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Film / Inglourious Basterds
aka: Inglorious Basterds

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"We're gonna be doin' one thing and one thing only: killin' Nat-zis."

"We ain't in the prisoner-takin' business. We're in the killin' Nat-zi business. And cousin, business is a-BOOMIN'."

Inglourious Basterds is a 2009 black comedy war film, and the sixth film to be written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It is told in five chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Once Upon a Time in Nazi-occupied France
  • Chapter 2: Inglourious Basterds
  • Chapter 3: German Night in Paris
  • Chapter 4: Operation Kino
  • Chapter 5: Revenge of the Giant Face

Set in World War II, this film is about a group of Jewish-American commandos, their loose-cannon hillbilly leader, and numerous plots to assassinate Nazi leadership. The Jewish soldiers are known to the Germans as "the Basterds", a terrifying group who massacre as many Nazis as they can find, scalping each one but leaving a single man alive each time to spread the word of their deeds. Oh, but not without carving a swastika into his forehead with a Bowie knife.

Meanwhile, a young German sniper finds himself the subject of Goebbels' latest propaganda film, Stolz der Nation, the premiere of which he decides to relocate to a small cinema owned by a woman he takes a liking to. Unbeknownst to him, this woman is a Jew whose family was massacred by the Nazis four years earlier, and she takes the opportunity of so many Nazi leaders coming to her cinema to take revenge. Upon finding out about the premiere, the Basterds and Winston Churchill himself also plot to destroy Hitler and his high command at the event, despite being pursued by the SS officer who slaughtered the cinema owner's family.

This being Tarantino, an orgy of violence is inevitable, and duly happens.

A large source of confusion derives from Tarantino letting the script (originally one for a miniseries) get out of hand. After a friend of Tarantino told him he's the only director who actually gets him to go to the theater, he scrapped most of the miniseries' plot and backstories, and what was left was a movie in which the titular Basterds were not quite focused on.

On a sad note, the film is the final collaboration between Tarantino and editor Sally Menke, who edited all of his films until her death in 2010.

Huge spoilers lie ahead.

The Basterds provide inglourious examples of the following tropes:

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  • '90s Anti-Hero: The Basterds. Their campaign of brutal terror behind enemy lines is deliberate and pretty effective, but it's also filled with untold brutality towards their enemies, as they intend to make the Nazis as scared of them as humanly possible by way of the pain and death they inflict on Nazi troops.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: For a supposed action film, the quiet (and often dramatic) moments seem to outnumber the actual action parts of the movie.
  • Adolf Hitlarious: "NEIN!—NEIN!—NEIN!—NEIN!—NEIN!—NEIN!—NEIN!" The entire sequence to follow is filled with enough gags (visual and audible) to please Mel Brooks himself.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Eli Roth was cast as the gruesome Bear Jew due to his association with gory horror films. His character in Tarantino's previous film, Death Proof, is named "Dov," which means "bear" in Hebrew.
    • Aldo Raine's obsession with collecting Nazi scalps is actually a reference to Brad Pitt's own breakout role in Legends of the Fall.
  • Affectionate Parody: Way too many people, possibly those who haven't watched a lot of old movies, don't realize that most of this movie is composed of send-ups of classic scenes from World War Two movies (particularly the bar scene, with the SS officer noticing the accent and the massive shootout, with even the bartender taking out a gun), all done on a bigger, flashier, and more melodramatic scale. It also includes music from Kelly's Heroes in the scene where one of the Basterds in the movie theater goes upstairs back into the theater to alert the other to get ready to kill Hitler. As they say, Quentin Tarantino isn't in the business of making movies about anything in particular. He is in the business of making movies about movies.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Zigzagged. On the one hand, Aldo treats even ordinary German soldiers like they're Nazis, but on the other he accepts Stiglitz into the Basterds since he's obviously not, having killed 13 Gestapo officers. Von Hammersmark provides another notable exception.
  • Alternate History: There are a few conscious deviations from history, with the largest being Adolf Hitler and most of the Nazi leaders being killed in a French movie theater in June 1944.
  • Ambiguous Situation: In the scene where they share strudel and Landa orders loads of dairy, does he know who Shoshanna really is and is trolling her, or is it a coincidence and he just really likes dairy?
  • America Won World War II: The intersecting plots of a French Jew and a group of American commandos succeed in assassinating Hitler. Ultimately, only a few of the Americans survive.
  • American Accents: Brad Pitt speaks in a thick Appalachian accent. It's actually pretty accurate to the time period and his character's birthplace.
  • Anti-Hero: The titular characters, the Basterds. They're a terrifyingly vicious group of soldiers that have slaughtered their way through their enemies for years, taking scalps and laughing as they do. But, their enemies are Nazis, so...
  • Anyone Can Die: Up to and including HITLER. Oh, and only three characters out of an enormous ensemble make it out of the movie alive. Four, if you count Marcel. Although he's not shown leaving the cinema, he enters via the back door to set the fire, leaving it open and presumably exiting the same way. Also counts as an inversion of Black Dude Dies First.
  • Artistic License – History: Lt. Raine claims to be descended from the mountain man Jim Bridger, thereby being part-Native American, and bases his battle plan on that of the Apache resistance. Later, he is referred to by the Nazis as "Aldo the Apache." While Jim Bridger did have three Native American wives, none of them were of the Apache tribe (one was a Flathead, two were Shoshone).
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • A secret Allied operation to bomb a cinema would not be named "Operation Kino", because operation names were not supposed to suggest the character of the operation. "Kino" is German for "cinema," so Germans wouldn't even need to translate it to get a clue as to its nature.
    • Some viewers who are accustomed to military etiquette consider the whole pub scene to be an example of this, because there's no way an officer like Hicox would consider it a good idea to act so disrespectfully to a major who is very clearly asking him to identify himself during wartime (he does not even stand up when he is formally addressed, and repeatedly dodges questions even after the major has assumed a more relaxed posture).
    • Hellstrom is shown to have the SS lightning bolts on his right uniform collar, despite being a Gestapo officer. All uniformed Gestapo personnel below the rank of colonel actually had blank black right collar patches.
    • Zoller is stated to have used a church steeple as a sniping platform, a la Saving Private Ryan. Nazi Germany, and all sides for that matter, would shell church steeples and other tall buildings to deny their use for snipers and observers by the other side, and discouraged snipers from setting up in such locations because it's an easy target and there is no way to retreat. In the clips of Stolz der Nation shown in the film, an American officer laments not being able to shell it, when Allied forces would readily do so, most (in)famously at Monte Cassino.
  • As You Know: Before recording Shosanna's revenge monologue, Marcel tells her, "Remember, in English!" The only reason for Shosanna to speak English would be a callback to Landa's use of the language in killing her family, so this detail would have had to have been her idea. The only purpose of this line is to let the audience know that her use of English in the finale is not Translation Convention.
