Do the right thing (1989)_Throwback
Do the right thing (1989)_Throwback (Credit: ImDb)

Do The Right Thing (1989) review & film summary

Title: Do The Right Thing
Directed by: Spike Lee
Duration: 2hr
Cast: Ossie Davies, Spike Lee, John Turturro, Giancarlo Esposito, Rosie Perez, Samuel L. Jackson

Do The Right Thing is a movie with a lot of impact and not only is it Spike Lee’s magnum opus but it has also been the pinnacle of black film since its 1989 release. There are a few black dramas that come close in terms of storytelling quality. The likes of Boyz N The Hood, Baby Boy, and Higher Learning (a trio of films made by one director, John Singleton, who happens to be the only one since the 80s who even tried to hold a candle to Spike Lee. It is worth mentioning that Spike Lee still outdid Singleton during their ’90s run when Lee came out with films like Malcolm X, Clockers, and Girl 6, but it is with 1989’s Do The Right Thing that Spike Lee stamped Hollywood with his legacy as maybe not the most conscious black filmmaker of the time but at least a pioneer of something new, something that was unapologetically conscious and unequivocally black. And it all began on a hot day in August in a Brooklyn neighborhood. Oh yeah, that’s where it all began.

The film starts as the day begins to break and it promises to be a very hot one. The weather is hot but the people carry on with their activities. The people who had to go to work started getting ready, the kids got up to roam the streets in typical fashion, the radio man was up and about with his radio, and the local radio station was broadcasting the weather; it was a seemingly normal day and it didn’t matter what category anyone fell into, it felt like there was a place for everybody in the neighborhood as long as they were a part of the neighborhood.

Spike Lee’s character, Mookie, is a working boy who works as a delivery man for a pizza shop owned by an Italian man, Sal. Mookie has a kid and a baby mama to care for and is uninvolved in the socio-politics of black/white until this fateful day when a brother, Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) comes into the pizza place and questions Sal as to why there are no brothers up on the wall. Sal’s rebuttal that the place belonged to him only got Buggin Out hot and throwing him out didn’t seem to help either. He was just a brother who wanted photos of brothers on a wall but soon he took it up as a cause and went around the neighborhood urging people to boycott Sal’s. The tension rose from there and in the typical chaotic fashion of films like this, one thing led to another.

Overall, a satisfying piece of cinema, the film’s storyline is only enhanced by the impeccable performances of the cast which included Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Ossie Davies and his wife, Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro, and others. Most of the cast later worked with Spike Lee on other film projects.

There’s a lot of different ways to think about black cinema history but none of it would be complete without Do The Right Thing.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
IMDb: 8/10
Letterboxd: 4.4/5

Where to Watch Do the Right Thing (1989)?

You can be able to stream Do the Right Thing (1989) by renting or purchasing on

  • Apple TV
  • Google Play Movies
  • Vudu
  • Netflix


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