Chi-Raq (/ʃˈræk/) is a 2015 American musical crime comedy drama film, directed and produced by Spike Lee and co-written by Lee and Kevin Willmott. Set in Chicago, the film focuses on the gang violence prevalent in neighborhoods on the city's south side, particularly the Englewood neighborhood.[5]

Theatrical release poster
Directed bySpike Lee
Written by
Based onLysistrata
by Aristophanes
Produced bySpike Lee
CinematographyMatthew Libatique
Edited by
  • Ryan Denmark
  • Hye Mee Na
Music byTerence Blanchard
Distributed byRoadside Attractions
Release date
  • December 4, 2015 (2015-12-04) (United States)
Running time
127 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million[3]
Box office$2.7 million[4]

The story is based on Aristophanes' Lysistrata, a classical Greek comedy play in which women withhold sex from their husbands to put an end to the Peloponnesian War.[6] It stars Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, and Samuel L. Jackson.

It was the first film to be produced by Amazon Studios, released in select theaters on December 4, 2015, and on their video on demand service Amazon Instant Video on December 29.[7]


In Chicago's Southside, as the events are narrated by Dolemedes, a war rages between two rival gangs: the Spartans, led by rapper/gang leader Demetrius Dupree, nicknamed "Chi-Raq" and the Trojans, led by gang lord Cyclops. Demetrius's lover, Lysistrata, grows disillusioned after several outbursts of violence near her, including a shootout at Demetrius's concert, an arson attack at their home while the two are having sex and a young girl, Patti, being accidentally killed in a gang shooting, revealed as the daughter of Irene.

After the fire, Lysistrata moves in with Miss Helen Worthy, a well-read non-violence advocate who suggests she research about Leymah Gbowee, who led a peace movement to stop the Second Liberian Civil War and threatened a sex strike. Inspired by Worthy and Gbowee, Lysistrata organizes a meeting between herself, the Spartans' lovers and the Trojans' lovers, where they agree to withhold sex until the men agree to lay down arms, hence their plea, "No Peace, No Pussy."

The strike rapidly spreads across the city, with women of many neighborhoods and occupations joining the boycott. Despite the strike's enormous membership, the Spartans and the Trojans refuse to cease their war. Following a funeral for Irene's young daughter Patti, Lysistrata speaks with the local preacher Fr. Mike Corridan, who argues passionately against the American institutions that profit from the South Side's wars. Deciding that the problem is bigger than the gangs' resentment, Lysistrata and her women seduce their way into a military armory and capture it from its soldiers and their general, General King Kong.

The takeover of the armory sparks a national crisis, with the military and the police surrounding the site. The forces are barred from storming the armory as it was taken by merely 75 unarmed women who are not holding any hostages. The women's actions also cause their boycott to become famous worldwide, with women from countries all over the world organizing their own sex strikes. Planned by Mayor McCloud and Commissioner Blades, the military tries to lure the women in the armory out by playing seductive music but it fails after the women find the military's earplugs and the men themselves become unbearably turned on by the music, thus missing their women even more.

After three months, Cyclops's and Demetrius's gangs begin to grow disillusioned, from the absence of sex and from having plenty of time to think over their fate in a gang. Demetrius remains too stubborn to give up the Spartans but agrees to organize a meeting with Lysistrata after the boycott spreads to Mayor McCloud's wife and to the first lady of the United States. The city arranges a deal: Demetrius and Lysistrata will meet each other in bed and whoever climaxes first loses and must agree to the other's terms. The deal is cut short by Cyclops arriving to declare he and the Trojans are laying down their guns.

A truce is organized the following day, with Lysistrata, Mayor McCloud, and Cyclops signing a deal to end gun violence and build new hospitals and trauma centers. Demetrius refuses to sign and walks away but is ultimately moved by Miss Worthy's testimony of the death of her daughter, as confessed to by Demetrius's father, Jamel Dupree. He admits that he was the one who killed Irene's daughter and gives himself up for arrest.




Rapper Kanye West was supposed to star in the film but dropped out, possibly due to scheduling conflicts.[11] On July 21, 2015, it was announced that La La Anthony, Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, and Samuel L. Jackson had joined the cast.[12] Dave Chappelle appeared in the film as the owner of a strip club. This film saw Lee reuniting with Bassett, Jackson, and Snipes, having worked with all three actors on earlier films such as Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever and Malcolm X.