  • Atrocity Montage: After Perrier LaPadite attempts to misdirect SS Colonel Hans Landa as to the whereabouts of the Dreyfuses, Hans Landa forces LaPadite to reveal the location of the Dreyfuses in exchange for the Nazis not murdering LaPadite's family. Hans Landa then orders his soldiers to massacre the hiding Dreyfuses in the cellar, except for Shoshanna, who flees through the cellar window.
  • Attack the Injury: A variant used for interrogation rather than in combat. After the bar shootout which kills many of the Basterds, as well as Hicox and Stiglitz, and wounds their German Mole Bridget von Hammersmark, Aldo finds it just a little too convenient that von Hammersmark was the Sole Survivor of the bloodbath. This is reinforced by the fact that she specifically recommended that she meet the group at that particular bar, assuring them it would be free of Germans, only for it to have actually been crawling with German soldiers. So Aldo decides to interrogate her and make sure that she isn't a Nazi spy playing them for fools. He employs some Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique by sticking a finger into the bullet wound she just received and yanking on it, causing her tremendous pain.
  • Author Appeal: Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish pops up again. This time it has plot relevance in the form of a lost shoe.
  • Autobiographical Role: In-Universe. Zoller plays himself in a autobiographical film about his exploits.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Hugo Stiglitz, who killed 13 Gestapo officers in various ways, and is visibly creepy.
    • Lt. Aldo Raine also counts. In spite of his rank and all-American good looks, he is little more than a bloodthirsty sadist who really gets off on carving swastikas into the heads of German prisoners-of-war, regardless of whether or not they are Nazis. The rest of his team counts as well, from baseball-bat executions to scalping the dead.
  • Badass Boast: "We will be cruel to the German, and through our cruelty he will know who we are. And he will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of his brothers we leave behind us..."
    Shoshana: I have a message to Germany: that you are all going to die.
  • Bathos:
    • The first scene is quiet and brimming with deadly tension. In the middle of it, Landa smokes from a very large and flashy (silly, even) pipe.
    • Arguably done in the restaurant scene where Landa is talking to Shosanna about her cinema. The scene spends ample time watching Landa order dessert and coffee, sweeten his coffee, and eat his dessert while interrogating the young Jewish lady, and all the while the audience shares Shosanna's palpable terror that any second, Landa will miraculously discern her true heritage.
  • Batter Up!: Sgt. Donny Donowitz's preferred method of killing German soldiers, signed by every Jew in the Boston metro area. He's played by Eli Roth. How appropriate.
  • Best Served Cold: Shosanna's plot to kill the Nazi high command in revenge for the death of her family.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Some scenes with foreign language are deliberately left without subtitles, in particular the one with Shosanna and Zoller in the cafe, where none of the German is subtitled. Since it's from Shosanna's point-of-view, and she doesn't speak German, it is somewhat justified.
    • Landa's French is very good, and when he makes his excuse that he's "run out of French," he's actually quite articulate. This is a clue that he has another reason to switch to English.
    • Mainland Europeans (or people who understand German very well) will quickly pick up on Hicox's accent and the wrong hand gesture he uses (which ultimately gives him away as a spy) before any of the characters do.
    • Also rather hilariously inverted with the Film Within a Film Nation's Pride, in which dialogue spoken by American characters is in English and subtitled in German.
    • In the subtitles, select words are untranslated because Tarantino apparently decided that their English meanings were sufficiently well-known to even monolingual English speakers, "merci" ("thank you") and "oui" ("yes") for instance.
    • Landa calls all of his military assistants "Hermann", which means "army man."
    • The Basterds' plan to kill the German high command at the movies is "Operation Kino". "Kino" is German for "cinema."
  • Bittersweet Ending: On one hand, Hitler's dead and the war's over. On the other, pretty much every sympathetic character (and most of the unsympathetic ones, and a couple of guys we really didn't get to know that much about...) had to die to make it happen. And Landa will get away with everything he has done with almost no consequences (aside from getting a swastika painfully carved in his forehead.)
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The film shows how war fosters brutality on both sides.
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: Three of the surviving Basterds masquerade as cameramen to get into the big movie opening in order to assassinate Hitler. It might have gone off smoothly, if only they hadn't run into Colonel Landa...
  • Blast Out: The tavern's (first) Mexican Standoff ends this way. Everyone is killed in the course of a gunfight that lasts only fifteen seconds.
  • Blatant Lies: In the opening scene, Hans Landa speaks impeccable, erudite, and near-native level French with Monsieur LaPadite, only to very politely and eloquently inform him at one point that he's 'exhausted' his 'limited' abilities in French, and that the two should go on speaking English. Even if that should have tipped off the Dreyfus family hiding under the floorboards, from their point of view staying put was likely still far more prudent.
  • Blood Knight: The Basterds are a squad of them. Their one mission is to kill as many Nazis as possible, and as much cause fear and mayhem amongst them as possible.
  • Brawn Hilda: The female soldier, the one with the Beethoven card, in the tavern is willing and able to kick the asses of her male compatriots.
  • Break the Haughty: This happens to Landa at the end when he gets a swastika carved into his skull.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: It's unclear whether Landa recognizes or suspects who Shosanna is when they meet at the restaurant. His politely pushy demeanor to her and his order of milk might be deliberate callbacks to their prior meeting, or he could have no idea who she is and simply be behaving normally. She, on the other hand, remembers exactly who he is.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: One happens accidentally when Shosanna shoots Zoller in the projection booth. Her gun goes off at the same time a shoot-out occurs in the movie that is playing, which conceals the sounds of the gunshots.
  • The Cameo:
  • Call-Back:
    • Hicox notes that Stiglitz isn't quite the loquacious type, then when called on it, admits the loquacious type isn't who he needs for this mission. When they get to the "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner (below), he knows exactly who should deliver the line.
    • In his first scene, Hicox says that one of the two books he's written is about the works of German director G.W. Pabst. When Hellstrom makes everyone write a name on a card and pass it to their right, Von Hammersmark is sitting to Hicox's right, and receives a card with the name G.W. Pabst.
    • Shosanna's theater bears a billboard for Leni Riefenstahl's film The White Hell of Piz Palu. Zoller mentions enjoying the film when he first speaks to Shosanna. In the tavern, Hicox claims to be from Piz Palu and says that he and his family are in the film.
  • Carved Mark: Swastikas carved into the foreheads of surviving Nazis for the Basterds.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: The entire Mexican Standoff in the tavern, including a Seinfeldian diversion into whether or not they're even in a Mexican Standoff during the second standoff because Wilhelm has a gun trained on Aldo and not the other way around, but Aldo's men at the top of the stairs do have grenades they can throw down.
  • Catchphrase: At least three times during the movie, there is a scene where one character asks another if they understand, and then says "Can you explain..." It happens so frequently that it really makes you wonder why any of them ever asks the question in the first place.
