Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee (born March 20, 1957 in Atlanta, Georgia). Very political. Very polarizing. Very popular.
A renowned film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor famous for dealing with controversial issues such as racism, politics, and urban violence in his films. Lee has received five Academy Award nominations with one win (Best Adapted Screenplay in 2019 for BlacKkKlansman), a Student Academy Award and an Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and won numerous other awards, including an Emmy Award and the 2013 Gish Prize.
A Brooklyn native, Lee made his directorial debut with the 1983 independent film Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, with his first feature film, She's Gotta Have It, being released in 1986. He has since directed such films as Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Summer of Sam The Original Kings of Comedy, 25th Hour, and most recently BlacKkKlansman (2018). Lee's films are typically referred to as "Spike Lee Joints" and the closing credits always end with the phrases "By Any Means Necessary", "Ya Dig" and "Sho Nuff."
Lee's film Do the Right Thing was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1989. In 2006, he also directed the acclaimed documentary, When the Levees Broke, which detailed life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city's anti-flooding safeguards in 2005. In 2013, he was chosen to direct an English-language remake of the South Korean thriller Oldboy.
Lee has starred or acted in ten of his own films. He played the lead role of Mookie in Do the Right Thing and major supporting roles in Malcolm X, Girl 6, and Mo' Better Blues. He reprised the role of Mars Blackmon from She's Gotta Have It for a series of Nike commercials also starring Michael Jordan.
- She's Gotta Have It (1986)
- School Daze (1988)
- Do the Right Thing (1989)
- Mo' Better Blues (1990)
- Jungle Fever (1991)
- Malcolm X (1992)
- Crooklyn (1994)
- Clockers (1995)
- Girl 6 (1996)
- Get On The Bus (1996)
- 4 Little Girls (1997)(documentary feature)
- He Got Game (1998)
- Summer of Sam (1999)
- Bamboozled (2000)
- The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
- 25th Hour (2002)
- She Hate Me (2004)
- Inside Man (2006)
- Miracle At St Anna (2008)
- Red Hook Summer (2012)
- Oldboy (2013)
- Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus (2014) (Remake of the 1973 Cult Classic Ganja And Hess)
- Chi Raq (2015)
- NBA 2K16 (Livin' Da Dream MyCareer Mode, 2015)
- She's Gotta Have It (2017Present) (Netflix series based on his first feature film)
- BlacKkKlansman (2018) (Produced by Jordan Peele; premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival as part of the main competition, where it won the Grand Prix.note Lee also won his first Academy Award with this joint, winning for Best Adapted Screenplay.)
- Da 5 Bloods (2020) (His first Netflix Original joint)
- American Utopia (2020) (a Concert Film from the Broadway residency for David Byrne's 2018 album American Utopia)
- Bittersweet Ending: You'd be hard pressed to find any of his films that has an uplifting ending. This trope is as close to a happy ending any of his characters would get.
- Insistent Terminology: His movies are usually marketed as "A Spike Lee Joint" rather than "A Spike Lee Film".
- Mood Whiplash: A frequent feature of his movies is that they play like comedies until interrupted by literal or figurative violence.
- Production Posse: He has a giant stable of actors he often hires that is too long to list here.
- Spiritual Successor: American Utopia is one to Stop Making Sense, the Jonathan Demme-directed Concert Film from 36 years prior, taken from Talking Heads' 1983 tour for Speaking in Tongues. Like the Demme film, American Utopia features a minimalist, immersive style that focuses on the performances and just the performances, with minimal cuts to the audience, minimal cuts period, and no interviews or backstage footage (at least not until the end of the movie, and even then it's when the performers are already leaving the venue). The fact that American Utopia focuses on the former frontman of Talking Heads furthers the connection.