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Cult classic directed by The Coen Brothers in 1998. It's a bit hard to describe, but let's call it a Film Noir parody.Jeff Bridges stars as a lazy and useless slacker named Jeffrey Lebowski, who prefers to be known as "The Dude". One night, a pair of thugs break into his house, dunk him in the toilet, and pee on his rug, mistaking him for a local millionaire, also named Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston, the eponymous "Big" Lebowski). Said millionaire, who denies compensation for said rug, ends up recruiting the Dude to help in the negotiations for his kidnapped wife, Bunny (Tara Reid), and that's when the plot takes off.This being a Coen Brothers movie, though, the plot isn't what's important. The driving force of the movie is the various bizarre characters, almost all of whom seem to come from different movies. For more information about them, see here.Despite being a disappointment at the box office and initially getting a mixed reception from critics, The Big Lebowski has become one of the biggest cult classics in modern film history, to the point that it has a yearly festival dedicated to it, both in America and England. Critics nowadays also look upon it far more kindly as a modern comedy classic.
The Alleged Car: The Dude's Torino increasingly becomes this. It wasn't exactly a royal chariot to begin with, but over the course of the film it is stolen and trashed by a fifteen year old, used as a toilet, crashed by the Dude (twice), beaten with a crowbar, and finally set on fire.
All Germans Are Nazis: The Jewish Walter automatically assumes that the Germans are Nazis and that nothing ever changes. When the Dude insists that they're nihilists, Walter notes that that would be worse, since "say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, at least it's an ethos." In the end, though, he calls one of the Nihilists an antisemite, so he apparently hasn't given up on the idea.
The Dude in the classic sense, a lazy bumfuck only vaguely interested in this mystery thing who doesn't do anything heroic all. He is at least genuinely concerned about Bunny's well-being and is taken aback by some of Walter's shenanigans, which he tries to mitigate or rein in.
Walter, a violent, bumbling psychopath who thinks he's in the right and screams at people for anything, ever.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Without the verbalization; after another home invasion where The Dude's johnson is threatened by a nihilist ferret (which the Dude mistakenly believes to be a marmot), Walter shows concern about possession of wildlife inside a city being illegal.
The Dude: What are you, a fucking park ranger now?
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 Colt M1911A1, and, in doing so, racking the slide with his finger on the trigger, which is likely to end poorly.
Not to mention the incident with the disguised MAC-11 Sub-machine Gun while Walter and the Dude were "attempting" to hand off the money at the bridge.
Ashes to Crashes: Walter misjudges the wind, and ends up pouring out the ashes of Donny all over the Dude.
Babies Ever After: "I happen to know that there's a Little Lebowski on the way." Weirdly subverted, though, since Maude makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with the Dude after the child is born, and just wanted him to impregnate her so she wouldn't have to run into the father of her child everywhere she went. It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context.
Badass: Walter, 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. And 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.
Badass Mustache: Sam Elliot pretty much is this trope. Not a badass character in this film, but those whiskers are mighty impressive.
Walter flips right the fuck out when a bowling opponent steps over the line and refuses to acknowledge his error. Cross Walter on a rules violation, and you'll stare down the barrel of a gun.
You are entering a world of pain.
Walter takes his Judaism very seriously, even though he converted for his (now ex-)wife. Getting him to break the laws of Shabbas will earn you an ear full.
Walter completely snaps when trying to intimidate a teenager he suspects has stolen the ransom money by smashing up his car, screaming, "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!"
Whenever Walter gets his dander up, he inevitably finds some way to link it back to some obviously unresolved issues with his tour in Vietnam. In fact, he finds an excuse to mention 'Nam in just about any situation.
Dude: What the fuck does anything have to do with Vietnam?
The cab driver freaks out and bodily throws the Dude out of his cab just for insulting The Eagles.
Bilingual Bonus: More often than not, the lyrics of the Gipsy Kings' version of the already surreal "Hotel California" are weird or make little sense in Spanish. The song tries so hard to be literal that it becomes a Translation Train Wreck. A very fitting theme for this kind of movie.
