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Do the Right Thing (1989)

tomatometer

88

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 1

No consensus yet.

audience

90

liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 71,523

My Rating

Movie Info

Director Spike Lee dives head-first into a maelstrom of racial and social ills, using as his springboard the hottest day of the year on one block in Brooklyn, NY. Three businesses dominate the block: a storefront radio station, where a smooth-talkin' deejay (Samuel L. Jackson) spins the platters that matter; a convenience store owned by a Korean couple; and Sal's Famous Pizzeria, the only white-operated business in the neighborhood. Sal (Danny Aiello) serves up slices with his two sons, genial

R,

Drama, Comedy

Spike Lee

Jun 30, 2009

Universal Pictures

Watch It Now

Cast

Latest News on Do the Right Thing

June 30, 2014:
Do the Right Thing Turns 25
The cast and crew reunite in Brooklyn to celebrate the movie's quarter-century milestone.
June 24, 2014:
Spike Lee Talks Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
"I do films that are within the Hollywood system, and I do films that are independent. I enjoy...

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All Critics (54) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (52) | Rotten (2) | DVD (28)

Lee cagily provides a litmus test for racial attitudes in 1989, but he does so by destroying the integrity of his characters, black and white.

April 24, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine | Comments (22)
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A powerful and persuasive look at an ethnic community and what makes it tick--funky, entertaining, packed with insight, and political in the best, most responsible sense.

June 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comment (1)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film -- at once stylised and realistic -- buzzes throughout with the sheer, edgy bravado that comes from living one's life on the streets. It looks, sounds, and feels right.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mr. Lee's movie is anything but minimalist. It is bursting with character, color, incident and music, including a militant rap number performed by Public Enemy.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Spike Lee combines a forceful statement on race relations with solid entertainment values.

February 13, 2001 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Comes closer to reflecting the current state of race relations in America than any other movie of our time

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[A] movie that gives us the vitality of urban street life and the viciousness of racism in a single, brightly bedecked, booby-trapped package.

July 18, 2014 Full Review Source: The Moving Picture Show
The Moving Picture Show

My rowdy audience at Do The Right Thing did not cheer the riot, nor did one break out at the end. Like me, they left having seen a reflection of their own lives onscreen.

February 4, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

Captures a sense of black pride in the late '80s that's caught between essentialism and pop-culture commercialism. Trash-talking racism, distrust, and males' insistence on respect blaze the story along a path that LA would burn with its 1992 riots.

July 24, 2012 Full Review Source: Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

The many joys of the film are equaled only by the fiery injustice it bears witness to in the apocalyptic third act.

August 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Projection Booth
Projection Booth

Sure, the movie opens up the racial problems of everyday life in New York, but it also has a very forgiving tone to what one could label as the oppressed.

September 21, 2010 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures | Comments (2)
7M Pictures

It's perhaps one of the greatest summer movies of all time. Do the Right Thing is as perfect as a film can get.

August 26, 2009 Full Review Source: BrianOrndorf.com
BrianOrndorf.com

Lee shows us both sides of the situation, and lets us decide for ourselves. The results are devastating.

July 8, 2009 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

[Spike] Lee doesn't attempt to answer the complicated questions of racism, misunderstanding and simmering anger as much as confront them with a hard clarity.

July 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Seanax.com
Seanax.com

A riveting drama which remains just as intense as when it debuted in 1989.

June 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Sly Fox
Sly Fox

A towering achievement in American cinema, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing takes a hard look at a community in crisis. [Blu-ray]

June 28, 2009 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

Like Rear Window to Alfred Hitchcock, like Nashville to Robert Altman, like Playtime to Jacques Tati, Lee's Do the Right Thing is an undiluted representation of its creator's artistic command.

June 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

A pulsating homage to life on New York's streets, achieved thanks to Lee's sleepless eye, but a passionate-yet-dignified study of racism, too.

March 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

The fact that a filmmaker as gifted as Lee has yet to top the movie says a lot about its power.

March 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

"Do the Right Thing" is a film whose ability to entertain, provoke, and question has not diminished in the least.

February 13, 2006
ColeSmithey.com

Prompted by the brutal Howard Beach killing of a young black man, Lee's politically charged drama is an angry assault on racism that benefits from bravura filmmaking. Still Lee's best and most important film.

December 30, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

A tour-de-force for Spike Lee

March 31, 2005
Moviehole

Spike's greatest film to date. Shame on the Academy for not recognizing it.

January 1, 2005
Nolan's Pop Culture Review

Audience Reviews for Do the Right Thing

Remember the days when Spike Lee's "joints" has a real edge and potency to them? Nowadays, he's rolling out more generic, Hollywood tripe like "Oldboy" but there was a time when he was a highly original and passionately political filmmaker as he regularly touched upon important social issues and conflicts. However, few of his joints have been as packed or as provocative as "Do The Right Thing".

On a hot summer day in a Brooklyn neighbourhood, the residents struggle to keep their cool in the increasingly sweltering temperature. Sal (Danny Aiello) owns the local Italian pizzeria where he happens to upset black activist Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) who, in turn, demands the black community boycott his place. Most people are unwilling to do so but it still adds to the discontentment amongst the community as racial attitudes and prejudices begin to surface.

Taking the title from Malcolm X's quote "You've got to do the right thing" and being inspired by an actual incident in Howard Beach, New York, Spike Lee crafts an important and unflinching portrayal of racial tension in a literal urban melting pot. He sets his intentions from the outset with the ferociously pumping music of Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" and infuses his story with an eclectic mix of races, characters and personalities, while still managing to lend the film an important lightness of touch. It has a distinct and observant humour that magnifies the absurdity in people's preconceptions and judgments but this absurdity is soon, skilfully, shifted to frustration and rage which descends his characters into a chaotic madness.

