A single, unemployed slacker living in Venice, California, who does nothing more than enjoying cocktails and bowling.He is mostly inspired by Jeff Dowd, a member of the anti-war radical group the Seattle Liberation Front (The Dude tells Maude Lebowski that he was one of the Seattle Seven, who were members of the SLF). A friend of the Coen brothers, Vietnam War veteran Pete Exline, also inspired aspects of the character.
The Dude: "Walter, I love ya, but you're just gonna have to accept that you're a fucking moron!"
Humble Goal: "All The Dude wanted was his rug back." Which is weird because his rug was never stolen, it was just peed on and he presumably threw it away after that introductory scene. The only rug that was taken from him was one HE stole in the first place, later rightfully reclaimed by Maude who won't return it as part of their bargain. If the Dude wanted his rug back, he could've just taken it to a cleaner and returned for it on Thursday of next week. But as Walter comments, "This is about drawing a line in the sand."
"I'm not Mr. Lebowski. You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm The Dude. So that's what you call me."
"She's not my special lady; she's my fucking lady friend!"
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Dude really doesn't care about anyone but himself, as evidenced by the fact that the Dude only agrees to do the dropoff because the Big Lebowski promises Dude twenty thousand dollars to do so. But the Dude at least feels terrible when he thinks Bunnie is dead, or had her toe chopped off.
Misblamed: Jackie Treehorn blames The Dude for screwing up the ransom handoff, even though the Dude had nothing to do with that. And the briefcase the Dude was given didn't have any money in it anyways.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Displays this on a handful of occasions as he attempts to decipher exactly what's going on - and only gets called out on it by Maude when he jokes about the plot of Bunny's porn tape.
Sir Swears-a-Lot: He swears constantly, though he doesn't seem to be aware of it.
Stranger: Do you have to use so many cusswords? Dude: What the fuck are you talking about?
Stranger: The Dude, from Los Angeles. And even if he's a lazy man - and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in all of Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin' for laziest worldwide.
Vitriolic Best Buds: The Dude and Walter are, to an outside observer, completely incompatible people who, true to form, spend most of their time loudly arguing with each other. However, they're practically inseparable.
We're talking about unchecked aggression here, dude.
"AM I THE ONLY ONE AROUND HERE WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THE RULES?!?!? MARK IT ZERO!!!"
Played by: John Goodman
A Nam veteran, the Dude's best friend and bowling teammate. Walter places the rules of bowling second in reverence only to the rules of his religion, Judaism, as evidenced by his strict stance against "rolling" on Shabbos. He has a violent temper, and is given to pulling out a handgun (or crowbar) in order to settle disputes. He says the Gulf War was all about oil and claims to have dabbled in pacifism. He constantly references Vietnam in conversations, much to the annoyance of the Dude.Walter was based, in part, on screenwriter John Milius.
Anti-Hero: A violent, bumbling psychopath who screams at people for anything, ever.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: Walter is a walking example of this trope, despite (supposedly) serving in Vietnam, and presumably having been trained in gun handling. Notable examples include threatening someone else with a gun (though arguably he isn't being reckless here so much as psychotic), and, in doing so, racking the slide with his finger on the trigger, which is likely to end poorly. It is worth pointing out that after Smokey marks the zero, he immediately clears, unloads and safes the gun before putting it away.
Badass: Especially where he nails a nihilist in the chest with a bowling bag full of bowling balls, one-hit punches another with a sword, and bites another's ear off.]] Has elements of a deconstruction. Yes, Walter is a badass but his violent tendencies are a result from PTSD incurred in Nam. His friends seem to think he needs mental help. Also, unlike the average badass, Walter winds up attacking a lot of the wrong targets. And when he finds out he's been smashing the wrong car, he quickly decides to run.
Walter's status as a badass is also somewhat questionable. While he can be quite menacing and aggressive when deal with, among other people, a pacifist hippie, an aging waitress, a teenage rich boy (to no avail), the German nihilists (who obvious are all bluster and no balls) and a guy in a wheelchair, he backs down immediately when faced with an opponent who is both big enough to match him physically and clearly not afraid of him at all.
Cassandra Truth: Walter speculates what really happened throughout the movie and is right almost every time. No one believes him. "Am I wrong?" The only thing he wasn't right about was Bunny kidnapping herself, but that wasn't his idea anyway, and he was right that she was safe all along - and she might as well have kidnapped herself, anyway. Though he was right that "that's not her toe, dude."
He's wrong when he thinks the Big Lebowski isn't disabled and throws him on the floor, except he might have been right about that, too: the Big Lebowski's leg visibly kicks when Walter throws him down. Probably an acting mistake, could be very subtle confirmation of Walter's theory. Which would make Walter correct about absolutely everything.
Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Deconstructed. Walter is this because of years of mental trauma, thanks to Vietnam and years of living in an unhappy marriage. Not to mention, the other characters aren't just put off by his behavior. They think Walter is a psychopath who is going to snap and kill someone at any moment.
Cluster F-Bomb: When he thinks Larry stole the Dude's money, thanks to seeing a new Ferrari outside, Walter proceeds to smash it with a crowbar. The entire time, Walter is screaming that "this is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!"
Cultural Posturing: Walter is not of Jewish descent and converted to Judaism for his (now ex-) wife.
Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax. YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I'M LIVING IN THE FUCKING PAST!
Hidden Depths: For all his apparent psychopathy, Walter deeply loves his ex-wife Cynthia, even though she's long since moved on with another man. He frequently does random favors for her at the drop of a hat, and it's heavily implied that he only clings to Judaism because it's the only connection that he has with her (he was raised Catholic, and converted to Judaism when he got married).
A member of Walter and The Dude's bowling team. NaÔve and good-natured, Donny is an avid bowler and frequently interrupts Walter's diatribes to inquire about the parts of the story he missed or did not understand, provoking Walter's frequently repeated response, "Shut the fuck up, Donny!".The aforementioned line is a reference to Fargo, in which Buscemi's character was constantly talking.
Butt Monkey: He gets no respect from his friends (especially Walter) when he tries to join in on their conversations. Literally the only time he isn't told to shut the fuck up by Walter, or something similar, is at the end - when he's dying.
Captain Obvious: May be part of the reason why Walter and the Dude ignore him all the time.
Jeffrey Lebowski? That's your name, Dude!
Dropped a Bridge on Him: His death is a deliberate subversion of the unwritten rule that nobody ever dies for random or plot-unimportant reasons in Film Noir, or really, any genre except weird comedies. "It's a heart attack." Though, considering the scene in which his death occurs, it may be a Double Subversion.
Locked Out of the Loop: He tries to construe the plot, but nobody explains anything to him. He's like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know.
Nice Guy: Despite being constantly yelled at, ignored or told to shut the fuck up, Donny stays surprisingly easy-going and cheery.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Walter spends a lot of time browbeating and yelling at him yet is clearly cut up when Donny dies from a heart attack.
Jeffrey Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Big Lebowski"
Played by: David Huddleston
The titular character. He is a wheelchair-bound (he lost the use of his legs in the Korean War) apparent multi-millionaire who is married to Bunny and is Maude's father by his late wife. He refers to The Dude dismissively as "a bum" and a "deadbeat", and is obsessed with "achievement". Although he characterizes himself as highly successful and accomplished, it is revealed by Maude that he is simply "allowed" to run some of the philanthropic efforts of her motherís estate, and that he doesn't actually have very much money of his own.
Big Bad: Him deciding to let the kidnappers kill Bunnie and setting up the Dude to fail botching the ransom sends several people's lives into a downward spiral.
Character Title: "The Big Lebowski" is what the Dude and his friends keep referring to him as.
Evil Cripple: He lost the use of his legs in the Korean War. Or, if you believe Walter, he's lying about that too. He does kick his legs after being thrown out of his wheelchair, which he shouldn't be able to do if he was paralyzed.
Greed: His driving force. He's already rich or so he wants people to think, but wants to be even richer.
Grumpy Old Man: Even before the Dude asks for a new rub, the Big Lebowski is treating the Dude like crap, calling him a "bum."
Hypocrite: The crux of his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the Dude is that where the Dude's a lazy slacker who hasn't accomplished anything, he is a successful Self-Made Man who built everything he has himself despite being deprived of the use of his legs. It turns out he just married into money and likes to act the role.
Jerkass: He treats everyone like crap, and doesn't care who he has to roll over to get what he wants.
Karma Houdini: Aside from getting thrown onto the floor by Walter after the Dude confronts him, the Big Lebowski gets away with extortion, attempted kidnapping and attempted murder, scot-free.
Mock Millionaire: He doesn't actually have much money to his own name; it all comes from his late wife's estate.
The Big Lebowski's eccentric daughter and stepdaughter of Bunny (she's older than her stepmother). A post-feminist and avant-garde artist whose work "has been commended as being strongly vaginal", which she believes inherently bothers men. She introduced Bunny to Uli Kunkel. She beds The Dude solely to conceive a child, and wants nothing else to do with him.
