A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.
In 1962, Tony “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, a tough bouncer, is looking for work when his nightclub is closed for renovations. The most promising offer turns out to be the driver for the African-American classical pianist Don Shirley for a concert tour into the Deep South states. Although hardly enthused at working for a black man, Tony accepts the job and they begin their trek armed with The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide for safe travel through America’s racial segregation. Together, the snobbishly erudite pianist and the crudely practical bouncer can barely get along with their clashing attitudes to life and ideals. However, as the disparate pair witness and endure America’s appalling injustices on the road, they find a newfound respect for each other’s talents and start to face them together. In doing so, they would nurture a friendship and understanding that would change both their lives.
New York City bouncer Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga is searching for new employment after his nightclub is closed for renovations, eventually landing an interview as a driver for “Doc” Don Shirley, a famed pianist. Their first encounter does not go well, as Tony’s flippant, uncultured behavior clashes with Don’s sophisticated, reserved demeanor. However, Don eventually hires Tony on the strength of others’ word, as he needs someone who can help him stay out of trouble during an eight-week concert tour through the Deep South. They embark with plans to return home on Christmas Eve. Tony is given a copy of the Green Book by Don’s record studio: a guide for black travelers to find safe havens throughout the segregated South. They begin the tour in the Midwest before eventually heading further south. Tony and Don clash over their differences, as Tony feels uncomfortable being asked to act properly, while Don is disgusted by Tony’s habits. Regardless, Tony finds himself impressed with Don’s talent on the piano, and increasingly disgusted by the discriminatory treatment the latter receives by the hosts when he is not on stage. After a bar incident leads to a group of white men threatening Don’s life, Tony rescues him by threatening to pull a gun on them. He instructs Don not to go out without him for the rest of the tour.
Dr Don Shirley is a world-class African-American pianist, who is about to embark on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962. In need of a driver and protection, Shirley recruits Tony Lip, a tough-talking bouncer from an Italian-American neighbourhood in the Bronx. Despite their differences, the two men soon develop an unexpected bond while confronting racism and danger in an era of segregation.