  • Censored Title: The announcer in TV ads for the movie in the UK before Watershed would just call the movie Inglorious. Some of them, mysteriously, showed the full title onscreen; note, however, that whilst the spelling of "Basterds" doesn't match the spelling of the curse, the pronunciation does, which is probably why only a verbal censor was used pre-watershed (as failing to fully advertise the title would only serve to confuse). In the UK, the film is shown on Sky Movies, and is titled Inglourious B***s on Sky's Planner/TV Guide.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Major Dieter Hellstrom is given a brief introduction, and makes another unimportant background appearance, but later serves as the initiator of the first Mexican Standoff in the bar after Hicox accidentally blows his cover.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • von Hammersmark's autograph and missing shoe lead to her capture and death.
    • Shosanna is briefly shown loading the pistol that kills Zoller.
  • Closest Thing We Got: The Basterds take Von Hammersmark to a vet after she gets shot.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Two of them. The first is at first unwilling, the second has his ass beaten by Shosanna and Marcel. Three, if you count Francesca Mondino, Goebbels' translator/mistress.
  • Compensating for Something: After watching Perrier LaPadite smoke a standard corncob pipe for several minutes during the dairy farm scene, Landa asks if he might join him.... and produces a ludicrously huge, Sherlock Holmes-style calabash. Raine's Bowie knife is also exceptionally large.
  • Continuity Nod: The only black person in the film is named Marcel. Also, Sgt. Donny Donowitz, aka "The Bear Jew," is reported to be the father of Lee Donowitz from True Romance, which Tarantino wrote, and Aldo Raine is the ancestor of Brad Pitt's character in the earlier film.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Landa's whole ploy to get LaPadite to tell him the Dreyfuses' whereabouts works only because LaPadite just happens to be fluent in English (something extremely rare for a French farmer in the 1940s).note 
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Aldo expresses a desire to force Nazis to wear their uniform for the rest of their lives, so everyone will know they were a Nazi. However, he freely admits that simply isn't practical, as sooner or later they'd have to take it off. So he gives them a little something they can't take off...
  • Cover Identity Anomaly: With disastrous results. In the tavern scene, Lt. Hicox seems to avoid this until he orders three Scotches using his index, middle, and ring fingers, as opposed to his index, middle, and thumb, which is customary in Germany. This blows his cover and results in everyone in the bar except Hammersmark and a Heer grunt dying in a 15-second shootout.
  • Covers Always Lie: Shosanna is actually not a Basterd. And the Basterds are much less prominent than you'd think (see also Never Trust a Trailer).
  • Creator Cameo: Tarantino's head is the first one seen being actively scalped in the film, and his hands can be seen in Chapter 5 doubling for Christoph Waltz's in the closeup when he strangles Diane Kruger's character (see Insert Cameo). He also plays an American soldier in the Nation's Pride film.
  • Darkest Hour: The Basterds' is after the bar scene, where they lose all their German-speaking members and their mole is shot in the leg the day before Operation Kino.
  • Decapitation Strike: "Operation Kino," a joint SOE/OSS plan where almost the entire Nazi high command — including Goebbels, Goering, Bormann, and even Adolf Hitler himself — is to be blown up while attending the premiere of a major propaganda movie in Paris. Surprisingly, it goes off almost without a hitch thanks to a major defection.
  • Deconstruction:
    • Some people see this movie as a deconstruction of the traditional Hollywood historical epic, particularly those about World War II. Such movies often play faster and looser with history than the average viewer realizes, and can be unintentionally insulting in their reductiveness. By intentionally writing an alternate history, and going for fun action over a serious statement, Tarantino disputes whether such movies really work as actual history lessons, or at the very least, mocks how seriously these movies take themselves.
    • Or, if you take it as straight-forward, the film is formatted In the Style of a World War II propaganda movie made in 1944-45, just as the Normandy landings were happening. In this, Inglourious Basterds is no different than Mrs. Miniver, Casablanca, Desperate Journey, or other war films made while the war was still raging, meaning the real ending of Hitler committing suicide in his bunker hadn't happened yet. So, Basterds could depict its version of the war however it liked.
  • Deep Cover Agent: When Hans Landa switches sides, he demands to be given a cover identity as one.
  • Desecrating the Dead: Sergeant Donowitz has the pleasure of killing Adolf Hitler. The theater is burning, the exits are blocked, and bombs are set to detonate. But that's not enough for "the Bear Jew", who repeatedly changes magazines to continue pumping bullets into Hitler's body.
  • Disobeyed Orders, Not Punished: Lt. Aldo Raine anticipates this will be the response to him killing and scalping Col. Landa's driver. In fairness, he IS following orders in spirit, if not to the letter: he's still going to deliver Landa alive as he was told... he's just giving him a little something he can't take off.
    Lt. Aldo Raine: Nah, I'll probably get chewed out. I been chewed out before.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: SS Colonel Hans Landa uses a large calabash pipe reminiscent of classic portrayals of Sherlock Holmes.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The scene where Nazi High Command desperately tries to escape a burning cinema, only to encounter locked doors and machine gun fire, is reminiscent of Jews dying in gas chambers, which is made especially good by the fact that the people who plotted their deaths were mostly Jews.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Zoller behaves like this, pursuing Shosanna with wit and self-deprecation in the face of Shosanna's hostility. Eventually, it's revealed that this has all been a ploy, and that he's actually quite an entitled and cruel person.
  • Doomed by Canon: Magnificently subverted. Of course Hitler died in real life...but definitely not by being blown up in a burning theater and having as many rounds as one vengeful Jewish soldier had on hand being pumped into his body.
  • Downer Beginning: Chapter 1, "Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France", has Shosanna's parents, uncle, and brother being exterminated by Landa's troops, while either she is allowed to escape as a cruel mercy or Landa's gun cannot reach her at the distance she manages to create.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Lampshaded by Major Hellström of the SS after he sees through Hicox's disguise. He cocks his gun and then says "Did you hear that, captain? That's the sound of my Walther, pointing at your testicles."
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Zoller gets the premiere of his movie, along with all its high-prestige guests, moved to a theater of a woman he doesn't even know.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Donny, Omar, Stiglitz, Hicox, and Zoller. And, for some people, Rachtmann.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: All the Basterds (save Raine himself) seem to have pale skin and very dark hair. This is quite possibly a Phenotype Stereotype intended to mark them as Jews.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Landa uses this to get under Utivich's skin, telling him that he thinks it's unfair that Utivich has been nicknamed "The Little Man" by the Wehrmacht, when he's not really that little. Given that it's Landa doing the talking, it's not clear if he's serious or not.
  • Ensemble Cast: Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, and Brad Pitt are our top-billed actors, with Zoller and the Basterds rounding out the main cast.
  • Entitled to Have You: Zoller when he finally gets fed up with Shosanna's rebuffs. He's gotten used to being treated like royalty for his heroic actions in the war, and he becomes violent after one too many snubs from her. It's especially jarring because before this, he's been portrayed as a pretty nice guy and rather humble about his "heroism," although his absolute refusal to take "no" for an answer or show any respect for Shosanna's feelings makes him come off as a menacing Stalker with a Crush.
