Written and directed by Spike Lee, an Italian family has a pizza place in a black neighborhood. On a hot day tension builds and erupts into a fight which spreads and causes a riot.
Women dance alone to the song “Fight the Power.”
At 8 Mister Señor Love Daddy (Sam Jackson) tells people on his radio program to wake up. He forecasts hot weather over 100 degrees. He says there is a water shortage and urges one-minute showers or showering with a friend.
Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) wakes up and looks out his window.
On the street Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith) has difficulty saying that Malcolm X and Martin King are dead, but they still have to fight against hate.
Mookie (Spike Lee) is sitting on his bed and counts $450 in cash. He wakes up Jade (Joie Lee), but she says she wants to sleep on Saturday.
Salvatore Fragione (Danny Aiello) parks a white Cadillac and gets out with Vito (Richard Edson) and Pino (John Turturro). Sal tells Pino to sweep out the front, and Pino tells Vito to do it. Vito complains about this. Pino says he detests this place like a sickness, and Sal says that is strong hate. Pino denies he said it. Sal says it is a respectable business, and he tells him to sweep up. Sal unlocks the place, and they go in.
Mookie leaves his apartment in a Dodgers shirt and walks down the street. Mother Sister (Ruby Dee) is sitting in her window and tells him to watch out for the heat today. She says she always watches.
Mookie goes into Sal’s place, and Pino tells him to sweep. Mookie says he did not hear Sal say anything. The Mayor comes in and says good morning. He asks if they need any work done, and Sal hands him a broom and a dollar. Mayor goes out to sweep. Pino complains he works harder, and he is Sal’s son. Sal tells them to shut up.
Ella (Christa Rivers) calls Ahmad and sits on the steps next to Punchy (Leonard Thomas). Ahmad (Steve White) comes out, sits down, and tells her not to listen to Punchy but use her own brain. Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) is carrying his boom box playing rap music, and he says “Peace.” They talk about him, and he walks away.
Mayor tells Korean owners to carry Miller High Life in their store. He buys Lite and complains they made him change his beer.
On the street Mayor drinks the beer covered by a paper bag, but Mother Sister reminds him not to drink in front of her stoop. He says she has been talking to him for 18 years. He is tending to his own business of loving everybody including her. She says he does not have that much love. He says she may be nice to him, though they both may be dead. The Mayor walks away.
In a kitchen a woman tells Tina (Rosie Perez) that she will not babysit for her. Tina says she does everything for her, and they quarrel. Tina picks up her baby and goes into her bedroom and closes the door. She says his father makes her sick too.
On the street two men are sitting in chairs under an umbrella and talk to ML (Paul Benjamin).
Sal serves a slice of pizza to Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) and says it is $1.50. Buggin Out adds parmesan cheese until Sal stops him. He goes to a table and notices a photo gallery of Italian Americans. He asks Mookie why there are no brothers on the wall, and Mookie asks Sal who says they can get their own place. Buggin Out says he does not see any American Italians eating there but only black people. He asserts they have say and throws trash on the floor. Sal asks if he is looking for trouble, and Buggin Out says he is. Sal asks Mookie to get his friend out of there. Mookie persuades him to go out, and he calls for a boycott of Sal’s place. They talk outside, and Mookie promises him improvement within a week. Buggin Out tells him to stay black.
Mookie goes back in, and Sal tells him he does not want his friend in there anymore if he won’t behave. Pino says they were talking brother talk. Mookie says people are free. Sal tells them to go to work and gives Mookie a pizza to deliver.
Mookie walks by the Mayor who tells him always to do the right thing. Mookie goes in a building and on the stairs tells Smiley which photo he wants when he gets paid.
Mother Sister is sitting on the steps while a young woman combs her hair. The Mayor says she has beautiful hair, and she tells him not to stop there. The young woman asks Mother Sister why she is so cruel to Mayor.
