Summer of Sam


Summer of Sam

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 101


Audience Score

User Ratings: 32,413
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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 panic, captivating not only New York, but the entire world. In director/writer Spike Lee's drama "Summer of Sam," the vicious murderer stalks his way through the Italian-American section of the Bronx, preying on innocent young women. As the temperatures and body count rise, the city becomes immersed in terror. In the desperate search for the 44-caliber killer, a Mafia boss offers a bounty for the Son of Sam. Motivated by greed and ignorance, Joey T., a 32-year-old thug, and his gang of flunkies become obsessed with the idea that Son of Sam is someone from "the neighborhood." Armed with twisted logic, the gang makes a list of everyone they think is a freak-o. The witch-hunt is on, with Ritchie, an aspiring punk rocker, becoming the focus of their suspicion and an easy scapegoat for their fears.


Adrien Brody
as Ritchie
Saverio Guerra
as Woodstock
Al Palagonia
as Anthony
Anthony LaPaglia
as Detective Petrocelli
Roger Guenveur Smith
as Detective Atwater
Spike Lee
as John, John Jeffries
Nelson Vasquez
as Officer Cruz
Darielle Gilad
as Debbie Cadabra
Peter Maloney
as Detective Timothy Dowd
Ernie Anastos
as Anchorman
Jim Jenson
as Anchorman
Melba Tolliver
as Anchorwoman
Phil Rizuto
as Yankee Broadcaster
Danielle Burgio
as Girl in Parked Car
Lisa France
as Girl in Parked Car
William Raymond
as Father Cadilli
Mildred Clinton
as Italian Woman at Murder Site
Emelise Aleandri
as Italian Woman at Murder Site
Phil Campanella
as 2nd Bowler at Diner
Dan Zappin
as Simon's Male Friend
Murielle Cohen
as Simon's Female Friend
Christina Kolbe
as Simon's Female Friend
Joie Lee
as Bed Stuy Woman Interviewed
Rome Neal
as Bed Stuy Man Interviewed
Mark Breland
as Bed Stuy Man Interviewed
Susan Batson
as Bed Stuy Woman Interviewed
Evander Holyfield
as Man in Riot
Toneda Laiwan
as Dot--Atwater's Girlfriend
Janet Paparazzo
as Young Woman Shot by Son of Sam
Jodi Michelle Pynn
as Young Woman Shot by Son of Sam
Jennifer S. Badger
as Woman Victim
Jeff DeRocker
as Man in Car
Nick Oddo
as Husband
Damian Achilles
as Wounded Man
Joanne Lamstein
as Woman in Car
Gabriel Barre
as Johnny Nasso
Tara McNamee
as Woman Victim
John Michael Brown
as `L.E.S. Stitches' Band Singer
Damian Branica
as `L.E.S. Stitches' Band Bassist
Lorne Behrman
as `L.E.S. Stitches' Band Guitarist
Curtis Gove
as `L.E.S. Stitches' Band Guitarist
James Baggs
as `L.E.S. Stitches' Drummer
Rozie Bacchi
as Brian's Girlfriend
Grace DeSena
as Joe T's Girlfriend
Zoe Bournelis
as Anthony's Girlfriend
Frank Cadillac
as Patty aka Man with Weird Eyes
Daniel J. Courtenay
as Guitar Store Owner
Kathryn Hudd
as Rocco's Girlfriend
Antonio Torres
as Man Pulled from Car
Pamela Wehner
as Lady at Block Party
Dionna Colicchio
as Girl at Block Party
Victoria Galasso
as Girl at Block Party
Danielle Tutelian
as Girl at Block Party
Mario Macaluso
as Italian Chef
Andrew Lasky
as Officer Cruz Partner
Richard Paul
as Detective with Decoy Dummy
Anthony Ray Carlson
as Crime Scene Cop
Steven Croft
as Limo Driver
Mary Jo Todaro
as Lady in Window
Jacqueline Margolis
as Lady in Window
Iris Alten
as Lady in Car Window
Valerie Mazzonelli
as Lady with Dog
Hal Sherman
as Arresting Detective
Nicholas Brown
as Young Detective Petrocelli
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Critic Reviews for Summer of Sam

All Critics (101) | Top Critics (28) | Fresh (52) | Rotten (49)

  • Summer of Sam, for all its flash and well-crafted fury, is only superficially disturbing. It's a nightmare stroll down memory lane: feel-bad nostalgia.

    Mar 1, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

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

    Sep 23, 2008 | Full Review…
  • This is trashy exploitation at its clumsiest. Once more, a Spike Lee movie has been undone by the earnestness of being important.

    Apr 27, 2007 | Full Review…

    Andrew Sarris

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

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    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.

    Mar 22, 2002 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • 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.

    Feb 14, 2001 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Summer of Sam

  • Oct 16, 2016
    A thrilling, often bizarre film, Summer of Sam is a bigger triumph than its general critical reception would make it seem due to a great ensemble and a strong screenplay.
    Matthew Samuel M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 09, 2014
    Dreadful. This was a really cool idea, but this film basically has ADHD. It cuts back and forth between characters like someone flipping channels. And after awhile, you just don't give a fuck about Leguizamo and Sorvino, and want to find out if the cops are closing in on the fucking serial killer that the characters are always talking about. The bad guy is an anecdote for people to talk about in the film, a sidenote until he's shown in like two scenes. And by far the worst part of this film is Spike Lee's indescribably bad might just be the worst acting I've ever seen in a film, which I don't get, because he's been in other films I believe, and he was okay there. But here, he's just so amazingly bad. Do not watch this movie. It sucks.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 18, 2012
    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 A Super Reviewer
  • Dec 23, 2011
    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 H Super Reviewer

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