Box art for Do The Right Thing

Do The Right Thing


This powerful visual feast combines humor and drama with memorable characters while tracing the course of a single day on a block in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 16
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
2 out of 5
5 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
Positive role models
0 out of 5
3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Spike Lee's masterwork of racial unrest; discuss with kids.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this Spike Lee film is an intense study of racism as it existed in an urban U.S. neighborhood during the late 1980s. There are many angry racial confrontations using provocative, coarse language and highly-charged racial taunts, including constant use of "n----r." Violence realistically depicted includes: a riot, fistfights, a crowd setting fire to a restaurant, a man being choked by police using a baton. One sexual scene shows a couple during foreplay and uses extreme close-ups of a woman's body parts: her legs, her breasts, her neck. A leading character drinks beer continuously.

what families can talk about

  • Some scenes have characters talking directly into the camera... how does that help tell the story?
  • Take a look at the different characters' relationships with music: Sal's Italian heroes, Radio Raheem's obsession with hip-hop. How does the music represent the characters' view of the world?
  • Since this movie was made (1989), do you think there's more or less racial prejudice in the U.S.? What has changed? What hasn't changed? Are there new and/or different groups facing such bigotry?
  • Families can talk about how Spike Lee shaped his unique vision. Why does the story take place over one day? Why do you think Lee made the weather such an important part of the story?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: Lee shows us both sides of the situation, and lets us decide for ourselves. The results are devastating.

- Bill Gibron,, Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fresh: It's perhaps one of the greatest summer movies of all time. Do the Right Thing is as perfect as a film can get.

- Brian Orndorf,, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fresh: Are you covering your soft parts? Spike Lee is about to drag you into a sizzling kitchen called "Do the Right Thing."

- Desson Thomson, Washington Post, Saturday, January 1, 2000

Audience Reviews

5 stars

Cracking stuff, the film that put Lee on the map, and in doing so creates one of the funniest, pertinent and vital films of any decade. Also instrumental in establishing black directors (though few could match his talent). RADIO RAHEEM!

- guttersnipe28, Monday, October 18, 2010

3 stars

I have too many conflicting opinions. The beginning and middle are brilliant day-in-the-life minutiae. Mookie's choice in the end is powerful, but the motivation is unclear. My first take was that he doesn't really want to throw the trash can, but since he seems to be everyone's favorite guy, he knows he has to do something in the way of leadership to appease the majority. If Mookie's act is motivated by what he thinks is "right" but not necessarily "moral," then the resolution scene with Mookie and Sal seems a bit empty and paints Mookie as an ungrateful villain. My second take is that Mookie throws the trash can because he realizes that he will always be black. The most offensive thing Sal could say is, "There will always be a place for you here." Sal will never understand Mookie or what he did. In this vein, Mookie's act is "right" and "ethical," however the two somewhat opposing quotes by MLK and Malcolm X at the end cloud the message. Is it "right" to act peaceably at all times or to use violence sometimes in self-defense? Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out do not act peaceably in their attempts to get pictures of African-Americans up on the walls of Sal's Pizzeria, and Sal does not act peaceably in his attempts to eject them from his restaurant. If MLK's doctrine of civil disobedience is out, then is Malcolm X's the only other way to go? Self defense is also kind of a sticky issue. Technically, no one attacks Mookie prior to him throwing the trash can, and the party he fights against were not directly involved in the cold-blooded attack of Radio Raheem. So is there no "right" thing to do, or does everyone's "right" thing differ? I like that conclusion, but I'm not sure the movie's purpose is to contradict itself.

- aliceinpunderland, Tuesday, June 8, 2010

4 stars

"It's the hottest day of the summer. You can do nothing, you can do something, or you can..." 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. REVIEW One hot day in Brooklyn turns the racial tension that has been building up in the small neighborhood to a full boil after an incident involving one of the residents, and it culminates in a highly fist-wrenching climax. As you can tell by the afterword of the film, this is a movie that seeks to reconcile the teachings of two of the Civil Rights movement's most prominent voices--Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X, the former having taught standing up for your rights via civil disobedience and nonviolence, while Malcom X urged that your rights are something you have to declare yourself and actively defend in that 'By Any Means Necessary' activist manner. This was, for me, one of the best movies of the decade and one of the best Spike Lee movies I have seen yet. The cast, too, is phenomenal, featuring Danny Aiello, Richard Edson and John Tuturo as an Italian family of father and sons who own the neighborhood pizza place. Spike Lee plays the sort of neutral force, the go-between. The cast also features Rosie Perez, Giancarlo Esposito (as a sort of instigator), Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Harris (Bebe's Kids), and most importantly, husband and wife civil rights activist team, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee as feuding (and courting) neighbors who represent the elders perspective. It was a well-written nicely laid out story and resulted in an important political film.

- mrpopcorn, Saturday, May 22, 2010