AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Do the Right Thing
Director: Spike Lee (Dir)
Release Date:   30 Jun 1989
Duration (in mins):  120
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Cast: Danny Aiello  (Sal [Frangione])
  Ossie Davis  (Da Mayor)
  Ruby Dee  (Mother Sister)

Summary: In Brooklyn, New York, Mister Señor Love Daddy announces on his radio show that the temperature will exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit that day. Outside a church, a mentally handicapped man named Smiley holds up pictures of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, saying that even though they are dead, people still need to fight against racism. Mookie, a young African-American man, counts his cash at home then wakes up his sister, Jade, who fights to remain asleep. Down the block, Mookie’s boss, an Italian man named Sal Frangione, opens his shop, Sal’s Famous Pizzeria. As Sal’s sons, Pino and Vito, fight over who is going to sweep, Pino expresses disdain for the family business. Mookie reports to work, and is closely followed by an older African-American man, Da Mayor, who offers to sweep the sidewalk for one dollar. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, teenagers Cee, Ella, Punchy, and Ahmad hang out on a stoop as their friend “Radio Raheem” walks by, playing loud music by the hip-hop group, Public Enemy, from his portable stereo. Da Mayor, taking the dollar he earned from Sal to a convenience store to buy a beer, reprimands the Asian storeowners, Sonny and Kim, for running out of his preferred drink. Da Mayor passes by the house of an older woman named Mother Sister, and she accuses him of being a drunk. At home, a young Latina woman named Tina fights with her mother, who refuses to babysit for Tina’s son, Hector. Buggin Out, a young African-American man, becomes angry when he orders pizza from Sal and notices that the establishment’s “Wall of Fame” features pictures of white Italian-Americans only. Buggin Out and Sal have a heated argument, and Sal throws him out. On the sidewalk, Mookie reprimands Buggin Out for putting his job at risk and asks him to stay away from the pizzeria for a week. As Mookie delivers a pizza, Da Mayor stops him to say he must “always do the right thing.” Later, Da Mayor attempts to flirt with Mother Sister on her stoop as Jade does the woman’s hair. To combat the heat, Cee and Punchy turn on a fire hydrant, allowing children to play in the water. When they purposely spray Charlie, a short-tempered white man, in his convertible car, Charlie flags down two policemen, Officer Ponte and Officer Long, but Cee and Punchy run away. Attempting to make a report, Charlie asks the people in the neighborhood who witnessed the crime to help him identify the assailants, but everyone remains mum. Mookie delivers lunch to the deejay Mister Señor Love Daddy, who instructs Mookie to say something on the air. Reluctantly obliging, Mookie dedicates the next song to Tina. On the street, Clifton, one of the neighborhood’s few white residents, accidentally scuffs Buggin Out’s new sneakers. When Buggin Out accosts Clifton, asking why he wants to live in an African-American neighborhood, Clifton defends himself by saying that he was born in Brooklyn. Overhearing Da Mayor as he bribes a young boy named Eddie Lovell to buy him a beer, Ahmad confronts the old man, telling him he is a bum. Da Mayor says that his heart was broken over the years by unfortunate experiences, including his inability to support his wife and five children, but Ahmad argues that it was Da Mayor’s fault if he did not feed his family. At the pizzeria, Mookie talks to Tina on a payphone and she complains that she never sees him. Angry with Mookie for tying up the phone line, Pino calls him a racist name. Mookie tells Pino he should not use racist terminology, especially since so many of Pino's idols are African-American, including entertainers Michael Jackson, Eddie Murphy, and Prince. Before taking another pizza out for delivery, Mookie asks Sal if he can get paid early, but Sal refuses to give him the money until Mookie has finished his shift. Mookie runs into Radio Raheem, who shows him the two rings on his hands, one that spells “Love,” and the other “Hate,” explaining that the story of life is the struggle between love and hate. Raheem takes his stereo into Sal’s shop, but Sal demands that he turn it off before he is allowed to order. Pino takes Sal aside, saying he is sick of African-Americans and complaining that his friends tease him for working in an African-American neighborhood. When Smiley knocks on the window of the pizza shop, Pino snaps and drives him away, prompting Sweet Dick Willie, a middle-aged man across the street, to yell at Pino for accosting a mentally