Plot''Malcolm X'' begins with a title sequence featuring an American flag being consumed by fire, intercut with George Holliday's iconic videotaped footage of the beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King. A voice-over of Denzel Washington as Malcolm X angrily condemns white America: "We don't see the American dream; we've experienced only the American nightmare!" The burning flag eventually becomes the letter "X".
The film opens in earnest in Boston in the "war years" (the early 1940s). Malcolm "Detroit Red" Little, a troubled, small-time criminal and his friend, Shorty, are walking down a street in gaudy zoot suits. Little also receives a conk from Shorty. They concoct various criminal schemes to make money. Eventually, Little becomes involved with a Harlem gangster named West Indian Archie (Lindo). Archie takes Little on as his protégè, but they ultimately have a falling out over money owed Little, who accuses Archie of "slipping" mentally. After a fight, Little flees back to...
''Malcolm X'' begins with a title sequence featuring an American flag being consumed by fire, intercut with George Holliday's iconic videotaped footage of the beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King. A voice-over of Denzel Washington as Malcolm X angrily condemns white America: "We don't see the American dream; we've experienced only the American nightmare!" The burning flag eventually becomes the letter "X".
The film opens in earnest in Boston in the "war years" (the early 1940s). Malcolm "Detroit Red" Little, a troubled, small-time criminal and his friend, Shorty, are walking down a street in gaudy zoot suits. Little also receives a conk from Shorty. They concoct various criminal schemes to make money. Eventually, Little becomes involved with a Harlem gangster named West Indian Archie (Lindo). Archie takes Little on as his protégè, but they ultimately have a falling out over money owed Little, who accuses Archie of "slipping" mentally. After a fight, Little flees back to Boston. There, he is reunited with Shorty and becomes romantically involved with white women. Little and Shorty target a wealthy white couple and rob their home. However, sometime later in 1946, all are arrested for the crime; the two women are sentenced to two years in a womens reformatory while Little and Shorty get eight-to-ten years each in prison, a much stiffer sentence because they associated with white women than the two-year terms they would've got without being in the white women's company.
Malcolm Little is initially defiant towards the guards and angrily rebuffs the prison's chaplain (Plummer). After he emerges from a long stint in solitary confinement, a fellow inmate, named Baines (Hall), tries to help him during withdrawal from cocaine addiction, which Little reluctantly accepts. However, Little, the son of a Garveyite Baptist minister who died violently (which Little alleges was at the hands of members of the Ku Klux Klan), is suspicious of Baines. Baines espouses the Islamic faith; Little resists. But he grows to respect and trust Baines, who educates him further and introduces him to the Nation of Islam which Baines is a member of and insists that God is black. Little is skeptical. When he hears from another inmate that the Brooklyn Dodgers have promoted Jackie Robinson (then a notable Negro League player), Little is happy, but Baines reminds Little to never forget 400 years of slavery. Baines tells Little that blacks are of the Tribe of Shabazz who are lost in North America, all whites are devils, and the Nation of Islam's founder and leader Elijah Muhammad (Freeman) can lead them to the light. However, when Baines encourages him to pray in the Muslim way, Little can't bring himself to kneel even though he says he wants to. Later, he has an epiphany in his cell: he is reading a letter from Elijah Muhammad when an apparition of Muhammad comes to him and tells him, "I have come to give you something which can never be taken away from you: I bring to you a sense of your own worth". When the apparition disappears, he is able to kneel and pray. In 1952, when he is released from prison, the fully converted Little visits Muhammad, who praises his turnaround. He rejects his family name as a "slave name" and, per the Nation of Islam's naming convention, adopts the surname "X", signifying the mathematical symbol for the unknown of his lost true African name.
Over the next several years, Malcolm X becomes an increasingly prominent Nation of Islam minister, espousing Islamic principles and the words of Elijah Muhammad, who eventually orders Malcolm to open mosques across the country. He is introduced to Betty X (Bassett). They wed and start a family (four children are portrayed; his twin daughters, in actuality, were born after his death). He is also reunited with Shorty, who informs him of the whereabouts of their former fellow criminals. West Indian Archie is now living in The Bronx. He is destitute and lives in squalor and has suffered severe physical and mental problems due to his drug use. Malcolm takes pity on Archie and vows to help him.
Despite the Nation of Islam growing greatly in size and influence during Malcolm X's tenure, there is growing resentment of him within the organization. The pro-Elijah Muhammad faction (which includes Baines) perceives that Malcolm X actually considers ''himself'' the Nation of Islam and might attempt to force Muhammad out as its leader. Muhammad maintains confidence in his protégè, telling Baines that everything Malcolm has done has benefited the nation. However, Malcolm becomes disillusioned by his mentor's hypocrisy when he learns that newspaper reports accusing Elijah Muhammad of fathering children out of wedlock with two women are accurate when he talks to them. Malcolm confronts Muhammad, who justifies his infidelity as the need to "plant his seed in fertile soil". In November 1963, after making deliberately provocative statements concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in direct violation of Elijah Muhammad's directive that none of his ministers are to comment on it, Malcolm X is suspended from all activity for 90 days. Feeling betrayed by Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, Malcolm is angry but he neverless submits to the punishment.
Ultimately the following year, Malcolm X is forced out of the Nation of Islam. He publicly announces his intent to think his own thoughts and speak his own words and establish an independent mosque, Muslim Mosque, Inc.. He also announces he will undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca, which every able Muslim man is obligated to do at least once in his lifetime. While there, in a letter to his wife, Betty, which she reads to a group of people, Malcolm updates her on his activities. He informs her that he is being followed by two white men, whom he believes are Central Intelligence Agency agents. He also says he has worshipped with fellow Muslims of all races — including whites. He signs the letter using both his new adopted name, "El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz" and his more familiar name. He returns to the United States with far more moderate views and repudiates racism. He also announces a willingness to work with other civil rights leaders, whom he harshly criticized in the past.
However, his activity engenders the wrath of Elijah Muhammad. In addition to a campaign of telephone harassment, Baines' own son, who has aligned himself with Malcolm, says he was ordered to kill him by installing an explosive device in Malcolm's car. Later, a Queens home owned by the Nation of Islam in which Malcolm and his family resided is firebombed. The family escapes unharmed. In an interview with a local television reporter given while firefighters attempt to put out the blaze, he accuses Elijah Muhammad of ordering it. Baines calls it a publicity stunt.
On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X begins a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. However, a disturbance in the audience interrupts him. Malcolm tries to calm people, but moments later, he is shot numerous times. (One of the shooters is Malcolm's former friend Baines). His wife and children witness it. Three suspects are captured after trying to escape. Later, a hospital spokesman makes a public statement: "The person you know as Malcolm X is no more".
In archival footage, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. says: "The assassination of Malcolm X was an unfortunate tragedy and 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 becoming violently disagreeable".
In voice-over, actor and activist Ossie Davis quotes from the eulogy he gave at Malcolm X's funeral as a montage of new and archival footage and photographs of Malcolm X is shown:
The film ends with a scene of a black teacher in an American classroom. Behind her on the blackboard, are the words "MALCOLM X DAY". She tells the class that it is Malcolm X's birthday.
"Malcolm X is you — all of you — and you are Malcolm X", she says.
In succession, some of her students stand up and shout, "I am Malcolm X!". The scene switches to African students who mimic the American students. The film culminates with recently released anti-apartheid activist and future South African president Nelson Mandela, quoting one of Malcolm X's speeches, leading into archived footage of Malcolm X asserting in one of his speeches: "By any means necessary!"
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Malcolm_X_(1992_film)", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0