Posted by Larry Gleeson
Do the Right Thing is a 1989 American comedy-drama film produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee, starring Lee himself, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, and Samuel L. Jackson, and is the feature film debut of Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez. The story explores a Brooklyn neighborhood’s simmering racial tension between its African-American residents and the Italian-American owners of a local pizzeria, culminating in tragedy and violence on one of the hottest of summer days.
Appearing on the 10th-anniversary edition of the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest American films, DO THE RIGHT THING (1989) explores racial tensions exacerbated by the summer heat in a New York neighborhood. An imperative work from iconic director and 2011 AFI Honorary Degree recipient Spike Lee, the film features Public Enemy’s powerful call to action – “Fight the Power” – which was since ranked #40 on AFI’s list of the greatest movie songs of all time.
The film ends with the following quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X: “‘Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys the community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in a monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers,’ – Martin Luther King”; and, “‘I think there are plenty of good people in America, but there are also plenty of bad people in America and the bad ones are the ones who seem to have all the power and be in these positions to block things that you and I need. Because this is the situation, you and I have to preserve the right to do what is necessary to bring an end to that situation, and it doesn’t mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t even call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence,’ – Malcolm X.”
Do the Right Thing was ranked 96th on AFI’s 2007 100 Years…100 Movies–10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films. It was added to the National Film Registry in 1999, and won Best Picture and Best Director from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, in addition to Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (Danny Aiello) from the Chicago Film Critics Association. The New York Film Critics awarded Ernest Dickerson with Best Cinematography, and the film received the following Academy Award nominations: Actor in a Supporting Role (Danny Aiello), and Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen). The Golden Globe Awards also nominated Do the Right Thing for Best Motion Picture – Drama; Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Danny Aiello); Best Director – Motion Picture; and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture.
Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!
About AFI Movie Club
AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. As a non-profit, AFI Movie Club is a member-powered organization, dependent upon the support of its movie fans. To support AFI Movie Club please consider becoming a member or donating. AFI Movie Club was launched as a free program to raise the nation’s spirits by bringing artists and audiences together. AFI shines a spotlight on an iconic movie each day. Audiences can “gather” at AFI.com/MovieClub to find out how to watch the featured movie of the day with the use of their preexisting streaming service credentials. (Source: AFI News Release)