  • Establishing Character Music: Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz is introduced with an electric guitar riff to cement his badassery.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Landa seems to be completely shocked when Aldo kills his adjutant in cold blood even though his survival was part of Landa's deal with the Allied command. Arguably, Landa expected Aldo to put his ruthlessness (of which he is well aware) aside for the sake of honor, or at the very least of orders. He does not.
  • Evil Laugh: Landa explodes with diabolical laughter at least twice. Later, Shosanna indulges in this in her message for the Nazis as the film burns and the Basterds shoot the crowd.
  • Evil Overlooker: This movie poster.
  • Eye Scream: A soldier or two in the Nation's Pride film get Moe Greene Specials.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Sergeant Rachtman, the Wehrmacht soldier that Donny beats to death with a bat.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner:
    • Stiglitz tells Hellstrom to say "auf Wiedersehen" to his Nazi balls, kicking off the shootout.
    • Hicox says, "There's a special circle in Hell for people who waste good scotch. Seeing as I may be rapping on the door momentarily..." and downs the glass.
    • Rachtman is asked if he got his Iron Cross for killing Jews. He simply states "Bravery," and Donowitz has no retort.
  • Failed a Spot Check: British Intelligence tried everything to pick their top spy. Everything except actually making sure that the spy can speak German with a convincing accent, or have basic familiarity with German mannerisms for that matter.
  • Fanservice Extra: The under-dressed cigarette-serving girls at the movie premiere. This is entirely in keeping with the standard Nazi decadence, so it's Truth in Television.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Landa switches sides to the Allies, only to get a swastika carved into his head. Now he can never return to Germany, and will spend his life in America as a pariah.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Landa is a very genial and affable man, though how much of it is an act is a bit nebulous. He uses his charm to good effect when interacting with suspected spies. Anyone without something to hide would certainly be charmed by him, while spies and plotters quickly start sweating bullets under his attention. The moment when he drops his friendly persona to savagely strangle Von Hammersmark to death suggests that it's just an act.
  • Fictionalized Death Account: Near the end of the film, Hitler, Goebbels, and much of the German high command are killed at the premiere of Nation's Pride, almost a year before (and more than that, in a few cases) they would actually die in real life.
  • Food Porn: That scene with the strudel. Also has to count as some sort of dissonance considering Shosanna's state of mind during this part (to pour salt on the wound, there's a lot of dairy involved as well).
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Hitler expresses fear of the "Bear Jew" and the idea that he's a golem summoned by the Jews. At the end of the movie, the Bear Jew mows Hitler down with gunfire and continues to blast his head to a fine jelly.
    • There's quite a bit of evidence that Landa isn't entirely in line with Nazi ideology, foreshadowing his betrayal of them. In the opening scene, he speaks negatively of Reinhard Heydrich, saying that he deserves his nickname "the Hangman." He also admits that he doesn't completely agree with Hitler's propaganda about the Jews. He even spares the Jewish Shosanna. In his later scene with Shosanna, he admits that black people might be very good at a profession (if condescendingly) and sidelines Marcel only to appease Nazi high command.
    • Aldo complains of their meeting spot being in a basement, since it's very difficult to fight there. It soon turns out that he's right, with a gunfight there getting nearly everyone soon killed.
    • A very brief Reaction Shot of Hellstrom's expression as Hicox orders three drinks foreshadows the fact that he's deduced Hicox's true identity.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Averted. The audience assumes that the plan to kill Hitler will fail because of history, but Tarantino doesn't really care much about that.
  • For Want Of A Nail: The existence of Colonel Hans Landa and the Basterds results in Hitler getting machine-gunned to death and the war in Europe ending a year early. This also seems to imply that Inglourious Basterds is the start of the hidden Shared Universe that Tarantino's films have mostly taken place in. Hitler's assassination in a movie theater inspires Americans to become (even more) obsessed with pop culture and partake in long-winded discussions about it.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Sort of. In the lightning-fast testicle-shooting contest involving Hicox, Stiglitz, and Hellstrom, you can see how Von Hammersmark gets the bullet in her leg.
  • Freeze-Frame Introduction: Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz not only gets a freeze-frame intro, but he also gets his name covering up the screen and not one but two electric guitar riffs.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Just watch Brad Pitt's face from the moment Landa approaches them in the cinema and he realizes their plan is a terrible idea.
    • Any scene where Stiglitz is around Nazis or they're even mentioned in passing. His murder-face throughout the whole bar scene is downright hilarious, and the viewer can clearly see how much he wants to maim and kill everyone around him. To a lesser extent, Hicox's pained facial expressions when an SS officer joins their table are pretty priceless, too.

  • Gambit Pileup: Subverted. Everyone's made separate plans, but they're all trying to do the same thing.
  • Genocide Backfire: The (mostly) Jewish Basterds are sent to fight back against the Nazis. Hitler gets killed by two Basterds and a French Jew who lost her family to Landa.
  • Gilligan Cut: "She was picking a place that's isolated, and without Germans." Cut to tavern full of partying Germans.
  • The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: Bridget von Hammersmark gets killed by Landa because the shoe she left behind in the tavern fits perfectly.
  • Golem: Donny Donowitz, the Bear Jew himself, is thought to be a golem by several Nazis.
  • Gorn: The scalpings, carved swastikas, and Hitler and friends getting blown apart by MP-40 fire.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The introduction of the forehead swastika is possibly the sole example in a movie filled with dead soldiers getting scalped and bodies being shredded with gunfire all within full view of the camera. Then again, that was probably just an artistic choice to hide what was actually being done until it could be revealed dramatically. A Nazi officer has a swastika carved on his head at the end of the movie, and it is shown in gruesome detail.
  • Gratuitous English: Subverted by the justifying revelation that Landa picked a language that the Jews he was hunting could not understand. He's also quite fluent in it.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: The events of the movie will likely go down in history as the work of a German double agent. Shoshana, who plays just as big a role in destroying the Nazi high command, will likely be forgotten, since neither the Basterds nor Landa know about her involvement. Even if Marcel makes it out alive and tells Shoshana's story, it will likely be sidelined by the OSS official account.
  • Groin Attack: How the first Mexican Standoff is begun. And ends.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Donny the Bear Jew's clinking bat in the tunnel.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: The Basterds are on a mission that requires them to perform atrocities, and they seem to take great pleasure in it, from scalping the dead to mutilating prisoners to beating the rest to death with a bat. However, because they're fighting Nazi soldiers, they occupy the "hero" slot by default. On the other hand, Fredrick Zoller is presented as one by Nazi propaganda, but his actual reaction to the footage shows that he is not proud of having killed so many.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A number of examples:
    • Shosanna dies while attempting to kill the entire German high command.
    • Donny and Omar in the theater die in a suicide mission to kill the entire German high command and end the war.
    • The German soldier who refuses to put German lives at risk, even though he technically isn't a hero (he's got medals for bravery though). Aldo Raine lampshades his heroic sacrifice for his country when calling in Donowitz to execute him.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Hans Landa switches from French to English during his conversation with the farmer in the opening scene. He claims it is because his French is limited, even though he's obviously fluent; he is in fact making sure the Jews hiding under the floorboards can't understand the conversation.
