30 of the most controversial films of all time

These movies have taboo storylines, graphic sex scenes, and gruesome violence

Do the Right Thing (1989)

30 of the most controversial films of all time 15

Directed, produced, and written by Spike Lee Do the Right Thing revolves around a pizzeria in a Brooklyn neighborhood owned by Salvatore “Sal” Fragione (Danny Aiello). A neighborhood local, Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito), becomes upset when he sees that the pizzeria’s Wall of Fame only exhibits only Italian actors. Buggin’ Out believes that a pizzeria in a black neighborhood should showcase black actors, but Sal disagrees. The wall becomes a symbol of racism and hate to Buggin’ Out and to other people in the neighborhood. Tensions rise, which culminates in tragedy and violence on a hot summer day.

Though Do the Right Thing got an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, many white critics and columnists suggested that the film could incite black audiences to riot. Lee, in turn, slammed those reviewers for implying that black audiences were not capable of restraining themselves while watching a fictional motion picture.

In a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone,  Lee said that the remarks from those reviewers “still bugs the shit” out of him. After calling the comments “outrageous, egregious and … racist,” the filmmaker said, “I don’t remember people saying people were going to come out of theaters killing people after they watched Arnold Schwarzenegger films.”