Spike Lee

Spike Lee

Highest Rated: 100% Lumiere and Company (1995)

Lowest Rated: 13% Drop Squad (1994)

Birthday: Mar 20, 1957

Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Spike Lee was an American director, writer, producer, and actor who was bar-none the pre-eminent chronicler of black life in America through the lens of independent film throughout the late 20th century and early 21st century. Over a three decade-plus career, Lee's films, or "joints" as he often called them, were brazen cherry bombs aimed at mainstream society, tackling such thorny issues as racism, crime, poverty, media manipulation, and religion with style, grit, and urgency. Love him or hate him, Lee proved time and time again that you simply cannot discount him. Born Shelton Jackson Lee on March 20, 1957 in Atlanta, GA, Lee was raised in an artistically inclined, Afro-centric family. His mother, Jacqueline Carroll, was a professor of arts and black literature, while his father, William James Edward Lee III, was a jazz musician and composer, so it is perhaps no coincidence that Lee and all of his younger siblings would end up pursuing careers in the arts and taking part in his feature films: his brothers, David and Cinqué, grew up to become a photographer and an actor/filmmaker, respectively, while his sister, Joie, became a screenwriter, producer, and actress. After spending the first few years of his life in Georgia, Lee and his family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he would spend his formative years. It was here that his mother nicknamed him "Spike." After attending John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, Lee enrolled in Morehouse College, a historically black university. While at Morehouse, Lee made his first student film, "Last Hustle in Brooklyn" (1977). He also took film courses at Clark Atlanta University, and eventually graduated from Morehouse with a B.A. in mass communication. Upon returning to NYC, Lee was accepted into the graduate film program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where he earned a Master's degree in film & television. Lee's thesis film, "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads" (1983) caused major waves, becoming the first student film to be showcased in Lincoln Center's prestigious New Directors/New Films Festival, and winning Lee the Student Academy Award. That same year, Lee founded his production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, a portend of Lee's proclivity for provocation. In 1986, Lee released his debut feature, "She's Gotta Have It" (1986). Shot for a few thousand dollars in sultry black and white, and featuring a narrative device borrowed from Akira Kurosawa's classic "Rashomon" (1950), the film followed three young black men as they compared and contrasted their experiences dating the same woman. Critics were wowed by the film, and Lee was instantly pegged as a filmmaker to watch. His sophomore effort, "School Daze" (1988), was a dark comedy partially inspired by Lee's tenure at Morehouse College, which notably featured the first instance of what would become Lee's visual calling card, the so-called "floating" dolly shot. For his next film, Lee swung big, taking a look at one swelteringly hot day on one block in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, as tensions between black residents and the white owners of a pizza joint reach a breaking point. "Do the Right Thing" (1989), was hailed as a masterpiece immediately upon its release, was a prime contender for the Palme d'Or at that year's Cannes Film Festival, and was predicted to be a major player in that year's Academy Awards. To the chagrin of many, "Do the Right Thing" was snubbed for a Best Picture nod, and Lee was shut out of the Best Director nominations, leaving him to make due with a Best Original Screenplay nomination. To add salt to the wound, Lee felt that that year's Best Picture winner, "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989), was based on safe racial stereotypes meant to coddle white people. As the nineties began, Lee went in to full-on prolific auteur mode: he would release one film a year for the entire decade, except for 1993. First up was "Mo' Better Blues" (1990), in which Denzel Washington played a troubled jazz musician loosely based on Lee's father, beginning a fruitful collaborative partnership with the leading man. Next up was the interracial romantic comedy "Jungle Fever" (1991) starring Wesley Snipes, followed by the sprawling biopic "Malcolm X" (1992), in which Washington turned in a powerhouse performance as the civil rights activist. Critics praised the film as Lee's best, and one of the best films of the decade, but once again, the Academy shut him out: no Best Picture or Best Director nominations (and Washington lost Best Actor to Al Pacino's hammy, scenery-chewing turn in "Scent of a Woman" (1992)). Lee took 1993 off to get married to lawyer Tonya Lewis. In response to yet another snub, Lee turned out a trio of middlingly-received pulpy crime dramas: "Crooklyn" (1994), "Clockers" (1995), and "Girl 6" (1996), before releasing another civil rights epic, "Get on the Bus" (1996). Lee followed this up with his first documentary, "4 Little Girls" (1997), a probing documentary on the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, AL. This earned Lee his second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Documentary Feature. Lee's third collaboration with Washington, "He Got Game" (1998), was a sobering tale of black fatherhood and the escapism of basketball, while "Summer of Sam" (1999) was a bloated look at the tumultuous summer that overtook NYC in 1977. His first concert film "The Original Kings of Comedy" (2000), was better received than his next narrative film, "Bamboozled" (2000), a media satire shot for cheap on digital video about a modern televised minstrel show, which critics dismissed as impossibly broad and unrealistic (though today it looks prescient). Lee bounced back with another well-received documentary, "Jim Brown: All-American" (2002), as well as one of his most acclaimed narrative films, "25th Hour" (2002), in which he slyly transformed a tale of a convicted drug dealer (Edward Norton) experiencing his last day of freedom into a look at the post-9/11 grief and trauma that had engulfed all of New York City. In true Lee fashion, he then followed up one of his most acclaimed films with one of his most derided films, "She Hate Me" (2004), in which an enterprising young man starts a business impregnating wealthy lesbians. Critics savaged the film, and audiences stayed away. Luckily for Lee, the same could not be said for his next film, "Inside Man" (2006). A taught, socially conscious heist thriller starring Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, and his longtime collaborator Washington, the film was a hit with both critics and audiences. "When the Levees Broke" (2006) was a sprawling, angry documentary look at the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, while the baffling WWII drama "Miracle at St. Anna" (2008) received perhaps the most scathing reviews of Lee's career. After revisiting the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with the documentary "If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise" (2010), and returning to his low-budget indie roots with the divisive coming of age drama "Red Hook Summer" (2012), Lee turned out a duo of ill-advised, underperforming genre film remakes: "Oldboy" (2013), a new take on Korean auteur Park Chan-wook's revenge saga, and "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus" (2014), based on Bill Gunn's hallucinatory, Afro-centric vampire romance, "Ganja and Hess" (1973). Lee got some of his groove back with "Chi-Raq" (2015), an ambitious update of the Classical Greek comedy "Lysistrata" set in modern-day Chicago, in which all of the characters spoke in rhyme. That same year, Lee was given an Academy Honorary Award for his contributions to film, usually a sign that an artist's glory days are behind themHowever, Lee proved he was still a vital force with his next film, "BlacKkKlansman" (2018). Based on the true story of two police officers, one black (John David Washington, son of Denzel), and one white (Adam Driver) who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in 1970s Colorado Springs, the film told a highly entertaining story, while sucker punching audiences in it's final moments by drawing parallels to the current fraught political climate. Critics praised "BlacKkKlansman" as one of Lee's best, the film earned $90 million at the box office on a $15 million budget, and Lee was awarded the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Sweetest of all, however, was the fact that "BlacKkKlansman" finally earned Lee those elusive Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Director.

