Inglourious Basterds (2009) is the sixth film by Quentin Tarantino. It is told in five chapters:
Chapter 1: Once Upon a Time in Nazi-occupied France
Chapter 2: The Inglourious Basterds
Chapter 3: A German Night in Paris
Chapter 4: Operation Kino
Chapter 5: Revenge of the Giant Face
Set in an Alternate History version of World War II, this movie is about a group of Jewish-American commandos and numerous plots to assassinate the Nazi leadership. The Jewish soldiers are known to the Germans as "The Basterds," a terrifying group who massacre as many Nazis as they can find, scalping each one but leaving a single man alive to spread the word of their deeds. Oh, but not without carving a swastika into his forehead with a bowie knife.A young German sniper finds himself the subject of Goebbels' latest propaganda film, the premiere of which he decides to relocate to a small cinema owned by a girl he takes a liking to. Unbeknownst to him, this girl is a Jew whose family was massacred by the Nazis four years earlier, and she takes the opportunity of so many Nazi leaders coming to her cinema to take revenge. Upon finding out about the premiere, the Basterds also plot to destroy Hitler and his high command at the event despite being pursued by the SS officer who slaughtered the cinema owner's family.This being Tarantino, an orgy of violence is inevitable and duly happens.A large source of confusion derives from Tarantino letting the script get out of hand (read miniseries). This planned miniseries was scrapped when a friend of Tarantino told him he's the only director who actually gets him to go to the theater. So he scrapped most of the plot and backstories, and what was left was a movie in which the titular Basterds were not quite focused on.On a sad note, the film is the final collaboration between Tarantino and editor Sally Menke, who edited all of his films until her death in 2010.Huge spoilers lie ahead. In fact, it's best you go see the movie before looking at the tropes. Trust us, it's worth the 2-1/2 hours.
The Basterds provide inglourious exampels of the following trope:
Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: For a supposed action film, its quiet (and often dramatic) moments seem to outnumber the actual action parts of the movie.
Eli Roth gets to do some of the more gruesome killings in the film. Coincidence? And this isn't the first time he's played a "bear"—in Death Proof, his character was named "Dov," which means "bear" in Hebrew.
Mike Myers doing a character with a faux-English accent who's involved with international espionage? Yeah, baby.
Adolf Hitler: Naturally. Unlike most other depictions, he is messily shot to death to the point that his face is disfigured.
Advertised Extra: A commonly cited complaint against the film is that the Basterds themselves come off as this.
Affably Evil: Landa is often impeccably polite to the people he interrogates, though he will occasionally throw in very pointed questions.
Affectionate Parody: Way too many people, possibly those who haven't watched a lot of old movies, don't realize that most of this movie is composed of send-ups of classic scenes from World War Two movies (particularly the bar scene, with the SS officer noticing the accent and the massive shootout, with even the bartender taking out a gun), all done on a bigger, flashier, and more melodramatic scale. It also includes music from Kelly's Heroes in the scene where one of the Basterds in the movie theater is going upstairs back into the theater to alert the other to get ready to kill Hitler. As they say, Quentin Tarantino isn't in the business of making movies about anything in particular. He is in the business of making movies about movies.
Ambiguously Jewish: Aldo Raine is an interesting case. He's placed in charge of a unit of commandos who are all Jewish, but we never learn if he's Jewish himself. Nothing about his name or personality suggests that he's Jewish, but he does seem to have a personal hatred for Nazis that goes beyond simple enemies of war. Word Of God says his hatred of Nazis has to do with his years fighting The Klan (who, ironically, were despised by the Nazis despite their common anti-Semitism). The scar on his neck was likely from a lynching. Whether this is because he's Jewish, part-Native American, or some other reason is unknown.
Subverted. On the surface, it looks like a group of Jewish American commandos is going to turn the tides of WWII. In reality, their plot to kill Hitler and other high-ranking Nazis would have failed spectacularly; the Basterds win only thanks to a Nazi turncoat [whose very presence would have wrecked the plan if he didn't decide to become a Glory Hound], a vengeful French Jewish girl and her French African partner — who will quite possibly never get the credit for their exploit. In fact, their involvement almost thwarts the plan. Had the Basterds not tried anything, Shosanna would have killed the Nazi leadership without a hitch. On the other hand, had Landa done his duty as head of security then probably nobody would have succeeded, and he needed the Basterds to make the deal that motivated him not to do said duty, so the Basterds were necessary in a way. Double subversion?
On the other hand, Shosanna's plan was somewhat poorly thought out: While she has trapped the bulk of the audience in the burning auditorium, it is very likely that Hitler and his men would have escaped from the opera box, especially with the aid of the two armed guards shooting out the glass door that would be the only thing between them and freedom. Had the Basterds not killed Hitler, he would have escaped; and in fact had the Basterds not opened fire on the panicked auditorium then the bulk of them would have likely broken down the doors through sheer numbers. The Basterds' plan was entirely independent of Shosanna's and killed Hitler with more finality minutes before the exploding cinema could have done.
American Accents: Brad Pitt speaks in a thick Appalachian accent. It's actually pretty accurate to the time period.
