Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Malcolm X (1992)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Malcolm X (1992)

In writer/director Spike Lee's inspirational 3 1/2 hour tribute-documentary (biopic) on the life of a former burglar, cocaine-addicted drug-user and pimp who became a radical, controversial Black Nationalist leader - based on Alex Haley's novel The Autobiography of Malcolm X:

  • the titles sequence - with the inflammatory words of Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) speaking to American blacks, in voice-over, intercut with grainy video footage from the Rodney King/LA police-beating video filmed in March 1991: ("Brothers and sisters, I'm here to tell you that I charge the white man. I charge the white man with being the greatest murderer on earth. I charge the white man with being the greatest kidnapper on earth. There is no place in this world that that man can go and say he created peace and harmony. Everywhere he's gone, he's created havoc. Everywhere he's gone, he's created destruction. So I charge him, I charge him with being the greatest kidnapper on this earth! I charge him with being the greatest murderer on this earth! I charge him with being the greatest robber and enslaver on this earth! I charge the white man with being the greatest swine-eater on this earth, the greatest drunkard on this earth! He can't deny the charges. You can't deny the charges! We're the living proof of those charges! You and I are the proof. You're not an American, you are the victim of America. You didn't have a choice coming over here. He didn't say: 'Black man, black woman, come on over and help me build America.' He said, 'Nigger, get down in the bottom of that boat, and I'm taking you over there to help me build America.' Being born here does not make you an American. I'm not an American. You're not an American. You're one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of America. You and I, we've never seen any democracy. We ain't seen no democracy in the cotton fields of Georgia. There ain't no democracy down there. We didn't see any democracy in the streets of Harlem, in the streets of Brooklyn, in the streets of Detroit, and Chicago. Ain't no democracy down there. No, we've never seen democracy. All we've seen is hypocrisy. We don't see any American dream. We've experienced only the American nightmare")
  • at the end of the titles sequence, the backdrop of an American flag was burned into the image or shape of an 'X'
  • the sequence in a prison (Malcolm was a zoot-suited hustler charged with burglary, and sentenced to 8-10 years) when fellow inmate Baines (Albert Hall) challenged Malcolm's lifestyle (and gave him some nutmeg to end his drug addiction); he cautioned Malcolm to stop pretending to be white, and to quit conking his hair with poison (a method of hair-straightening): ("Why not look like what you are? What makes you ashamed of being black?... You just another cat strutting down the avenue in your clown suit with all that mess on you! Looking like a monkey! The white man sees you and laughs because he knows you ain't white"); then Baines urged Malcolm to be transformed by turning to Elijah Muhammed (Al Freeman, Jr.) and the teachings of the Nation of Islam: ("Elijah Muhammad can get you out of prison. Out of the prison of your mind. But maybe all you want is another fix")
  • the scene of Malcolm's brief proposal of marriage, via payphone, to Betty Shabazz (Angela Bassett); she told him of her steadfastness even when he would be away: "You're with me, even when you're away"
  • the scenes of various speeches of controversial black nationalist liberation leader Malcolm "X" Little specifically, Malcolm's angry Harlem speech to residents above the oppressive 'white man': ("...I'm gonna tell you like it really is. Every election year these politicians are sent up here to pacify us! They're sent here and setup here by the White Man! This is what they do! They send drugs in Harlem down here to pacify us! They send alcohol down here to pacify us! They send prostitution down here to pacify us! Why you can't even get drugs in Harlem without the White Man's permission! You can't get prostitution in Harlem without the White Man's permission! You can't get gambling in Harlem without the White Man's permission! Every time you break the seal on that liquor bottle, that's a Government seal that you're breaking! Oh, I say and I say it again, ya been had! Ya been took! Ya been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok! This is what He does...")
  • in the scene of Malcolm's visit to Harvard University, the brief moment when a white blonde coed (Fia Porter) interrupted him and asked for his advice: "Excuse me, Mr. X, uhm. Hi. I've read some of your speeches and I honestly believe that a lot of what you have to say is true. And I'm a good person in spite of what my ancestors did. I just wanted to ask you - what can a white person like myself, who isn't prejudiced, what can I do to help you and further your cause?" - he dismissively, coldly and bluntly replied: "Nothing" and walked off
  • his pre- and post-Mecca trip press conferences: ("When you tell your people to stop being violent against my people, I'll tell my people to put away their guns")
  • Malcolm X's famous line: "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock - Plymouth Rock landed on us!" - pointing out that African blacks did not come willingly to America
  • the hospital march scene of Nation of Islam supporters (in solidarity for wounded Brother Johnson (Steve White) who had been beaten unconscious by the police, crying out: "We want justice"); Malcolm X spoke defiantly to Captain Green (Peter Boyle) after being told to disband the mob: ("Fruit of lslam are disciplined men. They haven't broken any laws, yet"); when news came from the doctor that Johnson would live, Malcolm X called off the march by quietly raising his hand to signal the marchers to leave; the Captain noted: "That's too much power for one man to have"
  • the climactic and chaotic set-piece of X's assassination in Harlem's Audubon Ballroom in February of 1965 presented as a conspiracy of Nation of Islam leaders; after a smoke bomb was ignited as a diversion, Malcolm was shot-gunned to death while standing at the podium and then two others pumped bullets into his prone body on the stage floor - with his devastated wife Betty holding her dead husband in her arms
The Assassination in NYC's Audubon Ballroom (Feb 1965)
  • the use of documentary footage of Martin Luther King Jr. commenting on Malcolm's death: ("The assassination of Malcolm X was an unfortunate tragedy and it reveals that there are still numerous people in our nation who have degenerated to the point of expressing dissent through murder and we haven't learned to disagree without being violently disagreeable")
  • the voice-over eulogy of Ossie Davis for Malcolm X, presented with a montage of photos of Malcolm's life: ("Here, at this final hour, in this quiet place, Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes. Extinguished now, and gone from us forever. It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate, but nonetheless proud community, has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this Afro-American who lies before us - unconquered still. I say the word again, as he would want me to: Afro-American. Afro-American Malcolm. Malcolm had stopped being Negro years ago. It had become too small, too puny, too weak a word for him. Malcolm was bigger than that. Malcolm had become an Afro-American, and he wanted so desperately that we, that all his people, would become Afro-Americans, too....Malcolm was our manhood. Our living, black manhood. This was his meaning to his people. And in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves")
  • the final coda sequence of African-American schoolchildren (in the present day) standing and declaring individually: "I am Malcolm X", followed by a view of anti-apartheid, newly-freed activist Nelson Mandela (as Himself, the future South African President) standing in a South African classroom and speaking to the black students: ("As Brother Malcolm said: 'We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be given the rights of a human being, to be respected as a human being in this society on this earth in this day which we intend to bring into existence --- '"); the last incendiary words were spoken by Malcolm himself: ("'--by any means necessary!'")
"I am Malcolm X"
Nelson Mandela in S. African Classroom

American Flag Burned Into an "X"

Malcolm X in Prison - Speaking to Brother Baines About Turning to Elijah Muhammed and the Nation of Islam

Proposal of Marriage to Sister Betty - Via Payphone

Angry Harlem Speech: ("They send drugs in Harlem down here to pacify us!")

Confronting a Harvard University Blonde Coed

"We didn't land on Plymouth Rock - Plymouth Rock landed on us"

Malcolm X to Capt. Green

Documentary Footage of MLK Jr.

Montage of Photos of Malcolm X's Life During Eulogy


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