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Summer of Sam (1999)

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Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.


Spike Lee


Spike Lee, Victor Colicchio (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Leguizamo ... Vinny
Adrien Brody ... Richie
Mira Sorvino ... Dionna
Jennifer Esposito ... Ruby
Michael Rispoli ... Joey T
Saverio Guerra ... Woodstock
Brian Tarantina ... Bobby Del Fiore
Al Palagonia Al Palagonia ... Anthony
Ken Garito ... Brian
Bebe Neuwirth ... Gloria
Patti LuPone ... Helen
Mike Starr ... Eddie
Anthony LaPaglia ... Detective Lou Petrocelli
Roger Guenveur Smith ... Detective Curt Atwater
Ben Gazzara ... Luigi


Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The summer of '77 was a killer........ See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong graphic violence and sexuality, pervasive strong language and drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | Italian

Release Date:

2 July 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Son of Sam See more »


Box Office


$22,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,952,452, 4 July 1999

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Two minutes of film were cut, mostly from the club orgy scene, to get an R rating instead of an NC-17. See more »


In the film the British rock band, The Who are repeatedly referred to as a punk rock band. This is wildly incorrect. The Who was founded in 1964 and were part of the trailing edge of the British Invasion. The only thing that related to the violent attitude of hard-core punk bands was the fact that on a couple of occasions the drummer and guitarist (Keith Moon and Pete Townsend) smashed their instruments (which began at the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1967, in response to Jimi Hendrix' burning his guitar). By the time of the Son of Sam murders, the Who had already been hard rockers for nearly a decade and had been using synthesizers for over half that time - something that no punk band would ever do, up until the Clash released Bankrobber in 1980. See more »


Detective Lou Petrocelli: My partner knows I'm from the neighborhood. Can we get down to business? We need your help.
Luigi: What do you want me to do? Arrest myself?
See more »

Crazy Credits

The credits are in the form of newspaper headlines. See more »

Alternate Versions

After they are refused entry into Studio 54, the sex scene between Dionna (Mira Sorvino) and Vinny (John Leguizamo) included more explicit shots in the original cut. This scene was edited a bit after the MPAA threatened the film with an "NC-17" rating. See more »


Let No Man Put Asunder
Written by Bruce Gray and Bruce Hawes
Performed by First Choice
Courtesy of Salsoul Records, Bethlehem Music Company, Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Grade: A-
3 December 2004 | by tideprinceSee all my reviews

The climate is fear, pure and simple. Fear so heavy you breathe it in. There's a menacing entity killing nearly at random, and no one knows where, when, or who it'll strike next. The authorities are working hard to bring the danger to an end, but they're seemingly blocked at every turn. As the tension mounts, everything the people of this place don't like or understand becomes suspect. Social conventions break down. Hysteria seeps into the hearts of these people, a good, hardworking, blue collar people. And it drives them mad.

The story I've just told is essentially the story told in "Summer of Sam", which I believe is Spike Lee's best film. The story takes place in the summer of 1977 in New York City, but social mores being what they are today, it could easily take place in any town in America today, right now. Replace the Son of Sam with a terrorist threat, and the situation becomes strikingly similar.

The vigilantes who beat Richie at the end of the film are beating him because he works at a gay strip club, not because they think he's the Son of Sam. They don't like his hair or his music or his friends or his attitude, but in the end the straw that breaks the camel's back is his sexuality. As the country struggles with a potential Constitutional gay marriage ban, we need to think about where our anger toward homosexuality is really coming from. Is it coming from a sense of morality, or is it coming from a sense of fear?

That's enough political mumbojumbo though. This is a stunning film, and don't let anyone tell you different. I noticed Adrien Brody in this flick long before anyone saw "The Pianist", and I said then that he was going to be a star someday. He should have gotten an Oscar nomination for his work here, as should have John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino, Leguizamo especially. He shows range I haven't seen from him since. The script plays like an Arthur Miller stage production. Tormented protagonist, fighting battles with his own soul that he should learn to let go of. A climactic moral test of wills. Society turning on an individual out of fear and anger.

So props to Spike Lee, who may never be this good again. "Malcolm X" and "The 25th Hour" are also both really wonderful films, but for me, this one takes the cake. If you haven't seen it already, do so. A lot of people don't like it, but like Adrien Brody says in the film, you've gotta think for yourself.

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