For the 2014 film:
- Awesome Music: As a film about jazz (and the lengths to which one goes to perfecting their performances of it), this is to be expected. The editing and sound mixing really help to make the film's musical moments stand out as cinematically thrilling. The final performance is a true stand-out.
- Award Snub: Averted compared to many other films, winning 3 Oscars (more than any film aside from Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel). However, some found it unfortunate that Damian Chazelle lost the Best Adapted Screenplay to Graham Moore for The Imitation Game (not to mention the fact that he was nominated for Adapted Screenplay at all, instead of Original, due to some odd Academy regulations). He also failed to receive a Director nod. Many also thought Miles Teller should've been nominated for Best Actor.
- Crosses the Line Twice: Many, many of Fletcher's interactions with his students can make for this. He'll often call out his students on a mistake, and then compound on this by making fun of the student for either their nervousness or for a specific aspect about them, be it weight or their mother walking out on them.
- Esoteric Happy Ending: The film ends with Andrew finally winning Fletcher's approval with his performance of "Caravan". Unfortunately, Andrew's self-destructive obsession to become "great" costs him almost everything in his personal life. This ultimately leads the viewer to wonder if him achieving greatness was really worth it, especially given the sheer amount of vitriol he receives from Fletcher up to the film's end. Damien Chazelle shares his thoughts here.
- Family-Unfriendly Aesop: There has been a small debate on what the film's stance is on whether the film supports Fletcher's methods or not. His abuse has a terrible effect on the psyche of his characters to the point that one former student is revealed to have committed suicide from having endured so much under him. However, he does instill a drive in Andrew to better himself, and the final drum solo in the movie's climax shows that he was ultimately successful in his objective.
- Genius Bonus: Andrew's reverence for Buddy Rich is ironic considering that the story takes place in a music school and puts a lot of emphasis on sheet music. Rich never received formal musical training and couldn't even read sheet music.
- Likewise, if you already know that Fletcher's Charlie Parker anecdote is at best a Motivational Lie, you've got a better sense of what Fletcher is trying to pull and what kind of scene he's coming from.
- He Really Can Act: Those who either didn't see his work in The Spectacular Now or just regularly pigeonholed him as someone who could only play variations of the "frat boy" character archetype would be surprised at just how effective Miles Teller is as Andrew. He has to sell a lot of the character's vulnerability and determination, and pulls it off well. Additionally, much of the drumming in the film required his own preparation.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: J. Jonah Jameson slaps around Reed Richards. Which is kind of cathartic after how badly the latter film did.
- Ho Yay: In between all the mind games and homophobic slurs, there is a lot of passionately sustained eye contact in this film between Neiman and Fletcher.
- Magnificent Bastard: Fletcher. Luring Andrew into a false sense of security so that he could embarrass him in the film's final performance made for a devious reveal. Luckily, Andrew is able to save face with his drum solo.
- Moral Event Horizon: It's not really a question of whether Fletcher crosses this, but when. If he doesn't cross this by lying about why one of his pupils died or when he mocks how Andrew's mother left him, then he certainly has near the endgame by tricking Andrew into joining his new band so he could humiliate him in the film's final concert.
- Narm: Some of Fletcher's insults get so over-the-top that they become humorous.
- Narm Charm: Even if you're laughing at some of Fletcher's outrageous insults, J.K. Simmons's powerhouse performance is still effective.
- Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Several fans have noted that it can be hard to feel much empathy for Andrew simply because he's played by Miles Teller, who aside from this film has had a quite bad track record in his acting career. This became even more of an issue after his insulting comments about comic book fans regarding his role in the 2015 Fantastic Four film, especially since the guy we're supposed to dislike for abusing him is particularly famous for playing another Marvel character to utter perfection.
- The Woobie: Andrew, at times. Though it borders a little on Jerkass Woobie with how he treats Nicole.