Bittersweet Ending: The Cowboy argues for this. Donny is dead and the Dude and Walter will never be able to prove the Big Lebowski's guilt, meaning all they have to do now is contemplate their lives before the big game. However we hear there's a little Lebowski on the way, albeit one that won't have the Dude's involvement in his upbringing. In addition, Big Lebowski gets traumatized by Walter for his swindle, the irritating Nihilists won't harass the Dude anymore, and the Dude won't take the fall for Bunny's disappearance like the Big Lebowski planned. And, you know, come what may... "the Dude abides."
Black Comedy: One of the blackest. Even Walter's eulogy/funeral for Donny ends up being hilarious.
Butt Monkey: Donny 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.
The Cameo: Aimee Mann appears briefly as the fourth member of the Nihilist gang. She contributed a cover of "Viva Las Vegas" for the end credits.
Comedian Dom Irrera plays Maude's limo driver, he even performs a portion of his "I can't complain!" routine.
Camp Gay: "Knox Harrington. The video artist." Played by David Thewlis. Who giggles madly for no reason at times, much to the Dude's consternation.
Candlelit Bath: "Far out, man." Shortly ruined by the nihilists and their "marmot" (actually a ferret).
Captain Obvious: Donny, which may be part of the reason why Walter and the Dude ignore him all the time. (i.e.: "Jeffrey Lebowski? That's your name, Dude!")
Your phone's ringing, Dude.
Thank you, Donny.
Cassandra Truth/The Cuckoolander Was Right: 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. And 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.
Catch Phrase: A number, which is a pretty big understatement.
"We believe in nothing!" - the nihilists.
"Shut the fuck up, Donny." - Walter
"Am I wrong?" - Walter again
"Let's go bowling" and variations of it.
"Fuck it." - The Dude's answer to any kind of adversity, an attitude that gets him criticized by both Walter and Lebowski.
Maude and the Dude as they watch Karl Hungus's star in a porn movie as a cable repair guy. Maude comments that "the story is ludicrous" and tells Dude that he can imagine where the plot goes. The Dude ventures, "He fixes the cable?"
Complexity Addiction: Discussed during the "handoff" scene. Walter dislikes overly complex planning and offers an "ingeniously simplistic" alternative to paying the Nihilists their ransom: grabbing one of Bunny's kidnappers and beating her location out of him.
Cool Car: The Corvette they find during the attempt to extort the boy who stole The Dude's car. "I'd say he's still got about $960-$970,000 left, depending on the options."
My baby! I just bought that fucking car last week!
Covert Pervert: Bunny implies that Brandt is willing to pay to watch her have sex with other men.
Cowboy: The Stranger "got a whole cowboy thing going". His style is very diggable.
Cultural Posturing: Courtesy of Walter, who is not even of Jewish descent and he converted to Judaism for his (now ex-) wife.
Walter: Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax. YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I'M LIVING IN THE FUCKING PAST!
Maude: Lord, you can imagine where it goes from here.
Dude: He fixes the cable?
Deconstructive Parody: Of the Film Noir genre and detective stories in general. The "detectives" are made up of a stoner, a 'Nam obsessed lunatic, and a random friend of theirs who is forcibly kept out of the plot. And all the mysterious clues and the potential deadly conspiracy they're investigating? They are nonexistent. All those clues were just random stuff that had a perfectly logical explanation and there never even was a conspiracy to begin with.
They do discover that the Big Lebowski had a plot to embezzle money and sacrifice Bunny...but this discovery doesn't really lead to anything. They basically just yell at him and leave..
Digital Destruction: Universal's Blu-Ray release of the film has been subject to quite a bit of criticism due to its overuse of edge-enhancement and DNR (digital noise removal), which, while removing a lot of film grain, also removes much of the texture and detail from the movie.
Happens earlier, too, when Maude's goons knock The Dude out to take her rug back. It consists of him flying through the air above LA and following Maude on a flying carpet (the Persian rug that was just taken from him), then suddenly having a bowling ball in his hand and falling to Earth.
Drink Order: "Dude will have a White Russian." "Yeah. Got anymore of that good sarsaparilla?"
Dropped a Bridge on Him: Donny's 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.
Dumbass Has a Point: Walter, the most insane and incompetent character in the movie, turns out to be the only one who even remotely figured out the plot. The only thing he got wrong was the belief that Bunny had kidnapped herself, otherwise he was dead-on accurate.
