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.
- Mookie is a likable male protagonist and Spike Lee’s performance as Mookie was spot on.
- The film takes a look at how racism is handled in the post Civil Rights world.
- Good references to important African-American culture, especially tons of references to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X who were 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.
- Danny Aiello’s performance as Sal was convincing.
- 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 film’s closing scene ends with an image of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X along with quotes about racial hostility and how people 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 he respected Mookie a lot.
- Funny running gag of Da Mayor tipping his hat when he finishes a conversation.
- Despite making a lot of good films, Spike Lee has a reputation for being a controversial filmmaker and this film is arguably the most controversial film he has made throughout his career in film-making. Lee is also known for making controversial statements even when he isn’t making films.
- Racial slurs are used a lot.
- The ending scene offended many people when the film was theatrically released.
- Not for the easily offended or easily angered.
Do the Right Thing currently holds a 90% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average of 8.9 out of 10 and 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 including a scene where Spike Lee's character, Mookie angrily throws a trash can in a window of Sal's Pizzeria 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. 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.
Do the Right Thing opened at #8 on its opening weekend with a domestic gross of $3,563,535. The total domestic gross would later go up to $27,545,445. In foreign markets, it made $9,750,000. The film made a total worldwide gross of $37,295,445 against its $6 million budget.
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.
- Robert De Niro was the original pick for the role of Sal (Salvatore Fragione), however he declined to take part when he stated that the character was too similar to roles that he had played before. After De Niro dropped out, Danny Aiello was offered the role and accepted the offer to play Sal. Although De Niro turned down the role of Sal, a picture of De Niro is featured on Sal's Wall of Fame.
- The title is inspired by a quote from Malcolm X that states "You've got to do the right thing."
- Aside from Robert De Niro, other famous Italian-Americans that are featured on the Wall of Fame include John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone, Al Pacino, Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio.
- Joe Pesci and Joe Mantegna were also offered to play Sal.
- Wesley Snipes was offered a role in the film, but turned it down to star in another film that was released in 1989, which was the sports comedy Major League.
- Paramount was Spike Lee's original choice for film distribution, but Paramount turned down the offer due to the film's tone. Lee then offered the project to Universal, which accepted the script.
- The film's script was written in two weeks.
- Is on Steven Schneider's list of "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die".