(Searcher) Why Was Do The Right Thing Snubbed of an Oscar?

I hadn’t watched Do The Right Thing before this class, but I’ve always heard about how it was one of the biggest oscar snubs in the history of the academy. I found this one specific clip where the presenter talks about how Do The Right Thing deserves to be nominated for Best Picture due to its unwavering stance on telling the truth, but didn’t get the chance.

So if this movie is praised over and over again, and the people at the time knew it was amazing, how did it not get nominated for Best Picture? There are a couple of possible reasons for this, but of course the Academy wouldn’t come out and say why it wasn’t nominated, so everything is speculation. 

One initial reason I can think of is that there was limited marketing for this film. Compared to other movies that came out that year such as Field of Dreams and Dead Poets Society, Do The Right Thing did not have a very strong marketing campaign. This may have led to disinterest in the film, or thinking of it as secondary to other motion pictures due to its low marketing budget.

Another possible reason is because some people thought that the film would incite violence. Obviously it didn’t, a movie about social tensions wouldn’t make people leave the theater and start committing crimes, but many people believed this. They thought the part of the film where police killed Radio Raheem would cause so much anger that this scene would be reenacted in real life. The Academy, who are a bunch of old white and french dudes who are definitely super racist, might have thought that if they rewarded a film with these potential consequences, it would make them a reality.

My final potential reason is that The Academy voters might have felt uncomfortable with the clear cut ideas of racism and police brutality. There is a whole scene in the movie that cuts between different characters saying the most racist language they can think of towards other races, so I’d understand how some little old lady would be uncomfortable by that. But then again, art and film is all about crossing boundaries and trying to aggravate people; this film is not the first or the last instance of this. So wouldn’t professional movie critics understand that defying the norms is something that happens in art and understand it? Also, the film that got nominated and ended up winning was Driving Miss Daisy, a movie about an old white lady who treats a black man poorly, and then realizes at the end of the movie that racism is bad. This film, with a similar subject matter but just generally a worse film, managed to win, so maybe The Academy was fine with pushing the boundaries, but Do The Right Thing was just too much for them to handle.

This article further discusses this idea in depth and is a very interesting read on the possibilities for this Oscar snub. 


While Do The Right Thing didn’t get nominated for Best Picture, it is still an incredibly influential movie to this day. The snub from The Academy did not prevent this film from becoming a statement piece on racism and police brutality that is sadly still very prevalent today.

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