Summer of Sam (1999)

Summer of Sam



Critic Consensus: Spike Lee offers intense visuals but his storytelling feels crowded and overambitious.

Movie Info

New York City's infamous summer of 1977 was a scene of disco divas and the culture clash between fashionable patrons of Studio 54 and the new wave of punk rockers who invaded Manhattan. It was also one of the hottest summers on record and produced the city's first serial killer, whom the tabloids, in a frenzy to boost their circulations, quickly dubbed "Son of Sam." With the media playing an integral role in creating mass fear and paranoia, the whole city became a hotbed of trepidation and … More

Rating: R (for strong graphic violence and sexuality, pervasive strong language and drug use)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Michael Imperioli, Victor Colicchio, Spike Lee
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 28, 2001
Touchtone Pictures


as Ritchie

as Woodstock

as Anthony

as Brian

as Eddie

as Detective Petrocelli

as Detective Atwater

as Luigi

as Simon

as Son of Sam

as John, John Jeffries

as Officer Cruz

as Debbie Cadabra

as Detective Timothy Do...

as Anchorman

as Anchorman

as Anchorwoman

as Yankee Broadcaster

as Himself

as Girl in Parked Car

as Girl in Parked Car

as Father Cadilli

as Italian Woman at Mur...

as Italian Woman at Mur...

as 2nd Bowler at Diner

as Simon's Male Friend

as Simon's Female Frien...

as Simon's Female Frien...

as Bed Stuy Woman Inter...

as Bed Stuy Man Intervi...

as Bed Stuy Man Intervi...

as Bed Stuy Woman Inter...

as Man in Riot

as Dot--Atwater's Girlf...

as Young Woman Shot by ...

as Young Woman Shot by ...

as Woman Victim

as Man in Car

as Husband

as Wounded Man

as Woman in Car

as Johnny Nasso

as Woman Victim

as `L.E.S. Stitches' Ba...

as `L.E.S. Stitches' Ba...

as `L.E.S. Stitches' Ba...

as `L.E.S. Stitches' Ba...

as `L.E.S. Stitches' Dr...

as Brian's Girlfriend

as Joe T's Girlfriend

as Anthony's Girlfriend

as Patty aka Man with W...

as Guitar Store Owner

as Rocco's Girlfriend

as Man Pulled from Car

as Lady at Block Party

as Girl at Block Party

as Girl at Block Party

as Girl at Block Party

as Italian Chef

as Officer Cruz Partner

as Detective with Decoy...

as Crime Scene Cop

as Limo Driver

as Lady in Window

as Lady in Window

as Lady in Car Window

as Lady with Dog

as Arresting Detective

as Young Detective Petr...

as Father Cadilli
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Summer of Sam

Friend Ratings

No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.


Critic Reviews for Summer of Sam

All Critics (101) | Top Critics (27)

Like most of Lee's work, this bites off more than it can chew, but the breadth and energy are impressive.

Full Review… | September 23, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

This is trashy exploitation at its clumsiest. Once more, a Spike Lee movie has been undone by the earnestness of being important.

Full Review… | April 27, 2007
New York Observer
Top Critic

Trouble is, the overlong narrative, however entertaining from minute to minute, is a mess.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The disappointment with Summer of Sam is not that it's exploitative; it's just difficult to figure out what it's supposed to be about.

Full Review… | March 22, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Lee is a powerful filmmaker who certainly knows how to have an impact on an audience, but those who survive his ministrations are likely to wonder if in this case the battle was worth the bruises.

Full Review… | February 14, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

The elements are there but the movie isn't.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Village Voice
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Summer of Sam

I am usually one to dislike Spike Lee's work due to his knack for starting fights and complaining about more talented directors. Even I can admit however that Lee can at times make a good effort. Although Summer of Sam is not a great piece of cinema, this is much better film than most in Spike Lee's filmography. The cast really elevate the material, and for what it is, this is an engaging thriller from start to finish that will certainly appeal to viewers looking for a well acted movie with effective thrills. The film could have been better as well, and though Lee tries to craft something quite different from his other work, he at times feels uncertain on how to really make this a standout feature. Spike Lee has made a good film here, and though I hate the guy, I quite enjoyed this dramatic thriller. If only he would change his outlook and shut his mouth, he would be more respected. With this film, he crafts something compelling and worth seeing. This is quite different and even if it's not perfect, it's one of his better films. The film is mixed in terms of what it tries to be, but it's always engaging due to its varied cast and well thought out characters. I will be honest, I wanted to avoid this film, and I thought it wouldn't be good due to the fact that Lee's films tend to be preachy and packed with racial tension, but Summer of Sam is different and refreshing. The cast and plot are compelling and elevate Spike Lee sometimes lacking direction. I did enjoy the film, and along with Malcolm X is Spike Lee's second best directorial effort. Even Lee's haters, like me can admit that this is an entertaining film and it works due to well written characters and standout performances. You can only imagine how much better the film would have been better if someone else would have helmed the project. This is a flawed film, but better than what I initial thought.

Alex roy

Super Reviewer


Know what? I bet that Spike Lee would make a really brilliant zombie movie. He really excels at crafting stories about groups of characters caught in circumstances that bring out the worst in everyone. This movie reminds me a lot of Do The Right Thing, but it's made twelve years after and set ten years before. I was surprised (though perhaps I shouldn't have been) that this movie spent so little time with David Berkowitz himself and so much more with all the characters made paranoid and hostile to each other in the wake of his insane and random murders. The Son of Sam murders have fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that leads former friends and people who've grown up together to mistrust each other, form vicious little in-groups and turn on other people to make themselves feel more secure. Not unlike in The Walking Dead. These characters seem really three-dimensional and real to me, and everyone's motivations, while sometimes despicable, are at the very least understandable. I really like the way Ruby and Ritchie get into the burgeoning CBGB's punk scene and come together, and I really liked Vinny and Dionna as the profoundly unhappily married couple trying to repair their strained relationship. Are they even compatible? I love this movie. It's so human and so big, and Spike Lee tells the story with a real sense of flair and zeitgeist.

Emily Armstrong

Super Reviewer

On a scene by scene basis this film is alright, but it is a mess when taken as a whole. It's like the filmmakers came in with twenty ideas and a clumsy script that does not fully develop any of them. This leaves confusion as to what message Spike Lee was trying to convey. There are moments of brilliance in this movie, accompanied by some good acting. The most noteworthy performance is Adrien Brody. Yet for every moment of brilliance, there are tedious elements that prevent the film from being great. The relationship sub-plot with John Leguizamo's character feels like a very bad soap-opera that is only related to the Son of Sam killings by sheer coincidence. This sub-plot is a time-killer that doesn't add to the overall story. Plus there are some characters that are too cartoonish to be taken as real people, which counteracts the gritty realism Spike Lee is trying to achieve. If Spike Lee had taken the time to refine the script and made it less crowded this movie could have been really great. As it is, it is a mixed bag.

Christopher Heim
Christopher Heim

Super Reviewer

Summer of Sam Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss Summer of Sam on our Movie forum!