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Do the Right Thing (1989)

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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.


Spike Lee


Spike Lee
1,248 ( 801)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 20 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Danny Aiello ... Sal
Ossie Davis ... Da Mayor
Ruby Dee ... Mother Sister
Richard Edson ... Vito
Giancarlo Esposito ... Buggin Out
Spike Lee ... Mookie
Bill Nunn ... Radio Raheem
John Turturro ... Pino
Paul Benjamin ... ML
Frankie Faison ... Coconut Sid
Robin Harris ... Sweet Dick Willie
Joie Lee ... Jade
Miguel Sandoval ... Officer Ponte
Rick Aiello ... Officer Long
John Savage ... Clifton


This film looks at life in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn on a hot summer Sunday. As he does everyday, Sal Fragione opens the pizza parlor he's owned for 25 years. The neighborhood has changed considerably in the time he's been there and is now composed primarily of African-Americans and Hispanics. His son Pino hates it there and would like nothing better than to relocate the eatery to their own neighborhood. For Sal however, the restaurant represents something that is part of his life and sees it as a part of the community. What begins as a simple complaint by one of his customers, Buggin Out - who wonders why he has only pictures of famous Italian-Americans on the wall when most of his customers are black - eventually disintegrates into violence as frustration seemingly brings out the worst in everyone. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


It's the hottest day of the summer. You can do nothing, you can do something, or you can...


Comedy | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | Italian | Spanish | Korean

Release Date:

21 July 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Heatwave See more »


Box Office


$6,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


There are 74 musical artists cited by name during Love Daddy's "roll call." The first is Boogie Down Productions and the last is Marion Williams. See more »


When Radio Raheem does his "love and hate" monologue, a shadow of the camera can be seen on him throughout much of the scene. See more »


[first lines]
Mister Senor Love Daddy: Wake up! Wake up! Up you wake!
See more »

Alternate Versions

the "pan & scan" version broadcast on ITV4 truncates the conversation between Radio Raheem and the Koreans when he visits their store to replace the batteries for his portable radio. The sequence where the husband loses his temper and swears "mother-f&%k you", to which Raheem responds warmly is omitted. See more »


References The Godfather (1972) See more »


Lift Every Voice and Sing
Music and Lyrics by James Weldon Johnson and Rosamond Johnson
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Black & White
4 June 2005 | by jpschapiraSee all my reviews

Let's take a little time on director's ambitions. Not all, but some of the most important directors in the business, are ambitious. They are always seeking beyond the images of their films, with a personal message the viewer don't always gets to appreciate. It happens more with writer/directors. Paul Thomas Anderson has been pursuing, I believe, the sadness of human reality, in all its aspects. In other cases, with directors but not writers, like Martin Scorsese; who puts something about his own life in each piece he directs. Writer/director Spike Lee generated the controversy that he would generate periodically years later when he released "Do the right thing". What does Spike Lee pursues? The fairness for his people: African-American, black people. As in many other movies, he proved that right with "Do the right thing".

Lee invites the audience to a typical day in Brooklyn. Right there, we listen to rap music, saying "fight the power"; and when we see Spike Lee in his character Mookie, we know there's something about Lee's life. And we realize the film is his when we meet his realism, his characters and his (I wanted to arrive here) ambitions. We listen to Mister Senor Love Daddy (an over top, outrageously funny Sam Jackson) saying good morning from his radio station: "And that's the truth, Ruth". It's a sunny day; Mookie goes to work and bumps into a lot of people: Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) and his friends Cee (Martin Lawrence), Punchy (Leonard Thomas) and other girls, the retarded Smiley (Roger Smith) Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) attempting to conquest Mother Sister's (Ruby Dee) heart, Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) spreading style all over, Tina (Rosie Perez) waiting for his man, three old men sitting in the street talking about life…This is black territory all the way through.

But there's also "Sal's (Danny Aiello) Famous Pizza", hated by his son Pino (John Turturro), who works there with his other brother Vito (Richard Edson), but loved by the entire neighborhood. The place has been there for over twenty years and the pizza is good; Mookie works there. But are these people black? Oh no, they're white Italians, with pictures of their white heroes in the walls of their place. So, when it seems like a common day, Spike Lee gets quietly to his objections. With his script, in which every character gets a chance to shine, he develops little things that you will find interesting and revealing. Buggin Out, the movie's craziest character, is the guy with the racist problems. This is not a movie where black hate white and vice versa. I mean, it's not like they love each other, but there's respect. The thing is that the characters are so marked by racism that they dislike the situation of being in the same environment the people of other color are. "I detest this place", says Pino.

Buggin Out has a problem with a white guy, when his new shoes are stepped by the guy. Buggin gets angry and asks what he's doing on "his" neighborhood, on "his" block on "his" side of the street. "I own this place", the guy answers. Then Buggin says: "Why do you wanna live in a black neighborhood?", Buggin asks angrily, referring to Brooklyn. "I was born in Brooklyn", the guy concludes. Buggin and his friends start shouting, and they can't understand that the guy was born there, because they are used to be among blacks and not among whites; but that's not hate. Anyway, that's the same Buggin that tells Mookie: "Stay black"; because Mookie works with white people. A white man passes by with his old car, when Cee and company are playing with water. "Don't throw water into my car", he says. They do it, and laugh hard. The cops are also white, but they can't do anything to Cee and his friends, they were having fun and there's respect.

All of this characters are controlled by Lee, you can tell; even when he's also acting on screen. There's no doubt he knows that world more than anyone and how he wants to present it is very important. Like in "25th Hour", he moves his camera all around with his personal style, and puts his characters talking facing the camera directly. They start to say things, about other people and about themselves sometimes. In "25th Hour", the speakers where, black, white, Chinese, Korean, Latin American…Anything you could imagine, because it was a whole city. Before, in "Do the right thing", it was just a block, and the speakers where the people that lived there. It's amazing how Lee does it; the words he write and the characters stop talking but you know they have much more to say they could go on. You know Spike Lee has so much to say.

Going back to the story; Lee puts some clues to the incredibly unexpected conclusion. When Da Mayor tells Mookie: "Always, always do the right thing", and Buggin tells Sal that he is planning to boycott his place…You feel something; like the way I felt as I watched "It's the rage". Something like a downfall…A collapse. This is a very good movie, and I wasn't trying to interpret its conclusion, because I know how important a director's ambition is. So, when the screen goes black, and you read the words said by those black legends, you can only guess that everyone was just trying to do the right thing.

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