All the New York newspapers have headlines about the hot weather. Some people shower. Young men drink beer on the steps. A man opens a fire hydrant, and the water flows in the street. Kids play in the spraying water. A man in a Cadillac convertible warns them not to mess with the water and says there will be trouble if they get his antique car wet. They promise not to but spray his car as he drives by. A police car arrives, and two officers question the Cadillac driver who says their names are Moe and Joe. He says the Mayor knows and can tell them. Officer Ponte (Miguel Sandoval) asks him, but the Mayor says those who know don’t tell. Ponte advises the driver to leave before they strip his car.
Mookie returns, and Sal gives him a bag to take to Love Daddy at the radio station. Vito gets permission to go with him.
In the street Mookie tells Vito he needs to kick his brother’s ass. Vito says he does not have a brother like him. Mookie says he has a sister. Mookie tells him to hit him so they won’t have to have this conversation.
Mookie gives the bag to the Love Daddy and dedicates the record to Pino.
Puerto Ricans tell Raheem to turn his radio down, and they turn theirs up higher. Raheem walks away, and they call him “Pendejo.”
Mookie comes out with Vito, and they argue over baseball players. Buggin Out comes over, and Mookie tells him not to start anything because Vito is down. Buggin out says okay, and Mookie leaves with Vito. A white guy walks by bumping into Buggin Out and smudging his white athletic shoes. Buggin Out yells at him and runs over to him. Clifton (John Savage) says he is sorry. Buggin Out is angry and objects to what he did to him in his neighborhood. Clifton says he owns this brownstone. Buggin Out asks why he is living in a black neighborhood, and Clifton says it is a free country. Other blacks tell Buggin Out that his shoes are messed up. They say he paid $100 for them, and Buggin Out says he is lucky the black man has a loving heart. Clifton says he is going and carries his bicycle up the steps. Buggin Out tells him to move back to Massachusetts, and Clifton says he was born in Brooklyn.
Sal tells Mookie he should send Vito with him all the time, and Pino says no more ninety-minute deliveries around the corner. Mookie says he works as hard as the others, and Vito agrees with him. Pino asks Vito what is going on and if they are boyfriends. Mookie reminds him of what they talked about and encourages him to smack Pino. Sal shouts at them that any smacking will be done by him. Pino is angry and grabs his brother Vito and tells him to remember who he is. Pino pushes him away and asks Mookie to stay out of his business. Mookie says he does not like being referred to as Muhammad.
The two policemen cruise slowly in their car and look at the three black men sitting on the street. ML tells Sweet Dick Willie (Robin Harris) that it is a shame. He complains that the Koreans across the street have opened their own business and have been off the boat for only a year. He says either the Koreans are geniuses, or the black asses are dumb. ML says he would like to spend his money at a black business in their neighborhood. Willie says that ML is not going to do anything. Willie gets up to buy a beer from the Koreans, and ML says it is a shame.
Mayor talks to the boy Eddie and asks him what makes Sammy run. Mayor asks him how much it will cost him to go to school. Eddie says he has to know what he is buying. Mayor asks how much for him to go the corner store for him, and Eddie says fifty cents. He gives him money and sends him to buy a quart of Miller High Life beer. Three black teens and a girl come over, and one calls the self-appointed Mayor an old drunk. Mayor sits on the steps and asks what they know. He says unless they have seen five hungry children crying for bread and cannot do anything even look her in the eye, they don’t know him and his pain. He tells them not to call him a drunk or anything because it is disrespectful. He knows his mamas and papas raised them better. The youth in the basketball shirt says he would get a job to feed the children, but he is right that he does not care about him. He is tired of seeing him walk up and down there drunk and never sober. The others try to stop him, but he says he is mad. He says he will never get respect here. They pull him away.