Hugo Stiglitz, who stabbed 13 Gestapo officers to death in various ways and is visibly creepy.
Lt. Aldo Raine also counts. In spite of his rank and all-American good looks, he is little more than a bloodthirsty sadist who really gets off on carving swastikas into the heads of German prisoners-of-war regardless of whether or not they are Nazis. The rest of his team count as well.
Batter Up: Sgt. Donny Donowitz's preferred method of killing German soldiers, signed with every Jew in the Boston metro area. Played by Eli Roth. How appropriate.
Berserk Button: When speaking to Herr Goebbels, don't you even DARE mention the name "Lilian Harvey", because he flips out. See the Historical In-Joke listing below for more.
Best Served Cold: Shoshanna's plot. Well, probably not too cold, but at the very least, lukewarm. Or burning hot with hellfire. And somewhat dead, but then undead, given that she was killed right before it began.
Big Badass Bird of Prey: During his conversation with LaPadite in Chapter 1 - "Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France", Landa names the devious and predatory hawk as the animal with closest similarity to the German people. Admittedly, this puts the Nazis at a disadvantage since hawks are too "dignified" to hide, and thus ill-equipped to find "rats" i.e. Jews.
The Basterds' and Frau von Hammersmark's plan of infiltrating the theatre involved them speaking Italian as the Germans do not know the accents (and they wouldn't have to repeat the bar incident), but one of the people they meet is Hans Landa, who knows Italian and is pretty much able to confirm his suspicions about them by their atrocious accents.
Earlier in the film, Landa was cautious about this trope but finds that he didn't need to be concerned because the family under the floor didn't react to any of the English he and Pierre La Padite spoke.
Some scenes with foreign language are deliberately left unsubtitled, in particular the one with Shoshanna and Zoller in the cafe where none of the German is subtitled. Since it's from Shoshanna's point-of-view, it is somewhat justified.
Landa's French is very good, and when he makes his excuse that he's "run out of French," he's actually quite articulate. This is an early clue, in fact, the only one, to warn us that he only is doing it because he is aware that the Jews hiding under the floorboards do not speak English.
Mainland Europeans (or people who understand Germany very well) will quickly pick up on Hicox's accent and the wrong hand gesture he uses (which ultimately gives him away as a spy) before any of the characters do.
Also rather hilariously inverted with the Film Within A FilmNation's Pride, in which dialogue spoken by American characters are in English and subtitled in German.
In the subtitles, select words are untranslated because Tarantino apparently decided that their English meanings are easy to translate. "Merci" and "Oui" for instance.
Bittersweet Ending: On the one hand, Hitler's dead and the war's over. On the other, pretty much every sympathetic character (and most of the unsympathetic ones, and a couple of guys we really didn't know that much about...) had to die to make it happen.
Blast Out: The tavern's (first)Mexican Stand Off ends this way. Everyone is killed in the course of a gunfight that lasts only 35 seconds.
Bonus Material: Nation's Pride is included in its entirety on the DVD.
Brawn Hilda: The female soldier, Beethoven, in the tavern demonstrates her willingness to kick the asses of her male compatriots.
Break the Haughty: This happens to Landa at the end when he gets a swastika carved into his skull.
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: It's unclear whether Landa ever knew what Shoshanna looks like, but if he did, then he fails to recognize her when they eat together years after he slaughters her family. She, on the other hand, remembers exactly who he is.
Call Back: Hicox notes that Stiglitz isn't quite the loquacious type, then when called on it, admits the loquacious type isn't who he needs for this mission. When they get to the "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner (below), he knows exactly who should deliver the line.
Carved Mark - Swastikas carved into the foreheads of surviving Nazis.
Catch Phrase: At least three times during the movie, there is a scene where one character asks another if they understand, and then says "Can you explain..." Happens so frequently that it really makes you wonder why any of them ever asks the question in the first place.
Censored Title: The announcer in TV ads for the movie in the UK before Watershed would just call the movie Inglorious. Some of them, mysteriously, showed the full title onscreen; note however that whilst the spelling of "Basterds" doesn't match the spelling of the curse, the pronunciation does, which is probably why only a verbal censor was used pre-watershed (as failing to fully advertise the title would only serve to confuse). In the UK the film is shown on Sky Movies and it is titled Inglourious B***s on Sky's Planner/TV Guide.
Chekhov's Gunman: Major Dieter Hellstrom is given a brief introduction, and makes another unimportant background appearance, but later serves as the initiator of the first Mexican Standoff in the bar after Hicox accidentally betrays his disguise.
von Hammersmark's autograph and missing shoe leads to her capture and death.
Shoshanna is briefly shown loading the pistol that kills Zoller.
Compensating for Something: After watching Perrier LaPadite smoke a standard corncob pipe for several minutes during the dairy farm scene, Landa asks if he might join him.... and produces a ludicrously huge, Sherlock Holmes-style calabash. Raine's Bowie knife is also exceptionally larger.
Continuity Nod: The only black person in the film is named Marcel. Also, Sgt. Donny Donowitz, aka "The Bear Jew," is reported to be the father of Lee Donowitz from True Romance, which Tarantino wrote.
