the majority anyway. I did feel that, although it wasn't spin, that the final 5 minutes of the film really went too far with the little kids all standing up saying `I am Malcolm X', parallels with Jesus and then Mandella being wheeled out...now THAT bit I found to be unnecessary as it was not from Malcolm - it was heavy politicing from Lee himself in further evidence that he was knocked off his usual style by the weight of the material.

In fact, this stands out to me as being one of Lee's least stylish and slick films - only the early, freer scenes of Malcolm's crime, drink and dancing seem to be directed by a Spike Lee using the camera and the space. For the most part, Lee sits back and watches - apparently in total reverence of this subject and afraid to take away from the supposed importance of what the film is trying to do. It is a shame because the overly long running time means that it desperately needed a spark at times and I did expect Lee at least to bring the film alive with visual flourishes. Sadly, like I say, Lee's respect for his subject causes him to do nothing and, worse still, he includes some bits that just don't work - Muhammad's appearance in the cell is worst but Malcolm's trip to Mecca doesn't work as it is overlong and forced (again, as Lee stresses that Malcolm dropped the anti-white stance). In regards this, critics have unfairly accused Lee of trying to lessen Malcolm's stance and make it more acceptable (ie change history) but those of us who are a bit older know that we will learn things over our life and will not hold the same opinions as we did when we were 18, or 25, or 30. In the same way Malcolm lost his harsh teachings with age - this is the case, it is not Lee trying to trick us.

For all these reasons, the film is greatly in debt to Denzel Washington. If it weren't for his engaging and powerful performance then this film would be very bland for the majority. Happily then, Washington rises to the role and deals with it's changes and development really well. He makes a charismatic leading man and it is difficult to imagine that anyone else could have done a better job with this role - or that the film would have worked without him. The names of those involved is impressive, but not all their performances are. Bassett varies between being a shy little woman and having raging fights with her husband, in neither mode does she convince. Freeman is also pretty comic - but part of the blame for that lies with Lee's portrayal of him (floating in a cell is not a good look!). Hall, Lindo, Randle, McDaniel and Lee himself all do reasonably well in minor roles but the film belongs to Washington and it is just as well for the film's sake that he is up to the task.

Overall this is an interesting film that is worth seeing as an INTRODUCTION to Malcolm X - however if you take your opinion from this film alone then you are doing yourself a disservice. As a Spike Lee film it is surprisingly flat and lacking in the usual visual style that he brings, it is a real shame but this labour of love is not one of his better films (although it is not among his worst) - it is rather pedestrian, overlong and, were it not for a charismatic performance from Washington, would be a lot duller than the subject deserved.
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10/10
Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor of 1992 -- Masterpiece Snubbed at Academy Awards and Golden Globes
classicalsteve13 November 2007
Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven", the major winner of the Academy Awards in 1992 for best director and best film, is good solid film-making. However, "Malcolm X", produced and directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington in the title role, is a bona fide masterpiece--a 20th century film equivalent to a masterwork of the Renaissance. Certainly, it may be unfair to evaluate the two films against each other, but since one received much more acclaim than the other during the year of its release, it begs comparison. However, it's like comparing a Caravaggio with Michaelangelo's frescoes atop the Sistine Chapel. The first is certainly exceptional but the latter is a magnum opus. "Malcolm X" is Spike Lee's Sistine Chapel. Like Selznik's "Gone with the Wind" or Welles' "Citizen Kane", "Malcolm X" may be hard to top.

The only thing equally as superb as Washington's acting is the directing and the script, which is at once honest and compelling. Except for a coda at the end that seems at odds with the rest of the film, the script is near perfect, relying heavily on true accounts of Malcolm X's life instead of altering the story to fit prescribed entertainment values, a bad habit of Hollywood filmmakers. Instead, Lee and Washington rely on Malcolm X and his history as the guiding force behind the film. Many of the incidences portrayed in "Malcolm X" actually happened, from his father being assassinated on railroad tracks, to the young Malcolm being involved with drug dealing to his rise as a star among the Nation of Islam, or so-called Black Muslims. In one scene that is history and not fiction, Malcolm X orders his entourage of male associates to stand outside a hospital when a fellow Muslim, Brother Johnson, requires medical attention.

