Two films; there are tropes for both on this page. Robin Hardy's original film was made in 1973 with Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle and Edward Woodward as Sergeant Howie. It's a sort of suspense/horror/folk musical. Neil La Bute remade it in 2006 with Nicolas Cage.To sum it up it in the nicest terms possible: The original is generally considered to be an influential Cult Classic within the horror film genre, and the remake is mostly viewed as inferior, and is probably better remembered for its moments of unintentionalfunniness than for being scary.In 2011 Robin Hardy released The Wicker Tree, a companion piece of sorts based on his novel 'Cowboys for Christ', with Lee appearing in a cameo (but not, as some have reported, as Lord Summerisle).
The original film provides examples of:
Affably Evil: Lord Summerisle. Possibly subverted. It's never clear whether Summerisle believes the religion of his island, or is just playing along to keep his subjects in line. If the former, he may genuinely believe the sacrifice is necessary for the harvest.
And he tries to soothe his intended sacrifice:
Howie: I am a Christian. And as a Christian I hope for resurrection. And even as if you kill me now, It is I who will live again, not your damned apples! [The Villagers prepare him for sacrifice] No matter what you do, you can't change the fact that I believe in Life Eternal, as promised to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. I BELIEVE IN THE LIFE ETERNAL AS PROMISED BY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST!
Lord Summerisle: That is good. For believing what you do, we confer on you a rare gift these days: A martyr's death. You will not only have life eternal, but you will sit with the saints among the elect. Come, it is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.
The Bad Guy Wins: Though thanks to Howie's final speech, only till the apple harvest fails again. If you look at it that way, (see Taking You with Me further down) you could arguably say that Howie was the real winner.
It could also be argued that from Howie's perspective he won, since Christianity teaches that a principled defeat counts as a victory.
Bawdy Song: The customers at a pub engage in a lusty rendition of "The Landlord's Daughter", to the annoyance of the straightlaced protagonist and the amusement of Willow, the Really Gets Around daughter of the pub's landlord. As Christopher Lee said in the DVD Commentary, it's a good song for when you've got a pint in your hand.
Genius Bonus: "The Landlord's Daughter" and "Willow's Song" are both based on actual ditties - the latter a compilation of two - that are Older Than Dirt. In fact, the latter is considered one of the oldest recorded songs in the world.
"Gently Johnny" may just be the sweetest, gentlest, most romantic bawdy song you've ever heard.
Book Ends: The Final Cut begins and ends with an religious cermony.
But I Would Really Enjoy It: Howie doesn't believe in sex before marriage, and is therefore still a virgin in middle age. Willow does her best to seduce him and fails, though Howie is literally trembling with desire.
Creator Cameo: Robin Hardy plays the preacher in the scene in the church in the film's opening minutes. This is one of the major parts of the film cut from the theatrical release, but is available on the uncut (full 102-minute film) and middle (typically, 92 to 95 minutes) versions.
Anthony Shaffer is one of the villagers who surround Howie on the clifftop at the beginning of the film's climax.
Cue Card: In the climax, Edward Woodward used one for his lines. Looking at this photo, it seems Christopher Lee used it, as well. Woodward and the prop department opted to use the card, because the burning of the wicker man had to be shot when the weather was good, and he had yet to really learn Howie's lines for the scene. According to director Robin Hardy, the climax was shot on a day late in the year when the weather was getting progressively worse day-by-day.
Daylight Horror: Many of the events in the movie take place during the day, with the climax happening at dusk. It lets the audience admire the Scenery Porn and also makes the bizarre behavior of the townspeople even more unsettling.
Dark Reprise: Howie's reprise of the 23rd Psalm as counterpoint to the townsfolk's "Sumer is Icumen In" at the film's climax.
Enthralling Siren: A case of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane when Willow dances naked in the room next to Howie's, slapping the wall between them and singing to him. The staunchly Christian Howie is literally trembling with desire, but doesn't succumb.
