YMMV / Schindler's List

  • Adaptation Displacement:
    • Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark was hardly an obscure book, having won the Booker Prize in the year of its publication, but the movie is on a whole different level; subsequent reprints of the book have even changed the title to match the film.
    • Spielberg made several changes from the source material; in particular, he exaggerated Schindler's journey from money-grubbing Jerkass to hero. In the book and in real life, Schindler was trying to save as many Jews as possible almost from the moment the Final Solution was implemented. He even traveled to Budapest, Hungary and met with representatives of Jewish organizations there to tell them what was happening in Poland as early as 1942.
  • Award Snub:
    • Mike Newell, the director of Four Weddings and a Funeral, felt guilty when he won best foreign film at the 1995 César Awards (France's equivalent of the Oscars) instead of this film. That's right, the director who won an award felt this happened. To say nothing of what everyone else at the ceremony said.
    • There's also Ralph Fiennes losing both the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, as well as the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor to Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive.
    • Some people also feel that Liam Neeson losing the Globe and Oscar for Best Actor to Tom Hanks from Philadelphia is also this, though emphasis on some, as the latter was also near-universally acclaimed.
    • While not as regularly cited as the above omissions, a few critics (notably Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune) thought Embeth Davidtz was worthy of a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work as Helen Hirsch. In most years people would've cried foul, but because Anna Paquin's win was so monumentally significant, this omission has largely been overlooked.
    • Some also thought Ben Kingsley could've additionally been given a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
    • For all of the quibbles, the trope was averted overall by the Academy, as voters showered the film with 7 Awards, including Spielberg's first ever competitive Oscars for Directing and Producing (coming years after getting passed over for his more commercial pictures). It also remains the only Spielberg film to win a Best Picture Prize.
  • Awesome Music: Do we expect anything less from John Williams?
    • John initially refused to do the film because he didn't think he was good enough. Spielberg's reply? "Anyone who is better is dead."
    • Itzhak Perlman, the Jewish violinist who provided the theme, considered it to be the most important decision he ever made in his career. At first, he said he wasn't going to be involved in such a movie...and then he saw how well Spielberg did it.
  • Catharsis Factor: Defied. Amon Goeth's execution scene is relatively brief, lasting less than a minute, and after all the suffering he caused, he lacks the decency to plead for undeserved mercy.
  • Complete Monster: Amon Goeth is the Ax-Crazy Nazi Lieutenant in charge of the liquidation of the Krakow Jewish ghetto and is the overseer of the Plaszow concentration camp. Goeth's true nature is first exposed when he encounters a Jewish forewoman protesting that the foundation of the structure in the camp they're building is unsound, and this will lead to the building's eventual collapse. Goeth's response is for her to be killed in front of the other workers. He then orders his men to follow the dead woman's instructions anyway. This is merely the first instance in a long line of pointless and unpredictable violence from Goeth. Some of his most infamous crimes are shooting prisoners with a sniper rifle for sport, personally killing twenty-five men in a rage after one man from their barracks managed to escape from his work detail, and laughing at crying parents as he sends away trainloads of their children to be gassed. Every time a possible flicker of humanity is exposed in Goeth, it is quickly subverted then extinguished. When Oskar Schindler tries to convince Goeth that true power is mercy, Goeth briefly tries out being merciful, even sparing the life of a Jewish boy who was unable to clean the stains in Goeth's bathtub. But, unable to really understand the power of mercy that Schindler has described, Goeth decides to kill the boy anyway. When he finds himself attracted to his Jewish maid, Helen, he attempts to clumsily come on to her, only to eventually blame her for his own sexual feelings and savagely beat her afterwards. In the end, it seems like Goeth is a pure sociopath driven only by his erratic whims, only able to ape the basic mannerisms of a human being. He even seems unable to understand basic compassion and human decency when confronted with it.
  • Critical Research Failure: The Israeli song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav ("Jerusalem of Gold") is prominently featured near the end of the film, playing as the Schindler Jews leave the factory for the final time. When the film was first shown in Israel, local audiences were amused by this scene because this song was written in 1967, and is closely identified with the Six-Day War.note  The song was immediately replaced for all Israeli showings (and for all Israeli home video releases) by Halika LeKaysarya ("A Walk to Caesarea"), also known as "Eli, Eli"a song that is Israel's unofficial Holocaust anthem. However, it should be noted that even this song is a minor example of this trope, as its lyrics are a poem written in 1942 and not set to music until 1945.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: While the film did well all over the world, Germans (understandably) liked the sympathetic portrayal of a German in a Holocaust movie that nevertheless portrayed the overall monstrosity of the Nazi regime and condemned its actions in no uncertain terms. There was an uproar the first time the film was to be broadcast on German television when the network announced that it would take two commercial breaks; in the end, the network agreed to show only one break, with only a few ads and a short newscast. Today, the film is always broadcast uncut with no breaks.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: At least ironic in Hindsight. Goeth lectures his men before an Aktion.