Malcolm Little was an African-American, the son of an assassinated preacher whose family had sustained vicious threats from the KKK. As a young man, he relocated to Harlem and became a streetwise hoodlum involved in crime gangs. Racketeering, gambling, prostitution, and drug dealing were his first religion. Then after an incident with white girls that landed himself and his associate Shorty (Spike Lee, perfectly cast) in jail, he meets a member of a new religious organization claiming kinship with Muslims in the Middle East and re-claiming their African roots.

Headed by the honorable Elijah Muhammad who had converted to Islam and brought the religion (or at least his version of it) to the United States as the Nation of Islam, the so-called Black Muslims (although they do not refer to themselves as such) lures Malcolm into a new world of honesty, compassion, and purpose. To the their credit, the religious organization gives Malcolm Little, now renamed Malcolm X, a sense of purpose, an identity, a loving community, and rehabilitation from the vices that were destroying himself in Harlem.

After his conversion, he becomes a prominent voice among the sect, a spokesperson for the honorable Elijah Muhammad and his message of religious determinism. Simultaneously, they also preach dangerous messages including that all white folks are devils, and that the honorable Elijah Muhammad is to be obeyed without question. As the spokesman of their cause against whites, Malcolm X in some ways becomes the darker side of Martin Luther King, Jr who propagated that proclaiming African-American superiority was as sinful as proclaiming white superiority. The press dubbed Malcolm X the "angriest man in America".

Washington does more than just portray Malcolm X, he becomes him. Washington, I imagine, must have studied footage of his speeches and spoken with people who knew him. Speeches of the real Malcolm X as compared to speeches in the film as enacted by Washington are almost indistinguishable. His performance ranks as one of the top two or three performances by an actor in the history of the performing arts and cinema, up there with Ben Kingsly as Gandhi, Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane, Laurence Olivier as Hamlet, and Vivian Leigh as Scarlet O'Hara.

The turn in the film occurs when, in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm makes some ill-conceived remarks to the press. Malcolm X further learns that Elijah Muhammad is not practicing all that he preaches. The star of the so-called "Black Muslims" begins questioning not only his role but the integrity of the entire movement. He then makes a pilgrimage to Mecca, required at least once in the lifetime of a Muslim. His pilgrimage changes many of his views.

It's hard to describe this film without using many superlatives, but if there was ever a film that deserved it, it's "Malcolm X". Washington and Lee do a tremendous job of neither vilifying nor idealizing Malcolm X, the man. In retrospect on the man, I think Malcolm X began to realize he could serve a higher purpose to help unify rather than divide the races. In the end, Malcolm X began to encourage that dream, but, like Martin Luther King Jr, his mission was cut short. As for the film, it is an honest tribute to one of the most memorable figures of American history. And like the man himself, the work may only be appreciated by later generations. Malcolm X is the embodiment of the American story.
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10/10
Denzel Was Robbed !!!
gunnshy35724 January 2006
One of the reasons I love this movie is because of Spike Lee's faithful interpretation of the autobiography. This is easily my favorite Denzel Washington performance !! Angela Bassett is one of the most beautiful women on the planet !!! BLAST YOU COURTNEY VANCE !!! YOU STOLE MY WOMAN !!!

Lee tells the story of Malcolm Little from the beginning when his Garveyite father gets lynched and his family separated. We see the "Detroit Red" days as well as what I call Malcolm's initial "brainwashing" into the Nation Of Islam.

