14. "Fight The Power" Becomes Do The Right Thing's Anthem
Date: June 30, 1989
The Moment: In 1989, what remains one of the most incredible years in movies—Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Back to the Future: Part II, The Little Mermaid, and Driving Miss Daisy, to name a few—one release stuck out among all of them: Brooklyn film director Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. The movie more or less revolved around a crackling (and in the movie, literal firestarter of a) rap song, commissioned by Spike Lee just for the film: Public Enemy's smash, "Fight the Power," heard over a boombox carried around by one of the film's crucial characters, Radio Raheem.
The Impact: The track caught fire that summer, hitting the top spot on the Billboard rap chart, and was a smash hit with critics as well. The Do the Right Thing soundtrack peaked at the 68th spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and of course, the film didn't do too bad, either. (It received two Oscar nominations and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in its first year of eligibility, one of just five films to be so honored.)
The Upshot: The song has since become the standard-bearer for political rap anthems, and furthermore, the use of rap in film. Public Enemy later recorded the title track for the soundtrack of Spike Lee's He Got Game, giving the group a much-needed publicity boost in 1998.