In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Do the Right Thing, we look at the key shots that help us understand the film.
- Spike Lee – Mookie
- Danny Aiello – Sal
- John Turturro – Pino
- Richard Edson – Vito
- Bill Nunn – Radio Raheem
- Rosie Perez – Tina
- Giancarlo Esposito – Buggin’ Out
- Ossie Davis – Da Mayor
- Ruby Dee – Mother Sister
- Samuel L. Jackson – Mister Señor Love Daddy
- Roger Guenveur Smith – Smiley
- Rick Aiello – Officer Gary Long
- Miguel Sandoval – Officer Mark Ponte
- Joie Lee – Jade
- Martin Lawrence – Cee
- Leonard L. Thomas – Punchy
- Christa Rivers – Ella
- Robin Harris – Sweet Dick Willie
- Paul Benjamin – ML
- Frankie Faison – Coconut Sid
Key shots of Do the Right Thing
The opening shot
The opening shot of Do the Right Thing is a vibrant dance sequence by Rosie Perez, set to the powerful tune of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” a key motif in the film. It serves as a visual and sonic proclamation of the film’s themes of racial tension, resistance, and the struggle for empowerment. The vigorous, almost aggressive dance moves coupled with the song’s assertive lyrics set the tone for the narrative to come. It signals the film’s commitment to confronting issues of race and inequality head-on, infusing it with an energy that permeates the entire film.
The blazing heat
Do the Right Thing sets up some important thematic information at the very beginning, as well as establish the film’s most important motif: heat. It’s the hottest day of the summer for this film that takes place in a single day, and the soft lighting of Mookie’s apartment accentuates just how blazing the heat is on a day where racial tensions reach a breaking point. Here, we see Mookie counting his money, which will echo the final scene of the film when he demands his day’s pay from Sal. All at once, this shot highlights the onset of racial tensions as well as the need for recognition and respect.
Radio Raheem’s love and hate monologue
One of the most iconic scenes in the film is when Radio Raheem delivers his “Love and Hate” monologue. The close-up shots of his brass knuckle rings spelling “LOVE” and “HATE” underscore the film’s exploration of dichotomies, which are most heavily emphasized during the film’s ending. The shot composition emphasizes the symbolic weight of these rings, echoing the eternal struggle between love and hate, good and evil.
Sal’s Wall of Fame
Sal’s Wall of Fame, adorned with photos of Italian-American celebrities, is a recurring visual motif in the film. Shots of the wall serve as a constant reminder of Sal’s cultural pride and the resulting tension between his individual identity and the community he serves. The wall becomes a symbol of racial representation and the struggle for recognition, echoing the film’s broader themes of cultural identity and systemic inequality.
Mookie’s trash can throw
The scene where Mookie throws a trash can through the window of Sal’s Pizzeria is a visually powerful representation of the film’s culmination of racial tension and anger. The shot encapsulates the film’s exploration of moral ambiguity, protest, and the struggle for justice, serving as a critical turning point in the narrative that leads to the climactic riot. It visually signifies the eruption of suppressed frustrations and the chaotic but consequential response to systemic injustice.
What are your thoughts?
Are there more shots you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Do the Right Thing? Leave your thoughts below and we’ll consider adding them.