Principal photography began in June 2015 and continued production through July.[13] The project hired many local actors and had an open casting call in Chicago on May 9, 2015.[14]


Chi-Raq: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
various artists
ReleasedDecember 4, 2015 (2015-12-04)
LabelRCA Records

Chi-Raq: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, featuring music from the film, was released via digital download and physical formats on December 4, 2015, through RCA Records.[15][16]

1."Pray 4 My City" (performed by Nick Cannon)
Rico Cox3:07
2."Put the Guns Down" (performed by R. Kelly and Tink)R. Kelly6:07
3."Contradiction" (performd by Mali Music and Jhené Aiko)
4."Born in Chicago" (performed by Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, Eryn Allen Kane and Sasha Go Hard)Nicholas GravenitesBruce Hornsby3:32
5."Sit Down for This" (performed by Mali Music)
  • Kortney Pollard
  • Dean McIntosh
  • Pete Martin
Pete "Boxsta" Martin2:33
6."Desperately" (performed by Sam Dew)David Andrew Sitek4:10
7."Simple" (performed by Treasure Davis and Kid Ink)
Pop & Oak4:14
8."I Want to Live" (performed by Kymm Lewis)Michael DraytonMichael Drayton4:08
9."My City" (performed by Nick Cannon)
  • Nick Cannon
  • Robert Amparan
  • Leroy Griffin, Jr.
  • Tyree Pittman
  • Willie Middleton
  • Tyrone Ollie
  • Tiwan Raybon
Young Chop4:24
10."WGDB" (performed by Kevon Carter)Kevon CarterMichael Drayton3:15
11."I See the Light" (performed by Sophia Byrd)Michael DraytonMichael Drayton4:47
12."All Power" (performed by Cinque Cullar)
  • Carol Joy Cymbala
  • Frederick Washington
  • Jason Michael Webb
Michael Drayton3:08
13."I Run" (performed by Jennifer Hudson)Kortney Pollard
Total length:51:21



Chi-Raq was the first original film to be distributed by Amazon Studios[17] In addition, Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate partnered with the company for a limited release in theaters on December 4, 2015, with the film premiering on Amazon Instant Video.[18]


The first trailer for the film was released November 3, 2015.[19][20]


Box officeEdit

The film had a limited release into North American theaters on December 4, 2015. It grossed $1,250,224 from 305 theaters in its opening weekend,[21] including a $15,000+ per screen average on 22 screens in Chicago.[22]

Critical responseEdit

Chi-Raq received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has rating of 82%, based on 151 reviews, an average rating of 7.35/10. The site's critical consensus states, "Chi-Raq is as urgently topical and satisfyingly ambitious as it is wildly uneven – and it contains some of Spike Lee's smartest, sharpest, and all-around entertaining late-period work."[23] Metacritic reports a score of 77 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[24]

Metacritic also found Chi-Raq to be tied with Steve Jobs as the 27th most acclaimed film of 2015, with five critics having named it the year's greatest and 18 others having ranked it in third place or below.[25]


Year Association Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2015 AAFCA Awards Best Independent Film Chi-Raq Won [26]
Best Actress Teyonah Parris Won
2016 Black Reel Awards Best Film Chi-Raq Nominated [27]
Best Director Spike Lee Nominated
Best Screenplay, Adapted or Original Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott Nominated
Best Actress Teyonah Parris Won
Best Supporting Actress Angela Bassett Nominated
Best Ensemble Kim Coleman Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Teyonah Parris Nominated [28]
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Angela Bassett Nominated
Jennifer Hudson Nominated


The November film trailer was controversial.[29] Criticism included an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune by emergency physician Amy Ho, who argued (before the film's release) that Chicago deaths occurring nightly in local hospitals were used for the purpose of entertainment.[30] Critiques of a similar vein were published on Twitter and other social media sites.

