In pursuit of low-carbon development, the production of diverse functional materials from renewable resources, especially lignocellulosic biomass, is of vital importance. Lignin is a major component of lignocellulose, and it is nature's only true high-volume aromatic polymer, which has the advantages of biodegradability, biocompatibility, and low acquisition cost. After modification by a variety of physicochemical strategies, it can be applied as an alternative to basic industrial materials, including polyurethanes, phenolic, and epoxy resins, which stands comparably to conventional synthetic polymers in terms of both performance and reduced cost. To further unlock the potential of lignin, an alluring opportunity is the exploitation of lignin for high-value materials, especially nanomaterials, that find extensive applications in energy and environment areas. This review provides a systematic summary and perspective of research that has been devoted to lignin transformation to high-value materials, ranging from industrially well-established engineering materials to the recently emerged nanomaterials that were used for energy and environment applications. Latest cutting-edge innovations on lignin modification, controlled depolymerization, and assembly during the last five years are summarized. Structure-function relationships of lignin materials in terms of their specific applications are analyzed. Furthermore, challenges and future opportunities for lignin conversion to high-value materials are also provided. We wish this review will stimulate further advances in lignin based high-value materials, and promote “waste” into “wealth”.