Spike Lee Biography

(Film director)

Birthday: March 20, 1957 (Pisces)

Born In: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Spike Lee is a renowned film director and actor. His films are famous for dealing with controversial issues like racism, politics, and urban violence. Known for his candid portrayal of taboo topics, Spike Lee often lets his films do the talking. He has made many movies, such as ‘School Daze,’ ‘Do the Right Thing,’ and ‘Malcolm X.’ These films not only delivered powerful messages to the audience, but also established him as one of the most respected directors in Hollywood. The son of a teacher and jazz musician, Lee was brought up in a culturally and artistically rich atmosphere. His mother played an important role in kindling his imagination; she often took him to museums, galleries, and plays which instilled in him love for African American literature. As a young man, he realized that he wanted to make films that celebrated the African culture. He made his directorial and acting debut with ‘She's Gotta Have It’ which was a huge success. Since then, he has made numerous movies that explore the greatness of African American culture. He is also the founder of the popular production house ‘40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks’ which has been producing films since 1983.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Shelton Jackson Lee

Age: 67 Years, 67 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Tonya Lewis Lee (m. 1993)

father: William James Edward Lee III

mother: Jacqueline Carroll

siblings: Arnold Lee, Chris Lee Bill Lee, Cinqué Lee, David Lee, Joie Susannah Lee

children: Jackson Lee, Satchel Lee

Born Country: United States

African American Men African American Actors

Height: 5'6" (168 cm), 5'6" Males

City: Atlanta, Georgia

U.S. State: Georgia

More Facts

education: Morehouse College (BA), New York University (MFA)

  • 1

    Why is Spike Lee considered a prominent figure in the film industry?

    Spike Lee is considered a prominent figure in the film industry for his groundbreaking work as a director, producer, and writer. He is known for addressing social and political issues in his films and for his unique visual style.

  • 2

    What was Spike Lee's first feature film and when was it released?

    Spike Lee's first feature film was "She's Gotta Have It," which was released in 1986. The film was a critical and commercial success and marked Lee's entry into the world of filmmaking.

  • 3

    How has Spike Lee influenced other filmmakers in the industry?

    Spike Lee has influenced other filmmakers in the industry by paving the way for diverse storytelling and by addressing important social issues in his work. Many filmmakers have cited Lee as an inspiration for their own projects.

  • 4

    What are some of the recurring themes in Spike Lee's films?

    Some of the recurring themes in Spike Lee's films include race relations, urban life, identity, and social justice. Lee's films often explore these themes in a provocative and thought-provoking manner.

  • 5

    How has Spike Lee contributed to the representation of African Americans in cinema?

    Spike Lee has contributed to the representation of African Americans in cinema by creating complex and authentic portrayals of black characters and communities. He has challenged stereotypes and pushed for more diverse and inclusive storytelling in the film industry.

