Do the Right Thing - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Do the Right Thing Reviews

Page 1 of 169
Super Reviewer
March 18, 2015
Artful, humorous, gritty and powerful. Spike Lee's joint Do The Right Thing executes with an unorthodox cinematic scope that is effective in highlighting a boom of a new generation. The film's overall tone and driving message tells a tale that resonates with all generations. 4/5
Super Reviewer
½ May 8, 2014
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 Señor 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
Super Reviewer
½ October 2, 2010
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.
Super Reviewer
December 6, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
½ June 8, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
October 19, 2011
Spike Lee displays racism in the most brutal way possible, creating an atmosphere that will make you laugh, cry, and wish you could get in on the commotion. As life in the 80's, in the streets of Brooklyn, racial groups roamed the town, trying to find any way they can annoy another ethnic group. Although the characters are loveable, the cast well assembled, and the story on the edge of brilliance, Lee's directing kind of transcends the entire overview of culture and stereotypes; However, I am not saying that it hurts the film in any which way. The language is vulgar but the friendships are something to cherish, even when the film reaches it's conclusion. This is one of the best films covering the topic of racism that I have ever seen. The conclusion left me with tears in my eyes and my jaw on the floor, seeing how brutal society used to be, and in some places, still remains. This is a magnificent story that needs to be seen by the world!
Super Reviewer
½ October 30, 2011
The hottest day of the year on a block in Brooklyn, NY, this masterpiece from Spike Lee is an amazing look at race relations. Also filled with vibrant colors, a beautiful score and many standout performances. One of my favorite scenes is the tale of love and hate delivered by Radio Raheem which is an homage to another great film, The Night Of The Hunter.
paul o.
Super Reviewer
½ January 3, 2011
Spike Lee has shown off his skills in film with a controversial comedy that not only displays racial tensions but also has underlying comedy. Mookie (Spike lee) is a delivery boy for Sal's Pizzeria and over the course of the day, issues rise and the movie's true colors start to show. Better than Malcolm X and Inside Man, Do the right thing was exceptional.
Super Reviewer
½ July 22, 2011
Do The Right Thing is a film that contradicts the message it tries to convey. Do The Right Thing is a terrible film because there are so many contradictions that it just doesn't. The film is a sad attempt at trying to raise important issues, but fails miserably. I can't take this film seriously because of the contradictory message it displays. I thought it was an absolutely pointless exercise in exposing racial ignorance. The film would've worked if the contradictions wouldn't have been there. Like for example, using violence is doing the right thing? Right. I am not racist and have no hatred whatsoever for black people, but personally, I think this film insults the black community and reinforces the stereotypes against them. Spike Lee is an aweful filmmaker who practically remakes the same film over and over. Do The Right Thing is a piece of crap that looks dated and I don't see what so great about the film, all I see are a bunch of people who contradict themselves in the film. I'll stick with American History X and Mississippi Burning. At least those films brought to light important issues that Do The Right Thing tried to do without doing the wrong thing. This film does the wrong thing all the way, and by the films conclusion you feel empty, and you wonder if Mookie did Really Do The right thing? He didn't and I thought the film was fairly awful considering the subject matter. I honestly believe this could've been a good attempt, but it has too much contradicting points to make this film a worthwhile viewing experience.
Super Reviewer
½ November 17, 2009
Spike Lee's incredibly bold and obtrusive view on racism is definitely effective, but it still has its flaws in terms of writing and effective character development. Seeing as how it's one big political statement, there seemed to be less time spent on making the actors seem genuine and that tends to make it goofy and armaturistic. It doesnâ(TM)t have the intensity of something like School Daze because it makes such a habit of being hyper-realistic. Now if it played the over-the-top card like School Daze, then it would be a lot easier to swallow. Everyone can admit that Spike Lee is not a good actor and definitely doesnâ(TM)t have the range necessary for Mookie. It kindsâ(TM) becomes one of those movies that has so many interesting things going on, but ultimately it doesnâ(TM)t deliver on telling a story or doing anything beyond its heavy handed message. Spike Lee can make a movie look good without even trying, but this is an example of his political agenda getting out of control.
Super Reviewer
January 24, 2008
From the words of the classic Public Enemy Song:
"Fight The Power!", "Fight The Power"! ,"Fight The Power!"
"We Gotta Fight The Powers That Be!"