    Today is history. Today will be remembered. Years from now, the young will ask with wonder... about this day. Today is history, and you are part of it.
    • Another ironic in hindsight would be Schindler's "people will remember my name"-speech. The first part of it came true. The second part... Not so much. Bonus points for the word "here", as anyone who has been in Krakow after the movie was released will tell you.
    • A behind-the-scenes example is more straightforward; at one point Mel Gibson expressed interest in playing Schindler.
    • These lines after Ralph Fiennes played the role of Ramses in The Prince of Egypt:
    Schindler: They're my people, I want my people.
    Goeth: Who are you, Moses?
    • Another actor who failed to get the role of Schindler was Bruno Ganz, now best known for his memetic portrayal of Adolph Hitler in Downfall.
  • Hype Backlash: It is VERY popular on review websites such as IMDb to bash this film for being cloying, melodramatic and unrealistic, or simply just too well liked. Extra points if it's being criticized by a Neo-Nazi or a Holocaust Denier. In some ways, this is probably the ultimate movie to criticize if someone wants to make themselves look cool, smart, and nonconformist. (Not that there aren't people who genuinely dislike it, but there are many people who do it just for attention.)
  • Magnificent Bastard: Schindler himself. He's not the only one though - step forward Itzhak Stern, who played an unspeakably huge role in getting a lot of people who would otherwise have been slaughtered early on into Schindler's Factory. Poldek also arguably qualifies, being cunning enough to survive both the failed escape attempt in the sewers at Krakow and moments later a direct encounter with Goeth. He even gets himself a job as Goeth's mechanic at Plaszow.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Goeth crosses this line within the first hour of the movie. He's definitely crossed it when he shoots prisoners for sport with a sniper rifle from his balcony.
  • No Yay: The Helen Hirsh / Amon Goeth subtext. He is the camp commandant of a Nazi concentration camp, a complete sociopath, and a sadistic mass murderer. She is one of the Jewish inmates, who was forced to become his maid. He secretly desires her even though he wants to see her people exterminated. At one point he nearly (creepily) comes on to her, but he decides to beat her up instead, blaming her for trying to "seduce" him. Some of the fans think that his love for her could have redeemed him. This ignores the fact that he sees her more as property than as a human being.
    Goeth: I would like so much to reach out to you and touch you in your loneliness. What would it be like, I wonder? What would be wrong with that? I realize that you are not a person in the strictest sense of the word, but, um, maybe you're right about that too. Maybe what's wrong, it's not us, it's this... I mean, when they compare you to vermin, to rodents and to lice. I just, uh, you make a good point. You make a very good point. Is this the face of a rat? Are these the eyes of a rat? "Hath not a Jew eyes?" I feel for you Helen.[leans forward to kiss her] No, I don't think so. You Jewish bitch, you nearly talked me into it, didn't you?
  • Paranoia Fuel: Because of the Nazis' gradually escalating efforts to exterminate the Jews, it means that there's very little keeping the Jewish characters from being killed at any moment. The worst example has to be when the women and children get shipped to Auschwitz instead of to Schindler's factory because of a typo...
  • Retroactive Recognition: Goetz Otto appeared as a small-time concentration camp guard in this movie. Over time, he would eventually play Otto Gunsche (though in this movie, he doesn't inform anyone about anything). And later still, would become Fuehrer of the Moon Nazis.
  • Signature Scene: Certainly has many options, but the liquidation of the ghetto, the girl in the red coat and specially the mass burning of corpses will always stand out.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The whole reason that the movie exists. This was a story that needed to be told about an event in history and the people involved that must never be forgotten. Especially considering that most of what's shown in the film is tame compared to what really happened. Spielberg was very reluctant to do it for a while, until Holocaust denial started becoming trendy and he decided he had to do his part to put the truth out. Jewish Gene Siskel specifically thanked him for this in his review with Ebert.
  • Squick: The scene of the children hiding in the latrines of the work camp.
  • Values Dissonance: For some people unfamiliar with Jewish customs, the Grave-Marking Scene in which the Schindler's Jews put stones over Schindler's grave is this, as they question why use rocks instead of something else (like flowers) and thus complain of characterizing the Jews as cheapskates. In reality of course, for Jewish tradition this is meant to be a tremendous sign of respect and reverence to a deceased person.
  • What An Idiot: At his 36th birthday party, a young Jewish woman and her daughter present Schindler with a small gift on behalf of the workers. Oskar, already a little tipsy, and used to feeling up any attractive woman he sees, absentmindedly gives the woman a kiss... in a room full of SS officers. Gilligan Cut to him waiting in a jail cell.
  • The Woobie:
    • By the end of the film, every single one of the Jewish people.
    • Schindler himself applies.