Summer of Sam (1999) - Rotten Tomatoes

Summer of Sam1999

Summer of Sam (1999)



Critic Consensus: Spike Lee offers intense visuals but his storytelling feels crowded and overambitious.

Summer of Sam Photos

Movie Info

New York City's infamous summer of 1977 was a scene of disco divas and the culture clash between fashionable patrons of Studio 54 and the new wave of punk rockers who invaded Manhattan. It was also one of the hottest summers on record and produced the city's first serial killer, whom the tabloids, in a frenzy to boost their circulations, quickly dubbed "Son of Sam." With the media playing an integral role in creating mass fear and paranoia, the whole city became a hotbed of trepidation and panic, captivating not only New York, but the entire world. In director/writer Spike Lee's drama "Summer of Sam," the vicious murderer stalks his way through the Italian-American section of the Bronx, preying on innocent young women. As the temperatures and body count rise, the city becomes immersed in terror. In the desperate search for the 44-caliber killer, a Mafia boss offers a bounty for the Son of Sam. Motivated by greed and ignorance, Joey T., a 32-year-old thug, and his gang of flunkies become obsessed with the idea that Son of Sam is someone from "the neighborhood." Armed with twisted logic, the gang makes a list of everyone they think is a freak-o. The witch-hunt is on, with Ritchie, an aspiring punk rocker, becoming the focus of their suspicion and an easy scapegoat for their fears.

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Adrien Brody
as Ritchie
Saverio Guerra
as Woodstock
Al Palagonia
as Anthony
Anthony LaPaglia
as Detective Petrocelli
Roger Guenveur Smith
as Detective Atwater
Spike Lee
as John Jeffries, John
Nelson Vasquez
as Officer Cruz
Darielle Gilad
as Debbie Cadabra
Peter Maloney
as Detective Timothy Dowd
Ernie Anastos
as Anchorman
Jim Jenson
as Anchorman
Melba Tolliver
as Anchorwoman
Phil Rizuto
as Yankee Broadcaster
Danielle Burgio
as Girl in Parked Car
Lisa France
as Girl in Parked Car
William Raymond
as Father Cadilli
Mildred Clinton
as Italian Woman at Murder Site
Emelise Aleandri
as Italian Woman at Murder Site
Phil Campanella
as 2nd Bowler at Diner
Dan Zappin
as Simon's Male Friend
Murielle Cohen
as Simon's Female Friend
Christina Kolbe
as Simon's Female Friend
Joie Lee
as Bed Stuy Woman Interviewed
Rome Neal
as Bed Stuy Man Interviewed
Mark Breland
as Bed Stuy Man Interviewed
Susan Batson
as Bed Stuy Woman Interviewed
Evander Holyfield
as Man in Riot
Toneda Laiwan
as Dot--Atwater's Girlfriend
Janet Paparazzo
as Young Woman Shot by Son of Sam
Jodi Michelle Pynn
as Young Woman Shot by Son of Sam
Jennifer S. Badger
as Woman Victim
Jeff DeRocker
as Man in Car
Nick Oddo
as Husband
Damian Achilles
as Wounded Man
Joanne Lamstein
as Woman in Car
Gabriel Barre
as Johnny Nasso
Tara McNamee
as Woman Victim
John Michael Brown
as `L.E.S. Stitches' Band Singer
Damian Branica
as `L.E.S. Stitches' Band Bassist
Lorne Behrman
as `L.E.S. Stitches' Band Guitarist
Curtis Gove
as `L.E.S. Stitches' Band Guitarist
James Baggs
as `L.E.S. Stitches' Drummer
Rozie Bacchi
as Brian's Girlfriend
Grace DeSena
as Joe T's Girlfriend
Zoe Bournelis
as Anthony's Girlfriend
Frank Cadillac
as Patty aka Man with Weird Eyes
Daniel J. Courtenay
as Guitar Store Owner
Kathryn Hudd
as Rocco's Girlfriend
Antonio Torres
as Man Pulled from Car
Pamela Wehner
as Lady at Block Party
Dionna Colicchio
as Girl at Block Party
Victoria Galasso
as Girl at Block Party
Danielle Tutelian
as Girl at Block Party
Mario Macaluso
as Italian Chef
Andrew Lasky
as Officer Cruz Partner
Richard Paul
as Detective with Decoy Dummy
Anthony Ray Carlson
as Crime Scene Cop
Steven Croft
as Limo Driver
Mary Jo Todaro
as Lady in Window
Jacqueline Margolis
as Lady in Window
Iris Alten
as Lady in Car Window
Valerie Mazzonelli
as Lady with Dog
Hal Sherman
as Arresting Detective
Nicholas Brown
as Young Detective Petrocelli
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Critic Reviews for Summer of Sam