  • Historical Character's Fictional Relative: Aldo Raines claims being a direct descendant of the famous Mountain Man Jim Bridger as a way to confirm his credentials for the war party tactics he intends his unit to use against the Nazis.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Hitler, Goebbels, Bormann, and Goering.
    • An unnamed Winston Churchill appears at Hicox's debriefing.
    • Emil Jannings appears at the premier, showing off the German Ring of Honor he received for his appearance in a number of Nazi propaganda films. Fun fact: Jannings also won the first-ever Oscar for Best Actor (in spite of getting fewer votes than Rin Tin Tin).
  • Historical In-Joke: Goebbels freaks out at the mention of Lilian Harvey's name. It makes sense if you know that she had an acrimonious relationship with the Nazi party and allegedly helped some Jewish filmmakers escape Germany. Even then, it still works as a Noodle Incident.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: While no time travel was involved, the cardinal "Don't kill Adolf Hitler" rule is broken.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Nazis are trapped in a theater and burned — gunned down if they try to escape — just like they did to Jews in synagogues.
  • Honor Before Reason: In the shooting script, Landa gives this as the reason he let Shosanna go, saying that shooting her In the Back wouldn't be fair (and it's unlikely she would survive long anyway).
  • Hope Spot: A rare antagonistic version, where after the bar shootout, Wilhelm, the one remaining German soldier, is convinced by Raine not to kill von Hammersmark by appealing to his paternal instinct that his child will grow up fatherless. When he finally relents, von Hammersmark immediately kills him anyway.
  • Humble Hero: Zoller affects this persona, yet he's repeatedly shown to have quite an inflated ego for a mere private, and relishes drawing out the tale of his heroic stand.
  • Hypocrite: Landa strangles von Hammersmark to death for treason, and yet immediately goes on to sell out the Third Reich himself.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Landa, when asking LaPadite if they can Switch to English, says in French, "I regret to inform you that I've exhausted the extent of my French. To continue to speak it so inadequately would only serve to embarrass me," a complex sentence that requires an extensive vocabulary, knowledge of French syntax, and multiple verb tenses. He obviously speaks better French than most actual Frenchmen, but he just didn't want the people in the basement to understand what he was saying.
  • I Am Very British: When Hicox is getting briefed for his mission, they all sound so English it hurts. Then you suddenly recognize Dr. Evil talking, and you realize that everyone in the room is a Fake Brit. Sort of Truth in Television —- there are still people in the UK who talk that way, they're just few and far between (see Stephen Fry for a famous example outside the royal family). 70 years ago, even more people talked like that, and whilst the common soldier would sound far more ordinary, the top brass would be more likely to be made up of the upper classes.
    Hicox: What shall we drink to, sir?
    Fenech: Well, um... "Down with Hitler."
    Hicox: All the way down, sir. [they clink glasses]
  • I Am One of Those, Too: The Basterds infiltrate a Nazi gathering with von Hammersmark introducing them as an Italian film crew, banking on none of the Nazis knowing enough Italian to spot them. Naturally, Landa comes up to them and starts speaking in fluent Italian.
  • Ice Queen: Shosanna is this up to eleven with Frederick, for very understandable reasons.
  • Idiot Ball: The Allied commander in Nation's Pride refuses to destroy a tower that houses a Nazi sniper who is decimating his men only because the tower itself has historical significance. This actually has basis in real life, where Allied defenders of Singapore didn't bombard the Johor Sultan's palace, which was being used as an artillery-observation post, because they didn't want to peeve the local authorities.
  • I Hit You, You Hit The Ground: Donnie says this to a Nazi soldier as he's taking him to be interrogated by Aldo.
  • Incoming Ham:
  • Informed Judaism: The Basterds themselves don't appear show any signs of being Jews aside from getting identified as Jewish. It also applies with Shosanna, but that's very justified as for most of the film she had to hide herself from the Nazis. This has been criticized by some reviewers, compared to other films like Munich.
  • Inherited Illiteracy Title: The title's spelling is visible on a gun's buttstock near the beginning of the film. It goes by very quickly, so it counts as a Freeze-Frame Bonus.
  • Insert Cameo: When Landa kills von Hammersmark, in close-up shots, his hands are Tarantino's own.
  • Irony:
    • Omar is the only Basterd of the three fake Italians who doesn't speak any Italian, but he's the one with the best accent when he pronounces his fake name. Landa even congratulates him.
    • Shosanna is Jewish, but has blue eyes and blonde hair, so the looks like the Aryan ideal the Nazis lionize. They murdered her entire family for being Jews, and she's forced into hiding after escaping them.
  • Italians Talk with Hands: The three American soldiers who have to impersonate Italians (without speaking a word of it) at a Nazi party. Two of them thus punctuate every sentence with arm gestures - except Aldo, who, along with his hilariously ill-fitting accent, further fails in his attempt to pretend to be Italian by only ever doing a gesture once. The guy they're trying to fool isn't (primarily because of his own mastery of the language), but goes along with the act since it's so funny.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: On von Hammersmark, via Aldo pressing down on her gunshot wound until she tells him what actually went wrong inside the bar (Hicox doing some tell-tale non-Germanic gestures, rather than her betraying the operation like he thought she did).
  • Karma Houdini: Landa almost gets this until Aldo shoots his fellow defector and carves a swastika into his forehead.
  • Karmic Death: At the end, the Nazi high command is essentially locked in a room under (half)-false pretenses and murdered. By Jews and a black guy no less. Death by Irony indeed.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Fredrick Zoller is presented as a sympathetic character in spite of being a German soldier, until he finally has enough of Shosanna's rejections, and goes into an aggressive tirade about how she should be thankful for him.
    • The scene where Aldo digs his finger into Bridget von Hammersmark's bullet wound to make sure she's telling the truth about the basement. In a film full of brutality, it's this scene that tends to make audiences wince the most, and it's done to a sympathetic noncombatant on his own side.
  • Kill It with Fire: The entire Nazi high command. And their friends and family. And some random low-level officers. And people they had sex with.
  • Kink Meme: This one gets a special mention because Eli Roth found it. Then promptly linked to it on his Twitter. Then forwarded it to Quentin Tarantino. Amusingly, their reaction amounted to 'wtf, the Bear Jew always tops'. Omar Doom probably reached for the Brain Bleach though. And Christoph Waltz's reaction must be seen to be believed.
  • Large Ham: Brad Pitt as Aldo Raine, and of course Martin Wuttke as Der Fuhrer himself. Although Aldo is played for laughs, especially during the premiere, Hitler is played halfway seriously.
  • Laughably Evil: When Landa excuses himself to laugh himself almost into convulsions about the paper-thin excuses of von Hammersmark and the Basterds, you cannot help yourself but laugh along with him.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The very last scene, after Aldo carves the swastika into Landa's forehead, he comments to Utivich that "this might just be [his] masterpiece". This could be interpreted as him, or more likely Tarantino himself, referring to the movie itself.
