Do the Right Thing is a 1989 comedy-drama film starring Spike Lee (which he also wrote, produced and directed), Danny Aiello, the late Ossie Davis, the late Ruby Dee, John Turturro, the late Bill Nunn and Samuel L. Jackson. The film was also the debut film of future comedian Martin Lawrence.
A scorching hot Summer in a black section of New York City called Bedford Stuyvesant causes racial tensions to boil between a variety of races. The weather gets so bad that it leads to violence.
Why It Rocks
- Good story.
- Interesting characters.
- The film takes a look at how racism is handled in the post Civil Rights world.
- References to African-American culture that are still popular today, especially tons of references to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X who were known to be important figures who fought for Civil Rights.
- The film shows that all races are equal.
- There are certain moments that are amusing, especially scenes where Da Mayor (Ossie Davis' character) and Mother-Sister (Ruby Dee's character) have amusing conversations.
- Sal’s Pizzeria looks awesome and how it was made looks beautifully done.
- Good dramatic moments.
- Spike Lee dedicated the film to many victims of police brutality.
- The closing scene with an image of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X along with quotes about racial hostility showed their points of views on racial hostility and how we should remember that racial hostility has been a big issue for many years and that Dr. King had non-violent viewpoints while Malcolm X's viewpoints were rather controversial in many ways, but were helpful too.
- Although Sal had a bad attitude, he was happy to serve pizza to anyone who loved his food and respected Mookie a lot.
- The film focuses on racism.
- Police brutality is seen near the end.
- Racial slurs are used a lot, especially the "n" word.
- Certain characters are rather rude.
- The ending scene made a lot of people mad.
- Spike Lee has a reputation for making controversial films and this film is arguably the most controversial film he made throughout his career in filmmaking. Lee is also known for making controversial statements when he isn’t making films.
Do the Right Thing currently holds a 93% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a critic consensus that reads "Smart, vibrant, and urgent without being didactic, Do the Right Thing is one of Spike Lee's most fully realized efforts and one of the most important films of the 1980s." Film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the film a "two thumbs up", four stars and named it the best film of 1989. Roger Ebert even listed the film as one of The Great Movies.
Despite the praise from critics and audiences, the film also sparked controversy for many reasons and here are several examples on what made the film controversial: One, the film features a scene where Spike Lee's character, Mookie throws a trash can in the window of Sal's Pizzeria in anger after his friend Radio Raheem was killed after being choked by a police officer's choke holder and many viewers (primarily white) have asked if Mookie did the right thing or not. Second, Spike Lee has a reputation for making controversial films and statements. Third, the topic of racism in cinema and literature is something that's offensive to many people. In June 2006, Do the Right Thing film was placed at #22 on Entertainment Weekly's list of The 25 Most Controversial Movies Ever. The film was preserved in the National Film Registry in 1999.
Awards and nominations
Do the Right Thing was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay for Spike Lee and Best Supporting Actor for Danny Aiello. At the 1990 Chicago Film Critics Association, the film won three Awards including Best Picture, Best Director for Spike Lee and Best Supporting Actor for Danny Aiello.