Mookie on a pay phone tells his girlfriend Tina that he is a working man, but she wants him to spend time with her and Hector to make the relationship work. If not, she is not going to bother with him. He says he will be over today, and she says he always says later. She asks him to bring some ice cream. She asks if he loves her, and he says he dedicated Love Daddy’s show to her. Sal tells Mookie to get off the phone and asks how anyone is going to call in. Pino comes over and asks if he is deaf. Mookie says he has to go because Pino is an asshole. Mookie says later and hangs up. The phone rings, and Pino picks it up and takes an order. He tells his father they are losing business while Mookie is talking on the phone. Pino says “niggers” are stupid. Mookie says if he sees a “nigger,” he should kick his ass. Mookie asks to talk with Pino and asks who his favorite basketball player is. Pino says Magic Johnson. His favorite movie star is Eddie Murphy, and his favorite rock star is Bruce, but Mookie says Prince. Pino tries to explain that they are not really black but more than black. Mookie asks if deep inside he wishes he were black. Pino laughs and tells him to get out of here. Mookie says Pino has kinky hair, and he knows what they say about dark Italians. Pino says he has been reading about his leaders—Al Sharpton, Jesse who says “keep hope alive,” and Farrakhan who says the black men will rise and rule civilization like they did before. Pino asks if he missed something. Mookie says they founded civilization. Pino says he is dreaming and then woke up. Mookie insults Pino and Frank Sinatra, and Pino insults Mookie and Michael Jackson.
Mookie rants against the Italian American singers.
Pino in the restaurant rants against the blacks and tells them to go back to Africa.
A Latino rants against the Koreans who own grocery stores.
Officer Long (Rick Aiello) by his police car rants against the Puerto Ricans.
A Korean in front of his store says he has good prices and rants against the Jewish Mayor Koch.
The Love Daddy on the radio calls a time out and tells them to cut that shit out.
Mookie asks Sal to pay him now, but Sal says he will not pay him until they close tonight.
Mookie is delivering a pizza and talks to Raheem in the street. Raheem shows his rings that say LOVE on his right hand and HATE on his left hand. He tells the story of good and evil in the conflict between hate and love which wins. Raheem says he loves Mookie who says he will check him later.
Raheem goes in and asks for two slices, but Sal says not until he turns off the radio. Raheem turns it off, and Sal puts two slices in the oven. Raheem asks for more cheese, and Sal says extra cheese is $2.
Mookie delivers the pizza and on his way back tells the youths near the Mayor to get a job. He says hello to Buggin Out and gives some money to Smiley.
Mookie goes into his apartment and tells his sister Jade he came home to take a shower. She says he is working for Sal, and she does not want him to lose his job. She says she is carrying him, and he tells her not to worry about him. She tells him to take care of his responsibilities. He tells her not to yell at her big brother and not to call him a bum. Mookie enjoys a shower in the middle of the day.
The Love Daddy names many African-American musicians and thanks them for making their lives brighter on We-Love Radio.
Pino sits down at a table with Sal who says he is beat. Pino suggests they sell this place while they are still ahead. Then they could open up a new one in their neighborhood; but Sal says there are already too many pizza places there. Pino says they could try something new. Sal says he has been there for 25 years, and that is all he knows. Pino says he is sick of “niggers.” Sal asks why he has so much anger. Pino says his friends laugh at him. Sal asks if his friends put money in his pocket, food on his table, or pay his rent. He says they are not his friends because if they were, they wouldn’t laugh at him. Pino says he does not want to be here; they don’t want us, and he thinks they should stay in their own neighborhood. Sal says he never had trouble with these people. He has seen kids get older. He admits some don’t like them, but most do. He is proud that they grew up on his food. He says Sal’s Famous Pizzeria is here to stay. He is sorry. He is his father, and he loves him. That is the way it is. Smiley comes to the window and tries to talk to them, and Pino shouts for him to get away from there. He goes outside and yells at him to leave and get a job. Blacks argue with Pino. Sal goes out and tells Pino to go inside. Sal gives Smiley a couple dollars and tells Willie that he did not mean it. Pino says that is what he is talking about.
Mookie dries off and calls to Jade.
Buggin Out comes to the Mayor and says they need his leadership for a boycott of Sal’s Famous that he is organizing. Mayor tells him to keep walking because he does not want to hear his black foolishness. Buggin Out goes to the three men, and they all tell him no. Willie suggests he boycott the barber who messed up his hair. Buggin asks the four youths to sign a petition to boycott Sal’s, but they decline. Buggin says he will do it himself and goes and tells Sal who says he does not have the balls to do it. Pino walks toward him, and Sal tells him to go inside.