handicapped man. In hopes that Sal will put pictures of African-Americans on the wall, Buggin Out announces to neighbors that he is starting a boycott of the pizzeria. Although he attempts to stop Jade from going in, she ignores him. When Jade orders pizza, Pino and Mookie watch as Sal flirts with her and sits down with her, complimenting her eyes. This prompts Mookie to pull Jade into the alley where he tells his sister that she is no longer welcome in the shop, but Jade changes the subject, asking him when he is going to leave her apartment. Back inside, Mookie asks Sal to leave Jade alone. Meanwhile, Raheem fights with the Asian shop owners, Sonny and Kim, as he tries to purchase batteries for his stereo, but they have a hard time understanding his English. Chasing after an ice cream truck, Eddie runs into the street, but Da Mayor pushes him to the curb, saving Eddie from getting run over by a speeding car. Later, Tina orders a pizza and Mookie delivers it. At her apartment, they kiss, and Mookie asks if they can have sex. Tina complains that Mookie has a one-track mind and reminds him about their son, Hector, who is in the kitchen with Tina’s mother. Tina finally goes into the bedroom with Mookie, who instructs her to undress and runs ice cubes up and down her naked body, promising to return that night. Buggin Out and Raheem commiserate over the poor treatment they have received at Sal’s, and Raheem agrees to go along with the boycott. After the shop closes, Sal comments that they had a good day and suggests that he change the name of the shop to Sal & Sons Famous Pizzeria. He tells Mookie that he will always have a place there, too. Cee, Punchy, Ahmad, and Ella show up, begging for a slice of pizza, and Sal tells Mookie to let them in. Just then, Raheem arrives with Buggin Out and Smiley, marching into the pizzeria with his stereo speakers blaring the song, “Fight the Power.” Buggin Out yells at Sal to put pictures of African-Americans on the Wall of Fame, but Sal orders them to turn off the “jungle music.” When Sal snaps, directing a racial slur at Buggin Out, Vito, Pino, Mookie, and the other patrons join the argument. Sal destroys Raheem’s stereo with a baseball bat, inciting Raheem to attack him, and a brawl breaks out. The people of the neighborhood swarm as the fight moves outside onto the sidewalk. Raheem chokes Sal on the ground just as Officers Long and Ponte arrive, manhandling Buggin Out and Raheem. Long holds a nightstick against Raheem’s neck, suffocating him. Although Ponte orders him to stop, Long ignores his partner, and Raheem drops dead on the street. Angry, Ponte kicks Raheem’s body and yells at him to get up. Finally acknowledging that Raheem is dead, Long and Ponte shove his corpse into a police car and drive it away as onlookers protest. The neighbors outside the pizzeria continue to accost Sal, recalling numerous unnecessary deaths that were caused by police brutality. As Da Mayor tries to stop them all from arguing, Mookie grabs a trash can and throws it through the window of the pizzeria, inciting a riot in which the shop is destroyed. Smiley starts a fire, and everyone runs as the pizzeria burns down. The rioters then target Sonny and Kim’s convenience store, but Sonny pleads that he is a minority just like them, and they back off. A fire truck and several police cars arrive, but when onlookers refuse to move, firemen drive them away with high-pressured water hoses. Mookie and Jade watch in horror, and Mother Sister cries out, prompting Da Mayor to embrace her. Inside the smoldering building, Smiley puts one of his pictures of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X on the Wall of Fame. The next morning, Mookie finds Sal outside the burned-out shop, crying about having built the pizzeria with his own hands. Angry that Mookie betrayed him, Sal pays Mookie twice what he is owed, throwing the bills at him one at a time. Taking the money, Mookie says he must go see his son and walks away.  

Distribution Company: Universal Pictures
Production Company: 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks
Director: Spike Lee (Dir)
  Randy Fletcher (1st asst dir)
  Nandi Bowe (2d asst dir)
  Chris Lopez (2d 2d asst dir)
  R. W. Dixon (Unit mgr)
Producer: Spike Lee (Prod)
  Jon Kilik (Line prod)
  Monty Ross (Co-prod)
Writer: Spike Lee (Wrt)

Subject Major: African Americans
  New York City--Brooklyn
  Pizza deliverymen
  Police brutality
  Race relations
Subject Minor: Adolescents
  Brothers and sisters
  Class distinction
  Family relationships
  Fathers and sons
  Italian Americans
  Malcolm X
  Martin Luther King, Jr.
  Police corruption
  Radio stations
  Rap music

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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