The first thing His Dudeness The Slacker is shown doing is shopping for half-and-half in his robe, tasting it in the store, then paying for it by writing a check for 69 cents. A Freeze-Frame Bonus reveals the check is postdated.
Walter's first scene is conversing with the Dude about the first home invasion and spouting off various theories and odd phrases, showcasing his Cloud Cuckoolander personality.
Donny's first scene is him scoring a perfect strike while bowling than immediately being ignored or berated by Walter when he asks what's going on, establishing his bowling skills and background character status.
Maude is introduced performing some sort of ridiculous, self-styled painting method than awkwardly and nonchalantly asking the Dude if he enjoys sex before going on a small rant about how men are uncomfortable with sex, all showing how pretentious and hipster-like she is.
Evil Plan: The titular Lebowski's machinations during the kidnapping; If the Dude opened the case and saw that he was never handed the ransom money in the first place, his total lack of credibility ensures that he ends up taking the heat for "botching" the exchange.
Exact Eavesdropping: Subverted; the Dude is in a conversation with Jackie Treehorn when the latter receives a call, writes down something on a notepad, tears off the notepad, and excuses himself. The Dude, in full sneaky investigator mode, grabs the notepad and shades it with the side of a pencil to highlight the impression made on the next sheet of paper. It turns out to be an anatomically exaggerated picture of a man.
Also, Bunny, who offers the Dude a $1,000 blowjob when they first meet.
The Dude: Uh, I'm just gonna go find a cash machine.
Finger in the Mail: The eponymous "Big" Jeffrey Lebowski is sent one of his wife's, Bunny, toes after a botched money exchange. It's later revealed to not be his wife's toe.
Fish out of Water: What makes the film so funny in the first place; the Dude is stuck in a Film Noir narrative with all the various interests around him (aside from Walter and Donnie) behaving accordingly.
Foreshadowing: "You guys are dead in the water." Where do Walter and the Dude take Donny's ashes?
After he fails to strike and sits back down near the end, you can see Donny start to wiggle and flail his arm in discomfort. The arms tend to go numb just before someone has a heart attack.
There's another, surprising one if you think about it: the poster image on this very pagenote Specifically, the lack of Steve Buscemi's character on it.
Fourth Wall Greeting: The DVD introduction includes a thoroughly bizarre parody of film preservation societies, apropos of nothing. And yet, it's completely in keeping with the film.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: When the Dude picks up Walter for the dropoff, one can clearly see Walter runs a store selling security equipment. Given his devout Judaism and very vocal hatred of Nazism, it's a little weird to see that the logo for Sobchak Security is a big "SS".
Friendship Moment: Happens after the last time the Nihilists show up. Donny gets scared and Walter gently reassures him. That's it. Just one quick moment, not particularly touching, but if it weren't for this, Walter's heartfelt eulogy for Donny would seem like it came out of nowhere, seeing as the rest of their interaction in the film is Walter shouting at Donny and telling him to shut the fuck up.
The Fun in Funeral: "Goddammit, Walter! Everything's a fuckin' travesty with you, man! What was all that shit about Vietnam?"
Funny Background Event: While the Dude and Walter bicker in the car after Walter pulled a gun on Smokey, you can see cops pull into the lot and run into the bowling alley in response to the incident being called in.
You can also see Bunny, presumably as high as a weather balloon on drugs, happily prancing around naked outside in the background while the Dude and Walter confront Brandt on their way to see Lebowski.
Glorified Sperm Donor: The "glorified" bit is definitely averted. "I don't want the father to be someone I have to see socially, or who will have any interest in raising the child himself."
Good Is Not Nice: Walter is not a bad guy, all right, but, heavens, he has a way to behave towards Donny or towards people in general. Then there's also the Dude himself, who isn't a violent person like Walter was, but makes up for it by being an incredibly lazy and occasionally stubborn slacker.
Good Night, Sweet Prince: "In accordance with what we think your last wish may very well have been, we now commit your mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean. Good night, sweet prince."
Goshdang It To Heck: Only in TV broadcasts. "Do you see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?"
The TV broadcast version might benefit from the heavy censorship in the scene where the cab driver throws the Dude out of his taxi and shouts, "Get out of my peaceful cab!" which coincides with the scene, the song being played, and also provides a little hypocritical humor.
Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: The Dude has a flying dream which ends when he notices he's holding a bowling ball and promptly hurtles groundward.
