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Spike Lee moved to Brooklyn when he was four years old. In the years since, the borough and the city have become essential to his work. Source: Getty Images.

No filmmaker has more NYC cred than Spike Lee. Although his most recent flick, “BlacKkKlansman,” takes place in Colorado, the majority of his movies are filmed right here in New York City. And 2019 will go down as a big year for Lee, who finally won that elusive Oscar (for Best Adapted Screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman“), as well as celebrating a milestone — the 30th anniversary of his groundbreaking movie “Do the Right Thing.” His next film is set to be another NYC epic: an adaptation of the Romeo & Juliet–based graphic novel “Prince of Cats,” by Ron Wimberly, which is set in 1980s Brooklyn. Let’s take a tour of Spike Lee’s NYC.

Spike’s a de facto native New Yorker

Lee’s love for the metropolis began at an early age. Although he was actually born in Atlanta, Lee is pretty much a de facto native New Yorker. He moved to Cobble Hill with his family at the age of 4 and then eventually relocated to Fort Greene, the neighborhood he calls home to this day. 

His first studio was at 124 Dekalb Ave.

Between 1985 and 2008, Lee was operating his production studio, 40 Acres and a Mule, at an old firehouse in Fort Greene at 124 Dekalb.  The firehouse was originally built in the 1920s for Brooklyn’s Engine Company 256, but had been defunct since the 1970s. In 1985, Lee and his company moved in and occupied the space for over 20 years, until a landlord dispute forced him to move in 2008. Lee’s old studio is currently for sale as a private residence, listed for $4.75 million. Photos of the listing below.

He moved his 40 Acres and a Mule film company to South Elliot Place

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Recently, the exterior of Lee’s production studio featured a poster of his first film in 1986, “She’s Gotta Have It.”

In 2008, Lee relocated his studio literally around the corner and down the block to a brick townhouse at 75 S. Elliot Pl. The exterior of the building is easily recognizable with the signature 40 Acres and a Mule flag and expressive signage. In 2014, Lee hung a poster commemorating the death of Eric Garner. It was just outside the townhouse at South Elliott Place that Lee organized an epic, impromptu block party as an “emergency tribute” to Prince during his shocking death in 2016

His UES townhouse was previously owned by Jasper Johns

Believe it or not, Lee owns a historic townhouse (aka “Hatch House”) located at 153 E. 63rd St. on the Upper East Side.  Don’t let the uptown address fool you, though. The place had serious artistic cred. The abstract impressionist Jasper Johns owned it until 1998 when Lee and his wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, purchased it for $16.6 million. In 2014, they listed the 8,292-square-foot, 5-bedroom home for $32 million and eventually lowered it to $24.5 million. It has since been taken off the market. Photos in slideshow below.

He’s always courtside at MSG…

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TFW your team has a 11-47 record. Source: James Devaney/Getty Images

Spike Lee isn’t too different from Mars Blackmon, his character in “She’s Gotta Have It” and later the personality in Michael Jordan’s Nike Air shoe commercials. He too is an avid Knicks fan. For years, Lee has had courtside tickets at Madison Square Garden. He says that it’s the fulfillment of a childhood dream. And despite the Knicks’ terrible record in recent years, he’s remained loyal.

… and he’s occasionally at Yankee Stadium

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Don’t think he caught that ball. Source: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Lee is also a huge Yankees supporter, and can be found in the sea of fans making their way up to the stadium in the Bronx via train.

He’s also a big fan of Patsy’s Pizza

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Lee’s favorite slice is not from Sal’s Pizzeria…

Like any true New Yorker, Lee has strong opinions on pizza. His preferred slice is not from Sal’s Pizzeria, however. It’s from Patsy’s in East Harlem. He’s such a big fan that he flew pizza from Patsy’s in East Harlem to L.A. for a few days back in 2018.

Here are 10 of Spike Lee’s biggest movies filmed in NYC

Lee’s films don’t just use the city as a backdrop, but make it a paramount part to their plots. Here’s a rundown of 10 of Spike Lee’s biggest movies filmed in NYC.

1. “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986)

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Fort Greene Park is where Spike Lee filmed many scenes in “She’s Gotta Have it.”

Spike Lee’s first feature-length film “She’s Gotta Have It” centers on a young woman navigating how to live, love and be independent in New York City. The protagonist, Nola, is a graphic designer living in Fort Greene with a roommate and rotates through multiple boyfriends. Many of the movie’s scenes take place in Fort Greene Park and on stoops throughout the neighborhood. Over 30 years after the film first released, Lee adapted it for a Netflix TV series. The themes are as timely and relevant today as they were in the 1980s. It goes without saying, however, that the neighborhood has changed a lot.

