AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Do the Right Thing
Director: Spike Lee (Dir)
Release Date:   30 Jun 1989
Premiere Information:   Cannes Film Festival screening: 19 May 1989; Los Angeles and New York openings: 30 Jun 1989
Production Date:   18 Jul--14 Sep 1988 in Brooklyn, New York
Duration (in mins):   120
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Danny Aiello (Sal [Frangione])  
    Ossie Davis (Da Mayor)  
    Ruby Dee (Mother Sister)  
    Richard Edson (Vito [Frangione])  
    Giancarlo Esposito (Buggin Out)  
    Spike Lee (Mookie)  
    Bill Nunn (Radio Raheem)  
    John Turturro (Pino [Frangione])  
    Paul Benjamin (ML)  
    Frankie Faison (Coconut Sid)  
    Robin Harris (Sweet Dick Willie)  
    Miguel Sandoval (Officer Ponte)  
    Rick Aiello (Officer [Gary] Long)  
    John Savage (Clifton)  
  Introducing Rosie Perez (Tina) as
    Joie Lee (Jade)  
    Sam Jackson (Mister Señor Love Daddy)  
    Roger Guenveur Smith (Smiley)  
    Steve White (Ahmad)  
    Martin Lawrence (Cee)  
    Leonard Thomas (Punchy)  
    Christa Rivers (Ella)  
    Frank Vincent (Charlie)  
    Luis Ramos (Stevie)  
    Richard Habersham (Eddie [Lovell])  
    Gwen McGee (Louise)  
    Steve Park (Sonny)  
    Ginny Yang (Kim)  
    Sherwin Park (Korean child)  
    Shawn Elliott (Puerto Rican Icee man)  
    Diva Osorio (Carmen)  
  Stevie's friends: Chris Delaney    
    Angel Ramirez    
    Sixto Ramos    
  [and] Nelson Vasquez    
    Travell Lee Toulson (Hector)  
    Joel Nagle (Sargeant)  
    David E. Weinberg (Plain clothes detective)  
  Double dutch girls: Yattee Brown    
    Mecca Brunson    
    Shawn Stainback    
  [and] Soquana Wallace    

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.  

Production Company: 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks  
Production Text: A Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks Production
A Spike Lee Joint
Brand Name:

Distribution Company: Universal Pictures (An MCA Company)
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)
Photography: Ernest Dickerson (Photog)
  John Newby (Cam op)
  Jonathan Burkhart (1st asst cam)
  Darnell Martin (2d asst cam)
  Frank Prinzi (Addl cam op)
  George Pattison (Addl cam op)
  Robert Gorelick (Addl cam asst)
  Paul S. Reuter (Addl cam asst)
  Stuart Allen (Louma Crane tech)
  David Lee (Still photog)
  Robert Ippolito (Key grip)
  Paul Wachter (Best boy)
  Rex North (Dolly grip)
  Rodney Bauer (3d grip)
  John Archibald (Addl grip)
  Erich Augenstein (Addl grip)
  Donald Bailer (Addl grip)
  Roger Kimpton (Addl grip)
  Marcus Turner (Grip trainee)
  Charles Houston (Gaffer)
  Val DeSalvo (Best boy)
  Sergei Mihajlov (3d elec)
  John O'Malley (3d elec)
  Derrick Still (Generator op)
  James Boorman (Elec)
  Christopher Vanzant (Elec)
  Addison Cook (Elec trainee)
  Juan Lopez (Elec trainee)
  Beverly C. Jones (Prod asst-elec)
  Technological Cinevideo Services, Inc. (Cam equip)
  David Lee (Still photog)
Art Direction: Wynn Thomas (Prod des)
  Michael Green (Asst art dir)
  Dennis Bradford (Asst art dir)
  Pam Stephens (Art dept coord)
  Jeff Balsmeyer (Storyboard artist)
  Jeffrey L. Glave (Chargeman)
  Joyce Kubalak (2d scenic artist)
  Patricia Bases (Scenic artist)
  Lawrence Casey (Scenic artist)
  Jeff Miller (Scenic artist)
Film Editor: Barry Alexander Brown (Ed)
  Tula Goenka (Asst ed)
  Leander Sales (Apprentice ed)
  Noëlle Penraat (Negative matching)
Set Decoration: Octavio Molina (Prop master)
  Mark Selemon (1st asst props)
  Marc Henry Johnson (2d asst props)
  Kevin Ladson (3d asst props)
  Andy Lassman (Addl asst props)
  Scott Rosenstock (Leadman)
  Keith Wall (Key set dresser)
  Steve Rosse (Set dec)
  Jon Rudo (Asst set dec)
  Anthony Baldasare (Set dresser)