  • Les Collaborateurs:
    • The French girlfriend of an SS officer tells Shosanna that she should feel lucky to have bagged Frederick Zoller.
    • Goebbels has a French translator who is also his mistress. She apparently does have affection for him, judging by the emotion she shows when Hitler congratulates him.
    • Obliquely referenced by Shosanna when she tells Frederick to find a French girlfriend in Vichy, the headquarters of the French collaborationist government at the time.
  • Lipstick-and-Load Montage: Shosanna before the premiere, complete with applying makeup like it's war paint.
  • Living MacGuffin: Hitler. Every single heroic character (and one opportunistic evil one) wants him Deader than Dead.

  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Lieutenant Aldo Raine, at least if the scar on his neck is anything to go by.
  • Mexican Standoff: The Basterds get into one with German soldiers in the tavern, which devolves into an argument about whether the situation constitutes a Mexican standoff.
  • Mirroring Factions: Though Raine says that "the Nazis ain't got no humanity," and Nazis are shown to be pretty evil, it's also clear that this film does seek to humanize German soldiers. Frederick Zoller dislikes watching a movie of himself killing. Private Butz is just a scared boy who wants to survive the war and hug his mother. Sgt. Wilhelm is shown celebrating the birth of his son, and is killed (perhaps unnecessarily) on the same night. Sgt. Rachtman is shown to be a brave soldier, willing to sacrifice his life for his comrades in arms.
  • Mood Whiplash: In a rare example of the tragedy-to-comedy version, Shosanna's beautifully shot death scene, with Ennio Morricone's beautiful "Un Amico" building to a heartbreaking climax... Smash cut to Donny — "After I kill that guy, you have 30 feet to get to that guy. Can you do it?"
  • Mook Horror Show: The approach of the Bear Jew from the tunnel, and Shosanna's projected face laughing at the theater crowd. The Basterds' entire mission could be seen as an invoked example.
  • More Dakka: Hitler, Goebbels, Goebbels' translator, and a good portion of the crowd die in a massive hail of gunfire.
  • Morton's Fork: Aldo's question to captured German soldiers about whether they're going to take off their uniforms after the war is over. Saying no would mean that they're unrepentant Nazis, which would obviously offend the Nazi-hunting Aldo. Saying yes, however, also earns his ire, as he hates the idea of Nazis blending back into society. Hans Landa, who has personally interrogated every survivor of the Basterds and thus knows about Raine's question full well, tries to Take a Third Option by refusing to respond, but it doesn't help him any.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Hicox was a film critic before the war, an expert on German cinema.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: Happens to multiple people throughout the film, but Hitler takes the cake by getting several full MP-40 magazines at point-blank range until his head explodes like a gore piñata.
  • My Beloved Minions: Hans Landa has a curious affection for his SS adjudant, specifically including him in his agreement to defect to the Allies. When Aldo Raine shoots his second, Landa is very upset and furious, warning Aldo that he will be executed for his insubordination. Aldo disagrees, saying that his superiors only care about Landa.
  • Nasty Party: Shosanna plans to implement her Roaring Rampage of Revenge when the Nazis come to her theater to view Frederick Zoller's film, and once the film ends, kill them all by trapping them in the burning theater.
  • Nazi Hunter: All of the Basterds, in a less-common form of this trope, in that they are active during the war as opposed to after it.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers, with its machine-gun firin' and Nazi stabbin' and Tarantino-directin', promised two-and-a-half hours of violent Nazi-slaughtering that would make Wolfenstein look like Nazi Propaganda. The trailers don't give away the movie/theater secondary plot (which is never alluded to in the trailers) that takes up such a significant portion of the movie, and the actual film takes a far more suspense/drama-driven style. The Basterds themselves share the spotlight with an ensemble cast and have a smaller role than the trailers imply.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: During his conversation with LaPadite in Chapter 1, "Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France," Landa names the devious and predatory hawk as the animal with the closest similarities to the German people. Admittedly, this puts the Nazis at a disadvantage since hawks are too "dignified" to hide, and thus ill-equipped to find "rats," i.e. Jews.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Shoshanna's guilt over shooting Zoller causes her to drop her guard, enabling him to fatally shoot her before dying.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine:
    • Normally this requires the protagonist get captured, but when Landa invites himself into LaPadite's dairy farm to share a glass of delicious milk, a smoke, and a chat about missing Jews, the power that the Fuhrer gives him in occupied France makes the home a prison.
    • Played fairly straight in Shosanna's meeting with Landa in Chapter 3, though it's not certain if Landa fails to recognize Shosanna or if he just decides to let her go so he can mess with her head.
  • Nonverbal Miscommunication: A variation in that Hicox uses a nonstandard hand gesture for a German while posing as a German soldier, betraying his identity.
  • No Swastikas: German and French posters for the movie lack swastikas.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: An intentional example, as Raine and Donny speak Italian with a comically thick American accent, betraying their status as American spies. Omar, on the other hand, the one who didn't know a word of Italian until the night before, does a decent job, enough to actually get congratulated by Landa.
  • Not His Sled: They succeed in killing Hitler. Instead of, you know, failing.
  • Not So Stoic: Perrier LaPadite listens impassively to Landa talk of how he's looking for a missing Jewish family, until he realises that Landa has deduced that they're hiding under the floorboards, whereupon tears start streaming down his face, and he confirms what Landa suspects.
  • Not Worth Killing: Landa sees a young Jewish girl fleeing alone into the woods and decides, on a lark, to let her live, apparently believing that she's of little consequence.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The looks on Raine and von Hammersmark's faces after they realize Landa speaks very fluent Italian (the Basterds' cover was that they were Italian, as most Germans wouldn't know enough Italian to converse with them). Then as Landa basically spends the next few minutes essentially mocking them about their poor Italian, Raine and Von Hammersmark clearly know things are about to go downhill.
    • von Hammersmark when she reaches into Landa's coat pocket and finds one of the shoes she lost at the tavern shootout.
    • Landa's face when Raine asks him if he plans to take off his uniform. Priceless. Since Landa had interviewed all of the Basterds' "survivors," he knows what happened to Pvt. Butz after he said he intended to take off his uniform...
    • The looks on the Basterds and Hicox's faces when they see the Germans in the bar.
  • Ominous Walk: Donny does this as he walks out of the tunnel, complete with slamming his bat against the walls, to beat Sgt. Rachtman to death for refusing to give up information on the nearby patrol. Mind you, it takes almost a full minute from when you first hear the ominous tapping sound to when Donny actually appears.
  • Omniglot: Herr Landa fluently speaks every language he encounters in the film. The script implies that he has some measure of knowledge in several more languages. In Real Life, the need for the actor playing Landa to speak four languages was a serious casting issue for Tarantino.
  • One Last Smoke:
    • Marcel, right before he uses it to light the film on fire and bring down the house.
    • Hicox, when he learns he is about to die by Hellstrom's Walther P38.
  • One-Man Army: Zoller reportedly killed over 200 Allied soldiers all by himself over three days.
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • Averted. There are two guys in this film who are named Wilhelm; one is a Basterd (Wicki), and the other is a German, which can get a little confusing.
