1989 Certificate: 18


Spike Lee's most powerful and most provocative 'joint' brings racial tension to the boil over one stifling day in New York's Bed-Stuy neighbourhood. Centring around Danny Aiello's proudly Italian pizza parlour, the eclectic denizens - played by Rosie Perez, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Giancarlo Esposito, Martin Lawrence, Samuel L Jackson and Lee himself - air grievances and trade jibes until someone takes it all too far. In your face from the moment Public Enemy assault your eardrums over the opening credits. Fight the power.


  • Spike Lee


  • Danny Aiello

  • John Turturro

  • Spike Lee

  • Rosie Perez

  • Giancarlo Esposito

  • Ossie Davis

  • Joie Lee

  • Samuel L Jackson


Spike Lee, one of Hollywood's most strident black filmmakers, strikes the perfect balance between sassy street-level comedy and savage social commentary as tensions in a New York neighbourhood explode into a full-scale riot.

Coming three years before the Los Angeles riots, the film bears an uncanny similarity in the way it shows racial tensions ready to erupt at the slightest provocation into bloodshed.

Here, it's simple, niggling things that are the spark - the refusal of pizza owner Sal (Danny Aiello) to put up a black person's picture in his 'Wall of Fame', and of Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) to turn down his monstrous, aptly named, ghetto blaster.

Lee, who stars as Mookie, the pizza delivery boy, and also wrote the screenplay, is on his home turf and it shows in his feel for characterisation.

Spike's father, Bill Lee, delivers a powerful background score, replete with saxophone solos.

Acting honours go to Paul Benjamin, Frank Faison and Robin Harris as a funny trio of ageing sages on the block, and Ossie Davis as a streetwise hobo known as Da Mayor.

Watch also for diminutive firecracker Rosie Perez in one of her earliest film appearances while Bad Boys star Martin Lawrence is miles down the cast as Cee.