  Michael Lee Benson (Set dresser)
  James Bilz (Set dresser)
  Thomas Hudson Reeve (Set dresser)
  Rosalie Russino (Shop person)
  Sherman Benjamin (Prod asst-shop)
  Martin Bernstein (Const coord)
  James Bonice (Const grip)
  David Bromberg (Const grip)
  Jonathan Graham (Const grip)
  Rich Kerekes (Const grip)
  Charles Marroquin (Const grip)
  Monique Mitchell (Const grip)
  Carl Peterson (Const grip)
  Carl Prinzi (Const grip)
  Bryan Unger (Const grip)
  Robert Woods, Jr. (Prod asst-const)
  Ken Nelson (Key set builder)
  Rodney Clark (Carpenter)
  Dominic Ferrar (Carpenter)
  Harold Horn (Carpenter)
  Timothy Main (Carpenter)
  Chris Miller (Carpenter)
  Twad Schuetrum (Carpenter)
Costumes: Ruth Carter (Cost)
  Karen Perry (Asst cost des)
  Jennifer Ruscoe (Ward supv)
  Valerie A. Gladstone (Ward seamstress)
  Michele Boissiere (Prod asst-ward)
  Millicent Shelton (Prod asst-ward)
Music: Bill Lee (Orig mus score)
  Branford Marsalis (Featuring, Orig mus score)
  Alex Steyermark (Mus ed)
  James "Jabbo" Ware (Mus copyist)
  Alexander Ostrovsky (Piano tuner)
  RCA Studios, N.Y. (Mus score rec at)
  William J. E. Lee (Conductor, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Branford Marsalis (Featuring, Tenor and soprano saxophone, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Terrence Blanchard (Trumpet, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Marlon Jordan (Trumpet, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Donald Harris (Alto saxophone, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Jeff "Tain" Watts (Drums, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Robert Hurst (Bass, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Kenny Barron (Piano, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  James Williams (Piano, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Stanley G. Hunte (Contractor- Violins, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Alen W. Sanford (Concert master - Violins, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Elliot Rosoff (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Kenneth Gordon (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  John Pintavalle (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Gerald Tarack (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Charles Libove (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Louann Montesi (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Paul Peabody (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Lewis Eley (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Regis Iandiorio (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Sandra Billingslea (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Cecelia A. Hobbs (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Marion J. Pinheiro (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Richard Henrickson (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Joseph Malin (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Lesa Terry (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Laura J. Smith (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Diane Monroe (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Alvin E. Rodgers (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Elena Barere (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Patmore Lewis (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Gregory Komar (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Winterton Garvey (Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Alfred V. Brown (Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Harry Zaratzian (Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Barry Finclair (Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Maxine Roach (Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  