"My only hope is that the Big Lebowski will kill me before the Germans cut my dick off..."
Gulf War: "Now this here story I'm about to unfold took place back in the early '90s - just about the time of our conflict with Sad'm and the Eye-raqis." It doesn't factor into the setting much, except for Saddam showing up during a hallucination and Walter referencing it in one of his temper tantrums. It also backdates the movie by about ten years, allowing the leads to be relatively young while plausibly having been involved with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.
Hair-Trigger Temper: Walter. "For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint!"
The taxi driver the Dude takes from his escapade to Treehorn's mansion also really doesn't like people badmouthing The Eagles.
Hero of Another Story: Da Fino. The realPrivate Detective who follows The Dude under the assumption he's an investigator like him to return Bunny to her parents. The Dude only meets him once.
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).
Historical Character Confusion: The Dude is struggling with a Lenin quote ("You look for the person who will benefit...") which he cannot remember properly. Donny, trying to be helpful, repeatedly mentions Lennon's 1967 song "I Am the Walrus". Considering the context, he may actually be quoting Cicero's "Cui bono?"("to whose benefit?") who used it in the sense "Who benefits from the crime?".
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.
Or just taken five minutes to go over the stain with a scrub and some cold water. Hot water if he really wanted to splurge. Urine isn't exactly hard to get out.
Hypocritical Humor: Many of the film's ironies can be found in the characters' various hypocrisies, for example:
Maude expresses disapproval of people who have sex only for pleasure or personal gain, without love, and yet only sleeps with The Dude because she wants his seed.
Walter says pacifism is nothing to hide behind, and yet he's flashing the peace sign when the actual owner of "Larry's" car angrily brandishes his crowbar at him and refuses to retaliate when he begins smashing up the Dude's car.
Jeffrey Lebowski goes off on a massive rant about how The Dude should get a job and make something of himself, and yet is only what he is because he inherited his late wife's money
The Dude maintains that he really doesn't care about what's going on and just wants his rug back. But he still has his rug. His involvement continues because he wants one that hasn't been peed on.
The Dude is noticeably disturbed by the Nihilists' threat to castrate him, to the point of having a drug addled nightmare about it, and yet he nonchalantly threatens to do the same thing to Larry, a fifteen year old boy.
The Nihilists constantly say that they believe in nothing, yet, at the end they complain that it's not fair that they didn't get any money.
Walter: Fair? Who's the fucking nihilists here you bunch of fucking crybabies?
In the final confrontation between the Dude, Walter and Jeffrey Lebowski, Lebowski insinuates that he's willing to accuse the Dude and Walter of stealing the money. Walter bellows "As if we would ever dream of taking your bullshit money!" ... conveniently forgetting that he did, in fact, intend to steal what he thought was the money.
One of Those Two Guys working for Jackie Treehorn at one point smugly informs the Dude that "you're not dealin' with morons here." Yes, in fact, he is. As evidenced by the simple fact that in the very first scene they took forever to figure out that maybe the grungy hippy bachelor living in the dive wasn't a married millionaire.
And of course, Walter screaming, "Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?" while brandishing a pistol at someone in a bowling alley over a score dispute.
Also, Walter calls out The Dude for using the racial slur "Chinaman", but uses the word in the sentences directly preceding and following said calling-out, and is perfectly fine with using the slur "kraut" in casual conversation.
Informed Ability: In his eulogy, it is mentioned by Walter that Donny loved to surf. This is the only time that hobby comes up in the movie.
Subverted entirely when it comes to Donny's bowling skills. Watch carefully throughout the film's bowling scenes - The only time Donny misses a strike (and looks visibly perturbed by it) is the scene just before the fight with the nihilists, and his death.
Maude Lebowski creates abstract art while suspended naked over a canvas and screaming or moaning incoherently. Afterwards paint is running down her thighs. Its strongly implied that she paints by squirting paint out of her vagina during orgasm.
Jackie Treehorn: I deal in publishing. Entertainment. Political advocacy. The Dude: Which one's Logjammin?
It's the Principle of the Thing: "They peed on your fucking rug." In fact, most of the film revolves around the fact the Dude wants his rug and car back. "That rug really tied the room together."