Highest rated movies

Lumiere and Company
When We Were Kings
She's Gotta Have It
Do the Right Thing
Jungle Fever
Crooklyn
Mo' Better Blues
Red Hook Summer

Photos

Filmography

Movies

Credit
89% 86% Sidney Self - 2022
88% 38% A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks Self - 2021
87% No Score Yet You Resemble Me Executive Producer - 2021
98% 86% David Byrne's American Utopia Director - 2020
No Score Yet No Score Yet Tales From the Hood 3 Executive Producer - 2020
92% 54% Da 5 Bloods Director,
Screenwriter,
Producer
- 2020
93% 40% See You Yesterday Producer - 2019
100% 64% Nigerian Prince Executive Producer - 2018
78% 26% Tales From the Hood 2 Executive Producer - 2018
96% 83% BlacKkKlansman Director,
Screenwriter,
Producer
$48.6M 2018
No Score Yet No Score Yet Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1 Self - 2018
93% 56% Pass Over Director,
Producer
- 2018
100% 56% Rodney King Director - 2017
93% 91% Michael Jackson's Journey From Motown to Off the Wall Director - 2016
67% 17% Cronies Executive Producer - 2015
67% 89% Touched With Fire Executive Producer $138.8K 2015
82% 49% Chi-Raq Director,
Screenwriter,
Producer
$2.6M 2015
No Score Yet No Score Yet Dirty Hands Executive Producer - 2015
45% 19% Da Sweet Blood of Jesus Director,
Screenwriter
- 2014
100% 67% Evolution of a Criminal Executive Producer - 2014
39% 37% Oldboy Director $2.2M 2013
No Score Yet 65% Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth Director - 2013
92% 88% Bad 25 Director,
Producer
- 2012
No Score Yet 0% You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Kills You Executive Producer - 2012
58% 34% Red Hook Summer Mookie (Character),
Director,
Screenwriter,
Producer
$334.7K 2012
No Score Yet 56% Brooklyn Boheme Unknown (Character) - 2011
95% 82% Pariah Executive Producer $758.1K 2011
No Score Yet 91% If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise Director - 2010
25% 27% Saint John of Las Vegas Executive Producer $100.7K 2009
100% 90% Passing Strange The Movie Director,
Producer
- 2009
No Score Yet 57% Kobe Doin' Work Director - 2009
33% 51% Miracle at St. Anna Director,
Producer
$7.9M 2008
94% 96% When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts Director - 2006
86% 85% Inside Man Director $88.5M 2006
No Score Yet 71% All the Invisible Children Director - 2005
No Score Yet 83% Miracle's Boys Director - 2005
No Score Yet 69% Sucker Free City Director,
Executive Producer
- 2004
19% 60% She Hate Me Director,
Producer
$365.1K 2004
No Score Yet 59% Good Fences Executive Producer - 2003
79% 85% 25th Hour Director $13.1M 2002
86% 78% Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet Director - 2002
57% 80% Jim Brown: All-American Director,
Producer
- 2002
100% 86% A Huey P. Newton Story Director,
Producer
- 2001
No Score Yet 42% 3 a.m. Filmmaker (Character),
Producer
- 2001
No Score Yet No Score Yet Home Invaders Executive Producer - 2001
67% 81% Michael Jordan: To the Max Self $18.6M 2000
44% 40% Famous Self $112.5K 2000
53% 74% Bamboozled Director,
Writer,
Producer
$2.2M 2000
83% 79% The Original Kings of Comedy Director $38.2M 2000
85% 95% Love & Basketball Producer $27.4M 2000
72% 86% The Best Man Producer $34.1M 1999
50% 59% Summer of Sam Reporter John Jeffries (Character),
Director,
Writer,
Producer
$19.3M 1999
80% 83% He Got Game Producer,
Director,
Writer
$21.6M 1998
100% 89% 4 Little Girls Director $130.1K 1997
39% 36% Girl 6 Jimmy (Character),
Director,
Producer
$4.6M 1996
89% 71% Get on the Bus Director,
Executive Producer
$5.7M 1996
98% 94% When We Were Kings Unknown (Character) $2.7M 1996
73% 74% Clockers Director,
Producer,
Screenwriter
$13.0M 1995
100% 77% Lumiere and Company Unknown (Character) - 1995
13% 46% Drop Squad Self $595.7K 1994
78% 90% Crooklyn Snuffy (Character),
Director,
Producer
$12.8M 1994
No Score Yet 58% Undefeatable Diablo (Character) - 1994
89% 91% Malcolm X Director,
Screenwriter,
Producer
$47.1M 1992
80% 67% Jungle Fever Cyrus (Character),
Director,
Writer,
Producer
$31.7M 1991
71% 75% Mo' Better Blues Giant (Character),
Director,
Writer,
Producer
$15.9M 1990
91% 89% Do the Right Thing Mookie (Character),
Director,
Screenwriter,
Producer
$26.0M 1989
No Score Yet No Score Yet Making 'Do the Right Thing' Self - 1989
57% 79% School Daze Half-Pint (Character),
Director,
Writer,
Producer
$11.7M 1988
94% 73% She's Gotta Have It Mars Blackmon (Character),
Director,
Producer,
Screenwriter
$5.0M 1986
No Score Yet 71% Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads Director,
Writer,
Producer,
Film Editing
- 1983
No Score Yet No Score Yet Farewell Babylon Unknown (Character) - 0000

TV

Credit
80% No Score Yet The Captain Executive Producer 2022
93% No Score Yet Lincoln's Dilemma Self 2022
No Score Yet 19% The Daily Show With Trevor Noah Guest 2015 2018-2019 2021
No Score Yet No Score Yet RT Exclusive Interviews Guest 2021
No Score Yet 44% The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Guest 2015 2018-2021
No Score Yet 5% The View Guest 2015 2019-2020
100% 82% Dear... Self 2020
No Score Yet 66% Desus & Mero Guest 2019
78% 56% She's Gotta Have It Creator,
Director,
Executive Producer
2017 2019
No Score Yet 45% The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Guest 2015 2019
No Score Yet No Score Yet Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter Guest 2019
No Score Yet 0% The Ellen DeGeneres Show Guest 2018
No Score Yet 49% Late Night With Seth Meyers Guest 2018
No Score Yet 100% Desus & Mero Guest 2018
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Dr. Oz Show Guest 2016
100% 29% The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore Guest 2015
No Score Yet 100% Independent Lens Executive Producer 2015
No Score Yet 20% Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Guest 2012
No Score Yet No Score Yet If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise Director 2010
No Score Yet 100% Who Do You Think You Are? Unknown (Guest Star) 2010
52% 60% Shark Director 2006
No Score Yet No Score Yet When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts Director 2006
No Score Yet No Score Yet Miracle's Boys Director 2005
No Score Yet 100% The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Guest 2004
No Score Yet 96% Sesame Street Unknown (Guest Star) 2000
No Score Yet 44% Saturday Night Live Guest 1991