John R. Dexter (Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Lois E. Martin (Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Maureen Gallagher (Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Juliette Hassner (Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Frederick Zlotkin (Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Mark Orrin Shuman (Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Bruce Rogers (Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Melissa Meel (Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Eileen M. Folsom (Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Zela Terry (Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Carol Buck (Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Astrid Schween (Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Michael M. Fleming (Bass, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
  Rufus Reid (Bass, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra)
Sound: Skip Lievsay (Sd des)
  Frank Stettner (Sd rec)
  Andy Schmetterling (Boom man)
  Abdul Malik Abbott (Cableman/Prod asst)
  Charles Hunt (Cableman/Prod asst)
  Philip Stockton (Supv dial ed)
  Jeff Stern (Dial ed)
  Brunilda Torres (ADR ed)
  Gail Showalter (Foley ed)
  Rudy Gaskins (Sd ed)
  Gene Gearty (Sd ed)
  Tony Martinez (Sd ed)
  Bruce Pross (Sd ed)
  Stuart Stanley (Sd ed)
  James Flatto (Asst sd ed)
  Marissa Littlefield (Asst sd ed)
  Nic Ratner (Asst sd ed)
  Nzingha Clarke (Apprentice sd ed)
  William Docker (Apprentice sd ed)
  Marko A. Costanzo (Foley artist)
  Tom Fleischman (Re-rec mixer)
  Sound One Studios (Mixed at)
  Mike DiCosimo (Dolby Stereo consultant)
  Audio Services (Sd equip)
Special Effects: Steve Kirshoff (Spec eff)
  John N. Berry (Asst eff)
  Wilfred Caban (Asst eff)
  Paul Collangello (Asst eff)
  Dave Fletcher (Asst eff)
  Bill Harrison (Asst eff)
  Don Hewitt (Asst eff)
  William van der Putten (Asst eff)
  Dennis Zack (Asst eff)
  Select Effects (Opticals)
  Balsmeyer & Everett, Inc. (Main and end titles des and prod)
  Art Sims 11:24 Design & Advertising (Do the Right Thing logo by)
Dance: Rosie Perez ("Fight the Power" choreog)
  Otis Sallid ("Fight the Power" choreog)
Make Up: Larry Cherry (Hair)
  Matiki Anoff (Makeup)
  Marianna Najjar (Addl makeup)
Production Misc: Robi Reed (Casting)
  Preston Holmes (Prod supv)
  Brent Owens (Loc mgr)
  Lillian Pyles (Prod office coord)
  Robin Downes (Asst prod office coord)
  Susan D. Fowler (40 Acres prod coord)
  Audra C. Smith (40 Acres prod asst)
  Robert Nickson (Prod comptroller)
  Holly Chase (Auditor)
  Eric Oden (Asst auditor)
  Joe Gonzalez (Scr supv)
  Boston Light and Sound (Dailies projection)
  Michael Gaynor (Projectionist, Dailies)
  Andrea Reed (Casting asst)
  Tracy Vilar (Prod asst-casting)
  Jim Leavey (Teamster capt)
  Sarah Hyde-Hamlet (Extras casting)
  Willi Gaskins (Driver)
  Clifford Johnson (Driver)
  Sullie Jordan (Driver)
  Brian Maxwell (Driver)
  Martin Whitfield (Driver)
  Carlos Williams (Driver)
  Kenny Buford (Prod asst-set)
  Spencer Charles (Prod asst-set)
  Eric Daniel (Prod asst-set)
  Michael Ellis (Prod asst-set)
  Eddie Joe (Prod asst-set)
  Stephanie Jones (Prod asst-set)
  Erik Night (Prod asst-set)
  Frederick Nielsen (Prod asst-set)
  Kia Puriefoy (Prod asst-set)
  Bruce Roberts (Prod asst-set)
  Dale Watkins (Prod asst-set)
  Steve Burnett (Prod asst-office)
  Judith Norman (Prod asst-office)
  Richard Beaumont (Intern)
  Kai Bowe (Intern)
  Dawn Cain (Intern)
  Fritz Celestin (Intern)
  Melissa A. Clark (Intern)
  Arlene Donnelly (Intern)
  Juliette Harris (Intern)
  Ernie Mapp (Intern)
  Mitchell Marchand (Intern)
  Jacki Newson (Intern)
  Traci Proctor (Intern)
  Sara Renaud (Intern)
  Carolyn Rouse (Intern)
  Astrid Roy (Intern)