Spike Lee also makes history as one of the only filmmakers to ever be able to document the Muslim "Hajj" or Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca and pulls it off beautifully. It's no wonder that some Orthodox Muslims are among the most spiritually beautiful people In the world. I've witnessed this first hand.

"Malcolm X" would make a great companion to the book written by Alex Haley.
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10/10
Don't Listen To Yevgeny Bazarov
dee.reid15 October 2001
For he/she is nothing but a hate monger himself/herself and doesn't realize that Malcolm X is probably one of the most misunderstood, but influential black leaders in history. Throughout the course of the movie, we see Malcolm go through a transformation from street hustler, to convict, to positive black leader. Malcolm X was only violent and hateful towards white people until he made his pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city of Islam. When he got there he never saw so many people of many different races worshiping Allah. It was then that he decided to change his views of race. After that, it was then that he realized the mistakes that he had made and decided to break off his relationship with Elijah Muhammad and the rest of the Muslims, who in fact were the real hate mongers and that's why they later killed him, because he didn't feed on hate anymore.

Another thing about director Spike Lee. Spike Lee is in fact, probably one of the most under-appreciated African-American directors in Hollywood. His movies have many underlying messages about race in America. It's a shame that his movies are so under-appreciated. Sure his movies are "critically acclaimed", but that doesn't mean that people are actually getting the messages he is trying to send. The same goes for John Singleton and The Hughes Brothers.
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2/10
A great story reduced to a series of cinematic snapshots
andreyev667 April 2000
The film charts Malcolm X's metamorphosis from Harlem hustler to one of the two most important African- American leaders of his time, but , in emotional terms, it doesn't dig very deep. One understands how Malcolm X changes but not why he changes. The scenes--some of which are extraordinary --are self-contained, they don't link up emotionally with one another. The result is a cinematic slide show ("first this happened, then this... then this"). And the coda (much like those in Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan) is unnecessary and embarrassing.
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2/10
Long, Slow, Too Wordy And Biased
denis88826 April 2017
Denzel Washington is a swell, pure gold actor, he can save and grace any movie he is in, and yes, he is great here, but this endless, unimaginable 3 hour and a half mammoth kills all his endeavors and assets burying them under a lead stone sheet of pretentiousness, boredom, and what is the worst offender, a very heavyweight preachy tone which becomes more and more acidic sour and then simply makes you cringe and run for some lightweight family comedy. What is also wrong? Bad pacing, very badly conceived flashback scenes and a very very tedious plot. Generally, such films are often a victim of their own weight - they sink like a marble brick, and they are too wordy. Like here, it is the same endless amount of smart speeches and oratories, but after two hours you feel a strong desire to switch to Mr. Bean or Benny Hill. Malcolm X was not a good man and he fell a victim of his own faith, we know that, and what he preached was wrong. So, no matter how much Spike Lee and Denzel tried, they failed to make us like this cold, ruthless, icy man of no sorrow. I felt no sorrow either for him or for his work, and the documentary footage of great late Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr only proved how much better this Baptist minister was than that loud and brash preacher. The film only hit the nail on the right head
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The Biggest Snub in Oscar History
Sargebri5 March 2003
This is one of the greatest epics on one of the most complex individuals of the twentieth century. However, this was also a victim of one of the greatest snubs in Oscar history. Despite the greatness of this film it was only nominated for two Academy Awards. Denzel Washington, deservedly, was nominated for his performance. However, he was beaten out by Al Pacino for his portrayal of a blind former army officer in Scent of a Woman. But perhaps the biggest snub was suffered by Spike Lee. Lee made the film come to life as he told Malcolm's story, but he wasn't even nominated for his work. Perhaps it was because of his controversial statements regarding blacks in Hollywood that caused him to be snubbed. No matter what, this film should have received at least six or seven nominations, especially for Angela Bassett and Al Freeman.
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7/10
Spike Lee and Malcolm X: Some disagreements
artzau18 February 2001
I heard Malcolm X speak at Berkeley in 1963, the year of Kennedy's assassination, albeit before that terrible event. I remember that tall, intense, lean man striding to the microphone and beginning with, "Brothers, friends...enemies." This film is a fine but flawed work which creates a confusing and often confused picture of a very complex man. The Black Moslem movement is a significant political event in our nation's history. Lee's portrayal of Malcolm X, however, is much more Lee than Malcolm X. This film is long, repetitious and often tedious. The coda is distracting, unnecessary and borders on the maudlin. However, Lee presents but misunderstands the turning point in the life of the late Malcolm X, i.e., the change from a political icon, mouthing the half-baked, jingoistic half-truths of Elijah Mohammud into a man who underwent a profound religious experience. Many Black Moslems are an anathema to mainstream Moslems; this distinctive African-American movement is willing to lay all the ills of the African-American's treatment at the door of the "whites." This is not religion; it is politics and has little to do with the religious tenets of Islam. The accusation of Elijah Mohammud that Christianity is a "white man's religion" and Judaism is practiced by Jews who "exploit Black people," is pure nonsense. The origins of Christianity, Islam and Judaism have common roots among the Semitic peoples, Arabs and Jews, and it should be remembered that it was Islamic Arabs who ran the Slave trade that sold many of the West African ancestors of African-Americans into bondage in the Americas. In fact, the international slave trade feeding slaves into the productive leg of the old Trade Triangle was created by the Portuguese colonization of Africa. But, facts rarely enter into consideration where idealogy is concerned. Islam is a religion where the "law (sunni)" is part and parcel of everyday living, as it is in Judaism, (i.e., no division of 'church' and 'state') bespeaks of its desert origins based on a system of tribal ownership of wells. My point is, the Black Moslem movement was a political movement (and largely, still is) where the religious component has been greatly misrepresented. The misconception and misrepresentation of Islam as a Jihadic or militant religion persists today in the anti-Arab attitude reflected daily in our public news media. Unfortunately, Malcom X's diatribes during that his political period did precious little to remedy the situation. Sadly, only after Malcolm X had made his hajj, did he come to realize that people are people and the real monster is the hatred people create for other people. Spike Lee is a fine film maker. In spite of its flaws, this is a fine presentation of the life of one of the most interesting men of our past century.
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6/10
This is a baaad movie.
wolfteeth2331 May 2015
No disrespect to Malcolm X, I admire him so I watched this movie and I didn't like it. After watching this I decided that I don't like Spike Lee's movies, he's a bad director. I haven't liked one of his movies yet.

What's with the long dancing scenes at the beginning of the movie? The end is so melodramatic, I'm pretty sure it's Spike Lee's voice saying why you should respect Malcolm X... nobody cares what your vision of life is, rather tell me a story and then you can catch my attention , but the voice over spoils it. It's also ridiculously long and it's unnecessary.

Sorry Spike, you had to stay more centered to tell a good story, you couldn't shape your admiration for this man into a fine movie.
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3/10
a travesty
John Bethea3 December 2000
By focusing on, and even celebrating, the rise of Malcolm X and his legacy of heightened militancy in the Black Muslim movement of Elijah Muhammed, Spike Lee has totally butchered the point of X's autobiography, which ends with him embracing all of mankind and coming to grips with the anger(totally justified!)and resentment that he held for the whites he dealt with in his life. This should have been a story of inclusiveness, concluding with a certain joy instead of this childish "I am Malcolm X" black hero c***. Malcolm is a hero for everyone, and should be praised by everyone for his angelic ability to accept and forgive the world that so often wronged him. Why do you think Elijah Muhammed had him killed? Because he didn't feed on hate anymore, and wanted others to feel the same way. That would have destroyed the Black Muslim message, the most blameful of heresies. This is irresponsible, manipulative, self-indulgent film-making on a scale equal to "Birth of a Nation" as it rewrites history in an all too convincing manner. Shameful.
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