Years before "Crash" or "Avenue Q" reminded us that everyone's a little bit racist,Spike Lee's 1989 surprise hit made all of us that we are racist within ourselves regardless of creed,color or national origin. Released in the summer of that year,alongside "Batman" becoming the highest grossing film of that year,and the third installment of the latest Indiana Jones trilogy,"Do The Right Thing" made us aware of our own prejudices and how we look at different things from a perspective. During its initial release,critics were worried that there would be riots,and there weren't,and Lee criticized the critics for suggesting that black audiences weren't capable of self control.
Which is ironic,as the film is all about losing control over the course of a long hot summer day,the mood shifting from congenial to dangerous as we come to know the residents of a Brooklyn neighborhood and their prejudices(both black and white). It's hard to pass judgment on what happens(which includes the infamous riot scenes that bring forth the climax of the film's 129 minute running time),but we do learn valuable lessons on how a restaurant's "Wall Of Fame"(where the wall includes pictures of Italians ranging from Frank Sinatra to Al Pacino and Robert De Niro where the character of Bugging Out asks the Pizzeria owner Sal as to why aren't there any blacks on the wall?" And Sal replies:"Once you get your own business going,then you can put whatever you want on your own wall.
This is my store,and you don't come in here and tell me how to fucking run it.")reflects its neighborhood's demographics,how not to respond to an overly loud boombox and the dangers of curbside trash collection,not to mention dealing with the overly trigger happy cops and lowlifes that surround the neighborhood. The large cast of actors make up for this brilliant study of race relations and the like which includes not only its producer-director-star Spike Lee,but has Danny Aiello(Sal);John Turturro (Pino),Rosie Perez(Tina),Ossie Davis(Da Mayor),Ruby Dee(Mother Sister),Ginacarlo Esposito(Buggin Out),Samuel L .Jackson(Radio DJ Senor Love Daddy),Bill Nunn(Radio Raheem),and Richard Edson(Vito),along with Martin Lawrence,Tisha Campbell,and Joie Lee(Spike's sister). "Do The Right Thing" is one of those rare films which manages to provoke those disparte
passionate responses while being an entertainment masterpiece that is one of Spike Lee's best works.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
Spike Lee's greatest film ever! If you aren't a fan of Lee's work, you probably haven't seen this movie. It's brilliant, takes place in one day, fiercely investigates race relations, and it just overall is a great story about human nature. I highly recommend it.
Super Reviewer
½ November 15, 2006
Not a bad movie but Radio Raheem should've been blaring "Don't Believe the Hype" instead of "Fight the Power" every 5 minutes. I'll give Spike Lee his due for his directorial style and the cinematography. The performances were also good (namely Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee) but the fact that Lee presented everyone as equally racist was what pleasantly surprised me about this movie. What kind of bugged me about Do the Right Thing was how it just seemed to come across as a bunch of (mostly) disjointed vignettes then all of the sudden -- WHAM! Absolute chaos! The opening titles also bugged the shit out of me. The whole thing kind of came across like a student film with a bigger budget. Definitely not bad, but not as good as I've been lead to believe.
Super Reviewer
December 4, 2010
In a very vague way, this film reminds me of "American Graffiti." Both films are time capsules of there time. But where "American Graffiti" decided to be about the last innocent age of growing up in America, "Do the Right Thing" is a time capsule into an age of racial tension that has yet to leave America. The story presented here is fictional, even the setting is technically fictional. The setting is on a block in Brooklyn near a black neighborhood, but some people have noted that the streets that this block is positioned on never actually meet at a corner. This doesn't matter though because the characters have a certain quality to them that make them seem like people you would see everyday. With that said, it also means the acting is very well done, including a nice role from Samuel L. Jackson as a radio DJ who is something of an unintentional narrator. The cinematography and set design are pitch perfect, making Brooklyn a colorful but dark backdrop. But what makes this film work is the fact that all of these characters are used to each other and the tension has always existed, the only thing that happens to be different is the fact that its the hottest day of summer in Brooklyn. To be honest, the film isn't very violent, 3/4 of the film is just filled with the day to day (uneasy) relationships the characters have with each other. Its not until the last 1/4 that the tensions explode, the rest is a sort of suspense that immerses you in the final moments of the film. Some films aren't simply watched, they're experienced. This is one of those films. Highly HIGHLY recommended.
Super Reviewer
October 4, 2006
Cracking stuff, the film that put Lee on the map, and in doing so creates one of the funniest, pertinent and vital films of any decade. Also instrumental in establishing black directors (though few could match his talent). RADIO RAHEEM!
Super Reviewer
June 8, 2010
I have too many conflicting opinions. The beginning and middle are brilliant day-in-the-life minutiae. Mookie's choice in the end is powerful, but the motivation is unclear. My first take was that he doesn't really want to throw the trash can, but since he seems to be everyone's favorite guy, he knows he has to do something in the way of leadership to appease the majority. If Mookie's act is motivated by what he thinks is "right" but not necessarily "moral," then the resolution scene with Mookie and Sal seems a bit empty and paints Mookie as an ungrateful villain.