  Sharoya N. Smalls (Intern)
  Alan C. Smith (Intern)
  Susan Stuart (Intern)
  Karen Taylor (Intern)
  Jean Warner (Intern)
  Latanya White (Intern)
  Gail White (Intern)
  Monique Williams (Intern)
  On Location Medical, Inc. (Emergency medical services)
  Frankfurt, Garbus, Klein and Selz (Legal services)
  The Completion Bond Company (Completion guarantee)
  Tobin and Associates (Pub)
  Sam Mattingly (Unit pub)
  T&A Caterers (Caterers)
  Central Falls Caterers (Caterers)
  Unique Product Placement (Product placement)
  Norm Marshall & Associates, Inc. (Product placement)
  Avril Lacour-Hartnagel (Product placement coord)
  Cheryl Ann Scott (Craft services)
  The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (Photo research)
  New York Public Library (Photo research)
Stand In: Danny Aiello, III (Stunt double, Sal)
  Mharaka Washington (Stunt driver)
  Gary Frith (Stunt player)
  Andy Duppin (Stunt player)
  Rashon Khan (Stunt player)
  Erik Koniger (Stunt player)
  Malcolm Livingston (Stunt player)
  David S. Lomax (Stunt player)
  Dominic Marcus (Stunt player)
  Eric A. Payne (Stunt player)
  Roy Thomas (Stunt player)
  Tom Wright (Stunt player)
  Eddie Smith (Stunt coord)
  Chantal Collins (Stunt coord asst)
  Francine Renee Lawrence (Stunt coord asst)
Color Personnel: Bob Hagans (Col timer)
  John Nicolard (Col timer)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: "Fight the Power," music and lyrics by Carlton Ridenhour, Hank Shocklee, Eric Sadler and Keith Shocklee, performed by Public Enemy, Def American Songs, Inc. (BMI), courtesy of Def Jam/CBS Records; "Don't Shoot Me," music and lyrics by Spike Lee, Mervyn Warren, Claude McKnight and David Thomas, performed by Take 6, Spikey-Poo Songs, Inc. (ASCAP), Dee Mee Music/Mervyn Warren Music/Claude Vee Music (BMI), courtesy of Reprise/Warner Brothers Records; "Can't Stand It," music and lyrics by David Hines, performed by Steel Pulse, Pulse Music, Ltd. (P.R.S.), courtesy of MCA Records/Loot Music; "Tu Y Yo," music and lyrics by Rubèn Blades, R.B. Productions, Inc. (ASCAP), courtesy of Elektra Records; "Why Don't We Try," music and lyrics by Raymond Jones, Larry DeCarmine, Vincent Morris, performed by Keith John, Jerrelle Music Publishing (ASCAP), Zubaidah Music, Inc./Unicity Music Publishing (ASCAP), Hey Nineteen Music (ASCAP), courtesy of Black Bull Productions; "Hard To Say," music and lyrics by Raymond Jones, performed by Lori Perry and Gerald Aston, Zubaidah Music, Inc. (ASCAP), Gerald Alston courtesy of Motown Records, LP/Taj Records, Lori Perry courtesy of MCA Records; "Party Hearty," music and lyrics by William "Ju Ju" House and Kent Wood, performed by EU, Ju House Music (ASCAP), Syce-M-Up Music (ASCAP), courtesy of Virgin Records; "Prove To Me," music and lyrics by Raymond Jones and Sami McKinney, performed by Perri, Zubaidah Music, Inc. (ASCAP), Unicity Music, Avid One Music (ASCAP), courtesy of Zebra/MCA Records; "Feel So Good," music and lyrics by Sami McKinney, Lorri Perry and Michael O'Hara, performed by Perri, O'Hara Music/Texas City Music (BMI), Avid One Music (ASCAP), MCA Publishing/Perrylane Music (BMI), courtesy of Zebra/MCA Records; "My Fantasy," music and lyrics by Teddy Riley and Gene Griffin, performed by Guy, Cal-Gene Music, Inc. (BMI)/Don Ril Music Group (ASCAP), Virgin Songs, Inc. (BMI), courtesy of MCA Records; "Never Explain Love," music and lyrics by Raymond Jones and Cathy Block, performed by Al Jarreau, Building Block Music (BMI), Zubaidah Music Inc./Unicity Music Publishing (ASCAP), Al Jarreau courtesy of Warner Brothers Records/WEA Inter'l., Inc.; "We Love Radio Jingles," performed by Take 6, courtesy of Reprise/Warner Brothers Records; "Lift Every Voice and Sing," music and lyrics by James Weldon Johnson and John Rosemond Johnson.