The term "Chi-Raq" is a portmanteau of Chicago and Iraq,[31] as well as an endonym used by some Chicago non-residents to liken the area to a war zone due to its high crime rates. City residents and city council members requested that Lee change the name of the film, and threatened to withhold tax credits that the filmmaker would receive from the city.[32] Lee later called Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel a "bully" and several Chicago aldermen "bootlickers" for their criticisms.[33]

The film's production received more negative press when it was discovered that its music supervisor Thomas "DJ Slugo" Kendricks was charging artists a submission fee in order to have their music considered for the soundtrack. These measures were taken to the film's production team, and Kendricks was fired.[34]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Chi-Raq (2016)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  2. ^ "Chi-Raq (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 21, 2016. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  3. ^ "Review: 'Chi-Raq' Is The Year's Most Relevant Film".
  4. ^ "Chi-Raq (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 29, 2016.
  5. ^ joeygelman1wgnam (July 9, 2015). "Nina Metz: Englewood resident, "This is Chiraq" | WGN Radio - 720 AM". WGN Radio. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  6. ^ Smith, Bryan (October 22, 2015). "Spike Lee Sounds Off on Chi-Raq, Gun Violence, and Rahm". Chicago.
  7. ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (December 30, 2015). "Amazon will make Chi-Raq free to Prime subscribers on February 4th". The Verge (online). Vox Media. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Ratny, Ruth L (September 28, 2015). "Spike Lee returns to Chi for CRC "Chiraq" recording | Chicago film, commercials, advertising, video, production, post, tech news from". Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  9. ^ "Michelle Mitchenor, 'Chi-Raq's' Indigo: 'It's an emotional roller coaster'".
  10. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (July 21, 2015). "Spike Lee 'Chi-Raq' Amazon Film Casts La La Anthony". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  11. ^ Beigelman, Victor (May 14, 2015). "Actually, Kanye West won't star in Spike Lee's Chiraq". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  12. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 21, 2015). "La La Anthony Signs on to Spike Lee's 'Chiraq'; 'Sleight' Sets Four". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  13. ^ Chicago Tribune (June 2, 2015). "'Chiraq' begins filming - Chicago Tribune".
  14. ^ "Open Casting Call in Chicago for New Spike Lee Movie". May 1, 2015. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
  15. ^ "Chi-Raq Soundtrack Details". November 13, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  16. ^ Trevor Smith (December 3, 2015). "R. Kelly, Jhene Aiko, Tink Appear On Spike Lee's Chi-Raq Soundtrack". HotNewHipHop.
  17. ^ Jaafar, Ali (July 15, 2015). "Amazon Confirms Spike Lee's 'Chi-raq' To Be First Original Movie". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  18. ^ Gettell, Oliver (October 29, 2015). "Spike Lee's Chi-Raq coming to theaters in December". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  19. ^ "Chi-Raq Trailer". IMDb.
  20. ^ Chitwood, Adam (November 3, 2015). "Chi-Raq Trailer: Spike Lee's Latest Stars Nick Cannon". Collider. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  21. ^ "Chi-Raq (2015) - Box Office Mojo".
  22. ^ "'Krampus' Scores Strong Opening While 'Mockingjay' Takes First for Third Straight Week".
  23. ^ "Chi-Raq (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  24. ^ "Chi-Raq". Metacritic. Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  25. ^ "Film Critic Top 10 Lists – Best Movies of 2015". Metacritic. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  26. ^ McNary, Dave (December 7, 2015). "'Straight Outta Compton' Named Top Film by African-American Film Critics". Variety. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  27. ^ 16th Annual Black Reel Award Nominations
  28. ^ THR Staff (December 8, 2015). "'Creed,' 'Empire' Top NAACP Image Award Nominations; Full List". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  29. ^ Obaro, Tomi; Sullivan, Emmet (November 3, 2015). "Chicagoans Respond to Spike Lee's Chi-Raq Trailer". Chicago magazine.
  30. ^ Ho, Amy (November 8, 2015). "'Chi-Raq' trades real lives in Chicago for cheap laughs". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  31. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (April 8, 2015). "Amazon Studios Draws Spike Lee's Next Film - 'Chiraq.' Samuel L. Jackson, Kanye West, Common Eyed for Roles". Shadow and Act. IndieWire. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  32. ^ "Spike Lee wants to name his film 'Chiraq'? Chicago can handle it". Chicago Tribune. April 17, 2015. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
  33. ^ Smith, Bryan (October 22, 2015). "Spike Lee Sounds Off on Chi-Raq, Gun Violence, and Rahm". Chicago magazine. No. December 2015.
  34. ^ "Chicago's DJ Slugo Fired From Spike Lee Film For Pay to Play Scheme, Draws Attention to Industry-wide Problem - Thirty Roses". Thirty Roses. May 31, 2015.

External linksEdit