Do the Right Thing is one of the only movies I think everyone in the world should see. It's the story of a hot day in New York City—tempers rise, racial tension flares, and tragedy strikes. There's love, neighborly affection, and Samuel L. Jackson playing a radio DJ. 

The script was written by Spike Lee, and he then directed it into a masterpiece of a film. It's filled with enthralling performances and really powerful cinematography. The opening dance of Love versus Hate is an all-time cinema moment. 

Today, I want to focus on the screenplay and how Lee told a story he knew and lived, but also made it into a movie. 

Read and download the Do the Right Thing script PDF here. 

Let's get started. 

3 Lessons from the Do The Right Thing script

1. Write what you know

Normally, I tell people to write that they're curious about because screenplays are just dissections of that. But for Lee, he was experiencing Do The Right Thing on a daily basis. We see the microaggressions, the lazy racism, the world of New York on the hottest day. These are issues and values Lee wanted to showcase for modern America.

So many people shied away from these stories or refocused them through a white lens, and this was not that. It was a stark look at racism in every community, and the violence that causes this to erupt from time to time. 

2. Divergent characters 

One of the powers of writing is having two characters about to diverge. Over the course of the story, we see Mookie and Sal almost like a father and son relationship. But as the story progresses, we see their relationship is strained. These two guys are going in opposite directions, but the world wants them to go into the future.

Sal has to confront the fact that his latent racism may have damaged his relationship with Mookie, and might have led to the violence there. Mookie likes Sal, but he knows he can't help him in this specific journey. He needs to make an honest living and do what needs to be done to protect his life. It's powerful stuff. 

3. Tell a story in a day

One of the best writing challenges for people is to tell a story that only lasts 24 hours. You allow yourself to distill a story down, and force scenes that flow into one another. It also can get you to make your arcs more simple and gives the audience a shorthand for what needs to occur that day to force change. In Do the Right Thing, all the oppression of a lifetime explodes on the streets in one extra-hot day.

Do you have an idea that could take place over one day and change the characters' futures? Try to execute that. 

What's next? Get our free screenwriting eBook

So much of what we're talking about on No Film School when it comes to screenwriting is summarized in our new eBook. It also helps guide you through a 10-week writing plan that will get your script actually finished.