For the movie:
- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The naked woman who pops up on John Spartan's video screen in his apartment. He's just as confused, too. The novelization indicates the purpose of the scene is to demonstrate to him that video-calling is the norm in the future.
- Chaotic Evil: Simon Phoenix is a very pure example of Chaotic Evil; he just wants to see the world burn for fun.
- Chaotic Good: Edgar Friendly is a slovenly man who flouts the saccharine tighly-controlled society of 2032 because he believes strongly in people being allowed to make their own choices. Unfortunately this puts him at odds with the Lawful Evil extremist leader who unfreezes a psychotic criminal to kill him.
—Edgar Friendly: (To Spartan) You see, according to Cocteau's plan. I'm the enemy. Because I like to think, I like to read. I'm into freedom of speech, freedom of choice. I'm the kind of guy who would sit in the greasy spoon and think "Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the big rack of barbecued spare ribs with the side order of gravy fries?" I want high cholesterol. I want to eat bacon, butter, and buckets of cheese, all right? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinatti in a non-smoking section. I wanna run around naked with green Jell-O all over my body reading a Playboy magazine. Why? Because maybe I feel the need to, okay, pal? I've seen the future. You know what it is? It's made by a 47 year-old virgin in beige pajamas, drinking a banana-and-broccoli shake, singing "I'm an Oscar-Meyer Wiener". You wanna live on top, you gotta live Cocteau's way—what he wants, when he wants, how he wants. Your other option: come down here, maybe starve to death.
- Complete Monster: Simon Phoenix, an Ax-Crazy criminal from the gang-ruled era of Los Angeles in the late 20th century, indulged in theft, kidnapping, rape, arson, and murder to his heart's content. He holds 30 people hostage and demands a ransom when in fact he had already killed them all, and frames hero cop John Spartan for their deaths. They are both sentenced to cryo-stasis and only woken up in 2032 when the new city of San Angeles has become a crime-free nanny state. Simon breaks out of confinement by gouging out a guard's eye to bypass the retinal scanner and indulges in his freedom to be a maniac and spread chaos again, brutally murdering almost everyone who gets in his way. It turns out he was unfrozen by the benevolent dictator Dr. Raymond Cocteau to assassinate Edgar Friendly, the underground Rebel Leader who has been trying to undo the oppressive system. Simon sets out on this task with murderous glee, killing many innocent bystanders in the process. He eventually teams up with his old gang after they're unfrozen and murders Cocteau to start a new lawless dystopia. He starts by unfreezing every violent criminal locked up in the cryo-prison, before gunning down all the technicians because he no longer has any use for them.
- Cult Classic: At the time of its release the film wasn't a box office hit and got mixed reviews. But these days it comes across as an Affectionate Parody of action films from The '80s and Nineties. There's a good amount of Lampshade Hanging, a mix of Deconstruction and Reconstruction about John Spartan's Cowboy Cop image, and most of the satire, whether about Political Correctness Gone Mad and unhealthy things being illegal or iconoclasts actively chafing at rules just for existing and deliberately living in grungy filth, has, if anything, actually gotten sharper.
- Evil Is Cool: Simon Phoenix is an entertaining and memorable villain. Really, what else can you expect from a Card-Carrying Villain placed in a unbearing utopia?
- Foe Yay: Phoenix to Spartan in 1996. When they both got arrested he implied he planned on raping him in prison.
Simon Phoenix: We're gonna spend a lot of quality time together. See you sweetie, honey, SUGAR!
- "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
- Looking through the Cryo-Prison inmate list, Phoenix exclaims "Jeffrey Dahmer? I love that guy!" In 1994, Dahmer was bludgeoned to death in prison; the line was subsequently cut from a number of broadcasts.
- The name "Scott Peterson" comes up during Huxley's access of the parole hearings. Presumably, this is not the man who kidnapped and murdered his pregnant wife in 2003.
- Spartan crashes the 1970 442 through the floor of an Oldsmobile dealership in 2032. Oldsmobile was discontinued by GM in 2004.
- Ham and Cheese: Wesley Snipes gleefully chewing the scenery as Simon Phoenix.
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger is briefly mentioned as a former President, with Huxley explaining that his popularity forced an amendment to the Constitution to allow him to run. Now, Schwarzenegger is a former governor of California, and there is a serious and fairly popular movement to amend the Constitution to allow naturalized citizens to become president.
