His 10-minute student movie for grad school was called The Answer, about a black screenwriter hired to pen a remake of Birth of a Nation.
Has directed numerous TV commercials for companies such as Nike, AT&T and Levi's, and music videos for Public Enemy, Michael Jackson and Anita Baker.
Due to the mounting production cost of his 1992 biopic Malcolm X, solicited financial assistance from Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and others so that the film could be completed.
Numerous honors include Sports Emmys for programs that aired on HBO—one on Mike Tyson, the other on former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson.
First movie to reach No. 1 at the box office was He Got Game (1998).
Won the 2006 George Polk Award for documentary journalism for his HBO series When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts; a follow-up film, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise, was released in 2010.
Has published several books on filming techniques.
Most of his movies are referred to in the credits as "A Spike Lee Joint.".
1990, Golden Globe — Best Screenplay - Motion Picture: Nominee
1990, Golden Globe — Best Director - Motion Picture: Nominee
1989, Oscar — Best Writing (Original Screenplay): Nominee
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2007, Emmy — Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming: Winner
1997, Berlin Film Festival — Special Mention: Winner
1997, Oscar — Best Documentary (Feature): Nominee
2001, Independent Spirit Awards — Best First Feature: Nominee