main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Film: Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich is a 2000 film directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Julia Roberts in the title role.

Erin Brockovich is a single mother without a job and with thousands of dollars in hospital bills from a car accident she was in (and unsuccessfully sued the other driver to pay). Desperate, she gets her lawyer to take her on as a legal assistant. While everyone else is very professional, Brockovich dresses rather trashily and is rather crude. Then one day, she begins to investigate the Pacific Gas & Electric Company and discovers they're dumping toxic waste into the water supply of Hinkley, California. By using her...considerable assets...she begins a legal battle that would end up the largest class action lawsuit in American history. Yes, this is Based on a True Story, and Erin Brockovich is a real woman. She gets a cameo as a waitress in a Greasy Spoon restaurant.

The film was nominated for five Oscars, but won only one: Julia Roberts' only Oscar win for Best Actress. AFI lauded Erin as one of its "Heroes" (#31), and the film as one its most inspirational (#73).

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor IS The Title Character
  • Amoral Attorney: Pretty much the entire PG&E legal team.
    • As well as the guy representing the doctor who hit Erin's car and injured her, trying to make her look like a promiscuous money-grubbing liar.
    • And the real-life Brockovich.
  • Beauty Is Bad: The other secretaries take an instant dislike to Erin. Her often abrasive personality probably doesn't help, but their attitudes seem to be based solely on how she looks and dresses.
  • Because I Said So: Played for a surprising amount of drama when Erin explains the water contamination to one of the residents of Hinkley. The mother looks outside in horror at her kids in a swimming pool and rushes to get them out. When the kids ask why they had to get out, she yells, "Because I said so!"
  • Bittersweet Ending: A meta-example that borders on Downer Ending. The movie ends at Erin successfully suing PG&E. But what wasn't shown was Brockovich being just as bad as PG&E, as she and her firm withheld the money that should've gone to the residents of Hinkley for months getting big bonuses as people were still sick or dying. Along with people getting seemingly random amounts of money, Brockovich managed to cross the Moral Event Horizon by taking a 1/3 of cancer-stricken children's settlements, despite the fact that it's frowned upon to take more than 25%. And she's immortalized through an Academy Award winning movie, arguably making her a real life example of a Karma Houdini.
  • Based on a True Story
  • Covers Always Lie: The shot of Erin on the DVD cover never appears in the movie, save for a deleted scene.
  • Dirty Old Man: Erin thinks an old guy who keeps lurking around is one of these. Although he does express some interest in her, it turns out he was just working up the nerve to tell her some sensitive information.
  • Disappeared Dad: Erin's two ex's. Given the implication that she's receiving no financial help from either of them, they're deadbeats as well.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Brockovich pulled one in real life.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Albert Finney's practice is portrayed as a small-time study in diminished expectations.
  • Happily Married: A few throwaway lines of dialogue and some deleted scenes establish Ed and his never-seen wife as this.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Or rather, Hello Legal Assistant, in Erin's case.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Brockovich. The movie portrays her as a tireless activist purely because it's The Right Thing To Do. It leaves out the fact that she was after a very sizable cut of the settlement as well and made millions of dollars that way... or at the least, portrays it as a "happy side effect".
  • I Broke a Nail: Erin, right before her car gets T-boned at the start of the film.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: "They're called boobs, Ed."
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Averted. Over the course of her investigations Erin comes to know every single one of the 600 or so residents of Hinckley, to the surprise to a couple of less-attached lawyers.
  • Oscar Bait
  • Not in My Backyard!: One of the main reasons people find the story compelling.
  • Rags to Riches: Erin goes from having $16 dollars in her bank account to landing a steady job, getting raise after raise, a $5000 bonus plus a new car, and finally, a $2 million check. The citizens of Hinkley count too. Although the way the money was distributed is not known, it's likely that they're all better off financially then they were before.
    • Of course, if it was distributed like it was in real life, it's actually a Downer Ending since Brockovich and her firm stole pretty much all of the money.
  • Real Person Cameo: The real Erin Brockovich plays a waitress (lampshaded, as the waitress' name is Julia R.)
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: There's an interesting, but very different, story about underhanded industry lawyers hiring gumshoes to illegally invade the privacy of common citizens versus a pair of lawyers with an uncomfortably close relationship to the arbitration judge.
    • The real Brockovich and her team of lawyers was also less than above-board in how they distributed funds to the Hinkley residents (see here).
  • Water Source Tampering: PG&E tries to cover up the fact that they were poisoning the groundwater of the town Hinkley, California with Hexavalent Chromium, which resulted in most of the town suffering from illness and cancer.
  • Wham Line: "Would it be important if, when I worked at the plant, I destroyed documents?"

Easy RiderCreator/Columbia PicturesEvolution
Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonAcademy AwardTraffic
EDtvCreator/UniversalE.T. the Extraterrestrial
The Emperor's New GrooveFilms of 2000 - 2004 A Goofy Movie

alternative title(s): Erin Brockovich
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy