Every Black Director Nominated for an Oscar, From John Singleton to Spike Lee (Photos)

Spike Lee finally makes the cut two years ago for “BlackKklansman”


In 2019, Spike Lee became only the sixth Black director to receive an Oscar nomination in the Academy’s history for his work on “BlackKklansman.” But so far, no Black filmmaker has won in that category.

John Singleton, “Boyz N the Hood” (1991) • Two years after Spike Lee was passed over for a nomination for “Do the Right Thing,” John Singleton became the first African American to earn a Best Director nomination for his star-studded drama set in South Central L.A. That year, Jonathan Demme won the award for “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Lee Daniels, “Precious” (2009) • Eighteen years passed before a second African American filmmaker was recognized: Lee Daniels, for his gritty portrait of a young woman seeking to overcome a childhood of poverty and abuse. In another Oscar first, Kathryn Bigelow became the first female director to win the Oscar, for “The Hurt Locker.”

Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave” (2013) • British director Steve McQueen gritty drama about American slavery picked up nine nominations, including one for his directing. While the film won Best Picture (and McQueen earned a statuette as a producer), he lost the directing prize to “Gravity” filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón.

Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight” (2016) • Jenkins’ underdog indie pulled off a major upset, beating front-runner “La La Land” for Best Picture. But Damien Chazelle claimed the directing prize for the modern-day musical. (Jenkins did take home the statuette for Best Adapted Screenplay.)

Jordan Peele, “Get Out” (2017) • Peele became the latest actor-turned-filmmaker to earn a Best Director nod, for his feature filmmaking debut. Peele won an Oscar for his original screenplay but Guillermo del Toro won Best Director for “The Shape of Water.”

Spike Lee, “BlackKklansman” (2018) • Despite wide acclaim for such films as 1989’s “Do the Right Thing” and 1992’s “Malcolm X,” the pioneering filmmaker earned his first nomination decades into his career for this fact-based tale of a Black undercover cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.
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