- Dr. Raymond Cocteau's Political Correctness Gone Mad police state is eerily prescient of so-called "social justice warriors" of The New '10s.
- Gamers may find it difficult to hear the name John Spartan, Prisoner 117 without thinking of John-117 the SPARTAN-II Super Soldier of Halo.
- In 2015, the supposed year of the Franchise Wars, Taco Bell's parent company reported a generous upturn in earnings, while McDonalds and Burger King started to go into a slight decline. This is even funnier when one considers that TV broadcasts of the film often delete the Taco Bell reference due to carrying commercials for its competitors.
- Simon Phoenix's incarnation in the cryo-prison is this after Wesley Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion.
- Memetic Mutation
- One-Scene Wonder: The "Fuck you, Lady!" girl from the old news report. Both for the line coming from a small child and that the line can be seen as a Take That! to people critizising others from handling situations they deem as bad despite never being in similar situations.
- Romantic Plot Tumor: Spartan and Huxley.
- Rooting for the Empire: Phoenix is the Big Bad, but it's hard not to cheer at him when he offs the not-so-evil, but Lawful Stupid Dr. Cocteau.
- Special Effects Failure:
- When the future cop car was jumping through the SAPD sign, the letters and symbols were each engraved on a separate plate of glass. Just before the car hits it, all but one of the plates are pre-broken; the unbroken one has a broken one on the other side of it, making it obvious it wasn't the car that did it.
- While it's more Makeup Failure, but keep an eye on Phoenix's Heterochromia. Several times in the film his blue and brown eye noticeably switch sides between shots.
- When Simon's hideout is blown up at the beginning, you can clearly hear people in the background cheering at this extraordinary demolition.note
- Spiritual Adaptation: With its campy action and strong undertones of satire, many people have called this a better Judge Dredd movie than Stallone's own adaptation two years later.
- Tastes Like Diabetes: San Angeles in the year 2032 is squeaky-clean to the point of absurdity, with commercial jingles from The '50s as the most popular genre of music and everyone relentlessly cheerful at all times. You're almost cheering Phoenix on, at least at first, if for no other reason than you want to see some chaos inflicted on this smiley, chipper city.
- Vindicated by Cable: Wasn't particularly popular in its day, but now it's a Cult Classic that's beloved by fans of 90s action movies. It helps also that, much like Last Action Hero, more viewers today understand that it's not really an unironically straight action film, and better recognize the satirical aspect that caught contemporary critics and audiences off-guard.
- What an Idiot!:
- The museum's 20th century weapons exhibit has functional and loaded weapons on display with relatively light security. Even discounting Simon Phoenix as an Outside-Context Problem for the setting, Edgar Friendly could have done a lot of damage if he'd ever decided to do a smash-and-grab on them.
- Cocteau feels comfortable freeing Phoenix because Phoenix's conditioning prevents Phoenix from killing Cocteau... but Cocteau never considered that Phoenix could order someone else to kill him.
- Spartan renders Huxley unconscious before the final battle even though she proved just a few minutes before to be quite a capable fighter (even saving Spartan's life) and probably would have come in handy during the final fight. Justified somewhat in that It's Personal between him and Phoenix. Afterward he explains he did it for her own good, and he may have been right; Phoenix was tweaked to be much stronger and deadlier than his mooks, and would have had no problem with killing her.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: Some have described Demolition Man as being one of the most libertarian movies ever made. One of the film's villains is a scientist who has basically created the ultimate nanny-state, where everything deemed bad for you has been outlawed. And Edgar Friendly and his followers, who are initially portrayed as terrorists, turn out to be sympathetic freedom fighters who want to make their own decisions without the overbearing government's influence. The worst thing they do is steal some food and spray graffiti.
For the pinball:
- Complacent Gaming Syndrome: Some players will always select the "Freeze" award on the Cryo-Claw — it provides progress towards multiballs.
- So Bad, It's Good: The promotional video for the pinball, which attempts to duplicate the atmosphere and special effects of the movie on a shoestring budget, while hyping up the game's gun grip controllers, all intermixed with actual film clips. It fails spectacularly, but has an innocent appeal, like watching an eight-year-old attempt to duplicate a Michael Bay film in his backyard.