''Elephant'' is a Gus Van Sant film made in 2003 which tells the story of a high school shooting similar to the UsefulNotes/{{Columbine}} High School massacre. It constructs the story of a single day from the viewpoint of different high school students, including the two shooters themselves. While many possible explanations are offered for the actions of the shooters (violent video games, neo-Nazism, bullying etc.) the film deliberately does not make their motives clear.

Gus Van Sant based the movie on a short film made by Alan Clarke of the same name that was broadcast on the BBC in 1989. Clarke's film dealt with UsefulNotes/TheTroubles in Northern Ireland and was largely composed of tracking shots following gunmen as they assassinate targets. The title refers both to the old Jain parable of a group of blind men who each touch a different part of an elephant and then disagree on what they are feeling, and the idea of the ElephantInTheLivingRoom (in this case the elephant being UsefulNotes/{{Columbine}} and the true reasons for it).

The film is noted for use of long tracking shots, extended sequences with little or no dialogue and a cast comprising mostly of non-actors, giving it a disconnected and ethereal quality.

This is the second film in Van Sant's ''[[ThematicSeries Death Trilogy]]''. The first was ''Film/{{Gerry}}'' and the third was ''Film/LastDays''.
!!This film provides examples of:

* AdultFear: The shooting itself, naturally. This is also inverted as John fears his father might be in the school when the massacre is underway.
* AlcoholicParent: John's father.
* ActionFilmQuietDramaScene: Inverted. The majority of the movie is made up of tracking shots of different students during a normal school day, with only the last twenty minutes or so devoted to the shooting itself.
* AmateurCast: Most of the students are played by non-actors or very new actors.
* AmbiguouslyGay: Alex and Eric shower together and make out, but whether this is out of pragmatic curiosity, or attraction, or something else is ambiguous. One says that they've never even kissed anyone, and they kiss for a few minutes.
* BangBangBANG: Notably averted. The guns in the climactic massacre sound way more realistic than in most Hollywood movies, to the point where one character mistakes gunfire in the hallway for a firecracker.
* BigBadDuumvirate: Alex and Eric are the two kids who shoot up their school.
* BlackDudeDiesFirst: [[spoiler:Inverted; Benny is one of the ''last'' people that we see killed.]]
* {{Bookends}}: The film begins and ends with a shot of clouds in the sky.
* CameraFiend: Elias. He's characterized by his love for photography, but there's one really heinous moment that he tries to use his camera: [[spoiler:when he snaps a picture of Alex and Eric as they enter the library]].
* DarkIsEvil: Alex wears full black during the shooting, while Eric wears somewhat dark camouflage.
* DevelopingDoomedCharacters: [[JustifiedTrope Justified]] and [[IntendedAudienceReaction deliberate]]; the entire premise of the film is relating to the characters before their abrupt demise.
* DownerEnding: As the film is based on the Columbine massacre, this is a ForegoneConclusion.
* DramaticGunCock: Alex cocks his shotgun upon entering the library, pausing for a moment before opening fire.
* FreudianExcuse: The shooters were bullied pretty badly in school, and Eric implied that the teachers did nothing about this.
* GirlPosse: Brittany, Jordan, and Nicole make up one of these.
* HiddenDepths: There's one scene where we see Alex playing [[WickedCultured piano]] quite well.
* HuddleShot: A variant is done with Alex and Eric as they go through their strategy.
* IdiotBall: The delivery man had to have been aware he was delivering an automatic rifle, and he left it in the hands of two teenage boys.
** Elias photographs the two shooters as they enter the library, instead of hiding or running away.
* {{Leitmotif}}: [[Music/LudwigVanBeethoven Beethoven]]'s ''Fur Elise''.
* KilledMidSentence: [[spoiler:Michelle]] and [[spoiler:Eric]].
* KillEmAll: Out of all the characters introduced, [[spoiler:John]] seems to be one of only two that survives considering [[spoiler:he happened to be outside when he saw Alex and Eric enter, and tried to warn others to not go inside]]. The other is [[spoiler:Acadia]], who is almost killed [[spoiler:because she has a panic attack when the shooting starts, only to be led outside by Benny]]. [[spoiler:Alex's]] fate is left ambiguous after the movie as well.
* MurderSimulators: The shooters are seen playing one of these. Namely, a game based on a movie [[Film/{{Gerry}} where you shoot clones of Matt Damon and Casey Affleck as they walk in the Utah salt flats.]]
* NoEnding: [[spoiler: The end of the film shows Alex playing 'eeny meeny miney mo' with Nathan and Carrie to choose who to shoot as the camera pulls away.]]
* OnceMoreWithClarity: Lots of scenes are repeated but from the perspectives of different characters, showing them before and after certain exchanges.
* TheOner: The film features a lot of long takes and tracking shots through the halls that are [[CreatorThumbprint essential to Van Sant's films]].
* PacManFever: The video game portrayed in the film seem to fit this trope.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: Eric lectures the principal about how he did nothing to prevent the bullying he and Alex went through and instead ignored their problems.
* RippedFromTheHeadlines: The movie is based largely off of the UsefulNotes/{{Columbine}} massacre.
* RoundTableShot: In the scene with the gay-straight alliance, which is held in a discussion circle, the camera is centered in the middle and spins around to capture the different students and teachers reactions/contributions to the conversation.
* ShaggyDogStory: Benny's part. He gets focus by having a chapter named after him but his story amounts to nothing. See TheStoic below.
* SoundtrackDissonance: Alex plays ''Fur Elise'' on piano as we see Eric playing a violent video game, and the song is then played again over the credits after the horrific act is shown.
* TheStoic: The camera follows calm, muscular Benny as he helps Acadia and goes looking for the shooters, setting up viewer expectations that he can thwart them [[spoiler:only for him to round the corner and be shot point blank by Eric with no fuss or fanfare.]]
* TeamKiller: [[spoiler: Alex shoots Eric in cold blood.]]
* TeensAreMonsters: Played straight with the bullying of Alex, and the actual shootings, but also shown to be inaccurate regarding the majority of students, the purpose of this movie being to try to go deeper than clichés.
* ThisIsForEmphasisBitch: Eric calls [[spoiler: the principal]] a bitch after shooting him.
* ThoseWackyNazis: Alex and Eric are shown watching a documentary on the Nazis at one point. It's left ambiguous as to whether or not this was one of their inspirations for the shooting.
* TheUnreveal: Although many reasons are given (bullying, media, political affiliations), we ultimately don't know what Alex and Eric's motivations are.
* ViolenceIsDisturbing: Since the film is comprised of many long cuts with minimal editing, we see the carnage as if we were really there.
* WheresTheKaboom: As part of the massacre, Alex and Eric plan to blow up parts of the school to cause maximum chaos. The bombs fail, so they settle for shooting random people.
* YouWillBeSpared: [[spoiler:Subverted.]] Eric decides to spare the life of the principal as he has him at gunpoint, [[spoiler:only to kill him as he runs away]].