Do the Right Thingis a 1989 American dramedy produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee , who is also a featured actor in the film. Other members of the cast include Danny Aiello , Ossie Davis , Ruby Dee , Richard Edson , Giancarlo Esposito , Bill Nunn , and John Turturro . It is also notably the feature film debut of Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez . The movie tells the story of a neighborhood's simmering racial tension, which comes to a head and culminates in tragedy on the hottest day of the summer.
The film was a commercial success and received numerous accolades and awards, including an Academy Award nomination for Lee for Best Original Screenplay . It is commonly listed among the greatest films of all time .In 1999, it was deemed to be "culturally significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress , and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry , one of just five films to have this honor in their first year of eligibility.
Mookie ( Spike Lee ) is a young black man living in a black neighborhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn with his sister, Jade ( Joie Lee , Lee's real life sister), who wants him out of her apartment. He works delivering pizzas for Sal's Famous, a local pizzeria, but he lacks ambition and he works to support his Latina girlfriend Tina and their son Hector. Salvatore "Sal" Frangione ( Danny Aiello ), the pizzeria’s Italian-American owner, has owned the restaurant and been in the neighborhood for twenty-five years. His older son, Giuseppe, better known as Pino ( John Turturro ), "detests the place like a sickness", holds racial contempt for the neighborhood blacks and attempts to make Mookie's life miserable. Sal's younger son, Vito ( Richard Edson ), is friends with Mookie, who is black, which Pino feels undermines their fraternal bond.
The street corner is filled with distinct personalities, most of whom are just trying to find a way to deal with the intense heat and go about their regular day-to-day activities. A drunk called Da Mayor ( Ossie Davis ) is constantly trying to win both the approval and affection of the neighborhood matron, Mother Sister ( Ruby Dee ),who watches the neighborhood's activity from her brownstone. A young man named Radio Raheem ( Bill Nunn ) lives for nothing else but to blast Public Enemy 's " Fight the Power " on his boombox wherever he goes. He wears "love" and "hate" four-fingered rings ( brass knuckles ) on either hand, which he explains in one scene symbolize the struggle between the two forces. A mentally disabled man named Smiley ( Roger Guenveur Smith ) meanders around the neighborhood, holding up hand-colored pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. The local radio disc jockey, "Mister Señor Love Daddy" ( Samuel L. Jackson ) rounds out the neighborhood. Three men, known as "the Corner Men" act as a sort of Greek chorus, commenting on the neighborhood and the day's events. Four teenagers — Cee, Punchy, Ahmad and Ella deal with the heat outside as well.
While eating a slice at Sal's, Buggin' Out ( Giancarlo Esposito ) questions Sal about the "Wall of Fame" and demands he put up some pictures of black celebrities (or as he puts it, "brothers") on the wall, since, he explains, Sal's pizzeria is in a black neighborhood and sells pizza to black people. Sal replies that it is his store; he is proud of his Italian heritage and he doesn't have to feature anyone but Italians on his wall. Buggin' Out starts an argument with Sal, during which Sal threatens to "bash his head" with a baseball bat. Buggin' Out attempts to start a protest over the "Wall of Fame," but no one will support his protest except Radio Raheem and Smiley.
Over the course of the day tensions rise around the neighborhood. Teenagers open a fire hydrant for a respite from the heat and flood a passer-by's car, and police officers intervene. Radio Raheem "argues" with some Puerto Rican men simply by playing their radios loudly at each other. Buggin' Out almost gets in a fight with a stranger who steps on his Air Jordan shoes, and Da Mayor saves a boy from being run over by a car. Sal argues with Radio Raheem for blasting his boombox in the pizzeria. Mookie and Pino begin arguing over which race is better, Blacks or Italians, which leads to a series of scenes in which the characters, addressing the camera, spew a variety of racial insults. In the afternoon, Pino and Sal talk about the neighborhood, Pino expressing his hatred and Sal insisting that, whether Pino likes it or not, his pizzeria, and his pizza, is part of the neighborhood there, and he isn't leaving. Then Sal watches, embarrassed, as Pino yells at Smiley outside. Mookie almosts gets fired by Sal, but Jade comes to Sal's shop, cooling Sal's anger. Outside, Mookie confronts her for being too close to Sal. As they're cleaning to close the restaurant Mookie demands his weekly pay from Sal. Buggin'Out convinces Radio Raheem and Smiley to join his protest and they begin insulting and threatening the yelling neighbors.