A group of German nihilistic thugs (Uli Kunkel, Dieter and Franz respectively). They were once techno musicians (Kunkel, as "Karl Hungus", appeared in a porn film with Bunny), who, along with Kunkel's girlfriend (Aimee Mann), pretend to be the ones who kidnapped Bunny.The character of Uli originated on the set of Fargo between Ethan Coen and Stormare, who often spoke in a mock German accent.
Batter Up: Though they aren't above using other weapons as well.
Catch Phrase: "We believe in nothing!" (which Uli pronounces "nossink!")
Cool Pet: Uli's ferret, which is used to threaten The Dude in his bath.
Uli: And tomorrow we come back and we cut off your chonson!
Large Ham: Peter Stormare is in this group. It is required.
Paper Tigers: They talk a good game but are ultimately revealed to be this, since Walter ends up handing them their asses over the course of about a minute, even though it's three against one.
Straw Nihilists: Played for laughs. Their amusing Catch Phrase is often applied free of any particular context. They're very enthusiastic about their nihilism, and love to bring it up. Their nihilism, however, doesn't stop them from whining about how "It's not fair!" when it turns out their attempt to extort money out of the heroes by pretending they've kidnapped a woman when she hasn't even been kidnapped has been rumbled. Walter retorts: FAIR?! WHO'S THE FUCKING NIHILIST HERE!.
Walter: Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, but at least it's an ethos.
Wimp Fight: They have one of these with Walter who ends up handing them their asses more or less single-handedly over the course of about a minute.
Bunny Lebowski (real name Fawn Knutsen)
Played by: Tara Reid
The Big Lebowski's young wife. Born Fawn Knutsen, she ran away from the family farm outside Moorhead, Minnesota, and soon found herself making pornographic videos under the name "Bunny La Joya".
Faked Kidnapping: Averted. It turns out that everyone was wrong; the nihilists didn't actually kidnap her. She just went off on her own to visit friends for a few days, and didn't bother telling anyone.
Gold Digger: A scene in the Dude's montage late in the movie implies heavily that she's only after him for his money.
May-December Romance: He's much younger than his husband. (In real life, Tara Reid is 45 years younger than David Huddleston).
A wealthy pornographer, who lives in Malibu and employs the two thugs who assault The Dude at the beginning of the film. Bunny owes him a large sum of money.
Affably Evil: Personally welcomes the Dude into his home for a drink and a polite conversation about the whole Bunny/Lebowski sotuation, while dismissing a few jabs the Dude takes at his work. On the other hand, has no qualms about sending men to kick in doors looking for Bunny, sending the Dude on a Mushroom Samba via spiked beverage, or holding the Dude personally responsible for the whole mess.
Loan Shark: Bunnie owes him a lot of money. It's Bunnie's debts that get his goons after the Big Lebowski.
The extraordinarily loathsome opponent of The Dude's team in the bowling league semifinals. He serves literally no plot purpose and shows up for only two scenes, but is hilarious enough that he's one of the film's most memorable characters. A Latino North Hollywood resident who speaks with a thick Cuban American accent, and often refers to himself in the third person, insisting on the English pronunciation of his name rather than the Spanish. "The Jesus", as he refers to himself, is a "pederast" (according to Walter) who did six months in Chino for exposing himself to an eight-year old.Turturro originally thought that he was going to have a bigger role in the film but when he read the script, he realized that it was much smaller. However, the Coen brothers let him come up with a lot of his own ideas for the character, like shining the bowling ball and the scene where he dances backwards, which he says was inspired by Muhammad Ali.
The narrator, who sees the story unfold from a third-party perspective. His narration is marked by a thick, laid-back Texas accent. He is seen in the bar of the bowling alley, and converses directly with The Dude on two occasions. He expresses disapproval of The Dude's use of profanity and laziness, and adds the qualifier "parts of it anyway" when concluding that he enjoyed the film. He is unaware that it isn't a western.
Badass Mustache: Sam Elliott's trademark mustache. Not badass but still impressive.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: He's aware he's narrating the story to us, but breaks the fourth wall directly at the end of the film.
Cowboy: His manner of dress and speech. He even asks for a sarsaparilla at a bowling alley bar.
Drink Order: "Say, friend - you got any more of that good sarsaparilla?"
Fauxlosophic Narration: He is not only Wrong Genre Savvy, but can't keep his fauxlosophy straight and keeps getting sidetracked. At one point he repeats "Sometimes there's a man" a few times before trailing off and stating that he lost his train of thought. He eventually just gives up ("Aw, hell, I done introduced him enough."), and at the very end even lampshades it ("Huh - I'm ramblin' again."). Ironically, the last time he realizes this and gives up is when he's actually on the verge of making a sage, relevant point for once.