Cool Guns: The Sedgley OSS .38 caliber glove pistol that is used to take out the guards outside the theatre box. You punch it into the target to fire the bullet. It's awesome and based on a real OSS weapon.
Deadly Fireworks Display: The entire final scene in the theater. First 35mm nitrate film is set on fire, then Donnie and Omar fire on everyone in the theater from Hitler's box, then Shoshanna's face is visible in the smoke rising from the flames after the screen has burned up, and then the bombs go off and everybody is dead. Hot damn!
Some people see this movie as a deconstruction of the traditional Hollywood historical epic, particularly those about World War II. Such movies often play faster and looser with history than the average viewer realizes, and can be unintentionally insulting in their reductiveness. By intentionally writing an alternate history, and going for fun action over a serious statement, Tarantino disputes whether such movies really work as actual history lessons, or at the very least, mocks how seriously these movies take themselves.
Or, if you take it as straight-forward, the film is formatted in the style of a World War II propaganda movie made as though it was made in 1944-45 just as the Normandy Landings are happening. In this, Inglourious Basterds is no different than Mrs. Miniver, Casablanca, Desperate Journey, or other war films made while the war was still raging, meaning the real ending of Hitler committing suicide in his bunker hadn't happened yet. Meaning the Basterds could depict its version of the war however it liked.
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Lampshaded in a subtle, creepy way: there is a scene where Germans are watching a Nazi propaganda movie about a German sniper who killed massive numbers of Allied troops while behind enemy lines. They are laughing and enjoying themselves watching people from our side get slaughtered. While you're laughing and enjoying yourself watching people from their side get slaughtered.
Doppelgänger: Hellstrom acts a lot like Landa... Without his cleverness, politeness towards his victims and self preservation sense though. The kind of behavior that makes you say "auf wiedersehen" to your Nazi balls.
Downer Beginning: Chapter 1 - "Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France", has Shosanna's (one of the protagonists') parents and siblings being exterminated by Landa's troops, while she miraculously escapes the massacre.
The Dulcinea Effect: Zoller gets the premiere of his movie, along with all its high prestige guests, moved to a theater of a woman he doesn't even know. Well, except for Shoshanna trying to ignore him.
Embarrassing Nickname: Landa uses this to get under Utivich's skin, telling him that he thinks it's unfair that Utivich has been nicknamed "The Little Man" by the Wehrmacht, when he's not really that little. Given that it's Landa doing the talking, it's not clear if he was serious or not.
Entitled to Have You: Zoller, when he finally gets fed up with Shoshanna's rebuffs. He's gotten used to being treated like royalty for his heroic actions in the war, and he becomes violent after one too many snubs from her. It's especially jarring because before this he's been portrayed as a pretty nice guy and rather humble about his heroism.
Final Girl: At different points, both Shoshanna and von Hammersmark take their turns in this role, although neither survives to be the last to kill the killers. Then again, arguably they each do, as both of their plans come together to murder all the Nazis in the theater, including Hitler and Goebbels.
Food Porn: That scene with the strudel. Also has to count as some sort of dissonance considering Shoshanna's state of mind during this part (to pour salt on the wound, there's a lot of dairy involved as well).
Foreshadowing: Hitler expresses fear of the "Bear Jew" and the idea that he's a golem summoned by the Jews. At the end of the movie, the Bear Jew mows Hitler down with gunfire and continues to blast his head to a fine jelly.
Landa:"I look forward to seeing you face-to-face as well"
Foregone Conclusion: Averted. The audience assumes that the plan to kill Hitler will fail because of history but Tarantino doesn't really care much about that.
The existence of Colonel Hans Landa and the Basterds results in Hitler getting machine-gunned to death and the war in Europe ending a year early.
Had Staff Sergeant Wilhelm's wife not given birth on the night that Hicox and von Hammersmark were to make contact with the Basterds, there would not have been any German soldiers in the tavern and the rendezvous would have gone off without a hitch.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: Sort of. In the lightning-fast testicles shooting contest involving Hicox, Stiglitz, and Hellstrom, you can see how von Hammersmark's wound is made. Now it all happens in 35 seconds, so....
Gorn: The scalpings, carved swastikas, and Hitler and friends getting blown apart by MP-40 fire.
Golem: Donny Donowitz, the Bear Jew himself, is thought to be a golem by several Nazis.
Gory Discretion Shot: The introduction of the forehead swastika is possibly the sole example in a movie filled with dead soldiers getting scalped and bodies being shredded with gunfire all within full view of the camera. Then again, that was probably just an artistic choice to hide what was actually being done until it could be revealed dramatically. A Nazi officer has a swastika carved on his head at the end of the movie, and it is shown in gruesome detail.
Gratuitous English: Subverted by the justifying revelation that Landa picked a language that the Jews he was hunting could not understand. He's also quite fluent in it.
