Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

Malcom X: Movie and Real Life Comparison

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In 1992, director Spike Lee combined his artistic vision with historical events to create the controversial and much hyped film Malcolm X, a biographical and historical account of the slain civil rights leader. Staring as Malcolm X was Denzel Washington who has been noted that this was his best role in a movie to date. As controversial as the flesh and blood Malcolm X was in life, so was the film version of his life as depicted by Lee.Lee made sure to not make the film just based on entertainment purposes as he focused on Malcolm X’s life and achievements by depicting actual events into his movie.

Furthermore, Spike Lee tells the story of a not always likable, sometimes reluctant man. He shows Malcolm X as a man who is constantly learning and developing his ideas. Instead of depicting Malcolm X as an unlikeable man, Lee tries to show different sides of Malcolm X and that people (Malcolm X) can change and grow from who they once were.In retrospect, it would seem that Malcolm X represented the exact opposite of the peaceful protests advocated by his contemporary, Martin Luther King, Jr. An example of this is shown in the movie through Malcolm X’s speeches and actions that he thought violence was the only way that the conditions would change between the whites. In viewing the film, one can see that Spike Lee, from the start, was not going to take the safe route in the direction of this motion picture.It was easy to tell in the beginning of Lee’s film that the classification of Malcolm X’s times in life and the period of discrimination were accurate in the movie.

The opening credits featured an American flag slowly being consumed by flames and burning to ashes. This is symbolic not only of the nation in turmoil which Malcolm X preached the idea of racial equality. But also as a symbol of a place where people in the wrong position, such as African-Americans faced with prejudice, hatred and worse, could literally and socially be scolded beyond recognition. Lee confronts reality head on in his film.What is depicted in Malcolm X is a story within a story; watchers see the actions and progress of Malcolm X as a social advocate. But as the sub-context of his controversial crusade, we also learn as the film unfolds that Malcolm X's mother, father, uncles, and countless other relatives and friends were direct victims of the hatred and violence of the white majority in America, during a time when the nation was supposed to be free and equal for all. A scene in the movie that best depicted the racism and the violence was the scene outside the Little’s family house, a black family.

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In this scene the black legion starts to pass around gasoline cans and then flames roar through the room and the Little kids are hysterical. Louise, the wife, rushes in and pushes them past the fire, she has infant in hand covered in a blanket. They barely make it outside when they are confronted by a black legion member who threatens them and tells them to leave the community. In conclusion, what is seen in Spike Lee's Malcolm X is a break from the traditional cinema of its time which was a film of historical fact, biography and political commentary with the intended effect of raising social consciousness.Lee pushed the limits and dared to create controversy and shock viewers. Furthermore, Denzel Washington portrayal of a much wounded young boy who evolves into a very powerful speaker and political figure is outstanding and helped shaped the movie into an incredible historical depiction of Malcolm X’s life. As one opinion, Lee and Washington did this very well, and opened the door for others who come after them to do the same.

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Malcom X: Movie and Real Life Comparison. (2018, Oct 17). Retrieved from

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