Buggin Out is cleaning his shoe, and Mookie and his sister Jade stop to talk with him. Buggin does not like his wall of honor, but Mookie tells him to leave it alone. Mookie leaves, and Buggin tells Jade the wall should have pictures of blacks. She says he would do better to direct his energies elsewhere. She says she would be for doing some positive good for the community. He says he still loves her, and she says she loves him too.
Sal tells Mookie that he is pushing it, but he is jerking him around. If he is not careful, he will be replaced. Pino tells his father it is about time. Sal is glad to see Jade come in and talks with her. She asks for a regular slice, and Sal says he will give her something special. She asks for a cream soda, and he says she used to like root beer. She says she changed. Sal tells Pino to clear a table for her.
Raheem finds his radio has lost power, and he asks for twenty D batteries at the Korean store. They insult each other, but he gets the batteries. Mayor says he wants the red roses and says he will pay.
Mayor takes the bouquet to Mother Sister at the window, but she ignores him. He puts them down and says the smell of flowers is sweet. He thanks God the sun is going down, and he says he is going.
Raheem walks by with his radio, and Willie tells him to turn it down. Willie gets up and pisses against the wall. ML asks him who named him Sweet Dick Willie. They ask how ML got named, and Willie says everybody knows why he is called Sweet Dick. Coconut Sid (Frankie Faison) says it is too hot for fucking, but Willie disagrees.
A man pushes a cart and sells snow-cones. An ice cream truck goes by with its jingle. The boy Eddie runs after it and is about to be hit by a speeding car, but Mayor pushes him out of the way, and they fall on the street between parked cars. Mayor tells him he should not run into the street. They get up, and Mayor says they will be all right. Eddie has a bleeding elbow and tells his mother that the Mayor knocked him down. The Mayor says the boy is scared to death, and he explains that he had to knock him down to save both their lives. She asks Eddie if that is the truth, but he does not say anything. She starts spanking him, and he says he is sorry. He runs off, and she says his father will get him. Mayor tells her she did not have to hit him; but she thanks him but tells him no one will tell her how to raise him. The Mayor says she is right.
At a table Sal tells Jade that she has big eyes. Mookie comes over and says he has to talk to her. She goes with him, and Sal tells her to come back soon.
Mookie walks on the street and tells Jade not to go to Sal’s anymore. She asks what he is worked up about. He does not like the way Sal looks at her and talks to her. She says he is just being nice and that it is innocent. Mookie says Sal just wants to hide the salami. He tells her she is not welcome to come into Sal’s anymore. She tells him to stop playing big brother to her. She is a grown woman, and he can hardly pay his rent. She does not want him lecturing her. She says he is making only $250 a week. He says he will be making a move soon. She asks when, and he tells her not to worry about it. She is tired of supporting a grown man and wants to know when he is going. He tells her not to come into Sal’s.
Mookie tells Sal he does not care if he fires him right now. Sal says he does not want to hear it. Mookie tells him to leave Jade alone. Sal says if Mookie were a little taller, he would kick his ass. He gives him a pizza to deliver. Mookie asks if the address is correct, and Sal says he does not make mistakes. Pino says they are still open and tells Mookie to come back.
At dusk Mother Sister is sitting on the steps, and she tells Mayor she saw what he did. She says it was a foolish act but was brave and saved the boy’s life. He says he was not trying to be a hero; he just reacted without thinking. He says he is an old man and has not run like that in years. He tells how he scored from first on a bunt single in 1939 to win the game. She says it does not change anything between them, but he did a good thing. He thanks her and walks away.
Mookie delivers a pizza to Tina who asks what took him so long. She lets him in, and they kiss. She asks how else he could get her there. She has not seen him all week, and he says he has been working. She says he forgot the ice cream again, and he says he has a lot on his mind. He offers to run out and get some, but she says that is out. She does not want him to go back, but he says he can’t stay long. She asks how long, and he says long enough to do the nasty. She pushes him away and says that is out because it is too hot. She does not want to do it and have him leave and not see her for another week. He says he will see her tomorrow. He suggests they do something else and that she trust him. She says the last time she trusted him they ended up with their son Hector. He asks to talk to her, and they sit on the bed. He tells her to take her clothes off, but she says it is too hot to make love. She asks why he is always like that. He unzips her skirt, and she says she is not playing. She is standing on the bed, and he has her take off her panties. He says she is sweating, and she says it is hot. He tells her not to move and that he will be right back. He walks into the kitchen and kisses Hector who is being held by Tina’s mother. He opens the freezer and tells her to speak English to his son. He takes out two ice trays.
