She's Gotta Have It is a 1986 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Spike Lee (his first feature-length film), starring Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks and John Canada Terrell.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) is a young, attractive, sexually independent Brooklynite who juggles three suitors: the polite and well-meaning Jamie Overstreet (Tommy Redmond Hicks); the self-obsessed model Greer Childs (John Canada Terrell); and the immature, motor-mouthed Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee).

Nola is attracted to the best in each of them, but refuses to commit to any of them, cherishing her personal freedom instead while each man wants her for himself. Her carefree sexually liberated lifestyle ultimately comes to an end when her three male suitors meet and compare notes on Nola.

While Greer justifies Nola's callous behavior by claiming that she sees the three not as individuals but as a collective, Jamie and Mars become bitter over how little Nola cares for all three men.

Realizing that Mars and Greer are too scared of losing Nola to force her to choose one of the three men, Jamie lays down an ultimatum to her that she must choose a single lover. Nola scoffs at this decision and visits him several days later at his apartment for casual sex.

Jamie rapes Nola while mockingly asking her if he's as good sexually as Greer or Mars. Being raped causes Nola to have an epiphany: realizing that promiscuity has turned Jamie against her, she decides to call Jamie's bluff.

Nola dumps Greer and Mars and then tells Jamie that she's is ready for a monogamous relationship. However, there is a catch: Nola (believing that her promiscuity is the source of her inability to commit to a single guy) wants the relationship to be celibate for the time being. Though he at first rejects Nola's "no sex" decree, Jamie agrees to it after initially saying no.

Nola and Jamie's reunion however, is followed by a coda which dismantles the "happy ending" of the couple coming together. In a monologue delivered to the camera, Nola reveals that her vow of celibacy and her decision to be with Jamie exclusively was "a moment of weakness".

Nola explains that she soon began to cheat on Jamie and ultimately the relationship collapsed, though she is vague on specifics or whether or not she resumed her casual affairs with Mars or Greer (the latter of which vowed never to have anything else to do with Nola after being dumped).

Nola proudly proclaims that monogamy was a form of slavery and that her promiscuous lifestyle is freedom in its purest form. However, the film implies that she is still terminally unhappy with her decision to leave Jamie as the film closes with her going to bed all alone.


  • Tracy Camilla Johns as Nola Darling
  • Tommy Redmond Hicks as Jamie Overstreet
  • John Canada Terrell as Greer Childs
  • Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon
  • Raye Dowell as Opal Gilstrap
  • Joie Lee as Clorinda Bradford
  • Dennis Karika as The Trainer
  • S. Epatha Merkerson as Dr. Jamison
  • Bill Lee as Sonny Darling
  • Erik Dellums as Dog 3
  • Reginald Hudlin as Dog 4
  • Ernest Dickerson as Dog 8
  • Fab Five Freddy as Dog 10


The film took twelve days to shoot, lasting from July 5th to July 20, 1985 and was filmed in Brooklyn, New York. Because of the film's tight budget (which was $175,000), there were no retakes of any scenes.

Spike Lee wanted actor Eriq La Salle for the part of Greer Childs, but La Salle thought that the role was too shallow and at the time, he joined the Street Actors Guild which made him ineligible for the part.

Originally, the film was going to get an "X" rating due to its sexual content, but after Spike Lee edited some of the sex scenes, it got an "R" rating.

In 2014, Spike Lee said that his one regret as a filmmaker was the rape scene in this film, saying, "If I was able to have any do-overs, that would be it. It was just totally ... stupid. I was immature. It made light of rape, and that’s the one thing I would take back. I was immature and I hate that I did not view rape as the vile act that it is. I can promise you, there will be nothing like that in 'She's Gotta Have It,' the TV show [that will air on Showtime], that's for sure."


Box Office

"She's Gotta Have It" grossed $28,473 at the box office in its opening weekend. Domestically, it grossed $7,137,502.

Critical Reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film was given a 93% rating based on 28 reviews with an average rating of 7\10 and given an audience score of 71% based on 6,399 user ratings with an average rating of 3.4\5.

The New York Times wrote that it "ushered in (along with Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise) the American independent film movement of the 1980s" and it was also "a groundbreaking film for African-American filmmakers and a welcome change in the representation of blacks in American cinema, depicting men and women of color not as pimps and whores, but as intelligent, upscale urbanites".


1986 Cannes Film Festival

  • Award of the Youth- Foreign Film: Spike Lee (won)

1987 Independent Spirit Awards

  • Best First Feature: Spike Lee (won)
  • Best Female Lead: Tracy Camilla Johns (nominated)

1986 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

  • New Generation Award: Spike Lee (won)

Theatrical Trailer


She's Gotta Have It (1986) Trailer