Spike Lee frequently appears in his own films, but few of his onscreen appearances are as memorable as his role in “Do the Right Thing.” Lee plays Mookie, a young man who is the glue between the Italian-owned Sal’s Pizzeria and the surrounding Black community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Mookie doesn’t take anything seriously, including his job or responsibilities as a father. Nevertheless, his outgoing, affable nature makes it easy for him to get along with both his neighbors and his boss, Sal (Danny Aiello). When racial tensions flare in Sal’s Pizzeria, Mookie even serves as a peacemaker. However, his actions are motivated by a desire to remain employed, not by any moral principles.
Later, Mookie finally chooses convictions over comfort when he starts a riot outside Sal’s. Mookie’s choice to throw a trash can through the shop’s window is one of the most powerful, unforgettable moments in any Spike Lee film, and his transformation from slacker to community activist leaves an enduring impression. “Do The Right Thing” isn’t Mookie’s only film appearance, either. In 2012, Spike Lee reprised this iconic role in “Red Hook Summer,” where Mookie appears wearing his original “Sal’s Pizzeria” shirt.