These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Are the masks just self-gratifying vigilantes, or misunderstood heroes who were then prosecuted for keeping the population safe? Or some of each? That is not even starting on Rorschach... or the Comedian...
Ozymandias. Interpretations of him vary from a mass-murdering psychopath to the savior of the world and its best hope for the future. These depend largely on whether the person interpreting believes his plan would work.
Rorschach. A psychopathic, alienated, misogynistic killer? Or an intelligent, uncompromising man trying to save humanity from evil and corruption and bring loyalty and morality back into the world? Or maybe he's both.
Eddie Blake/The Comedian in particular. When he found out about Adrian's plan, he has such a breakdown he asked for forgiveness in front of his old enemy, Moloch, in tears and tried to justify what horrible things he did. But pretty much every other time we see him in the movie, he's cheerfully crossing the Moral Event Horizon and keeping on going - murdering a woman carrying his child, assassinating Kennedy, and attempting to rape one of his teammates. We never see him do anything remotely heroic, despite having been on a superhero team. So, is he a reallydark antihero?
Is Doctor Manhattan truly unable to alter the future or is he just so much of a fatalist that he won't even make the effort?
Broken Base: The prequel comics, being made without Moore or even Gibbons's involvement, have been the point of division with many fans. Is this just a pale attempt at making Watchmen a Franchise Zombie, or a good way to reinterpret the story?
Crazy Awesome: Rorschach is this when he's not busy being just plain crazy. Some highlights include hiding in, and then jumping out of, Moloch's fridge, going into random bars and beating the snot out of thugs until he gets answers, and in general being the only superhero with the balls to keep being a superhero when the practice was outlawed.
Draco in Leather Pants: Rorschach is a sympathetic character but not a role model. The Comedian is also subject to some of this.
Ensemble Darkhorse: The comic has a flock of these in the form of the Minutemen. Also a good deal of the villains that are mentioned offhandedly, most notably the Twilight Lady.
Fan Myopia: Around the time the movie came out, fans of the comic were openly discussing the ending and other plot points without spoiler tags, assuming anyone interested in the franchise had to have read the comic.
Fridge Brilliance: You can read it five times and still have something left to discover.
Veidt's fairly obvious computer makes a lot of sense—if he wanted he wanted Dan and Rorschach to be able to crack it. The computer even prompts Dan for another word.
Also, every time we see Rorschach before The Reveal, he's eating the food of whoever he's visiting. That's because he's essentially a homeless bum.
Fridge Horror: Happens to Rorschach after he accuses his landlady of being a whore in front of her kids and then realises that he's just done the same horrible thing that was done to him as a child.
Genius Bonus: Several. "At play between strangeness and charm", seen in the lab where Osterman worked, is a pun on quantum mechanics, just to say one.
Part of Moore's inspiration for the series was criticizingRonald Reagan (although he ultimately used Nixon instead, so some of his readers wouldn't get offended). Yet in September 1987, right around the time the series was wrapping up, Ronald Reagan himself gave a speech to the UN about how global unity could be achieved if the US and the USSR combined to fight against an invading alien force.
Harsher in Hindsight: When the telepathic squid attacks NY, an airship can be seen crashed into the side of a building that looks startling like the WTC.
It Was His Sled: Ozymandias is the killer. Also, giant squid. This got particularly bad around the time of the movie.
"Rorshach's journal. Unusual event happened, must investigate further."
"Adrian Veidt. Possibly homosexual. Must investigate further."
Misaimed Fandom: Some people take Rorschach and The Comedianseriously. Or rather seriously as superheroes which is entirely missing the point of the story.
They specifically miss the point that neither of them are competent at their job. Rorscharch makes Entertainingly Wrong assumptions and its ultimately Dan Dreiberg's Boring but Practical basic detective work that even gets them to Ozymandias' Supervillain Lair and Rorscharch is not even a match for Ozymandias as a fighter, his street-wise Combat Pragmatist approach no match for Charles Atlas Superpower. Both Rorschach and The Comedian are great characters in the literary sense and are pretty Badass but neither are as Badass as they want people to think they are nor are they in a situation where being one is of much help.
Narm: That giant telepathic squid. As much as Ozymandias denies it, that is a very Republic serial villain move.
He would probably agree. He himself described the plot as the "greatest practical joke in human history". The fact that something as fundamentally absurd as that has the effect it does is why the ending is so disturbing. No wonder that it disturbed The Comedian.
Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Watchmen influenced a ton of other works. These works fleshed out the tropes Watchmen introduced and put them in the forms that are now extremely familiar to readers. A superhero like Rorschach who goes around killing people was shocking in the 80s, but after several decades of the Punisher, he seems tame and reasonable by comparison. The notion of flawed heros like the Comedian was very fresh in the 80s, but it's par for the course these days. Dr. Manhattan pissing all over the status quo with his superpowers by altering history is far less amazing today than when it was first introduced in an era of Reed Richards Is Useless.
Strawman Has a Point: Alan Moore is correct that people liking Rorshach for his brutality and nuttiness is wrong. At least, in terms of how to deal with the real world. However, Rorshach is also the only person who makes a moral stand that people deserve to know the truth about a conspiracy to commit mass murder, despite the consequences of knowing that truth.
Moore's point is merely that as a human being and a character, Rorschach is compelling, but not as a superhero. Rorschach's Defiant to the End stand at the end is a complete, and ironic, reverse of his own support of Harry Truman dropping the atomic bombs and the defense of it being for the greater good. When confronted with an almost similar situation, he takes a different point of view, which is what makes him more than a Strawman.
Fanon Discontinuity: For most true fans at least, and Moore himself has severe Creator Backlash and while Dave Gibbons is supportive of the staff he has stated that the only canon for the stories is what was written by Moore and drawn by him.
Too Dumb to Live: Silhouette. Coming out of the closet was one thing. Exposing your identity is just asking for it.
Laurie: Whatever happened to him? Dan: Oh...Well, he pulled that on Rorschach, and he dropped him down an elevator shaft. [Beat] [Both laugh] Laurie: [still laughing] Oh God, that's not even funny. Dan: Well, it's a little funny.
Ensemble Darkhorse: Due to being played by the handsome Niall Matter, Mothman has seen a surprising level of attention in the fandom recently, in spite of not really being all that important.
Ending Fatigue: Some viewers believe it should've ended on Mars with the Blue Man revealing his secrets and delivering the aesop of the film.
Fashion-Victim Villain: Subverted- like David Bowie in Labyrinth, Matthew Goode as Ozymandias has the uncanny ability to be put in some rather ridiculous outfits (purple suits? Egregious floppy '80s Hair? A supersuit withnipples?) and nevertheless look good enough to make otherwise rational straight women and gay men squee their brains out from all the Perverse Sexual Lust he creates. Then again, he comes dangerously close to a male example of Power Hair.
Fetish Retardant: The sex scene with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" playing in the background. Zack Snyder claimed that it was deliberate, since the big-wigs wanted a steamy sex scene - they decided to placate them, while turning up the cheese factor Up to Eleven.
Fridge Brilliance: During the opening credits, it has Neil Armstrong on the moon and says "Good Luck Mr. Gorsky." There's an Urban Legend that his neighbor said the day the neighbor kid went to space is the day his wife would give him oral sex. Since this film takes place in an alternate timeline, it goes from confusing to clever.
Veidt's fairly obvious computer makes a lot of sense-if he wanted he wanted Dan and Rorschach to be able to crack it. The computer even prompts Dan for another word.
Genius Bonus/Viewers Are Geniuses: The symbol Jon draws on his forehead is a representation of a Hydrogen atom. Hydrogen was the first element to be created and is the single element from which everything else in the universe comes. Which is why it's "something [he] can respect" versus something "the marketing boys" think up. The comic gives a brief explanation; the film puts the scene in but never explains it.
In Veidt's office, the Narmer Palette can be seen on the wall in his Egyptian artifact alcove. It is a significant piece of archeology and it is propaganda about a ruler's unification of Upper and Lower Egypt with scholars still unsure if it is an actual record of what happened or just a mythologized version.
Hilarious in Hindsight: The businessman's line "'Free' is another word for 'Socialist'" in regards for energy. Right around the time the film was made, people were calling Barack Obama's energy policies such as support for cap and trade just that.
Wally Weaver's statements on Doctor Manhattan could also count as this.
Wally:What I said was 'God Exists, and he's American'. If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you're still sane. Which later got vindicated on how Ozymandias implements his forced peace.
Narm: Having Janie Slater pull off a wig to reveal a slightly thin but otherwise full head of hair was not as dramatic as intended.
Never Live It Down: Doctor Manhattan's penis is probably one of the most discussed things about the film. In spite of this, it is never really the focus of the scenes that he appears naked in, and it's mostly seen from far away.