Jerkass: Walter gets constantly called out on his obnoxiousness and The Dude once on passing (see I Resemble That Remark above). They pay little mind to mild language. Varying cases can be made for the rest of the picturesque cast. The nihilists, sociopathic wannabes may tower above their peers.
The Dude: You're not wrong Walter. You're just an asshole!
Walter: Okay then.
Karma Houdini: Walter. He pulled a gun on a man in a bowling alley where everybody knew who he was and destroyed a brand new luxury car, and somehow manages to avoid jail time, or any other form of actual punishment. Also, the Big Lebowski over his scheme, unless you count Walter traumatizing him and crushing his inflated ego.
Kick the Dog: More like Shove the Dog: Big Lebowski did this to a dog that was just trying to comfort him.
Kill It with Fire: The Dude's car meets its end this way at the hands of the nihilists.
Well, they finally did it. They killed my fucking car.
Lame Comeback: "Yeah, well, you know, that's just like... uh... your opinion, man."
When the guy insulting you is a pederast, you might as well shrug and say, "Eight year olds".
Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Autobahn, the extremely obscure '70s synth-pop band that Uli and his nihilist friends were in, is loosely based on Kraftwerk and takes its name from Kraftwerk's best known album.
Lazy Bum: The Dude, and referred to as such by The Big Lebowski and the Malibu chief of police.
Lemony Narrator: "Way out west, there was this fella I wanna tell you about..." Variation in that he's not sarcastic, just completely clueless about the genre.
Let's Get Dangerous: While Walter does seem less-than-stable throughout the movie, it's mostly in a bombastic and ineffective sense that tends to make him less useful rather than more. At the very end in the confrontation with the nihilists, however, he demonstrates how effective he can really be. Although as the other two point out, they are only being shaken down for about twenty bucks.
Possibly "Life does not stop and start at your convenience, you miserable piece of shit!" Walter may be replying to The Dude's story about Brandt giving The Dude a beeper so he can be contacted at any time.
"Donny, shut the f- when do we play?"
Malaproper: "Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man!"
Considering Treehorn mentions electronic innovations in erotic entertainment, this may be a subversion. On the filmmakers' part, at least.
Manly Tears: "Do my tears surprise you? Strong men also cry, Mr. Lebowski. Strong men...also cry..." Possibly a subversion since you never see his tears indicating that he either knows she kidnapped herself or that he actually doesn't care about her.
He sheds a few real ones when Walter tosses him to the floor, but by then we know he's not really a strong man anyway.
Fridge Horror sets in when Davino reveals that Bunny should be in High School.
Foreshadowing: Donny is seen holding his hand strangely and wincing as he moves it in the scene immediately preceding his heart attack.
Messianic Archetype: The Dude is one. He does happen to have long hair, a simple attire consisting largely of robes, a close group of "disciples," and a tendency to suffer for things he has no responsibility for.
Meaningful Echo: Except the joke lies in the echoes being meaningless, gratuitous and/or random. Several quotes or words are recycled over the course of the so-called story.
Bush the Elder's speech about "unchecked aggression" is paraphrased later by Walter and The Dude regarding the rug-related invasion, which will not stand.
The Dude adds Maude's "in the parlance of our times" line to his "young trophy wife" when he is summoned again by The Big Lebowski.
The Millstone: By involving himself in the Dude's "case", Walter probably causes more trouble than he solves.
"Yes, Walter, there is an unspoken message here, it's fuck you!LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE! ...Yes, I'll be at practice."
Double subverted a bit later. If Walter had never been involved, who would have saved the Dude and Donnie from the Nihilists? They would have probably been content with taking the money that Donny and the Dude had on them at the time before Walter chimed in with his retort of "Fuck you. What's mine is mine." And Donny wouldn't have had his heart attack. And really, if the Dude had never listened to Walter, he never would have met the Nihilists to begin with.
Well with Walter, it could go either way. If Walter hadn't gotten involved at the very beginning. Dude would have either just been left with a peed-on rug or no rug at all and everything else avoided. However if Walter didn't get involved after the Dude met Lebowski, the Dude would have been framed for stealing $1 million, having both the Nihilists AND police after him
Mood Whiplash: Donny's death. After two hours of intrigue and crazy drug-fueled antics, Walter and the Dude have nothing left to do but solemnly mourn a man who spent the entire movie as a punching bag. The movie ends with the two of them in the bowling alley again, quietly contemplating their lives.
