AFI Movie Club: DO THE RIGHT THING – American Film Institute
Do The Right Thing Film Still - Bill Nunn



DO THE RIGHT THING appears on the 10th Anniversary Edition list of AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 MOVIES of the greatest American films. Public Enemy’s powerful call to action – “Fight the Power” – is ranked #40 on AFI’s list of the greatest movie songs of all time. 

Watch John David Washington announce today’s film:

Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

-DID YOU KNOW that Spike Lee – who wrote, directed and starred in DO THE RIGHT THING – was inspired to make the film after a conversation with Robert De Niro about an incident in Queens in 1986, in which a group of African American men were attacked in a neighborhood heavily populated by Italian Americans? 

-DID YOU KNOW Robert De Niro was Spike Lee’s first choice for the role of Sal? When he passed on the role, he recommended the character actor Danny Aiello, who earned an Academy AwardÒ  nomination for his performance!   

-DID YOU KNOW that 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 cast and crew and the residents of the neighborhood? 

-DID YOU KNOW that it took eight hours to film the opening dance sequence with Rosie Perez? “I had tennis elbow, my knee was swelling,” said Perez. “So, I forgot about the lyrics, the original words—you know, Elvis, John Wayne? To me, it was all ‘Spike, Spike, Spike, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!’ And when rage and hate just poured out of my body, pure exhaustion, he went, ‘Cut, print it! We got it!'” 

-DID YOU KNOW that the film marked the feature film debut of both Rosie Perez and Martin Lawrence? 

-DID YOU KNOW that one of Samuel Jackson’s first significant movie roles was the disc jockey Senor Love Daddy in DO THE RIGHT THING? Jackson co-starred in several other Lee films – including JUNGLE FEVER and MO’ BETTER BLUES. Their first collaboration was in SCHOOL DAZE (1988). 

-DID YOU KNOW that the film’s production designer Wynn Thomas built both the Korean convenience store and Sal’s pizzeria from scratch? 

-DID YOU KNOW that Ruby Dee, who plays the block’s saintly Mother Sister had been married to costar Ossie Davis, who played Da Mayor, for 40 years when Lee cast them? 

-DID YOU KNOW that Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” was written for DO THE RIGHT THING and the music video was shot on the same block as the film?

-DID YOU KNOW that the film contains an homage to Charles Laughton’s NIGHT OF THE HUNTER – a major influence on Spike Lee – with Radio Raheem’s knuckle rings recalling Robert Mitchum’s character’s “Love and Hate” tattoos? 

-DID YOU KNOW that Spike Lee wrote a book called “Do the Right Thing: A Spike Lee Joint,” which included the screenplay, a diary about development of the script, and an addendum about the production? 

-DID YOU KNOW that former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama saw DO THE RIGHT THING on their very first date? According to Michelle, “He was trying to show me his sophisticated side by selecting an independent filmmaker.” 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-How does the film capture Brooklyn, New York? 

-What stylistic devices do Spike Lee and cinematographer Ernest Dickerson use to portray the New York City heatwave as well as the escalating racial tensions in the film? 

-Is there a moral center to the film – someone who embodies the ideals of civic engagement? 

-How did DO THE RIGHT THING become a part of the cultural conversation on issues like police brutality, racial violence and gentrification of urban neighborhoods? 

-Pino’s racism is apparent but contradicted in part by his admiration of black athletes and musicians. What point is Spike Lee trying to make about this contradiction? 

-Do you think Mookie did “the right thing” at the end of the film? 

-Spike Lee evokes Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X at the end of the film. How did the two civil rights activists differ in their belief systems, and what message do you think Lee was trying to get across by quoting them both? 

-AFI included Spike Lee’s BLACKKKLANSMAN as one of the Top 10 Films of 2018. How has Lee sustained and/or evolved themes he explored in DO THE RIGHT THING? 

-What is your favorite Spike Lee movie? 

-How would you rate DO THE RIGHT THING? 

In this exclusive AFI Archive clip, watch Spike Lee talk about his film DO THE RIGHT THING:


​In this exclusive AFI Archive “Behind the Scene” clip, cinematographer Ernest Dickerson discusses his approach to DO THE RIGHT THING:

In this exclusive AFI Archive “Behind the Scene” clip, watch DO THE RIGHT THING production designer Wynn Thomas talk about making the film:


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AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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