Childhood & Early Life
Spike Lee was born Shelton Jackson Lee on March 20, 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, to Jacqueline Carroll and William James Edward Lee III. His mother was a teacher of arts and black literature, while his father was a jazz musician and composer. He has three younger siblings.
He was a very energetic and naughty child. His mother nicknamed him ‘Spike’ in reference to his toughness. He often accompanied his mother to plays and museums and developed a keen interest in African American literature.
He attended ‘John Dewey High School’ before enrolling in ‘Morehouse College.’ By this time, he was convinced that he wanted to make a career in filmmaking. He graduated with a BA in mass communication.
He took film courses at ‘Clark Atlanta University’ and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Film & Television from New York University’s ‘Tisch School of the Arts.’
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He had submitted the film ‘Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads’ as his master’s degree thesis at the ‘Tisch School of the Arts’ in 1983. The film became the first student film to be showcased at Lincoln Center’s ‘New Directors New Films Festival.’ It also won a ‘Student Academy Award.’
He started his career as a director-cum-actor with the 1986 comedy drama film ‘She’s Gotta Have It.’ The film also starred Tracy Camilla Johns. The independent film projected African Americans as successful and independent individuals.
In 1988, he wrote, directed, and produced a musical drama titled ‘School Daze’ which was in part based on the director’s own experience at Atlanta’s ‘Morehouse College’ and ‘Clark Atlanta University.’ The movie deals with issues like racism and skin tone bias.
He made a film on African American activist Malcolm X in 1992. The biographical film titled ‘Malcolm X’ had Denzel Washington in the lead role. The screenplay was largely based on Alex Haley’s book ‘The Autobiography of Malcom X.’
The year 1995 was a very productive one for Spike. He produced and directed several movies, including ‘Clockers,’ ‘New Jersey Drive,’ and ‘Tales from the Hood.’
He directed the historical documentary film ‘4 Little Girls’ in 1997. The film was about the murder of four African-American girls in the Baptist Church bombing in September 1963. The movie was nominated for an ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Documentary.’
In 2000, he wrote and directed a satirical comedy-drama film titled ‘Bamboozled.’ Though the film bombed at the box office, it later achieved cult film status. Other films that he produced during the year were ‘The Original Kings of Comedy’ and ‘Love & Basketball.’
He directed a documentary film titled ‘When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts’ in 2006. It was about the devastation of New Orleans when the levees failed during Hurricane Katrina.
Some of his other movies in the early-2010s include ‘Pariah’ (2011) and ‘Bad 25’ (2012). In addition to films, he has also directed various commercials and a number of music videos for artists like Michael Jackson and Prince.
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In 2017, Netflix aired the show ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ which was based on the 1986 movie of the same name. The show successfully ran for two seasons. The same year, he directed the one man show ‘Rodney King.’
The following year, he directed, co-wrote, and co-produced the biographical crime film ‘BlacKkKlansman.’ Starring John David Washington in the lead role, the film revolves around the first African-American detective who sets out to expose the white supremacist hate group ‘Ku Klux Klan.’ The movie is based on Ron Stallworth’s memoir ‘Black Klansman.’
He produced and directed a war drama film titled ‘Da 5 Bloods’ which released in June 2020. The film stars Jonathan Majors, Norm Lewis, Paul Walter Hauser, and Delroy Lindo in prominent roles.
Major Works
His most important work so far is the documentary film ‘When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts’ about Hurricane Katrina and the destruction it caused. The film was aired on HBO and was called "one of the most important films HBO has ever made." The film won several prestigious awards.
Among Spike Lee’s brilliant work is the biographical crime drama film ‘BlacKkKlansman’ in which he showcased the racial discrimination faced by the African Americans. The movie was a financial and critical success, garnering several prestigious awards.
Awards & Achievements
He won the ‘Time Warner Innovator Award’ at the ‘American Black Film Festival’ in 2004.
His production house ‘40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks’ was presented with the prestigious ‘Peabody Award’ in 2006 for the documentary film ‘When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.’ It received the same award in 2010 for the documentary ‘If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise.’
His 2018 movie ‘BlacKkKlansman’ won him the ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ at the 2019 ‘Academy Awards’ and ‘BAFTA Film Awards.’ It also won the ‘Grand Prix Award’ at the ‘Cannes Film Festival.’
Personal Life & Legacy
He married an attorney named Tonya Lewis in 1993. The couple has two children, a son and a daughter.
Facts About Spike Lee

Spike Lee's production company, Acres and a Mule Filmworks, is named after a promise made to freed slaves after the Civil War that they would receive acres of land and a mule.

He is known for wearing a signature pair of Air Jordan sneakers, which have become a trademark part of his style.

Spike Lee is a noted basketball fan and has been a courtside regular at New York Knicks games for many years.

He is a passionate advocate for diversity and representation in the film industry, using his platform to amplify underrepresented voices.

Spike Lee is a talented musician as well, having directed several music videos for artists such as Michael Jackson and Prince.

Spike Lee Movies

1. Bad 25 (2012)

  (Music, Documentary)

2. Do the Right Thing (1989)

  (Drama, Comedy)

3. 4 Little Girls (1997)

  (Documentary, History)

4. Malcolm X (1992)

  (Romance, Biography, Drama, History)

5. 25th Hour (2002)


6. BlacKkKlansman (2018)

  (Thriller, Drama, Comedy, Biography, Crime)

7. Inside Man (2006)

  (Thriller, Drama, Crime, Mystery)

8. All the Invisible Children (2005)


9. Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall (2016)

  (Music, Documentary)

10. Love & Basketball (2000)

  (Sport, Drama, Romance)


Academy Awards(Oscars)
2019 Best Adapted Screenplay BlacKkKlansman (2018)
Primetime Emmy Awards
2007 Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)
2007 Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)
BAFTA Awards
2019 Best Screenplay (Adapted) BlacKkKlansman (2018)

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