Heroic Comedic Sociopath: The Basterds are on a mission that requires them to perform atrocities, and they seem to take great pleasure in it, from scalping the dead to mutilating prisoners to beating the rest to death with a bat. However, because they're fighting German soldiers, they occupy the "hero" slot by default. On the other hand, Fredrick Zoller is presented as one by Nazi propaganda, but his actual reaction to the footage shows that he is not, or simply that he does not like how the propaganda exaggerated his moves.
Shoshanna died while attempting to kill the entire German high command.
Donny and Omar in the theatre die in a suicide mission to kill the entire German high command and end the war.
The German soldier who refuses to put German lives at risk, even though he technically isn't a hero (he's got medals for bravery though). Aldo Raine lampshades his heroic sacrifice for his country when calling Donowitz to execute him.
Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: While no time travel was involved, the cardinal "Don't kill Adolf Hitler" rule is broken. The movie finished before any consequences were shown, though. However, Cracked.com has a theory which is based on a rumor that's floating around saying that all of Tarantino's movies are in the same universe: the absolute brutality that led to the death of Hitler and the top Nazis, and more than likely the end of the war, led to a more violent future where murder and the like aren't seen as quite as big of taboos as in real life, leading to Gorn-fests like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. Additionally, everybody in that universe talks about pop culture all the time ("Like a virgin", "Kung Fu",etc.).It stops being odd when you realize that Hitler was killed in a theatre by its owner and the father of somebody who is going to be a movie producer. Talking about pop culture in Tarantino's universe is Serious Business.
Humans AreBasterds. Even Marcel, the nearest thing to a straightforwardly good person in the movie, is an Anti-Hero of type IV. Discounting the peasant families in the first chapter, or course.
Hypocrite: Landa strangles von Hammersmark to death for treason, and yet immediately goes on to sell out the Third Reich himself.
I Am Very British: When Hicox is getting briefed for his mission, they all sound so English it hurts. Then you suddenly recognize Dr. Evil talking, and you realize that everyone in the room is a Fake Brit. Sort of Truth in Television — there are still people in the UK who talk that way, they're just few and far between (see Stephen Fry for a famous example outside the Royal Family). 70 years ago, even more people talked like that, and whilst the common soldier would sound far more ordinary, the top brass would be more likely to be made up of the upper classes.
Hitler's first appearance has him furiously pounding his fist on a table while repeatedly shouting "NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN!" in a high-pitched voice, all while wearing a ridiculous cape.
Fredrick Zoller is presented as a sympathetic character in spite of being a German soldier until he finally has enough of Shoshanna's rejections and goes into an aggressive tirade about how she should be thankful to him.
The scene where Aldo digs his finger into Bridget von Hammersmark's bullet wound to make sure she's telling the truth about the basement. In a film full of brutality, it's this scene that tends to make audiences wince the most, and it's done to a sympathetic woman on his own side.
Kill 'em All: In the penultimate scene, two of the Basterds start firing indiscriminately into the crowd. They have TNT strapped to their legs, not to mention the theatre is already burning and Landa's TNT under the booth, which ensures no one is getting out of there alive. Of all the main characters introduced, the audience sees only Raine, Utivich, and Landa alive by the end of the movie.
Large Ham: Brad Pitt as Aldo Raine and of course Martin Wuttke as Der Fuhrer himself. Although Aldo is played for laughs especially during the premiere, Hitler is played halfway seriously.
Laughably Evil: When Landa excuses himself to laugh himself almost into convulsions about the paper-thin excuses of Von Hammersmarck and the Basterds, you cannot help yourself but laugh along with him.
Les Collaborateurs: Two of them. The first is at first unwilling, the second has his ass beaten by Shoshanna and Marcel. Three, if you count Francesca Mondino, Goebbels' translator/mistress.
Lost in Translation: An in-universe example that turns out to be a major error with disastrous results. In the tavern scene, Lt. Hicox seems to avoid this until he orders three Scotches using his index, middle and ring fingers — like a Brit — as opposed to his index, middle and thumb — like a German. This blows his cover and results in everyone in the bar except Hammersmark and a Heer grunt dying in a 35 second shootout.
Matzo Fever: Shosanna, for Zoller, though he doesn't realize it, and for a lot of male(and some female) fans. Also, Donny, apparently.
Mexican Stand Off: It's a Tarantino film, what did you expect? It happens several times, and lampshaded/discussed in the basement tavern, where Raine talks with Wilhelm about how they can avoid the situation. This discussion then becomes moot when von Hammersmark subverts the trope: by killing Wilhelm.
Mood Whiplash: In a rare example of the tragedy-to-comedy version, Shoshanna's beautifully shot death scene, with Ennio Morricone's beautiful "Un Amico" building to a heartbreaking climax.... Smash cut to the Bear Jew- "After I kill that guy, you have 30 feet to get to that guy. Can you do it?"
Mook Horror Show: The approach of the Bear-Jew from the tunnel, and Shosanna's projected face laughing at the theater crowd. The Basterds' entire mission could be seen as an invoked example.
More Dakka: Hitler, Goebbels, Goebbels' translator, and a good portion of the crowd die in a massive hail of gunfire.
Nazi Hunter: All of the Basterds. It is a less-common form of this trope in that they are active during the war as opposed to after it.