Love Daddy says this is the cool-out corner; he is slowing it down for all the lovers. He will be giving them the music they need.
Mookie is rubbing ice on Tina’s forehead as she laughs. Then he does her lips, neck, knees, elbows, thighs, and breasts. He says he has to be going, and she tells him he had better come back. He keeps kissing her and says all right.
The two policemen are paying for the order, and Ponte asks Sal how long he is staying in the neighborhood. Sal says about fifty years. He says he is going into real estate and will put up a big high-rise. They leave, and Sal tells Pino to load soft drinks into the machine. Mookie comes back and tells Sal if he wants him delivering faster, he needs to give him a rocket. Sal says he did not say anything and asks if he has a guilty conscience. Pino asks Vito to help him and takes him into the back room. They spar with each other, and Pino tells him that black and white do not go together. He tells him not to trust Mookie. Vito asks how he knows, and Pino says he reads. Vito says he never sees him read anything. Pino says it is history; he is not to be trusted. Vito asks what he wants him to do. Pino says that Mookie has Pop conned. He says they have to look out for him. They hear Sal calling them. Pino tells him to listen to what he says. He grabs his shirt and warns he will fuck him up. Vito says Pino does not know everything he thinks he knows. He says Mookie listens to him, but Pino doesn’t. Pino says he is stabbing him in the back.
On the street Buggin Out tells Raheem he only plays Public Enemy. Buggin asks if he knows Sal, and he mentions his boycott. Raheem says he almost had to bust him in the head today because he told him to turn down his radio. They agree not to spend money in there until he puts some blacks on the wall. Buggin asks Smiley who he is listening to, and he stutters Malcolm.
They are cleaning up, and Mookie tells Sal to start counting up his money because he has to get paid. Sal says they had a great day. He says he is going to rename the place Sal and Sons. He tells Mookie he will always have a place there because he is like a son to him. People pound on the door, and Mookie says they are closed. Sal tells him to let them in, and Sal goes to prepare four slices. Buggin Out, Raheem, and Smiley also come in, and the radio is blaring. Sal tells them to turn it down and asks if they are deaf. Buggin shouts that they want some black people on the wall of fame. Mookie says they are trying to go home. Sal says to turn the jungle music off because they are not in Africa. They shout at each other and threaten each other. Mookie tells Sal to put the bat down. Sal smashes the radio to pieces with the bat, making it very quiet. Sal says he killed his radio. Raheem throws Sal down and gets on top of him. Pino and Vito try to get Raheem off their father, and others get involved in the brawl. Ella tells Ahmad to stop it.
Sal is fighting Raheem, and they go outside followed by the others. People shout there is a fight, and a crowd gathers. The Mayor tells them to break it up. Two police cars arrive, and four policemen with clubs try to stop the fighting. Ponte and Long pull Raheem away, and another grabs Bugger Out. Long is choking Raheem with the club, and they lift him off the ground. Raheem falls to the ground unconscious. Three policemen pick him up and put him in the backseat. Bugger Out is put in the other car, and they drive off.
Smiley is crying. People say they killed Raheem and complain about the police. ML says they did not have to kill the boy. Mookie is standing by Sal, Vito, and Pino, and he walks away. Sal says they do what they have to do. The Mayor tells the blacks to leave them alone because it has nothing to do with what the cops did. A black man says he destroyed his radio because of the pictures on the wall. Mookie gets a trash can and throws it through the window of Sal’s. Men go in and trash the place. Money is taken from the cash register.
The Mayor has Sal and his son move away behind a gate. A fire starts, and Mother Sister shouts, “Burn it down!” The flames burn the framed pictures on the wall. They see the Korean swinging a broom in front of his store, saying he is black. ML, Coconut Sid, Willie, and others go over to him. ML tells him to open his eyes, but Coconut Sid tells ML to leave the Korean alone because he is all right.
Several police cars arrive with a police van. Two fire trucks have also come. The police use clubs to restrain people. A policeman with a megaphone tells them to disperse and says they have had their warning. Firemen are trying to fight the fire with water cannons, but some turn the hoses on the people. The police arrest men. Mookie and his sister are sitting on the curb in front of the Korean store watching. A woman is shouting no, and the Mayor goes to Mother Sister and hugs her to get her to stop shouting. Trash in the street is burning, and the song “Fight the Power” is playing.
The next day the street is littered. The Love Daddy says he saw it, but he did not believe it. He says the weather today will be hot. He tells them to wake up.
Mookie wakes up and tells Tina he is going. She is afraid she will not see him for a week. She feels he does not care about her or their son, but he disagrees. She tells him to act like a man. He asks why they have to go over these thing again and again. She says it is because he does not listen to her. He objects to her language, and she says he is never here. He says he will be back, and she tells him not to leave. If he walks out the door, that is it. He says he has to get his money from Sal, and he will be back. She tells him to get a life because the one he has is not working. She says she is not going to deal with this shit anymore and goes back to bed.
Mother Sister says good morning to the Mayor. He asks if it is a good morning. She says it is, but he almost got killed last night. He says he has done that before and gets off the bed. He asks where she slept, and she says she didn’t. He hopes the block is still standing. She says they are standing. They look out the window.
Mookie walks down the littered street and kicks a can into the trash can in front of Sal’s. Sal is sitting on the step and asks what he wants. Mookie says he wants to be paid. Sal says he does not work there anymore, and Mookie says he wants his money. Sal says his money could not begin to pay for the window he broke. Mookie says Raheem is dead. Sal stands up and says he is dead because of his buddy. Sal says Mookie stood there and watched them burn him down. Mookie says he also watched the cops murder Raheem. Mookie says he will get the money from the insurance. Sal says this is not about money; he does not care about that. He shouts that he built this place with his bare hands. He asks Mookie if he knows what that means. Mookie says it means he should pay him his money. Sal takes out some cash and asks how much he owes him. Mookie says his salary is $250 a week. Sal throws five $100 bills at Mookie and says he is a rich man and asks if he is happy. Sal shouts that Mookie has $500, and he is a rich man. He will never have any more trouble because he is rich. Mookie asks who he is yelling at. Sal says he got his money and tells him to leave him alone. Mookie throws two bills back at Sal and says he owes him $50. Sal tells him to keep it. They both say to keep it, and Sal says he does not believe this. He asks Mookie if he is sick. Mookie says he is hot, but he will get better. Sal says it is going to get hotter today. He asks Mookie what he is going to do. Mookie says he is going to make money. He says he has to go see his son and asks if it is all right with him. Mookie picks up the $200 and walks away.
The Love Daddy says the Mayor of New York has commissioned a blue-ribbon panel to get to the bottom of last night’s disturbance. The city will not let property be destroyed by anyone. The Mayor is going to visit their block today, and Love Daddy suggests he meet with Da Mayor here and have a beer. He says the election is coming up, and he urges people to register to vote. He says it is going to be hot again, and the next song is dedicated to Radio Raheem.
A quote is shown by Martin Luther King about how nonviolence which is love is better than violence and hatred, and it is followed by a quote by Malcolm X that also recognizes the right of self-defense.
This drama portrays a poor black neighborhood in New York City where African-Americans feel oppressed because they are poor, and the two main business are owned and operated by Italians and Koreans. One black man decides to boycott the pizza place to get more respect for the African-Americans; but he has trouble finding support and resorts to belligerence and quarrelling that escalates into a fight. Both sides indulge in violence, and the result is devastating property damage which draws in the police who over-react and kill a man. In such trying circumstances it is not always easy to do the right thing, and it takes real love, self-control, and courage to do the right thing without resorting to violence.