Was in German labor camps (1944), after the WWII studied philosophy at the University of Mainz. In 1949, emigrated to NY, USA. Two weeks after his arrival, he borrowed the money to buy his first Bolex 16mm camera. He discovered avant-garde film, and in 1953, started the screenings of his own films, hence becoming one of the leading figures in the American avant-garde. In 1954, became editor and chief of the magazine Film Culture, and in 1958, began writing his regular column for The Village Voice. In 1962, he co-founded Film-Makers' Cooperative (FMC) and, in 1964, the Filmmaker’s Cinematheque, which eventually grew into Anthology Film Archives, one of the world’s largest and most important repositories of avant-garde films. JM himself has made both fiction and documentary films, yet he is mostly known for his film-diaries such as Walden (1969), Lost Lost Lost (1976, screened in London and at the Berlin IFF), Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972), a.o.
Has received the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's Award (2007), as well as a number of other awards for his contribution to film art. In 2007, he opened Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center in Vilnius.