Some argue that the word icon is thrown around too often these days, but if anyone deserves this status it’s Spike Lee. For his distinguished work in motion picture direction, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) is presenting Lee with a lifetime achievement award.

With a career that spans four decades, Lee’s work has irrevocably changed the film industry and inspired a whole generation of filmmakers. From She’s Gotta Have It to his classic biopic Malcolm X and even his amazing Air Jordan commercial, Lee has pushed the boundaries on what bringing Black culture to the screen can look like. 

Four of his films have been preserved in the National Film Registry for being aesthetically and culturally significant. Stylistically, Lee is known for his utilization of the double dolly shot and his overall “Spikeism,” which the New York Times has described as “a heightened visual flourish that makes you take notice.”

Joining a small cohort of directors that included Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, and Steven Spielberg, Lee will be honored at DGA’s 74th annual awards ceremony on March 12. 

“Icon. Trailblazer. Visionary. Spike Lee has changed the face of cinema, and there is no single word that encapsulates his significance to the craft of directing,” said Lesli Linka Glatter, president of the DGA. “His bold and passionate storytelling over the past three decades has masterfully entertained, as it held a stark mirror to our society and culture.”