[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/zodiac1_8043.jpg]]

->''"I believe this is a window into this man's soul. Killing is his compulsion. Even though he tries to ignore it, it drives him. It's in his blood."''
->''"Could be, or maybe he just likes the attention."''

'''''Zodiac''''' is a 2007 film directed by Creator/DavidFincher, chronicling the killings of the mysterious California killer known as Zodiac, as well as the people who tried to uncover his identity. The film focuses on three main characters:
* Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle who becomes obsessed with the Zodiac.
* David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) a renowned San Francisco homicide detective who is put on the case indefinitely.
* Paul Avery (RobertDowneyJr), a reporter on Zodiac for Chron.

The main problem catching the killer is that none of the agencies and jurisdictions investigating[[note]]Vallejo PD, SFPD, Napa County Sheriff, Solano County Sheriff and California DOJ[[/note]] have all of the same information, and often the evidence seems to contradict itself. Robert Graysmith eventually takes it upon himself to go between them and solve the crimes.

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!!''Zodiac'' provides examples of the following tropes:

* AdultFear: Graysmith starts out fearing for the life of his children, including pulling one off a bus after Zodiac threatens to shoot out a school bus. [[spoiler: Later subverted when he continues his investigation despite receiving threatening calls to his house and, in a darkly humorous moment, involving his grade-school age kids in the investigation.]]
* AllStarCast
* AloneWithThePsycho: See BeatPanel below.
* AttentionWhore: The Zodiac; he sends letters to the police and media bragging about his kills, [[spoiler: including taking credit for murders that may not have been his]]. Melvin Belli and Paul Avery have shades of this too.
* BadassMustache: Ken Narlow.
* BasedOnATrueStory
* BeatPanel: 1983, when Robert and [[spoiler:Leigh]] meet face to face. Even though nothing is said, it's clear that both know who the other is.
* BittersweetEnding: [[spoiler: While Robert gets off pretty well (you can see that he wrote a book about the Zodiac experiences on the Bestseller rack in a bookstore), Paul ends up becoming a stoner and there is the undeniable fact that the KILLER FUCKING GETS AWAY]].
* BoundAndGagged: Zodiac's 3rd set of victims (his second on-screen set) end up like this.
* BowtiesAreCool: Toschi.
* CallBack: Robert states he won't be able to stop investigating the case until he's able to look the killer in the eye. [[spoiler: He does just that when he meets Arthur in the hardware store at the end.]]
* CastAsAMask: The titular killer is played by 3 different actors (John Lacy, Richmond Arquette, and Bob Stephenson), while the two suspects, Bob Vaughn and Arthur Leigh Allen are played by Charles Fleischer and John Caroll Lynch, respectively.
* CloudCuckoolander: Robert.
* CouldSayItBut: Toschi does this with Robert at least twice.
-->''"I can't discuss the case with you. I can't give you information, and I certainly couldn't tell you to go see Ken Narlow in Napa. N-A-R-L-O-W."''
-->''"I can't tell you anything about that. But maybe Melvin Belli could."''
* CowboyCop: Subverted. Toschi is the inspiration for both Film/{{Bullitt}} and Film/DirtyHarry, but despite his eccentricities, he's very by-the-book.
* CreepyBasement: Bob Vaughn's old farmhouse cellar.
-->''"There aren't many basements in California..."''
* CreepyMonotone
-->"Good...Bye..."
* CriminalMindGames: Oh, boy. The letters, the code, the stained shirt...
* DaChief: Jack Mullinax, Vallejo PD; Ken Narlow, the Napa County Sheriff.
* DeadpanSnarker: Avery, which shouldn't be a surprise considering [[RobertDowneyJr who plays him]]. Toschi and Armstrong have their moments.
* DefectiveDetective: Toschi's self-aggrandizement, ties, and penchant for Animal Crackers give {{Monk}} a run for his money.