Composer: Michael O'Hara
  Rubèn Blades
  Cathy Block
  Larry DeCarmine
  Gene Griffin
  David Hines
  William "Ju Ju" House
  James Weldon Johnson
  John Rosemond Johnson
  Raymond Jones
  Spike Lee
  Sami McKinney
  Claude McKnight
  Vincent Morris
  Lorri Perry
  Carlton Ridenhour
  Teddy Riley
  Eric Sadler
  Hank Shocklee
  Keith Shocklee
  David Thomas
  Mervyn Warren
  Kent Wood
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal City Studios, Inc. 16/5/1989 dd/mm/yyyy PA423047

PCA NO: 29691
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby Stereo Spectral Recording in selected theatres
  col: Color by Du Art Laboratories, Inc.
  Lenses/Prints: Prints by Deluxe®

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: African American
 
Subjects (Major): African Americans
  Neighbors
  New York City--Brooklyn
  Pizza deliverymen
  Police brutality
  Race relations
  Racism
  Riots
 
Subjects (Minor): Adolescents
  Alcoholics
  Asians
  Brothers and sisters
  Class distinction
  Family relationships
  Fathers and sons
  Fires
  Italian Americans
  Malcolm X
  Martin Luther King, Jr.
  Murder
  Photographs
  Pizza
  Police corruption
  Radio stations
  Rap music
  Summer
  Weather

Note: The film ends with the following quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X: “‘Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in a monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers,’ – Martin Luther King”; and, “‘I think there are plenty of good people in America, but there are also plenty of bad people in America and the bad ones are the ones who seem to have all the power and be in these positions to block things that you and I need. Because this is the situation, you and I have to preserve the right to do what is necessary to bring an end to that situation, and it doesn’t mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t even call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence,’ – Malcolm X.”
       The above quotes are followed by a dedication to the families of: Eleanor Bumpers, Michael Griffith, Arthur Miller, Edmund Perry, Yvonne Smallwood, and Michael Stewart.
       The end credits also include the following acknowledgements: “Malcolm X/Martin Luther King, Jr. photo courtesy of World Wide Photos/Peggy Farrell”; "Branford Marsalis, Terrence Blanchard and Donald Harris courtesy of CBS Records"; and, “Quotation by Malcolm X used by permission of Dr. Betty Shabazz; Quotation by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used by permission of Mrs. Coretta Scott King.” A “Special Thanks” in the end credits acknowledges the following organizations and individuals: Explosives Unit – New York City Fire Department; Orangetown Fire Company Number 1, South Nyack, NY; John Wilson; Rush; New York City Board of Education and District 16; Public School 308; Antioch Baptist Church; Bed-Stuy Community Board #3; and, New York City Mayor’s Office for Film, Theatre and Broadcasting. “Special Thanks” are followed by a “Thanks Also To”: Brooklyn Beer; Canal Jeans; Elan Jewelry; El Diario/La Prensa; Ellis Collection; Essence Magazine; Gitano; Johnson Publications; Levi Strauss & Co.; Miller Beer Company; Mr. Softee, Inc.; Nike; New York Daily News; New York Newsday; New York Post; New York Times Company; Old English; Pepsi-Cola; Ray-Ban/Bausch & Lomb; Radio WJIT; Willi Wear; and Xenobia. End credits also include the statement, “Shot on location in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in the Great Borough of Brooklyn, New York,” followed by, “Fight the Power; A Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks Production; Ya-Dig; Sho-Nuff; By Any Means Necessary.”
       A 1 Jun 1988 DV article noted that writer-director-actor Spike Lee developed the idea for Do the Right Thing after a discussion with actor Robert De Niro. The two had conversed about about a 1986 incident at Queens, NY’s Howard Beach, in which a group of African-American men were attacked in a neighborhood heavily populated by Italian-Americans, and one of the victims was struck by a car and killed while attempting to flee. A 13 Jun 1989 HR brief stated that De Niro was Lee’s first choice for the character of “Sal,” but when De Niro decided against the role, he suggested Danny Aiello, who was eventually cast.