All Critics (102) | Top Critics (33)

...a scorching melodrama about childhood friends-played by John Leguizamo and Adrien Brody-whose relationship reaches an emotional boiling point.

March 25, 2019 | Full Review…

Summer of Sam, for all its flash and well-crafted fury, is only superficially disturbing. It's a nightmare stroll down memory lane: feel-bad nostalgia.

March 1, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Like most of Lee's work, this bites off more than it can chew, but the breadth and energy are impressive.

September 23, 2008 | Full Review…

This is trashy exploitation at its clumsiest. Once more, a Spike Lee movie has been undone by the earnestness of being important.

April 27, 2007 | Full Review…

Trouble is, the overlong narrative, however entertaining from minute to minute, is a mess.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…

The disappointment with Summer of Sam is not that it's exploitative; it's just difficult to figure out what it's supposed to be about.

March 22, 2002 | Rating: 2.5/4

Audience Reviews for Summer of Sam

A thrilling, often bizarre film, Summer of Sam is a bigger triumph than its general critical reception would make it seem due to a great ensemble and a strong screenplay.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

I am usually one to dislike Spike Lee's work due to his knack for starting fights and complaining about more talented directors. Even I can admit however that Lee can at times make a good effort. Although Summer of Sam is not a great piece of cinema, this is much better film than most in Spike Lee's filmography. The cast really elevate the material, and for what it is, this is an engaging thriller from start to finish that will certainly appeal to viewers looking for a well acted movie with effective thrills. The film could have been better as well, and though Lee tries to craft something quite different from his other work, he at times feels uncertain on how to really make this a standout feature. Spike Lee has made a good film here, and though I hate the guy, I quite enjoyed this dramatic thriller. If only he would change his outlook and shut his mouth, he would be more respected. With this film, he crafts something compelling and worth seeing. This is quite different and even if it's not perfect, it's one of his better films. The film is mixed in terms of what it tries to be, but it's always engaging due to its varied cast and well thought out characters. I will be honest, I wanted to avoid this film, and I thought it wouldn't be good due to the fact that Lee's films tend to be preachy and packed with racial tension, but Summer of Sam is different and refreshing. The cast and plot are compelling and elevate Spike Lee sometimes lacking direction. I did enjoy the film, and along with Malcolm X is Spike Lee's second best directorial effort. Even Lee's haters, like me can admit that this is an entertaining film and it works due to well written characters and standout performances. You can only imagine how much better the film would have been better if someone else would have helmed the project. This is a flawed film, but better than what I initial thought.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer


Know what? I bet that Spike Lee would make a really brilliant zombie movie. He really excels at crafting stories about groups of characters caught in circumstances that bring out the worst in everyone. This movie reminds me a lot of Do The Right Thing, but it's made twelve years after and set ten years before. I was surprised (though perhaps I shouldn't have been) that this movie spent so little time with David Berkowitz himself and so much more with all the characters made paranoid and hostile to each other in the wake of his insane and random murders. The Son of Sam murders have fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that leads former friends and people who've grown up together to mistrust each other, form vicious little in-groups and turn on other people to make themselves feel more secure. Not unlike in The Walking Dead. These characters seem really three-dimensional and real to me, and everyone's motivations, while sometimes despicable, are at the very least understandable. I really like the way Ruby and Ritchie get into the burgeoning CBGB's punk scene and come together, and I really liked Vinny and Dionna as the profoundly unhappily married couple trying to repair their strained relationship. Are they even compatible? I love this movie. It's so human and so big, and Spike Lee tells the story with a real sense of flair and zeitgeist.

Emily Armstrong
Emily Armstrong

Super Reviewer

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