That night, Sal is about to close the pizzeria when the four teenagers arrive and Sal lets them in. After serving them, he closes. Suddenly, Radio Raheem, Smiley and Buggin' Out march into Sal's and demand that Sal change the pictures on the wall. Radio Raheem's boombox is blaring at the highest volume, and Sal demands that they turn the radio down or leave the shop, but the two men refuse to do so. They yell at each other, threatening, until Sal, in a fit of frustration and anger, calls Radio Raheem a "nigger," then snaps and destroys Radio Raheem's boombox with a baseball bat. Radio Raheem attacks Sal, starting a fight with all the teenage boys, Sal and his sons, which spills out onto the street, attracting a crowd of spectators. As Radio Raheem is strangling Sal to death, Da Mayor yells at them at them to stop the fight.
The police arrive at the scene, break up the fight and begin to apprehend Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out. Buggin' Out is arrested while Radio Raheem is placed in a chokehold by one officer, killing him. The police officers begin yelling at an already dead Radio Raheem "to quit faking" and they kick him. The police officers, realizing they have killed a black man in front of and angry crowd, take Radio Raheem's body back to the squad car, while in a another squad car, a police officer beats Buggin' Out. The angry crowd chases the police, who leave the scene with Radio Raheem's body, and leave Sal, Vito and Pino alone with the angry crowd.
Afterward, the large crowd of onlookers are enraged about Radio Raheem's death and blame Sal and his sons. A tense moment ensues when the crowd contemplates violence against Sal, Vito, and Pino. Da Mayor intervenes telling the crowd to go home, because someone will get hurt, and the crowd threatens Da Mayor. Mookie grabs a trash can and throws it through the window of Sal's restaurant, yelling "hate" which turns the collective anger towards the property and away from the owners. Da Mayor pulls Sal out of the mob's way. Vito, Pino and Sal watch in horror as the restaurant gets destroyed. The angry crowd becomes a riotous mob, rushes into the restaurant and destroys everything, while Smiley sets the restaurant on fire.From there, the mob begins to head for the Korean market. Sonny, the owner, tries to fight them off with a broom, yelling that he is one of them: "I no white! I black! You, me, same! We same!" causing the mob to spare his store.Firefighters arrive and begin spraying Sal's building as the crowd yellHoward Beachas they are held back by riot patrol. The firefighters, after several warnings to the crowd, turn their hoses on the mob, further enraging them. Police officers begin struggling with the mob, and some people are arrested. The mob attacks some of the firemen as they try to spray Sal's building. Da Mayor gets in the middle of the ensuing chaos and pulls a screaming Mother Sister out of the scene as Mookie and his sister watch the horror around them. Meanwhile, Smiley wanders back into the smoldering restaurant, past Radio Raheem's burning boombox, and as "Fight the Power" plays, he hangs a picture of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. on what's left of Sal's "Wall of Fame."and then he smiles at the pictures, the scene fades to black.
The next day, Radio Love Daddy discusses what transpired the previous night, asking " Are we ever going to live together?" After having an argument with Tinaover being a manMookie returns to Sal, who feels betrayed by Mookie for destroying the restaurant.They get into an argument but then Mookie and Sal cautiously reconcile. He demands his weekly pay he had earlier been demanding to receive in advance, which he gets. The film ends with two quotations : The first, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , argues that violence is never justified under any circumstances. The second, from Malcolm X , argues that violence is not violence, but "intelligence" when it is self-defense.