Nasty Party: Shoshanna plans to implement her Roaring Rampage of Revenge by inviting the Nazis to her theater to view Frederick Zoller's film, and once the film ends kill them all by trapping them in the burning theater.
Nazi Germany: Obviously, though almost all of the film is set in occupied France.
Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers, with its machine-gun firin' and Nazi stabbin' and Tarantino-directin', promised two-and-a-half hours of violent Nazi-slaughtering that would make Wolfenstein look like Nazi Propaganda. The trailers don't give away the movie/theater secondary plot (which is never alluded to in the trailers) that take up such a significant portion of the movie, and the actual film takes a far more suspense-drama driven style. The Basterds themselves share the spotlight with an ensemble cast and have a smaller role than the trailers imply.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Basterds get von Hammersmark killed as well as two of their own, they're responsible for Landa's escape, and they accomplish precisely nothing as Shoshanna would have gotten all the Nazis anyway.
Not really; Hitler had that soap box escape. He would have gotten out if not for the Basterds.
Normally this requires the protagonist get captured, but when Landa invites himself into LaPadite's dairy farm to share a saucer of delicious milk, and a smoke and chat about missing Jews, the power that the Fuhrer gives him in occupied France makes the home a prison.
Played fairly straight in Shoshanna's meeting with Landa in Chapter 3, though it's not certain if Landa fails to recognise Shoshanna or if he just decides to let her go so he could mess with her head.
Nonverbal Miscommunication: Variation where it is the sender (Hicox) who has knowledge of German culture yet uses the wrong hand gesture. It's an understandable mistake, as Hicox's knowledge of German culture comes entirely from watching movies, and even people who study German for years in school and have impeccable accents (which Hicox does not, in another major plot point) often give themselves away by this mistake. Of course everyone else realizes the mistake which ends up becoming a Poor Communication Kills and for Hicox, one spectacular Critical Research Failure.
The mistake isn't easy to spot, and people are known to have to ask around about it, but when one knows just what the mistake was it's impossible to not see it: he orders "drei" (three) glasses by holding up his middle, ring, and index fingers (when a proper German would hold up the thumb, index finger, and middle finger). That gesture is really alien to Germans.
In a Crowning Moment of Funny, when trying to pass off as an Italian in front of Landa, Raine speaks a few words of I-Talian in a southern accent ("Bon-jer-no"). Which is kinda correcto, but also sad since Omar (who can't even speak Italian) had a better accent than he did. But, you might forget thinking to feel bad for Omar, since Landa asks for all of them to repeat their names several times, and actually congratulates Omar for his pronunciation.
Inverted a second later when Donny does a hilariously over-the-top American stereotype of an Italian accent.
Not His Sled: They succeed in killing Hitler. Instead of, you know, failing.
Though Raine says that "the Nazi ain't got no humanity," it's pretty clear that this film does seek to humanize the Nazis. Frederick Zoller's one-sided relationship with Shosanna had a certain chick-flick cuteness. He also dislikes watching a movie of himself killing. Private Butz is just a scared boy who wants to survive the war and hug his mother. Sgt. Wilhelm is shown celebrating the birth of his son and is sadly killed (perhaps unnecessarily) on the same night. Sgt. Rachtmann is shown to be a brave soldier, willing to sacrifice his life for his comrades in arms. Even the normally unflappable Col. Hans Landa shows shock and anger at the execution of an unarmed German soldier.
Likewise, even though Raine seems to chastize the Nazis for their inhumanity, he and his unit seemed to be the most inhuman.
Though not deeply explored, the one thing that differentiates the Basterds from the Nazis is that even though they are pretty ruthless, they do not kill civilians. This is something that the Nazis did quite a lot of. By some estimates, 17 million innocents (a lot of whom were Jews just like the family that was hiding under the floorboards at LaPadite's dairy farm) were mass executed by the Nazis during WWII. Hitler's Third Reich set the bar for inhumanity quite high.
On the other hand, a great many of the actual German army did not want to go to war. There is never indication that Private Butz (the private that Raine brands and leaves alive after the interrogation scene), Zoller (the celebrated sniper), Wilhelm (the father who is celebrating his son's first birthday at the tavern), or Rachtmann (the soldier killed by Donny at the first Basterd interrogation) killed any civilians. Zoller is clearly uncomfortable watching a recreation of him killing hundreds of American soldiers (either he was too ashamed of himself, or thought the recreation was overexaggerated). By humanizing the Nazis and having the Basterds being pretty inhuman shows pretty clearly that there are no heroes in war, just a bunch of inglourious basterds.
Not So Stoic: Perrier LaPadite listens impassively to Landa talk of how he's looking for a missing Jewish family, until he realises that Landa has deduced that they're hiding under the floorboards, whereupon tears start streaming down his face and he confirms what Landa suspects.
Omniglot: Herr Landa speaks everything. In Real Life, the need for the actor playing Landa to speak four languages was a serious casting issue for Tarantino, one which he claims almost made him give up on the project at one point. In the script, it's hinted he speaks even more languages (albeit not as fluently).
