"We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us."
- Malcolm X (Denzel Washington)
Rolling Stone - 12/10/1992
"...Triumphant....Denzel Washington gives the performance of the year..."
USA Today - 11/18/1992
"...Washington's great performance dominates....MALCOLM X conveys its subject's magnetism and lifelong evolution, while forever synergizing its lead performer and his role..." -- 4 out of 4 stars
Entertainment Weekly - 11/20/1993
"...A triumph, an intimate and engrossing biographical saga....With MALCOLM X, Lee has created a galvanizing political tragedy..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 12/27/1992
"...In a time when political currents are moving quickly, Lee is one of the few American filmmakers with the clout and the will to make a controversial film like this..."
Total Film - 05/01/2000
"...It quivers with righteous rage. Washington is remarkable throughout..."
Spike Lee brings the life of African-American leader Malcolm X (an intense Denzel Washington in an Oscar-nominated performance) to the big screen in this sprawling, epic biographical drama. Born Malcolm Little, son of a Nebraska preacher, on May 19, 1925, he became one of the most militant leaders and charismatic spokesmen of the black liberation movement before his assassination at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City on February 21, 1965. The film sweeps through his early life as a small-time hustler and thief with his friend Shorty (Lee), his conversion to Islam in jail, and his subsequent life as a controversial spiritual leader and husband of Betty Shabazz (Angela Bassett). Malcolm's tragic assassination is presented as a conspiracy of Nation of Islam leaders; the film shows how his philosophy has been realized in the lives of others who have been moved by his words. Filmed with great visual flair by Lee, the film is a work of entertainment as much as it is a historical artifact. Washington captures the spiritual conversion of the hero with a sincerity that is entirely as believable and ultimately moving as it was in the book that inspired the film, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X.
The controversial chronicle of the life of spiritual and political leader, Malcolm X, assassinated at age 39 by black extremists, this well-made, epic film is directed by African-American auteur Spike Lee, garnering an Academy Award nomination for Denzel Washington as the charismatic leader.
Black Heritage |
Black History Month |
Personal Triumph |
Race Relations |
Theatrical Release |
Theatrical release: November 18, 1992.
Filmed on location in New York and Fishkill, New York; New Jersey; Boston, Massachusetts; Mecca, Saudi Arabia; Soweto, South Africa; and Egypt.
MALCOLM X began shooting September 16, 1991, and was completed January 26, 1992.
The screenplay was begun by Arnold Perl, who died in 1971, more than twenty years before Spike Lee filmed it. Many others worked on it over the years, including James Baldwin, Calder Willingham, David Mamet, David Bradley, and Charles Fuller.
The film's estimated budget was $34 million. Budget battles plagued the production from the beginning. Initially, director Spike Lee had requested $33 million for the film, a reasonable sum considering the size and scope of the project but far greater than his previous budgets (the highest being $14 million for JUNGLE FEVER). Additionally, his five previous films combined grossed less than $100 million domestically. As a result of this (and the studio's reluctance to fund black-themed material), Warner Bros. only offered $20 million for a two-hour and 15-minute film, plus an additional $8 million from Largo Entertainment for the foreign rights. When the film went $5 million over budget, Lee kicked in most of his salary, but failed to keep the financiers from shutting down post-production. Lee went public with his battles and raised funds from celebrity friends, such as Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, and Bill Cosby to regain control of his embattled project. Warner eventually kicked in more funds after a positive screening of a rough cut.
Norman Jewison was originally intended to direct. Lee created an uproar by insisting that only an African-American director could handle this material (especially given the dearth of films devoted to black culture), and eventually Jewison dropped the project.
Still yet another controversy erupted over Lee's unauthorized use of amateur cameraman George Holliday's video of the Rodney King beating. Holliday charged Lee with copyright infringement for incorporating the footage into the film's opening sequence without permission.