    • Also, if you speak German, you'll notice that Landa addresses all his underlings as "Hermann", which is kinda funny. It shows he doesn't care about them at all (his final "I made a deal with your general for that man's life!" is even more hollow). This is particularly funny in the scene where he introduces the last Hermann. He even pauses for a moment to remember his name, and then just decides to go with Hermann.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-Universe, Hicox speaks German pretty well, but his accent is strange; he comes up with a cover story about his accent coming from an obscure Swiss village, but it still apparently arouses suspicion.
  • Orbital Shot: The camera orbits around Landa, Bridget, Aldo, and the rest of the gang in the scene in the theater lobby. It circles while Landa grills them in his remorseless way, getting the fake "Italians" to reveal their ridiculous accents and getting Bridget increasingly flustered. The camera continues to circle until Bridget claims she hurt her leg mountain climbing; it then follows Landa as he takes a few steps away to cackle loudly with amusement at her ridiculous lie.
  • Overly Long Gag: The Bear Jew tapping his bat in the tunnel. It lasts almost a whole minute before you see Donny appear.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil:
    "They're the foot soljers of a Jew-hatin', mass-murderin' maniac, and they need to be dee-stroyed. That's why any and every sumbitch we find wearin' a uniform... they're gonna die."
  • Pet the Dog: Landa instantly sees through the Basterds' pathetic attempt to masquerade as Italians, but genuinely compliments Omar on his accent. Note that Omar was the only one who said he didn't speak Italian at all.
  • Playing Possum: Fredrick Zoller gets shot In the Back by Shosanna and sinks to the floor lifelessly, but when she comes closer to check up on him, he turns around and shoots her as well before dying.
  • Poirot Speak: Recognizable non-English words like merci and wunderbar are frequently (though not consistently) left untranslated in the subtitles. Not quite a straight usage, but the effect is similar.
  • Pretty in Mink: The glamorous movie star Bridget von Hammersmark wears a fox wrap.
  • Production Throwback: In Kill Bill, O-Ren Ishii switches to English over Japanese at a Yakuza board meeting to assert dominance over her fellow criminal leaders. At the end of Stolz der Nation Shoshanna also switches to English over German/French, to tell the Nazi viewers they're going to burn to death by the hands of a Jewish woman, and a black African-French man. Although she doesn't know, the British separately planned "Operation Kino" too, but either way, the Allies, with the lead of the UK and the US, would win after the death of the Nazis.
  • Propaganda Hero: Fredrick Zoller is a German private whose One-Man Army exploits in Italy are used by none other than Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to make him into a Nazi propaganda hero through the Film Within a Film Stolz der Nation (Nation's Pride).
  • Propaganda Piece: In-Universe; Goebbels' film is a glorified account of German sniper Zoller killing Americans.
  • Psycho for Hire: Hans Landa says that he's hunting Jews simply because Hitler called him down from the Alps to do the job. He has no personal grievance against Jews nor loyalty to the Nazis. He does, however, take a very sadistic satisfaction from his job.
  • Psycho Knife Nut: Raine and Stiglitz love their knives very much. Stiglitz dies stabbing the holy hell out of Gestapo noggin during a crazed shootout. He died as he lived, and doing what he loved.
  • Pull the Thread: Landa does this to Frau von Hammersmark and the Basterds at the theater lobby. First he puts holes into her I-broke-my-leg-mountain-climbing story, and then he exposes the Basterds as fake Italians.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The rank-and-file German soldiers are shown to be regular people with loyalty to their comrades and families.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Some viewers complained that Brad Pitt's (pretty much spot on) Appalachian accent was too over-the-top.
  • Red Baron: Landa is known as the "Jew Hunter," Aldo Raine is known as "Aldo the Apache," and Donny Donowitz is known as the "Bear Jew." Smithson Utivich is known as "the Little Man" (maybe — Landa might just have been fucking with him), which he discovers to his consternation in the end.
  • Red Herring: The motives for Hans Landa's arrival at the LaPadite farm are initially ambiguous. When he walks into the house, he remarks that he'd heard about the beauty of Pierre's daughters and states that the rumors were true while lasciviously kissing the hand of Charlotte. She stands awkwardly beside him for a while, exchanging several nervous looks with her father. When Landa asks to speak to Pierre alone, it seems as though he's about to discuss some romantic intentions toward Charlotte, but his business has nothing to do with her.
  • Red Shirt Army: The American soldiers in Nation's Pride, gunned down one after another by Zoller.
  • Remake Cameo: Although this isn't really a remake, Enzo G. Castellari, director of the namesake film The Inglorious Bastards, appears as a German general.
  • Repeat Cut: At least one example occurs that is the result of stylistic shoutouts to the Spaghetti Western genre. Namely, in Chapter 1, the timing it takes for Landa and the soldiers on the motor vehicle to arrive at LaPadite's dairy farm is completely inconsistent. When the camera shows them approaching the farm in the distance, they are shown passing the same tree next to the road three times.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: Despite being set in Nazi-occupied France during WWII, there's still the occasional comedy gem. Since the examples are mainly occasional comedy in a drama, see this subpage for examples (as mileage will undoubtedly vary).
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves:
    • At the end of the film, Aldo Raine honors part of his word by sparing Hans Landa's life for betraying the Nazis, but kills Landa's assistant and carves a swastika in Landa's forehead. However, in this case it's not the treachery that arouses Raine's disgust, it's ever being a Nazi in the first place.
    • This also seems to be Landa's attitude when he kills Bridget with his own hands.
  • Riddled and Rattled: At the ending when the basterds shoot Hitler and Goebells. They both twitch for a few seconds, with their bodies getting shredded before falling.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Figuratively throughout the film with two separate plans moving toward the same goal. Interestingly, both plans work and complete each other, rather than putting each other in jeopardy. And both groups never communicated, ever.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Basterds on a colossal scale, and also Shosanna. Roaring fire? Rampaging Bear Jew? Revenge of Shosanna? Check, check, and check. Tarantino is good at this one.
  • Rousing Speech: "My name is Lt. Aldo Raine, and I'm puttin' together a special team, and I need me eight soldiers. Eight. Jewish. American. Soldiers. You mighta heard rumors about the armada happening soon. Well, the truth is we'll be going in a little earlier. We're gonna be dropped into France dressed as civilians, and once we're in enemy territory, as a bushwhackin' guerrilla army, we're gonna be doin' one thing, and one thing only: killin' Nat-zees."

  • Satellite Character: Marcel to Shosanna, though he does bring up his own points and characterization during his little time on-screen.
  • A Scar to Remember: Lt. Aldo Raine's calling card is to carve swastikas into the foreheads of German soldiers ready to give up the uniform, to give them "something [they] can't take off."
  • Self-Deprecation: Zoller makes a lot of self-deprecating remarks while attempting to woo Shosanna, but it becomes increasingly clear that he has quite a large ego.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: As always for a Tarantino movie, in the midst of a tense and desperate negotiation, Aldo and Wilhelm have a brief argument about what specifically constitutes a “Mexican Standoff.”