No, Except Yes: The Dude, when trying to explain his relationship with Maude to a private detective.
"She's not my special lady; she's my fucking lady friend! I'm just helping her conceive, man!"
Nominal Hero: The Dude is a nice guy, but he clearly doesn't want to be involved in the weird conspiracy he finds himself in. As the Stranger notes, all he really wants (at first) is some compensation for the two goons breaking into his house and ruining his rug. This is in stark contrast to Walter, who seems to leap at the opportunity to get involved.
Non Indicative Name: The Big Lebowski of the title is not the Dude, but the other Jeffrey Lebowski.
Obfuscating Disability: "I've seen a lot of spinals, Dude. And this guy fuckin' walks." Subverted a moment later
Obfuscating Stupidity: Displayed during the Dude's encounter with Maude and the viewing of 'Logjammin', which features a stereotypical pornographic scenario of a repairman turning up to fix the cable. When Maude remarks that the film's direction is obvious, the Dude blithely asks "He fixes the cable?". Maude promptly calls him out on this.
Odd Couple: The Dude and Walter. One's a laid-back stoner hippy, the other's a tightly wound Vietnam vet with anger management issues.
Only Sane Man: Massive subversion with Walter, who proves to be the only insane man: "Has the whole world gone CRAZY?! Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?" Right before pulling out a Colt on a bowler who simply rule-argued with him.
Of course, Walter proves ultimately correct about the kidnapping and the severed toe and all.
OOC Is Serious Business: At the end of the movie, you know that the mood is really low in the wake of Donny's death when Walter actually stops screaming about Vietnam for a minute and tenderly apologizes to the Dude for his behavior.
Phony Veteran: Walter is so insistent and full of himself about his 'Nam experiences that the subtext suggests that it's just another of his shenanigans. Averted in the final cut of the film, but a deleted scene had the Dude revealing that it was all nonsense.
Phrase Catcher: The Dude gets this a couple of different times, but the most distinctive is both Lebowski and Walter chastising the Dude for his "Fuck it" philosophy, calling it "[his] answer for everything."
Toward the end, the Dude finally gets to say what everyone else has said to him at some point:
Maude: You can imagine where it goes from here. Dude: He fixes the cable?
Poisonous Friend: Walter Sobchak is technically responsible for everything that happens to the Dude after the initial rug-soiling incident, because it is he who kickstarts the plot by convincing the Dude to seek out the Big Lebowski for recompense over the rug instead of dropping the whole matter.
Police Are Useless: It's implied that the LAPD show up only after a (at least half-an-hour) tournament, after Walter nearly shoots a fellow bowler in the face.
The cop who gives The Dude back his wrecked car, who suddenly turns into a condescending snarker when the Dude asks if they have any leads on who stole his car:
"Leads, yeah, sure. I'll just check with the boys down at the crime lab, they've got four more detectives working on the case. They got us working in shifts! [Cop laughing]
Police Brutality: The Malibu Sheriff, who throws his mug at The Dude and begins kicking the shit out of him.
"Stay out of Malibu, dead-beat!!"
Principles Zealot: Walter Sobchak. He is so thoroughly principled that he converted to Judaism for his wife and refuses to abandon it even after their divorce.
Walter: Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means that I don't work, I don't drive a car, I don't fucking ride in a car, I don't handle money, I don't turn on the oven, and I sure as shit DON'T FUCKING ROLL!!!
Random Events Plot: It's kind of a consequence when your protagonist is a bored stoner. You think it's all going to add up in the end...and then it doesn't.
Ransacked Room: The Dude's eternal curse - thugs breaking into his room and messing it up, or ruining something. Comes to a head when either Jackie Treehorn's thugs or the Nihilists finally smash up the Dude's house for good.
Dude: And, you know, has it ever occurred to you, that, instead of, uh, you know, running around, uh, uh, blaming me, you know, given the nature of all this new shit, you know, I-I-I-I... this could be a-a-a-a lot more, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, complex, I mean, it's not just, it might not be just such a simple... uh, you know? Lebowski: What in God's holy name are you blathering about?
It was like that in the script - everything but "you human paraquat" was scripted. The Coens are known for being pretty insistent that lines be delivered exactly as written.
