Ryan Kyle Coogler (born May 23, 1986) is an American film director and screenwriter. His first feature film, Fruitvale Station (2013), won the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. He has since co-written and directed the seventh film in the Rocky film saga, Creed (2015), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Black Panther (2018). He is considered to be one of the best African-American film directors of the 2010’s, whose work has received critical acclaim and commercial success. In 2013, Time named Coogler to their list of the 30 people under 30 who are changing the world. He frequently collaborates with actor Michael B. Jordan, who has appeared in all of his feature films.
Coogler was born on May 23, 1986 in Oakland, California. His mother, Joselyn (née Thomas), is a community organizer, and his father, Ira Coogler, is a juvenile hall probation counselor. Both parents graduated from California State University, Hayward. He has two brothers, Noah and Keenan. His uncle, Clarence Thomas, is a third-generation Oakland longshoreman, and the former secretary treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
Coogler lived in Oakland, until age eight, when he moved to Richmond, California. During his youth, he ran track and played football. He went to Saint Mary’s College High School, a private Catholic school in Berkeley, California, and was good at math and science. He started his college journey at Saint Mary’s College of California, on a football scholarship as a redshirt wide receiver his freshman semester intending to study chemistry. The football players were encouraged to take a creative writing course. Coogler’s teacher on this course, English professor Rosemary Graham, praised his work and said it was very visual, and encouraged him to pursue screenwriting.
After Saint Mary’s canceled its football program in March 2004, he transferred and earned a scholarship to play at and attend Sacramento State, where in his four years he grabbed 112 receptions for 1,213 yards and 6 touchdowns. At Sacramento, he majored in finance and took as many film classes as he could fit in with the rigors of college football. Following graduation he attended USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he made a series of short films.
While at USC, Coogler directed four short films, three of which won or were nominated for various awards: Locks (2009), which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and won the Dana and Albert Broccoli Award for Filmmaking Excellence; Fig (2011), which was nominated for an Outstanding Independent Short Film by the Black Reel Awards; The Sculptor (2011), and Gap (2011), which won the Jack Nicholson Award for Achievement in Directing, and had a screenplay written by Carol S. Lashof.
Coogler has worked since age 21 as a counselor with incarcerated youth at San Francisco’s Juvenile Hall, following in the footsteps of his father, who has long shared the same occupation.
He married Zinzi Evans in 2016.