My second take is that Mookie throws the trash can because he realizes that he will always be black. The most offensive thing Sal could say is, "There will always be a place for you here." Sal will never understand Mookie or what he did. In this vein, Mookie's act is "right" and "ethical," however the two somewhat opposing quotes by MLK and Malcolm X at the end cloud the message. Is it "right" to act peaceably at all times or to use violence sometimes in self-defense? Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out do not act peaceably in their attempts to get pictures of African-Americans up on the walls of Sal's Pizzeria, and Sal does not act peaceably in his attempts to eject them from his restaurant. If MLK's doctrine of civil disobedience is out, then is Malcolm X's the only other way to go? Self defense is also kind of a sticky issue. Technically, no one attacks Mookie prior to him throwing the trash can, and the party he fights against were not directly involved in the cold-blooded attack of Radio Raheem.

So is there no "right" thing to do, or does everyone's "right" thing differ? I like that conclusion, but I'm not sure the movie's purpose is to contradict itself.
Super Reviewer
½ June 29, 2009
"It's the hottest day of the summer. You can do nothing, you can do something, or you can..."

On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.

One hot day in Brooklyn turns the racial tension that has been building up in the small neighborhood to a full boil after an incident involving one of the residents, and it culminates in a highly fist-wrenching climax. As you can tell by the afterword of the film, this is a movie that seeks to reconcile the teachings of two of the Civil Rights movement's most prominent voices--Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X, the former having taught standing up for your rights via civil disobedience and nonviolence, while Malcom X urged that your rights are something you have to declare yourself and actively defend in that 'By Any Means Necessary' activist manner.

This was, for me, one of the best movies of the decade and one of the best Spike Lee movies I have seen yet. The cast, too, is phenomenal, featuring Danny Aiello, Richard Edson and John Tuturo as an Italian family of father and sons who own the neighborhood pizza place. Spike Lee plays the sort of neutral force, the go-between. The cast also features Rosie Perez, Giancarlo Esposito (as a sort of instigator), Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Harris (Bebe's Kids), and most importantly, husband and wife civil rights activist team, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee as feuding (and courting) neighbors who represent the elders perspective. It was a well-written nicely laid out story and resulted in an important political film.
Super Reviewer
½ October 19, 2007
A roaring, original, and ultimately unforgettable look at a tight-knit community in New York City and how the racial tensions between all those that reside there explode on a hot summer day. It is widely held that this is Spike Lee's masterpiece (although I still think "The 25th Hour" is his best film), and it's easy to see why due to the film's strong performances (especially Aiello and Turturro) and Lee's keen eye for New York City. This is definitely an important movie and one that is bursting with creative flashes at every turn. While there are some scenes in the film that don't need to be included and the Mookie character becomes somewhat annoying from time to time, this is still a film that needs to be seen. The last thirty minutes of the movie are some of the best captured in cinema. I'm sure I'll go back to this film in a few years and start to get goosebumps when Sal decides to re-open the store just for a minute.
Super Reviewer
December 6, 2009
Wake up! Wake up! Up you wake!

I love this Movie and love the Soundtrack too.
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2009
It was pretty good. I really liked how everything took place on a small stretch of road in a community. As well the shots were fantastic. I know its all 'street lingo' but for me, I get sick of hearing the F-word too many times. It loses its meaning and just becomes annoying. This is well worth watching either way. It is a well done piece of art.
Page 1 of 169