** WordOfGod according to writer/producer James Vanderbilt this was a case of TruthInTelevision.
* DistantFinale: The last scene takes place in 1991, 8 years after Graysmith finds Leigh at the hardware store. [[spoiler: The only person to see the Zodiac without a mask is taken in to see some photographs. He points out the one of Leigh, with an 8 out of 10 assuredness.]]
* DoNotCallMePaul:
-->''"Call me Leigh. Nobody Calls me Arthur."''
* DownerEnding: [[spoiler: While Robert gets off pretty well (you can see that he wrote a book about the Zodiac experiences on the Bestseller rack in a bookstore), Paul ends up becoming a stoner and dies, Allen dies before his guilt can be proven or disproven, and there is the undeniable fact that the KILLER FUCKING GETS AWAY]]
* EiffelTowerEffect: The establishing shot of San Francisco showing the Ferry Building.
** Later on, the Transamerica Pyramid is shown frequently, though it's still under construction.
** Melvin Belli's St. Francis Wood mansion is shown to have a close view of Downtown San Francisco. In reality, the neighborhood is miles from Downtown and the view is obscured by hills.
* EveryoneIsASuspect: Subverted, when hundreds of random citizens report their pet theories to the police.
-->'''Woman:''' Have you ever considered the killer might be Paul Avery?
-->'''Toschi:''' Frequently.
** Also
--->'''Woman''': I am the Zodiac.
--->'''Armstrong''': And how did you kill your victims?
--->'''Woman''': With a gun! No, wait, with a hammer!
* FamousLastWords
-->''"Hey, man, you really freaked us out!"'' [[spoiler:Ultimately a SubvertedTrope, in that he survives]].
** As well as his third set of victims (second on screen)
--->"Everything going to be fine." [[spoiler:Then the Zodiac comes back and stabs the couple repeatably, although again a SubvertedTrope in that the man who says this survives.]]
* TheFilmOfTheBook: Well, the film of the making of the book. Graysmith's book is eventually seen on screen as well.
* ForegoneConclusion: [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac_killer In reality, the Zodiac Killer]] was never found... the movie stays true to this.
* GilliganCut
-->'''Paul Avery''': [[UmbrellaDrink This]]...can no longer be ignored. What is it you're drinking?
-->'''Graysmith''': It's an Aqua Velva. You wouldn't make fun of it if you tried it.
-->Avery tries a sip of the drink. Cut to a table full of empty umbrella drinks.
* GreyRainOfDepression: [[TruthInTelevision It rains]] ''a lot'' in Northern California.
* HeWhoMustNotBeSeen: Rick Marshall.
* HollywoodNerd: Gyllenhaal's character is too good looking for a real nerd.
* IntrepidReporter: Robert.
-->''"I'm not a reporter; I'm a cartoonist!"''
* KarmaHoudini: Zodiac
* MirrorScare
* MorningRoutine: Disrupted to show the effect the killer has on the population.
* OhCrap: Robert's reaction when he realizes he's alone in a basement with a man who could potentially be Zodiac.
* PoliceAreUseless: Mostly averted; it's more ObstructiveBureaucracy and public hysteria preventing the cops from doing their jobs properly.
* PoliticallyCorrectHistory: Averted: 'negro' is used interchangeably with 'black' in the 60s and 70s, and "retard" and "homosexual" are used as insults.
* PutOnABus: Michael Mageau, one of the first on-screen victims and the only person to see Zodiac without a mask, skips town as soon as he gets out of the hospital.
** [[spoiler: TheBusCameBack: He returns at the very end of the movie, and positively identifies Allen as his shooter.]]
* RedHerring: Rick Marshall manages to take up thirty minutes of the movie despite never being seen and [[spoiler: not being Zodiac. We think]].
** The Riverside killing. And the attack on the woman on the highway.
*** Many of the Zodiac's letters only repeat information already published in the newspaper, leading investigators to think he's just taking credit for crimes he didn't commit.
* RoomFullOfCrazy: Rare heroic example; by the end, Robert's house has been taken over by boxes of files related to the Zodiac.
* {{Sssssnake Talk}}: "Thisssssss issssss the Zzzzzzzzzodiac ssssssssspeaking..."
* SanFrancisco: Shown in all its glory, mercifully free of the usual stereotypes.
