* CrowningMusicOfAwesome: Music/LeonardBernstein's score.
* IronWoobie: Terry.
** "You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am."
* SignatureScene: The taxicab scene.
* TearJerker: Terry Malloy's taxi ride with his brother Charley the Gent. Today, most folks may know the powerful line "I could have been a contender ..." as a throw away quote, as if a hackneyed joke. In context, however, it's quite different. It sums up Terry's entire life of lost and stolen chances and his realization of just who he was and how he got there and that for all his tough bravado he really was nothing but a bum, a pawn in someone else's game. It sets the stage for his climb out of futile nothingness to his own final crowning moment of glory. It is also a reminder of just how good an actor a young Creator/MarlonBrando was.
* WhatDoYouMeanItsNotPolitical: Some, notably Noam Chomsky, have accused the film of being anti-Union, an allegation not helped by Kazan's infamous HUAC testimony.
** However considering how notoriously corrupt some Unions are, it could simply be considered TruthInTelevision.