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“Do the Right Thing”: National Film Registry #11

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A new list of 25 film titles for the National Registry is going to be announced on December 12, 2018.  As we get closer to that date, we look back at some films added in previous years.

In 1999, Spike Lee’s powerful “Do the Right Thing” made the list with this, his still highly timely film.  In an essay on the film, author David Sterritt said:

“Spike Lee’s most fully realized film, ‘Do the Right Thing,’ is urban and American down to its bones. This helps explain why reaction to it was so mixed at the Cannes International Film Festival, where I saw its world premiere in 1989 with an audience of international critics and journalists. Spectators applauded at the end, but their clapping seemed driven more by duty than enthusiasm, as if it were de rigueur to cheer a maverick movie by a spunky black filmmaker even if his message seemed cranky or cryptic. Europeans wondered if its subject was timely—racial unrest is ‘very 1960s,’ a West German critic told me—and some Americans criticized it for stirring up discontents that seemed, well, unnecessary in the late 1980s.”

Read the remainder of the “Do the Right Thing” (PDF) essay.


Title:  “Do the Right Thing”

Year of Release:  1999

Year Added to the National Film Registry:  1999  (See all films added to the Registry in 1999.)

Trivia:  As of this writing, Spike Lee has two other films currently on the Registry, “Malcolm X” and his documentary “4 Little Girls.”

This blog post is the 11th of 30 in our “30 Years of the National Film Registry” series which was launched to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Registry.  The National Film Registry selects 25 films each year showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation.  The 30th National Film Registry selections will be announced on December 12, 2018.

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