* SanitySlippage: Graysmith. He goes from a fairly stable if some oddball cartoonist and loving father, to a one-man investigative team trying to solve the Zodiac murder, quitting his job and driving his own family in the process. [[spoiler: It's not until the end, when he's able to look Arthur Leigh Allen - the person he believes to be the Zodiac - in the face that he's able to recover.]] Apparently this was TruthInTelevision for the real Graysmith.
* SarcasmBlind: Graysmith has his moments.
-->'''Graysmith''': I just want to help.
-->''' Narlow''': What are you, some kind of boy scout?
-->'''Graysmith''': Eagle Scout, actually... First class..
* SceneryPorn: The opening shot of the North Bay on the fourth of July, the sweeping view of San Francisco's waterfront, the skyline at Christmas, the Napa Valley, the interminable darkness of the Central Valley at night...
* SecondHandStorytelling: The first known murder committed by the Zodiac killer isn't shown in the film due to there being no surviving witnesses. The murder of Cherri Jo Bates also talked about but not shown again due to lack of survivors and due to it happening three years prior to the start of the film.
* SensitiveGuyAndManlyMan: Nerdy, straight-edge Graysmith versus the boozy, chain-smoking Paul Avery
* SerialKiller: The [[CaptainObvious Zodiac Killer himself]], natch.
* ShowWithinAShow: ''Film/DirtyHarry''.
* SoundtrackDissonance: "Hurdy Gurdy Man" by Donovan plays over the radio as Zodiac shoots two people.
* SuspiciouslySpecificDenial:
-->'''Graysmith''': Hey, does anyone ever call me names?
-->'''Paul Avery''': You mean like retard?
-->'''Graysmith''': Yeah.
-->'''Paul Avery''': No.
** When the Zodiac threatens Paul Avery, everyone begins to wear "I am not Paul Avery" buttons, including Paul Avery.
** And when Leigh is being interviewed by police:
-->'''Leigh''': (to police officers) Those knifes with blood on them were from a chicken I killed.
-->''later''
-->'''Leigh''': (to police officers) I'm not the Zodiac, and if I was, I certainly wouldn't tell you.
* TheEndOrIsIt: Graysmith is positive he's found the killer, and Fincher clearly agrees that it's a very convincing case, but the film very deliberately leaves it open that they might be wrong. John Carrol Lynch plays the assumed killer as just another guy annoyed at being bothered by the police, so you don't judge him as evil simply because he acts evil: you have to decide based on the available facts. Does the evidence stack up or doesn't it?
* TheSixties (and TheSeventies, TheEighties, TheNineties)
* ThisIsReality
* TimeShiftedActor
* UmbrellaDrink: Robert's Aqua Velvas.
--> '''Avery:''' [[CrowningMomentOfFunny This...can no longer be ignored.]]
* {{Unperson}}: Darla's sister seems to drop off the face of the Earth when Graysmith is looking for her. [[spoiler: He eventually finds her in a prison]].
** Mike Mageau, [[spoiler: the only person to see Zodiac without his mask and live, skips town once he's out of the hospital. He comes back at the very end, 22 years after the shooting.]]
* UnreliableExpositor: Sherwood? Who was fired from Questioned Documents? Who drinks like Paul Avery?
* TheUnsolvedMystery: SFPD has officially closed its Zodiac homicide investigation, despite the fact the 1969 case remains unsolved and leads continue to pour in.
* VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory: Surprisingly, averted: at Fincher's insistence, the film was meticulously researched for historical accuracy, with the cast and crew consulting with nearly every living person who was involved with the case, including the two surviving victims.
* WeNeedToGetProof: The main challenge once the heroes become convinced that [[spoiler: Leigh is the Zodiac]]. Despite mountains of evidence -- the windbreakers, the gloves, the wing-walker boots, the knives, the guns, ''TheMostDangerousGame'', the watch - it could all be dismissed in court as circumstantial.
* WhereAreTheyNowEpilogue: [[spoiler:Graysmith is happy with his children, Leigh died of a heart attack before the police could charge him with the murders, and Paul Avery died around 2000.]]
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