       Principal photography began 18 Jul 1988, as stated in several contemporary sources including the 1 Jun 1988 DV. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, filming took place on one block in Brooklyn, NY, on “Stuyvesant Avenue, between Lexington and Quincy.” The dilapidated and poverty-ridden street was transformed by the film crew, with new constructions including a working pizza parlor that doubled for Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, and a radio station that replaced a burnt-out building. Several of the characters’ residences were set in a former crack house that had been shut down by production, and the brownstone that doubled as the home of the only white resident, “Clifton,” had been a vacant building beforehand. On the Saturday preceding the start of principal photography, director Spike Lee hosted a large block party in order to establish a positive relationship between the residents of the neighborhood and the filmmakers. Filming on the $6.2 million production was completed 14 Sep 1988, as noted in a 28 Sep 1988 Var item.
       For the final confrontation between Aiello’s “Sal” and Giancarlo Esposito’s character, “Buggin Out,” Lee allowed the actors to improvise as they slung racist remarks at one another, as stated in a 19 Sep 2000 HR article. Esposito, who was half-Italian and half-African-American in descent, told HR that filming the scene had been cathartic for both actors, stating, “I heard things from [Aiello’s] mouth I hadn’t heard in years – insulting things that broke my heart – and he heard the same from me.”
       The film showed in competition at the Cannes International Film Festival on 19 May 1989, as reported in a 28 May 1989 NYT article.
       Critical reception was largely positive. Lee’s unique style was lauded by NYT’s Vincent Canby, who described the young filmmaker as “the most distinctive American multi-threat man since Woody Allen.” Echoing that sentiment in her 30 Jun 1989 LAT review, Sheila Benson stated that Lee was a “director working with absolute assurance and power.” A 5 Jul 1989 DV article addressed certain negative critical reactions leading up to the release, including articles in Newsweek, Village Voice, and New York, that accused Do the Right Thing of promoting violence and expressed concern about potentially volatile reactions from moviegoers. However, no violent incidents were linked to the film’s 30 Jun 1989 opening in 360 theaters across the U.S., and Lee conveyed his disappointment in the negative backlash, noting that the film’s “entertainment value is being obscured by all the controversy.” In the same article, Lee remarked that Universal Pictures had been very supportive despite negative press.
       As stated in a 5 Jul 1989 Var article, the opening weekend box-office earnings were roughly $3.5 million. The film ultimately took in $26 million in box-office receipts, according to a 17 Nov 1989 USA Today news item.
       Do the Right Thing was ranked 96th on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films. It was added to the National Film Registry in 1999, and won Best Picture and Best Director from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, in addition to Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (Danny Aiello) from the Chicago Film Critics Association. The New York Film Critics awarded Ernest Dickerson with Best Cinematography, and the film received the following Academy Award nominations: Actor in a Supporting Role (Danny Aiello), and Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen). The Golden Globe Awards also nominated Do the Right Thing for Best Motion Picture – Drama; Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Danny Aiello); Best Director – Motion Picture; and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture. At the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Awards, Ruby Dee won “Best Actress in a Motion Picture,” and Ossie Davis won “Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.” The 19 Sep 2000 HR article reported that Do the Right Thing also won the Gotham Winstar Classic Film Tribute award at the 2000 Gotham Independent Film Awards.
       A documentary centered on the film, Making ‘Do the Right Thing,’ was released only a few months after the film’s opening (1989, see entry). Lee also wrote a book about the film, Do the Right Thing: A Spike Lee Joint (New York, 1989), which included the screenplay, a diary that covered the development of the script, and an addendum about the production, as reported in a 25 Jul 1989 DV brief.
 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   1 Jun 1988   p. 1, 17.
Daily Variety   5 Jul 1989   p. 12, 22.
Daily Variety   25 Jul 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jun 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   19 Sep 2000   p. S-12.
Los Angeles Times   30 Jun 1989   Calendar, p. 1, 12.
Los Angeles Times   11 Dec 1989   Section F, p. 3.
New York Times   20 May 1989   p. 11.
New York Times   28 May 1989   p. 11, 14.
New York Times   30 Jun 1989   Section C, p. 16.
Orlando Sentinel   12 Jan 1990   p. 13.
Seattle Times   31 Dec 1989   Section B, p. 4.
San Francisco Chronicle   30 Jun 1989   Section E, p. 3.
USA Today   17 Nov 1989.   
USA Today   18 Nov 1999.   
Variety   28 Sep 1988.   
Variety   26 May 1989.   

Display Movie Summary
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.
 
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.