Face Death with Dignity: Rather hammily averted at first by Howie ("OH MY GOOOOOD!") but once the fire is actually lit, played straight, as Howie accepts his death and prays for his soul to go to Heaven.
Don't get too excited, since the butt shots are a body double. (To Ekland's disgust, people are forever asking her to autograph stills of that one particular scene. She has to patiently explain to them that it isn't actually her.)
For the Evulz: The only possible explanation for Daisy's beetle-abuse.
That, or it's a symbol of Howie's fate: the closer he gets to the answer of where Rowan is (i.e. the more he goes around the nail), the more entangled he is and the more difficult it is for him to escape
Gambit Roulette: Summerisle's plan to trick Sgt. Howie into coming to the island of his own free will and stay until May Day so they can sacrifice him. There's a lot of chance in this plan and a lot can go wrong.
Genre-Busting: Is it a crime movie? A horror movie? A mystery? A fantasy movie? You can even argue that it's a Musical, if you're so inclined... or an excuse (albeit a good one) for Fanservice.
Grey and Gray Morality: Howie, whatever you think of his blustery self-righteousness, is genuinely trying to be a good police officer and save a child's life. The villagers with the possible exception of Lord Summerisle, however creeped out you may be by their practices, genuinely believe that they are saving their harvest.
Holier Than Thou / Real Men Love Jesus: Sgt. Howie's behaviour is, depending on interpretation, either that of a sanctimonious prude, that of a deeply honourable and upright officer motivated by his faith or both.
It's Always Spring: The film was shot in mainland Scotland from early October to late November 1972. Because it took place in the Spring of 1973, the film crew had to bring that season with them, gluing blossoms to trees, and, as Edward Woodward recalled, hauling in trees on trucks to be placed in certain scenes. The cold temperatures forced the actors to place ice cubes in their mouths during outdoor shooting so that their breath wouldn't be seen on camera. However, there are parts of the film where you can see Autumn leaves on the ground, so, the crew didn't completely hide the fact that it was Fall.
"I Want" Song: Most of the songs, except the hero's song, which is the 23rd Psalm, starting "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
Jerkass: Lord Summerisle, the island inhabitants, and some of Howie's co-workers from the original version's beginning and even Howie himself to an extent. Despite his affability, Lord Summerisle probably reigns supreme in this category; as the co-workers are minor, the inhabitants genuinely devout, and Howie at least genuinely wants to do the right thing. Summerisle has no real excuse.
The Name Sake: The titular effigy doesn't show up until the very end.
No Animals Were Harmed: Britt Ekland claimed that some of the animals inside the wicker man died when it was burned. Robin Hardy has repeatedly assured that the animals were in no danger; the wicker man was completely empty when it was set on fire, and fires were built in front of the animals to make sure they weren't hurt. He also said the animals were repeatedly placed in and taken out of the structure.
No, Except Yes: "Now you can wrap it up any way you like, but you are about to commit murder."
Nothing Is Scarier: There are no real "scares" to speak of, no monsters...the town and its inhabitants are just really, really creepy.
Oh, Crap: This is one of the few films where the main character can shout "Oh Jesus Christ!" and have it come across as a true, in-character Oh, Crap moment.
Christopher Lee has a nicely subtle one when Howie points out that if his own death doesn't help the next harvest, the villagers will likely conclude that only Summerisle himself will be a large enough sacrifice to satisfy their gods.
Path of Inspiration: Lampshaded. Lord Summerisle openly admits that his ancestor was a "Victorian freethinker" and propagated Celtic paganism among the villagers only to ensure social stability. It is strongly implied he also sees the local religion as a tool of control.
Riddle for the Ages: Why was Willow trying to seduce Howie? As a Secret Test of Character to prove he was a perfect sacrifice? If Howie caved, it would ruin the sacrifice, so was she warning him? Was she genuinely attracted to him despite being the village bicycle? None of these questions are answered.
Stout Strength: Oak. Howie may look more fit, but he doesn't have a chance. The rest of the crowd can just stand around and watch. Hinted at early on in the inn, when we see Oak carrying a grown man around on his shoulders for fun.
