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File:2010-01-17-do the right thing4 6243.jpg
"Wake up! Wake up! Up you wake!"
Mister Senor Love Daddy

A 1989 Spike Lee joint about bigotry and racism.

Mookie (Spike Lee) is a delivery man for Sal (Danny Aiello), the Italian-American owner of a Brooklyn pizza joint. One hot summer day, a friend of Mookie's, Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) notices that Sal's "Wall of Fame" has only Italian celebrities, with no blacks; since Sal's income is coming from the many black people of the neighborhood, Buggin' Out feels that they deserve a place on the wall. Sal feels that it's his right as the owner of the restaurant to put up whoever he likes on the wall. Soon, the anger over this and other incidents turns to violence and tragedy.

There was controversy about it when it came out, with some even warning that the film might incite people to riot (though no riots actually happened.) The ambiguous nature of the ending was also controversial. The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay and Danny Aiello as Sal for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.


This film contains examples of:

  • Angry Black Man: One could say that there are a few (particularly Buggin Out), but the trope is somewhat inverted when one black man tells another whom is spouting ABM language that he "doesn't want to hear that horseshit."
    • In the commentary track for the DVD release, Spike Lee specifically notes, when Buggin Out begins ranting about the pictures in the Pizzeria, that he disagrees with the character, saying that it's Sal's place, so it's his right to put whatever pictures he likes on the walls.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Samuel L. Jackson gets one--Mister Señor Love Daddy--as is his due.
  • Big Applesauce: Bed-Stuy edition.
  • Big Brother Bully: Pino to Vito.
  • Big No
  • Brooklyn Rage: Buggin' Out.
  • But Not Too Black: Mookie gets Pino to admit that 1) his favorite basketball player is Magic Johnson, 2) his favorite actor is Eddie Murphy, and 3) his favorite musician is Prince. When Mookie calls him out on his hypocrisy of referring to every black person he encounters as a "Nigger", Pino backtracks and says "They're different".
  • Casting Gag: Buggin' Out, who says Sal is racist for not putting any black people on his Italian-American exclusive "Wall of Fame" is played by Giancarlo Esposito, who is himself half-black, half-Italian American.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Smiley's photos.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Particularly the argument scenes.
  • Downer Ending: Radio Raheem's killed by a cop, a riot breaks out and Sal's Pizzeria is burned down. Life's a bitch!
    • There is, however, a pinch of bittersweetness as Sal contemplates possibly rebuilding his pizzeria and likely to do so in a manner that would better reflect the community, too.
  • Dramatic Stutter: Smiley.
  • The Eighties
  • Everything Is Racist: Buggin Out.
    • An Italian man hanging pictures of famous Italian men in his Italian Restaurant? RACIST!
  • First Law of Tragicomedies: While not a straight comedy, it does feature some slice of life comedic moments... until the last 20 minutes.
  • Hypocritical Humor: A dark example. Mookie shows up the day after the riot to collect his money (which he didn't earn) from the pizza store owner, after Mookie incited the riot which cost him his business.
    • Alternative Character Interpretation: By throwing the trashcan through the window, Mookie was able to redirect the mob's rage, and probably saved Sal and Pino's lives.
      • Word of God: Director Spike Lee says there's a racial component to interpreting Mookie's actions: White viewers are the only ones that ponder whether or not Mookie did the right thing; black viewers tend to grasp his rage-redirection intent immediately. Lee says this debate reflects ugly implications about the value of white property vs. a black life.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Smiley
  • It Got Worse: Infamously so.
  • Knuckle Tattoos: Subverted in that the typical LOVE/HATE tattoos are replaced by Radio Raheem's jewelry.
  • Long List: "WE LOVE ROLL CALL, Y'ALL!"
  • Magical Negro: Mayor tries to be this, but no one seems to show any respect to him these days.
  • Meaningful Name: Buggin' Out.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: Buggin' Out overreacting when a guy accidentally scuffs his new shoes. When the guy apologizes he still makes it a big deal. Of course, the guy being white might've had something to do with it...
  • Mistaken for Racist: Poor Sal.
    • A few of his mannerisms do exhibit a slightly concealed racism, particularly towards Buggin' Out (who provokes Sal endlessly). This is particularly displayed when Raheem, Buggin' and Smiley enter his store at the end to confront him. Of course, that could be just because they keep getting on his case.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Rosie Perez in the intro, although Spike Lee may not have intended it that way.
    • Not to mention her topless scene...
    • The reason you never see her face during her nude scene was because she felt she was being exploited and was crying while the scenes were being filmed.
  • Police Brutality: One of the most controversial examples in cinema.
  • Police Are Useless: An Italian guy's car is soaked by some black kids messing with a fire hydrant. What do New York's finest do? Put the cap back on the hydrant, mock the guy's attempts to make a report for vandalization, and suggest he take off before the locals decide to strip his car clean.
  • Sassy Black Woman:Mother Sister
  • Scary Black Man: Radio Raheem.
  • Shout-Out: Radio's description of his LOVE and HATE jewlery is a reference to The Night of the Hunter.
  • Spicy Latina: Tina.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: At least the former is used.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Right as Sal, the kindly old man who's one of the few genuinely kind people, is about to let in some customers even though he's closed, because he just loves his community, a riot breaks out ending up with Sal being strangled on the street, a man dead, the pizzeria that he built and ran all his life looted and burnt to the ground, all by the people who he just moments ago happily mentioned grew up on his pizza.

Always do the right thing.

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