One Last Smoke: Marcel, right before he uses it to light the film on fire and bring down the house.
One-Man Army: Zoller. Arguably played with in his death since he is shot in the back by... a woman who runs a theatre.
Averted. There are two guys in this film who are named Wilhelm; one is a Basterd (Wicki), and the other is a Nazi, which can get a little confusing.
Also, if you speak German, you'll notice that Landa addresses all his underlings as "Hermann", which is kinda funny. Shows he doesn't care about them at all (his final "I made a deal with your General for that man's life!" is even more hollow). This is particularly funny in the scene where he introduces the last Herrmann. He even pauses for a moment to remember his name, and then just decides to go with Herrmann. Herrmann can also be interpreted as "Herr Man", which is German for "Mister Man". Nothing personal indeed.
"They're the foot soljers of a Jew-hatin', mass-murderin' maniac, and they need to be dee-stroyed. That's why any and every sumbitch we find wearin' a uniform... they're gonna die."
Poirot Speak: Recognizable non-English words like merci and wunderbar are frequently (though not consistently) left untranslated in the subtitles. Not quite a straight usage, but the effect is similar.
Political Correctness Gone Mad: In Germany, the swastikas on all promotional material for the movie are censored. While the depiction of swastikas is technically illegal in Germany, the law clearly states that this ban does not apply to works of art (among other things).
Promoted Fanboy: Mike Myers was reportedly a Tarantino fan, which got him his cameo in Chapter 4 "Operation Kino".
The rank-and-file German soldiers are shown to be regular people with loyalty to their comrades and families. This makes the Basterds brutal treatment of them morally ambiguous.
Hans Landa claims that he's hunting Jews simply because Hitler called him down from the Alps to do the job, and that he has no personal grievance against them. The sadistic glee he takes in his job, however, makes him a true villain.
Reality Ensues: Shosanna's ultimate fate, shot dead by a mortally wounded Zoller.
Reality Is Unrealistic: Some viewers complained that Brad Pitt's (pretty much spot on) Appalachian accent was too over-the-top.
Red Baron: Landa is known as the "Jew Hunter," Aldo Raine is known as "Aldo the Apache," and Donny Donowitz is known as the "Bear Jew." Less-impressively, Smithson Utivich is known as "The Little Man."
Utivich(incredulous and annoyed): "The Germans' nickname for me... is... the Little Man?"
Remake Cameo: Enzo G. Castellari, director of the namesake film The Inglorious Bastards, appears as a German general.
Repeat Cut: At least one example occurs that is the result of stylistic shoutouts to the Spaghetti Western genre. Namely, in Chapter 1, the timing it takes for Landa and the soldiers on the motor vehicle to arrive at the dairy farm is completely inconsistent. When the camera shows them approaching the farm in the distance, they are shown passing the same tree next to the road three times.
The Allies avert this with respect to Hans Landa until Aldo Raine plays it straight, carving a swastika into Landa's forehead to permanently mark him as a Nazi. Of course, with the fortune Landa has bargained for, he will be able to get plastic surgery easily enough. 1940's technique was well up to turning the swastika into a less conspicuous scar. Until then he can just wear excessive bandaging.
This also seems to be Landa's attitude when he kills Bridget with his own hands.
Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Figuratively throughout the film with two separate plans moving toward the same goal. Interestingly, both plans work and complete each other, rather than putting each other in jeopardy. And both groups never communicated, ever.
Literally in one key scene in which a character's left hand is not visible, because he is using it to protect himself, but his right hand is, and is the one that gets him into trouble.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Basterds on a colossal scale, also Shoshanna. Roaring fire? Rampaging Bear Jew? Revenge of Shoshanna? Check, check, and check. Tarantino is good at this one.
Rousing Speech: "My name is Lt. Aldo Raine, and I'm puttin' together a special team, and I need me eight soldiers. Eight. Jewish. American. Soldiers. You mighta heard rumors about the armada happening soon. Well, the truth is we'll be going in a little earlier. We're gonna be dropped into France dressed as civilians, and once we're in enemy territory, as a bushwhackin' guerrilla army, we're gonna be doin' one thing, and one thing only: killin' Nat-zees."
Satellite Character: Marcel to Shoshanna, though he does bring up his own points and characterization during his time on-screen.
Seinfeldian Conversation: When Landa spends a ridiculously long time talking about how he wishes to switch to English or during the explanation of precisely how flammable the old reels of film were. Possibly subverted in that those end up becoming important to the plot a bit later.
Shaped Like Itself: What's Raine's problem with the choice of tavern where they have set up the meeting with Bridget von Hammersmark? It's that "Fighting in a basement presents several difficulties, the first of which being... you're fighting in a basement."
Shout Out: This being a Tarantino film, there are many:
Brad Pitt's character Aldo Raine is likely a reference to film actor Aldo Ray, known for playing tough guys in war movies in the 1960s (mostly notably John Wayne's The Green Berets).
Hugo Stiglitz shares a name with a Mexican mexploitation (yes, there is such a thing; Tarantino's old buddy Robert Rodriguez is a huge fan) actor.