Filled with an abundance of excellent performances from Danny Aiello's hard working Sal to John Turturro as his racist son Pino and a small but highly entertaining role for Samuel L. Jackson as the radio dj, 'Mister SeƱor Love Daddy' - who seemingly oversees everything in the neighbourhood. Lee's direction is vibrant and colourful and makes full use of an excellent hip-hop score before other filmmakers even realised it was cool to do so. His script is also as sharp as they come with endlessly quotable dialogue and he even has the bravery to have a selection of characters - from different ethnic backgrounds - rhyme off very personal and racial slurs in a montage that breaks the fourth wall. With this scene alone, it's easy to see why some were offended by the film upon it's release. It's a passionate reflection of racism and race relations and one that raises as many questions as it answers. However, that's the whole point; Lee's agenda is not to incite trouble but to rouse debate and he does a sterling job in doing so, while still being empathetic towards each and every one of his characters - regardless of their ethnicity. That's the real key in preventing this film from being contradictory in it's arguments as many critics have claimed it to be. Few films have ever dealt with racism as powerfully or as thought provoking as Lee does here. He has a strong voice on the subject and this outstanding piece of work is one that's still as relevant today as it ever was.

Beginning with a simmer before ending in a boiling intensity, this a powerful and thought provoking, sociopolitical commentary. Lee would go on to deliver the similarly themed "Jungle Fever" and "Malcolm X" after this, which cemented his reputation as one the most important black filmmaker's of our (or any) generation.

Mark Walker
May 8, 2014
MrMarakai

Super Reviewer

I have heard varied opinions on what people seem to take away from this Spike Lee helmed indie, which became a conversation starter in the world of race relations back in 1989. Some find it racist, others don't find the ending too radically unnerving, or find it confusing compared to the rest of the film. Though I can agree that the ending was not the "right thing" that the title encourages, it still sparked interest. It speaks on the fine line between rioting in the street, and a friendly disagreement. That's what the film has to offer: a look into the boiling point that remains, even now. SPOILERS: The parallel between Radio Raheem's death and that of Trayvon Martin was interesting. Dying because you played your music loud, versus having Skittles and wearing a hoodie. Race is still a prevalent hot button issue in the world, and will be, maybe forever. This film is important, and the parallels to today's conversations about our country are staggeringly similar. Though you may find fault with the way the message is delivered, it still remains a pivotal effort in changing the world view currently in effect.
March 2, 2014
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

Spike Lee's impressionistic love letter to Bed-Stuy, NY, NY, has plenty of head scratchin' moments, but ultimately wins over with this "message" film about multiculturalism and diversity. Aiello, Lee, Turturro, Dee and Davis all do great acting work, but the opening credits dance solo by Rosie Perez might be f**-ing historical, it's that good.
December 6, 2012
ApeneckFletcher

Super Reviewer

Not just a film about the theme, but also a manifesto against the racism. Do The Right Thing by Spike Lee it's a view about a neighborhood were exist a great diversity of races: Black - in the majority -, white, latinos and asian americans. All should have any kinda of problem; but the prejudice affect everyone.
The heat it's a metaphor to the limit level of patience that the characters go. From that point, actions of immaturity, ignorance, racism, hate and violence take this block on Brooklyn, NY to a no way exit end of intolerance.
With a terrific work by Mr. Lee and his cast formed by Danny Aiello, Lee himself, John Turturro, Giancarlo Esposito, Richard Edson, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson and much more. This artistic masterpiece have a lot of colors, funny moments, reflexive and surprising scenes and even a little indirect romance between Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) and Mother Sister (Ruby Dee).
It's a big shame that, Do The Right Thing wasn't nominated to the Academy Awards to Best Picture and even worst: Who won was Driving Miss Daisy by Bruce Beresford, that also talk about racism; but not so realistic and powerful like Lee's work. The "Right Thing" to do was Spike had won the Oscar of Best Picture. A forgettable work, that is the great American film of 1989. Fresh.
June 8, 2012
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

    1. Da Mayor: [after last night's riot] Hope the block is still standing.
    2. Mother Sister: We're still standing.
    – Submitted by David E (19 months ago)
    1. Mother Sister: Good morning.
    2. Da Mayor: Is it a good morning?
    3. Mother Sister: Yes, indeed. You almost got yourself killed last night.
    – Submitted by David E (19 months ago)
    1. Mister Senor Love Daddy: YO! HOLD UP! Time out! TIME OUT! Y'all take a chill! Ya need to cool that shit out! And that's the double truth, Ruth!
    – Submitted by David E (19 months ago)
    1. Sonny: It's cheap, I got a good price for you, Mayor Koch, "How I'm doing," chocolate-egg-cream-drinking, bagel-and-lox, B'nai B'rith Jew asshole!
    – Submitted by David E (19 months ago)
    1. Officer Long: You Goya bean-eating, fifteen in a car, thirty in an apartment, pointed shoes, red-wearing, Menudo, mire-mire Puerto Rican cocksucker. Yeah, you!
    – Submitted by David E (19 months ago)
    1. Stevie: You little slanty-eyed, me-no-speaky-American, own-every-fruit-and-vegetable-stand-in-New-York, bullshit, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Summer Olympics '88, Korean kick-boxing son of a bitch!
    – Submitted by David E (19 months ago)
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