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Chi-Raq (/ʃˈræk/) is a 2015 American satirical musical 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.[4]

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Spike Lee
Produced by Spike Lee
Written by
Based on Lysistrata
by Aristophanes
Music by Terence Blanchard
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Edited by
  • Ryan Denmark
  • Hye Mee Na
Distributed by Roadside Attractions
Release date
  • December 4, 2015 (2015-12-04) (United States)
Running time
127 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[2]
Box office $2.7 million[3]

The story is based on Aristophanes' Lysistrata, a Classical Greek comedy play in which women withhold sex from their husbands as punishment for fighting in the Peloponnesian War.[5] 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.[6]



After a child is accidentally killed in a gang shooting, a group of women led by Lysistrata organize against the ongoing violence in Chicago's Southside: They will withhold sex from their men until they agree to lay down arms. Lysistrata is inspired by Leymah Gbowee who led a peace movement to stop Second Liberian Civil War with their feminine sexuality. Lysistrata's lover, rapper/gang leader Demetrius - nicknamed "Chi-Raq" - retaliates by intensifying his feud with gang lord Cyclops. Lysistrata's movement challenges the nature of race, sex and violence in America and around the world, and raises tensions in his already violent neighborhood.



Rapper Kanye West was originally supposed to star in the film but dropped out, possibly due to scheduling conflicts.[10] On July 21, 2015, it was announced that La La Anthony had joined the cast of the film, as well as Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, and Samuel L. Jackson.[11] 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 such earlier films as Mo Better Blues, Jungle Fever and Malcolm X.

Principal photography commenced in June 2015 and continued production through July.[12] The project hired many local actors and had an open casting call in Chicago on May 9, 2015.[13]


The November film trailer was controversial.[14] 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.[15] 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",[16] as well as an endonym commonly used by some Chicago residents to liken the area to a war zone due to its extremely-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.[17] Lee later called Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel a "bully" and several Chicago aldermen "bootlickers" for their criticisms.[18]

The film's production received further 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.[19]


Chi-Raq was the first original film to be distributed by Amazon Studios[20] 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 shortly after.[21] The first trailer for the film was released November 3, 2015.[22][23]

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,[24] including a $15,000+ per screen average on 22 screens in Chicago.[25]


Chi-Raq received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has rating of 81%, based on 84 reviews, an average rating of 7.5/10. 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."[26] Metacritic reports a score of 77 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[27]

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.[28]


Year Association Category Nominee(s) Result
2016 47th NAACP Image Awards[29] Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Teyonah Parris Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Angela Bassett Nominated
Jennifer Hudson Nominated


Chi-Raq: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Various
Released December 4, 2015
Genre Soundtrack
Length 51:00
Label RCA Records

Chi-Raq: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, featuring music from the film, was released via digital download and physical formats on December 4, 2015 by RCA Records,[30]

  1. Nick Cannon – "Pray 4 My City"
  2. R. Kelly feat. Tink – "Put the Guns Down"
  3. Mali Music feat. Jhené Aiko – "Contradiction"
  4. Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers feat. Eryn Allen Kane & Sasha Go Hard – "Born in Chicago"
  5. Mali Music – "Sit Down for This"
  6. Sam Dew – "Desperately"
  7. Treasure Davis feat. Kid Ink – "Simple"
  8. Kymm Lewis – "I Want to Live"
  9. Nick Cannon – "My City"
  10. Kevon Carter – "WGDB"
  11. Sophia Byrd – "I See the Light"
  12. Cinque Cullar – "All Power"
  13. Jennifer Hudson – "I Run"[31]


  1. ^ "Chi-Raq (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 21, 2016. Retrieved September 21, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Review: 'Chi-Raq' Is The Year's Most Relevant Film". 
  3. ^ "Chi-Raq (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 29, 2016. 
  4. ^ joeygelman1wgnam (2015-07-09). "Nina Metz: Englewood resident, "This is Chiraq" | WGN Radio - 720 AM". WGN Radio. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  5. ^ Smith, Bryan (22 October 2015). "Spike Lee Sounds Off on Chi-Raq, Gun Violence, and Rahm". Chicago. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Ratny, Ruth L (2015-09-28). "Spike Lee returns to Chi for CRC "Chiraq" recording | Chicago film, commercials, advertising, video, production, post, tech news from". Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (2015-07-21). "Spike Lee ‘Chi-Raq’ Amazon Film Casts La La Anthony". Deadline. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  10. ^ Beigelman, Victor (May 14, 2015). "Actually, Kanye West won’t star in Spike Lee’s Chiraq". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
  11. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 21, 2015). "La La Anthony Signs On To Spike Lee’s ‘Chiraq’; ‘Sleight’ Sets Four". Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  12. ^ Chicago Tribune (June 2, 2015). "'Chiraq' begins filming - Chicago Tribune". 
  13. ^ "Open Casting Call in Chicago for New Spike Lee Movie". 1 May 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Obaro, Tomi; Sullivan, Emmet (Nov 3, 2015). "Chicagoans Respond to Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq Trailer". Chicago magazine. 
  15. ^ Ho, Amy (November 8, 2015). "'Chi-Raq' trades real lives in Chicago for cheap laughs". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  16. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (8 April 2015). "Amazon Studios Draws Spike Lee's Next Film - 'Chiraq.' Samuel L. Jackson, Kanye West, Common Eyed for Roles". Shadow and Act. IndieWire. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Spike Lee wants to name his film 'Chiraq'? Chicago can handle it". Chicago Tribune. 17 April 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  18. ^ Smith, Bryan (October 22, 2015). "Spike Lee Sounds Off on Chi-Raq, Gun Violence, and Rahm". Chicago magazine (December 2015). 
  19. ^ "Chicago’s DJ Slugo Fired From Spike Lee Film For Pay to Play Scheme, Draws Attention to Industry-wide Problem - Thirty Roses". Thirty Roses. 
  20. ^ Jaafar, Ali (July 15, 2015). "Amazon Confirms Spike Lee’s ‘Chi-raq’ To Be First Original Movie". Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  21. ^ Gettell, Oliver (October 29, 2015). "Spike Lee's Chi-Raq coming to theaters in December". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Chi-Raq Trailer". IMDb. 
  23. ^ Chitwood, Adam. "Chi-Raq Trailer: Spike Lee's Latest Stars Nick Cannon". Collider. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  24. ^ "Chi-Raq (2015) - Box Office Mojo". 
  25. ^ "'Krampus' Scores Strong Opening While 'Mockingjay' Takes First for Third Straight Week". 
  26. ^ "Chi-Raq (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 31, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Chi-Raq". Metacritic. Retrieved December 31, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Film Critic Top 10 Lists – Best Movies of 2015". Metacritic. Retrieved January 11, 2016. 
  29. ^ THR Staff (December 8, 2015). "'Creed,' 'Empire' Top NAACP Image Award Nominations; Full List". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 8, 2015. 
  30. ^ "Chi-Raq Soundtrack Details". November 13, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015. 
  31. ^ Trevor Smith (December 3, 2015). "R. Kelly, Jhene Aiko, Tink Appear On Spike Lee's Chi-Raq Soundtrack". HotNewHipHop. 

External linksEdit