Tarantino is a well known fan of B movies. Hugo Stiglitz was famous because of Tintorera and other action/adventure movies. There is a reason his name is actually presented with a visual fanfare (camera settles on him, the image freezes and his name is superimposed on screen).
Eli Roth's character takes the pseudonym of Antonio Margheriti, the name of a noted Italian B-movie director. This is particularly appropriate given that Roth's movies Hostel and especially Hostel Part II are homages to the Italian Giallo genre.
If you pay attention to the room itself, you'll notice it's identical to one in Schindler's List.
Also, being manhandled while wearing a white-jacketed suit and a black bag over his head hearkens back to Fight Club.
There are several references to Fight Club: A projectionist sneaks in a hidden message, a random bit of sex spliced incongruously into a scene, and the same upward angle shot of Pitt menacing another character with a knife.
Shoshanna's floating head over the roaring fires and booming voice scaring the absolute bejeezus out of the fleeing Nazis in the theater could well be an homage to The Wizard of Oz, or the Phantasmagoria.
The first scene, where Landa arrives at LaPadite's home to interrogate him, is eerily reminiscent of Angel Eyes' visit to Stevens in The Good The Bad And The Ugly.
When the Basterds bust Stiglitz out of the clink, the music playing is Ennio Morricone's "Algiers November 1, 1954", from The Battle of Algiers (AKA Most badass commando-music ever. You have to see the original scene.)
The film (Basterds, not Nation) features at least two songs from Kill Bill. Those are more likely shout outs to the Spaghetti Westerns they were originally taken from.
The conversation in which a character tries to pretend he was born in a mountain village, and citing a popular skiing resort as proof, strongly resembles a scene in Marathon Man. In that film, however, the Nazi/Allied roles were reversed in the conversation.
The music played while Marcel is heading behind the cinema screen (and while Zoller is on his way to see Shoshanna in the projection booth) is lifted directly from the Kelly's Heroes soundtrack.
Donny blasting the hell out of Hitler's corpse with a furious grimace on his face is straight out of Come and See.
In the tavern, Landa is pointing out that Wicki and Stiglitz have been known to don German uniforms to ambush squads. This includes a cut where they are standing on a dirt road, stopping a truck. When the soldier speaks, Stiglitz, Wicki and Omar let loose their submachine guns, killing the soldiers in the truck in a Bonnie and Clyde style attack.
Tarantino must have been watching Carrie when he wrote the climax. Both the theater scene in Basterds and the prom scene in Carrie revolve large groups of people gathered in one room, their attitude going from perverse enjoyment (of Nation's Pride in Basterds, of the title character's humiliation in Carrie) to panic as the building is set ablaze, with them locked inside. And it is all being caused by a vengeful young woman, holding a preeminent position at the center of the chaos (even if it was just the recording of Shoshanna in Basterds).
Shown Their Work: The flammability of the old film reels, which becomes a major plot point. Also, the differentiation of German and British hand gestures. And the explanation afterward from von Hammersmark.
Signature Item Clue: The shoe and autographed napkin left behind by Bridget von Hammersmark when fleeing a bar where several of the Basterds were involved in a fatal shootout with a German officer let Colonel Landa know she was present, when he investigated the scene. The shoe is brought up again later, to von Hammersmark's dismay.
Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Shoshanna, who takes up half the plot by herself, is conspicuously absent from the Brad Pitt-centric trailers and promos. At the very least, she's shown getting ready for the premier of Stolz der Nation, or firing her PMM. Probably because most of Shoshanna's lines in the film are in French.
Maj. Dieter Hellstrom, with his detective skills and cocky, smug attitude, clearly thinks he's some sort of Col. Hans Landa. That's the kind of thinking that will make you say "auf Wiedersehen" to your Nazi balls by a bullet to them at point-blank range.
Bridget von Hammersmark is a rare heroic example who sneers at the unfortunate and fatal mistakes made by Hicox but who then doesn't think to take back her shoe or the autograph she gave Wilhelm. It gets her killed.
She was dead either way. The horrible accents would have given the Basterds away to Landa anyway, or at least given Landa enough of a reason to check her leg to see if it had really been broken in a mountain-climbing accident - and even if he didn't, he would almost certainly have recognized Stiglitz from the papers.
Sociopathic Soldier: All the Basterds can qualify for this, though Hugo Stiglitz is the one that really takes the cake.
Soundtrack Dissonance: The scene where Shoshanna gets shot and killed in slow motion versus the rather romantic music being played over the top of it. Then the immediate cut to Omar and Donny preparing to take out the guards to Hitler's box with much different music.
Star-Making Role: Nobody outside Germany and Austria knew who Christoph Waltz was before this movie.
The Starscream: Landa, who has put explosives in Hitler's box, though this is actually just a backup plan in case the Basterds' plan fails. Either way, he hopes to take the credit for Hitler's death and be glorified by the Allies, instead of being tried for war crimes when the Germans inevitably lost., like the Magnificent Basterd he is.
Stealth Parody: Of WWII movies, especially of behind-the-enemy-lines variety.