Taking You with Me: Howie points out that if his sacrifice doesn't bring back the crops, only Lord Summerisle will be a suitable sacrifice next year. Summerisle's reaction shows that it briefly hits home before he declares that the crops won't fail; even if he doesn't believe in the island's gods, the rest of the island certainly does!
Theme Naming: All the townsfolk are named for trees or plants. May Morrison, gets a doubly symbolic name, with May not only being a plant (another name for hawthorn), but also a month of fertility. And when an islander dies, they plant the tree the deceased was named after on the grave, to symbolize that death is part of the cycle of life.
Values Dissonance: In-universe, with Howie being baffled or horrified at the islanders' pagan beliefs and the islanders being equally baffled by his Christian morality.
Big "NO!": Edwardnote Nicolas Cage when Rowan sets fire to the wicker man and he realizes his fate.
Book Ends: The film both begins and ends with someone trapped inside something that is burning, someone outside the fire looking in, and the roles are reversed between the two. In the beginning, a car is burning and Cage is trying to save the people trapped inside; at the end, Cage is trapped inside the burning Wicker Man, while the people who orchestrated the original "accident" look on from outside.
Chekhov's Gun: Edward is allergic to bees. He is going to an island famed for its honey.
Dream Within a Dream: Edward dozes off on the pier while waiting for the seaplane pilot, and has a nightmare in which he finds the dead little girl under the pier. Then he wakes up... to find her corpse in his lap. Then he wakes up again.
Gambit Roulette: The islander's plan would have fallen apart before it started, if Edward hadn't been knocked unconscious while trying to save the two women in the burning car, allowing them to escape unseen. The Plan only becomes more dependent on luck from that point on, considering how much of it required him to notice the right thing or even be facing the right direction at the right time.
Gender Flip: Lord Summerisle was rewritten as Sister Summerisle
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Played straight: the virgin aspect was removed due to LaBute considering the notion of Cage playing a virgin ridiculous. They gave his character an allergy to bees instead. Not quite the same.
Meaningful Name: The protagonist Edward Malus, a lawman who spends the movie investigating a pagan cult, may be named for the Malleus Malificarum, a treatise on prosecuting witches published in the 15th century.
Alternatively, Malus is the Latin word for apple, and is used in the taxonomy of the species.
Milkman Conspiracy: Malus arrives to the island and comes to head with a terrifying paganist cult of...beekeepers?
My God, You Are Serious: Christopher Lee, who played Lord Sumerisle in the original, got this reaction when he mentioned the remake at a press conference.
Mythology Gag: A subtle one (if you can call anything in this movie "subtle"). As mentioned above, "Malus" is the Latin word for "apple", possibly referencing the 1973 original, where Lord Summerisle's cult carried out human sacrifices to ensure a successful apple harvest.
Obviously Evil: One of the main criticisms is that unlike the 1973 film, the Summersisle inhabitants are obviously creepy.
Stupid Evil: The cult comes off as this, in stark contrast to the original film.
Too Dumb to Live: Edward, Cage's character - he barges onto the island and tries to throw his police weight around, with no plan, no actual authority enforce the non-existent plan and no backup. Not even a token visit to the local police to explain why he's there.
Again, allergic to bees, yet goes to an island famous for...bee keeping.
Even though Edward is bullying the citizens of the island with no back-up (or any apparent way of communicating with his superiors to ask for back-up), he stiil manages to ignore and overlook clear signs of evidence. When he sees two women carrying a corpse-shaped, slightly-moving bag with red liquid dripping from it, he just gets spooked by it and lets them walk away with it.
Knowing full well he's on an island full of Obviously Evil crackpots who clearly don't like him, he continuously puts himself in even more dangerous positions—the most mind-numbingly stupid example is probably his dip in the easily-covered cistern (not to mention, in the easily-locked tomb, though that doesn't end up being relevant—probably because nobody was actually trying to kill him yet).