Plays up the contrast between the "regular people" and the "film characters," as a side note. Characters who are obviously played as characters don't stutter, and engage in dialog - Maude, in particular, speaks like she's just stepped out of an old movie. Characters played as regular people thrust into a movie plot - like the Dude - have conversations, with all the attendant "ums" and misunderstandings.
Red Herring: Da Fino, the guy following The Dude around in the VW, turns out to have nothing to do with the conspiracy - he's actually following it around.
Not to mention the toe.
Also, Jackie Treehorn's hastily-scribbled note.
The essay in The Dude's car.
In fact, virtually every single lead The Dude and Walt follow turns out to be a red herring.
The Reveal: There was no kidnapping plot and no ransom money. Bunny was just off visiting friends, and Lebowski pretended to have a million dollars given to the Nihilists, giving him a reason to withdraw money out of one of his 'charities' and get rid of two loose ends bothering him.
Royal "We": When The Dude is told to Come Alone, he's forced to bring Walter with him. He then blows Walter's cover by using the pronoun "we". He tries to explain that he was using "the Royal "We"."
Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.
MARK IT ZERO!!!
Walter, Donny and The Dude play in a league so hardcore, sticking a pistol in an opponent's face over a rules violation not only won't get you disqualified, but the foul will be upheld.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: There is a book version of this movie called The Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance of Two Gentlemen of Lebowski by Adam Bertocci. It retells the premise of this movie in Shakespearean style (as in, What If?The Big Lebowski was written by Shakespeare?)
Shaggy Dog Story: Despite all that happens, the money and kidnappings that start the movie both turn out to be MacGuffins that never even existed.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The Dude loses his rug, his car, and a bowling partner in the process of getting nothing.
The Stranger: Do ya have to use so many cuss words?
The Slacker: There is a man in whom casualness runs deep.
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.
Slice of Life: Aside from the fact that we see nothing of anyone's background, and have no idea what happens to them afterwards, there is very little compelling about the story in and of itself, aside from a brief period of Interesting Times happening to the characters as they otherwise go about their unchanging lives. Furthermore, we are repeatedly introduced to non-sequiturs such as The Jesus, Dafino, Knox Harrington, Uli Kunkel, the landlord, etc. etc., who have little to no bearing on anything. It's simply a straightforward slice of the Dude's life, albeit one uniquely splattered with an interesting incident.
Soundtrack Dissonance: In the "family restaurant", during the Dude and Walter's profanity-laced dialogue about kidnapping and toes cut off, Debbie Reynolds' cutesy song, "Tammy" plays in the background.
Also Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lookin' Out My Back Door" when the Dude drops a lit joint in his car, causing him to crash. It was, however, Suspiciously Apropos Music for the Beetle following him.
And, of course, a song about a "back door" was playing immediately after the Dude had had a prostate exam...
And the "doo doo doo" lyrics could easily be misheard as "Dude Dude Dude".
Spit Take: After they have sex, the Dude watches Maude hugging her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth.
Dude: What is that, yoga? Maude: It increases the chances of conception. (Spit Take by The Dude) Dude: (coughing)Increases?!
Stoner Flick: There is some debate over whether the film is funnier when you're stoned or not.
Stop Helping Me!: Walter, "helping" with the ransom, much to the Dude's complete and utter annoyance. invoked
Strawman Political: Both Walter and The Dude are different types of Strawman Political stereotypes, the right wing gun nut and the liberal hippie respectively. However, part of the humor of their characters comes just as much when they subvert these stereotypes as when they play off of them.
And then they get chewed out for not being real nihilists at the end:
"Is not fair!" "Fair?! Who's the fucking nihilists around here, you bunch of fucking crybabies?!"
Notably, Walter's closer to the ideal of Übermensch, even if he's so blatantly incompetent that it's hard to see — at least he genuinely doesn't care what others think of him, and does what he thinks is correct at any moment. And isn't a wannabe nihilist.
Stupid Crooks: The story begins with two thugs breaking into The Dude's house and pissing on his rug after they manage to mistake him for a multi-millionaire - they don't even leave until they finally notice the Dude's living in a crappy house for a millionaire. Later, we get what is possibly the opposite of a lampshading when they finally get things sorted out and are summoned to collect the 'deadbeat' Lebowski:
First Goon: You're not dealin' with morons here.