Steel Ear Drums: Landa can hear Shoshanna escaping and does not even flinch after a few of his soldiers spray up the floorboards in a confined space. The soldiers might be wearing hearing aids, but Landa sure isn't.
The infamous Wilhelm Scream is in a scene of Nation's Pride when a soldier is shot and falls into a fountain. Hitler reacts with laughter. This may seem like Anachronism Stew at first because the Wilhelm scream was first recorded to be used about a decade after the movie is supposed to have been set, in 1951. It's not wrong being present, because the entire movie plays fast and loose with history, so the first movie to use this stock scream probably copied it from Nation's Pride in this version of history.
When the theater explodes, it sounds like they're using it again: actually, that time, it's Kurt Russell screaming at the end of Death Proof.
Somewhat ironically, Staff Sgt. Wilhelm does NOT perform the aforementioned scream when he is killed in the bar shootout.
Stiff Upper Lip: Hicox. Realizing he's been found out and is about to die, he nods, apologetically switches back to speaking English, and takes time to finish his drink, saying that "There's a special ring in Hell reserved for people who waste good Scotch."
Switch to English: Colonel Hans Landa starts speaking to LaPadite in French, and he suggests that they switch to English because it is better than his French. This is a lie, of course. The real reason is that the Jews that LaPadite is hiding do not speak English, and Landa doesn't want to alert them to his suspicions too soon.
Tears of Fear: Pvt. Butz when he hears Donny tapping on the wall of the tunnel and anticipates what's coming.
There Is No Kill Like Over Kill: In the climax, a crowd of people is locked in a cinema that is burning down on top of them while getting shot apart by two men with submachine guns until the whole damn building just blows up. During the same scene, Donowitz continues to pump bullets into the already very dead Hitler's face and head region; this was allegedly Eli Roth's idea — he told Tarantino that if he were in his character's place, he'd want to make absolutely sure the son of a bitch was dead. It also makes sense historically, since Hitler had already survived a number of assassination attempts.
This Means Warpaint: Shoshanna nods to this trope in the middle of her Lipstick and Load Montage as she's preparing for her revenge against the Nazis, sharply smearing rouge across her cheekbones like it's warpaint before fading it in.
Those Wacky Nazis: which, could be a second title as this movie is the epitome of the trope.
Translation Convention: Notably averted, unlike most more "serious" World War II movies. The Germans speak (subtitled) German, the French speak (subtitled) French, and the Americans and British speak English. In cross-cultural conversations, in one case it is outright stated that they will use English as a median language to accommodate both parties' unease with the other's language, in two cases interpreters are used, and in most other cases the German party yields to their counterpart's language, being that in most cases whomever they're talking to doesn't speak a word of German. Certain instances are pushing it, however, although not to a degree which breaks the suspension of disbelief:
A notable example is Chapter 1 ("Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France"), when Landa goes into ridiculous detail in explaining why he wishes to continue his conversation in English, rather than French. Due to how long and involved his excuse is, one can't help but feel it's gently taking the piss out of Valkyrie and other more Serious Business war movies, or as a Shout Out to a similar scene that opens Mel Brooks' To Be or Not to Be. However, the decision also has plot significance: by switching to English he ensures that the family hiding under the floorboards won't have any idea what he's saying.
Lampshaded with Von Hammersmark's line (spoken by the trilingual Kruger):
Von Hammersmark: "I know this is a silly question before I ask it, but can you Americans speak any other language than English?"
In the bar scene, Wilhelm's command of English also seemed forced, as the absence of common tongue between him and Raine will damage the dramatic tension. Again, lampshaded by the dialogue:
Raine: "We're American. *cannot see Wilhelm* What are you?"
Wilhelm: "I'm a German, you idiot!"
Raine: "Speaks English pretty good for a German..."
Viewers Are Goldfish: When Landa arrives behind Shoshanna in the restaurant, there is a flashback to Shoshanna running away from Landa. Given the aesthetic of the film, it may be one part Stylistic Suck and three parts intentional reinforcement of Shoshanna's straight-faced but otherwise absolute pants-wetting terror.
It was probably to show how he was barely keeping it under control. He was remembering his mistreatment at the hands of Nazi officers just like the one he was being forced to sit right next to and be nice to.
Also, there are nine original Basterds total. Wicki dies in the bar, Aldo and Utivich survive, a minor basterd is seen in the background at the animal clinic and Donny and Omar die in the theater. This means there are four Basterds unaccounted for by the end of the film. The one in the background at the animal clinic, Kagan, also mysteriously vanishes between that scene and the final scene in the cinema According to Word Of God, any Basterds not seen in the bar or subsequent scenes were dead.
What Measure Is a Mook?: In-story, the German radio operator is shot by the Basterds because they wanted another dead Nazi. Aldo explains that the brass only needs Landa, and will only "chew him out" for the action.
Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: As stated in the trailer, the Nazis "conquered Europe through murder, torture, intimidation, and terror. And that's exactly what [the Basterds] are gonna do to them." Landa says of Operation Kino that "some would call it [a] terrorist plot." The Basterds' attack on the movie theater? Yep, they're suicide bombers.