Do the Right Thing (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes

Do the Right Thing (1989)

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Critic Consensus: 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.

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Movie Info

Set in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, Spike Lee's thought-provoking and powerful comedy/drama chronicles the events that lead up to a race riot between the residents. The action takes place on the hottest day of the year and centers around a pizza parlor owned by Italian-American Sal. It's a popular hangout for the neighborhood youth. The events leading up to the confrontation are presented episodically and center around, Sal (Danny Aiello), his aimless employee Mookie (Spike Lee) and his pal, the radical Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito), who is irritated that Sal's "Wall of Fame" (containing only pictures of famous Italian-Americans) contains no African-American faces and therefore tries unsuccessfully to get the neighborhood blacks, including Mookie, to boycott the restaurant. Radio Raheem, with his blaring boom box permanently affixed to his shoulder, inadvertently becomes the catalyst for violence. As the stories unfold and many colorful satellite characters and their lives are introduced, the temperature rises. With the constant bickering between Mookie and the other employees, the harassment of Buggin Out, and other events, Sal is pushed to the breaking point and makes a fateful decision. Already stressed out and overheated, Sal snaps at closing time when Radio Raheem show up and demands service at the last minute. Violence and tragedy ensue.
  • Rating:
    R
  • Genre:
  • Directed By:
  • Written By:
  • In Theaters:
     wide
  • On DVD:
  • Runtime:
  • Studio:
    Universal Pictures

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Cast

Spike Lee
as Mookie
Danny Aiello
as Salvatore 'Sal' Fragione
Ossie Davis
as Da Mayor
Ruby Dee
as Mother Sister
Bill Nunn
as Radio Raheem
Frankie Faison
as Coconut Sid
Robin Harris
as Sweet Dick Willie
Miguel Sandoval
as Officer Ponte
Rick Aiello
as Officer Long
John Savage
as Clifton
Samuel L. Jackson
as Mister Senor Love Daddy
Gwen McGee
as Louise
Joel Nagle
as Sargent
David E. Weinberg
as Plain Clothes Detective
Chris Delaney
as Stevie's Friend
Angel Ramirez
as Stevie's Friend
Sixto Ramos
as Stevie's Friend
David Weinberg
as Plain Clothes Detective
Nelson Vasquez
as Stevie's Friend
Yattee Brown
as Double Dutch Girl
Mecca Brunson
as Double Dutch Girl
Shawn Stainback
as Double Dutch Girl
Soquana Wallace
as Double Dutch Girl
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News & Interviews for Do the Right Thing

Critic Reviews for Do the Right Thing

All Critics (67) | Top Critics (17)

In the final analysis, the best thing one can say for Lee is that he takes risks, like all true artists. For unlike most of today's film makers, he's not afraid to really challenge a movie audience to do some serious thinking.

Full Review… | July 7, 2015
New York Daily News
Top Critic

[Do the Right Thing is] an exceptional film, a movie that wisely deprives you of the cozy resolutions and epiphanies so often manufactured by Hollywood. Like the film's principals, you are left feeling that you have been torched where you live.

Full Review… | March 3, 2015
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

This might sound like a depressing story, but the level of performance and filmmaking is so high that Do the Right Thing becomes a most entertaining warning.

Full Review… | March 3, 2015
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Do the Right Thing is complex, bravura movie making. It is also hugely entertaining, since fortunately for us, Lee's seditious method is to use humor to carry his biting message.

Full Review… | March 3, 2015
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Its characters are often abrasive; its language is consistently foul; and it takes a complicated view of race-related violence. Yet it's an attractive and even beguiling film in many ways, too, with large resources of humor and intelligence.

Full Review… | March 3, 2015
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

There's only one way to do the wrong thing about Do the Right Thing: that would be to ignore it.

Full Review… | March 3, 2015
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Do the Right Thing

A mixed bag for me. The topic and actual plot events were fascinating, but I found it a little tedious to watch. The movie has this very static quality where actors tend to stand in one spot when they're delivering their lines, instead of moving around naturally, which makes it feel at times like an amateurish stage play. (Perhaps most of it was filmed single-camera?) The only character I felt for was Sal, Danny Aiello is a superb actor. I'm not sure if we're supposed to like the main character Mookie, tbh. Some of the dialogue (especially by Mister Senor Love Daddy and the three old men sitting around) is hilarious with great flow, but a lot of times, for example when tempers run hot, the lines people yell at each other are clichéd and carry no meaning.

Letitia Lew
Letitia Lew

Super Reviewer

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

Eugene Bernabe
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

½

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

Mark Walker
Mark Walker

Super Reviewer

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