Must-See Photos: Do the Right Thing’s Brooklyn, Then and Now

Check out scenes from Spike Lee’s iconic film 25 years—and a lot of changes to the neighborhood—later.

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Buggin’ Out questions Sal about the “wall of fame” in Sal’s Pizzaria during a scene in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

Do the Right Thing screenshot

This summer marks the 25th anniversary of Do the Right Thing. June is also when part of Bedford-Stuyvesant's Stuyvesant Avenue—where the fim was shot—was renamed Do the Right Thing Way in honor of the film and its director, Brooklyn, N.Y.'s native son and outspoken gentrification critic Spike Lee.

The Root's multimedia editor, Nicole Cvetnic, went to Bed-Stuy to photograph the locations that provided the backdrop for DTRT's iconic moments. Compare scenes from the movie—whose yellowed tone comes from the filter Lee used to depict heat—with their current, 2014 landscapes. The images seen here also use photo-editing technology to merge the then and now, providing visual reminders that while so much has changed since that fictitious hot summer day, plenty has stayed the same.

1. The scene of Radio Raheem's "love and hate" monologue, and the renovated residences that appear there today:

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Do the Right Thing screenshot; Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

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Screenshot and photograph combined

Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

2. Mother Sister's brownstone perch, and its updated (and gated) reincarnation:

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Do the Right Thing screenshot; Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

mothersister
Screenshot and photograph combined

Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

3.  From this angle of the stoop where Jade combed Mother Sister's hair, it's hard to tell that 25 years have passed:

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Do the Right Thing screenshot; Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

hair
Screenshot and photograph combined

Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

4. The Yes Jesus Last Baptist Church where Smiley sold photos of black leaders was a facade on a building that still exists, in a neighborhood that's increasingly associated with hipsters and rising rents:

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Do the Right Thing screenshot; Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

baptist
Screenshot and photograph combined

Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

5. Can you see the remaining trace of the "Bed-Stuy—Do or Die" mural? A building has been erected in front of it, but its imprint is visible to those who remember the old neighborhood and know where to look:

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Do the Right Thing screenshot; Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

bedstuy
Screenshot and photograph combined

Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

6. The middle of Stuyvesant Avenue was the scene of Mookie's Do the Right Thing monologue. Compare it with the tree-lined stretch of road in 2014:

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Do the Right Thing screenshot; Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

mookie
Screenshot and photograph combined

Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

7. There's been a complete overhaul of the brownstones behind the fire hydrant-turned-fountain scene, complete with all the shiny signs of real estate development:

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Do the Right Thing screenshot; Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

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Screenshot and photograph combined

Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

8. If this empty lot appears to counter the Brooklyn gentrification narrative by being less developed than it was at the time of the movie, it's because Sal's Famous Pizzeria was just a facade:

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Do the Right Thing screenshot; Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

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Screenshot and photograph combined

Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

9. Though obscured here, the structures that surrounded Sal's Pizzeria as it burned to the ground are similar today. Sadly, so, too, are concerns about the relationship between law enforcement and black men in New York City:

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Do the Right Thing screenshot; Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

fire
Screenshot and photograph combined

Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

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