2. “Do the Right Thing” (1989)

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Mookie, the protagonist of  “Do the Right Thing,” lives in Bed-Stuy and works at Sal’s Pizzeria, a family-owned business in the neighborhood. The movie is very much a portrait of Brooklyn life. Teenagers blasting boomboxes, chance run-ins on the street corner and old-timers hanging out the window of their walkup apartments all make the back drop of this classic Spike Lee flick. Incredibly, the entire movie was shot on one block of Stuyvesant Avenue between Quincy Street and Lexington Avenue in Bed-Stuy. To celebrate the movie’s 30-year anniversary, Lee is holding a block party on June 30 at this very location and it’s open to the public. Should be quite a scene – just as long as garbage cans don’t go flying through pizzeria windows.

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Spike Lee as “Mookie” in “Do the Right Thing.” Source: Anthony Barboza / Getty Images

3. “Jungle Fever” (1991)

This 1991 film stars Wesley Snipes and an all-star cast, exploring the passionate, and sometimes fraught interracial relationships between Flipper, a young architect, and his lovers, co-workers and friends. It’s set in several neighborhoods across New York City including Bensonhurst, Harlem and Greenwich Village.  Among the movie’s many recognizable NYC locations is Bloomingdales, where Flipper’s wife Drew works.

4. “Crooklyn” (1994)

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“Crooklyn” is one of Lee’s best known films and was selected as one of the winners of 2017 One Film, One New York contest.

Lee returns to Bed-Stuy for this semi-autobiographical pic about a girl growing up in Brooklyn in the 1980s. Like “Do the Right Thing,” the movie features an eclectic cast of neighborhood characters and also stars Lee himself as the local junkie. Lee includes “Crooklyn” in his “Chronicles of Brooklyn” series along with “She’s Gotta Have It” and “Do the Right Thing.”

5. “Clockers” (1995)

Lee uses Brooklyn housing projects as the backdrop for the film version of Richard Price’s popular crime novel. The movie tells the story of street drug dealers and stars Harvey Keitel, John Turturro and Mekhi Phifer in his break out role.

6. “He Got Game” (1998)

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Although Coney Island is known around the world for its famous boardwalk, it is one of the most isolated neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Source: Wally Gobetz via Flickr Creative Commons

This 1998 drama focuses on the tension between Jake, an incarcerated man, and his son, Jesus, a talented basketball player (played by NBA Hall of Famer Ray Allen). The plot builds when Jake returns home to Coney Island to persuade Jesus to play for the governor’s college. In exchange, the governor will shorten Jake’s sentence. Many of the scenes were filmed in Coney Island. Jesus also plays for Abraham Lincoln High School, a real high school located on Ocean Parkway.

7. “Summer of Sam” (1999)

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This photo of Buhre Avenue in the Bronx was featured in the New York Post on July 28, 1977 , just after Son of Sam’s first strike. Source: Jerry Engel via Getty Images.

This crime thriller takes place in an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, likely Morris Park or Throggs Neck, at the height of the Son of Sam murders. The movie reflects the grit of NYC in the 1970s and features many real-world places and events. These include Studio 54, CBGB as well as the blackout of 1977 and the Yankees’ epic winning streak. According to local lore, it was during Game 2 of the World Series that year that Howard Cosell uttered the immortal words, “The Bronx is burning.” Seems like a ripe setting for a Spike Lee flick.

8.  “25th Hour” (2002)

Although this 2002 film focuses on a drug dealer’s last hours of freedom before incarceration, it nonetheless offers a powerful portrait of NYC in the wake of the September 11. At key moments throughout the film, Lee uses shots of Ground Zero and the Tribute of Light to heighten the drama. One of the film’s most memorable moments is an intense monologue and documentary-style montage. The montage features the cages at West 4th Street, apartment buildings along Park Avenue, the McKinley Houses in the Bronx and the cobblestone streets of SoHo. See the clip above.

9. “Inside Man” (2006)

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In “Inside Man,” Christopher Plummer plays a bank director whose bank is the target of a heist. The film uses the interiors of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House at Bowling Green as his office.

This 2006 thriller centers on a heist at the fictional Manhattan Trust Bank. The film features many other real world locations in FiDi. Highlights include the interiors of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House, which serves as the office of the bank director. Another less prestigious but equally legit location is Cafe Bravo, a coffee shop on Beaver. Several scenes also take place in Battery Park.

10. “Red Hook Summer” (2012)

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The Red Hook Houses are some of the city’s oldest housing projects. James McBride, one of the producers and screenwriters of “Red Hook Summer,” grew up here. Source: Colorlines

A recent addition to the “Chronicles of Brooklyn,” this 2012 flick was shot entirely within a 10-block radius in Red Hook. The movie focuses on a teenager who relocates to Brooklyn from Georgia and features the expansive Red Hook housing projects as well as the New Brown Memorial Baptist Church at 609 Clinton Street. Spike Lee makes a brief cameo, marking his first appearance in a film since “Summer of Sam.” Getting a little meta and bringing everything full circle, he plays Mookie, wearing a Sal’s Pizzeria shirt.

[This post has been updated and republished.]

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