Tech Marches On: Nowadays, bowling alleys have automated scoring, and fouls would register automatically, so Walter's tirade would not happen... in the same way; Walter being the kind of guy who argues even against machines, would contest it somehow: I saw what I saw. Faulty sensor. Edit the score to zero.
The Unreveal: Did Walter and The Dude make it to the Finals? The movie ends right before their game starts, so we never find out.
Notably, it's unclear whether Smokey really was over the line.
Unusual Euphemism: Ties in with Goshdang It To Heck in edited-for-TV/aircraft versions, but improves upon it with: "This is what happens, Larry! This is what happens when you feed a stoner scrambled eggs!" (Alternatively "...when you find a stranger in the Alps!")
The Vamp: Bunny. "I'll suck your cock for a thousand dollars."
Uh, I'm just gonna go find a cash machine ...
Vandalism Backfire: Double whammy. Walter suspects a kid of stealing a million dollar ransom from The Dude's car. When they arrive at his house, there's a new Corvette sitting out front, which more or less confirms their suspicions. After a brief interrogation, Walter decides that more severe measures are necessary and begins to smash the Corvette with a crowbar. Turns out it wasn't the kid's car, as the neighbor runs out screaming about his new Corvette. He decides to destroy Walter's car, which of course actually belongs to The Dude.
Viewers Are Geniuses: Many examples. One prominent one is the joke about Saddam Hussein handing out bowling shoes in the dream sequence. Understanding the joke requires some knowledge of the first Gulf War, Arabic, and President Bush's well known tendency for mispronouncing words.
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. Same with Walter and Donny; Walter spends a lot of time browbeating and yelling at Donny yet is clearly cut up when Donny dies from a heart attack.
The Walrus Was Paul: Some suspect the film was intentionally designed to make a fool of anyone who attempts to analyze it, particularly after the Coens' previous movie Fargo had become a darling among highbrow critics.
In the first scene with Jesus, the Dude and Walter are talking about Lenin. Donny, getting the wrong end of the stick, keeps saying "I am the Walrus."
The Watson: Subverted with Donny, who is Locked Out of the Loop. "You have no frame of reference. You're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie, and wants to know..."
Where Do You Think You Are?: Walter's obnoxious habit of loudly getting on his high horse leads to people saying this. "This is a family restaurant." "This is a mortuary. Not a rental house."
"Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules."
The nihilists talk a good game but are ultimately revealed to be this, since Walter ends up handing them their asses more or less single-handedly over the course of about a minute.
When the Dude confronts Da Fino, the actualPrivate Detective, things look they're going to get physical for a moment. And by 'physical', this means they don't actually make contact with each other but sort of flinch.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Bunny still owes Jackie Treehorn a pile of cash, but that's now a problem for her and the Big Lebowski to deal with.
Those kids at the charity never got their money back...
With Friends Like These...: The Dude and Walter have a deep friendship, but it's sometimes hard to tell with all that bickering. Even dropped by The Dude at one point.
The Dude: With friends like these, huh, Gary?
Writing Indentation Clue: The Dude uses this trick to see what Treehorn wrote while taking a phone call, but it turns out to be just a doodle of a man with... implausible anatomy.
The Dude thinks all the various threads he uncovers must figure into the big mystery at the center of the plot. They don't.
The narrator thinks the film is a Western. It isn't.
An argument can be made that all of the characters seem to have stumbled into this movie from different ones and consequently don't seem to be quite sure of exactly what kind of movie they're in. In addition to the Stranger's confusion over whether this is a western or not:
The Dude's walked right out of a stoner comedy or a 1960s New Hollywood-style counterculture flick.
Walter acts like he's in a Vietnam drama that chronicles the veteran's harrowing struggle to reacclimatize back into civilian society after everything he's seen and done.
The Big Lebowksi, Maude, Jackie Treehorn and Da Fino seem to think and act like they're playing a Film Noir straight (and even manage to convince Walter of this for a time).
The nihilists believe they're in a quirky-but-dark Tarantino-inspired crime thriller about a gang of eccentric Villain Protagonists, and that they're the protagonists in question.
From what we see, Bunny apparently thinks she's in a porn movie.
Donny is just an ordinary guy who thinks he's in a slightly eccentric bowling team but has an otherwise normal life. He's probably the most wrong out of all of them.