  • Shaped Like Itself: What's Raine's problem with the choice of tavern where they have set up the meeting with Bridget von Hammersmark? It's that "Y'know, fightin' in a basement offers a lot of difficulties. Number One bein'... you're fightin' in a basement."
  • Shout-Out: This being a Tarantino film, there are many:
    • Brad Pitt's character Aldo Raine is likely a reference to film actor Aldo Ray, known for playing tough guys in war movies in the 1960s (mostly notably John Wayne's The Green Berets).
    • Hugo Stiglitz shares a name with a Mexican exploitation actor. Tarantino is a well known fan of B-movies. The actor Hugo Stiglitz was famous because of Tintorera and other action/adventure movies. There is a reason his name is actually presented with a visual fanfare (camera settles on him, the image freezes, and his name is superimposed on screen) akin to Video Credits.
    • Eli Roth's character takes the pseudonym of Antonio Margheriti, the name of a noted Italian B-movie director. This is particularly appropriate given that Roth's movies, Hostel and especially Hostel Part II, are homages to the Italian Giallo genre.
    • There are several references to Fight Club: Brad Pitt's character makes a comment about how he doesn't like to fight in basements, a character is manhandled while wearing a white-jacketed suit and a black bag over their head, a projectionist sneaks in a hidden message, a random bit of sex is spliced incongruously into a scene, and there's an upward-angle shot of Pitt menacing another character with a knife.
    • The film that the Nazis screen at Shoshanna's theater as a test-run for Nation's Pride is the 1936 comedy Glückskinder. Additionally, a song from that film can be heard playing during the bar scene.
    • The first scene, where Landa arrives at LaPadite's home to interrogate him, is eerily reminiscent of Angel Eyes's visit to Stevens in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
    • When the Basterds bust Stiglitz out of the clink, the music playing is Ennio Morricone's "Algiers November 1, 1954", from The Battle of Algiers (AKA the most badass commando music ever. You have to see the original scene.)
    • Show Within a Show Nation's Pride includes at least two shout-outs to Battleship Potemkin.
    • The film (Basterds, not Nation) features at least two songs from Kill Bill. Those are more likely shout-outs to the Spaghetti Westerns they were originally taken from.
    • The conversation in which a character tries to pretend he was born in a mountain village, and citing a popular skiing resort as proof, strongly resembles a scene in Marathon Man. In that film, however, the Nazi/Allied roles are reversed in the conversation.
    • The music playing while Marcel is heading behind the cinema screen (and while Zoller is on his way to see Shosanna in the projection booth) is lifted directly from the Kelly's Heroes soundtrack.
    • Donny blasting the hell out of Hitler's corpse with a furious grimace on his face is straight out of Come and See.
    • In the tavern, Landa is pointing out that Wicki and Stiglitz have been known to don German uniforms to ambush squads. This includes a cut where they are standing on a dirt road, stopping a truck. When the soldier speaks, Stiglitz, Wicki, and Omar let loose their submachine guns, killing the soldiers in the truck in a Bonnie and Clyde style attack.
    • In Hans Landa's first scene, he makes accurate deductions while holding a large calabash pipe, made famous by the detective Sherlock Holmes. The screenplay makes this homage explicit.
    • The pounding musical cue that plays when Shosanna encounters Landa in the restaurant is from the 1982 film The Entity, in which a woman is repeatedly raped by a demonic presence. Since Landa's sudden, traumatic reappearance in her life could be compared to a haunting, the connection is most likely deliberate.
    • Among the celebrity names written on the cards in the tavern scene are the now largely-forgotten American film actress Pola Negri and German actress Brigitte Helm. Negri's inclusion is especially appropriate since all her movies were lost in a vault fire because they were printed on nitrate film, the flammability of which becomes a crucial plot point.
    • According to Broken Lizard, Hellstrom's glass boot beer mug is a reference to Beerfest, which Tarantino even screened for the crew.
    • Zoller says that people call him "the German Sergeant York."
    • Quite a number of cinema luminaries of the period are name-dropped: Leni Riefenstahl (and her film The White Hell of Piz Palu), Max Linder, Charlie Chaplin (and his film The Kid (1921)), Louis B. Mayer, David O. Selznik, Van Johnson, and G.W. Pabst.
  • Show Within a Show: A significant portion of the film takes place during a screening of Nation's Pride, a fictional Nazi propaganda film.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The flammability of old nitrate film reels, which becomes a major plot point. Also, the differentiation of German and British hand gestures. And the explanation afterward from von Hammersmark.
    • When General Fenech and Winston Churchill are testing Lt. Hicox's knowledge of cinema, all of them drop a lot of period cinema knowledge.
      Fenech: This little escapade of ours requires a knowledge of the German film industry under the Third Reich. Explain to me UFA, under Goebbels?
      Hicox: Goebbels considers the films he's making to be the beginning of a new era in German cinema. An alternative to what he considers the Jewish German intellectual cinema of the twenties, and the Jewish-controlled dogma of Hollywood.
      Churchill: How's he doing?
      Hicox: Frightfully sorry, sir, once again?
      Churchill: You say he wants to take on the Jews at their own game? Compared to, say, Louis B. Mayer... How's he doing?
      Hicox: Quite well, actually. Since Goebbels has taken over, film attendance has steadily risen in Germany over the last eight years. But Louis B. Mayer wouldn't be Goebbels' proper opposite number. I believe Goebbels sees himself closer to David O. Selznick.
      Churchill: Brief him.
    • The spy-busting techniques are very accurate. Hicox being suspicious due to his accent and then giving himself away by using the British gesture for three would've been pretty far-fetched in any other movie. But other spies are trained to look very carefully for such minor details which are so ingrained into our cultural brains. German spies had it even tougher since they had to learn proper accents, dialects, phrases, and mannerisms for Americans, British, Irish, Australian, Canadians, and other English-speakers. It was very easy for a German spy to say "lift" instead of "elevator" around a group of Americans. Or "loo" instead of "washroom" around a bunch of Canadians.
  • Signature Item Clue: The shoe and autographed napkin left behind by Bridget von Hammersmark when fleeing a bar where several of the Basterds were involved in a fatal shootout with a German officer let Colonel Landa know she was present when he investigates the scene. The shoe is brought up again later, to Von Hammersmark's dismay.
  • Signed with a Kiss: German film actress (and secret spy for the Allies), Bridget von Hammersmark is approached by a soldier, who asks her for an autograph on behalf of his newborn son Max. After signing her name on a napkin, she adds a kiss that leaves a lipstick mark.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Neither Shoshanna nor Landa, the two most important characters, appeared much in the marketing. Most of the focus went to Brad Pitt/Aldo Raine. However, this probably isn't exclusively due to Pitt being the biggest name in the cast, but in part due to him being the most prominent exclusively English-speaking character. Shoshanna speaks French exclusively with the exception of one scene, and Landa only really speaks English in the opening scene and towards the end after the movie premiere goes to hell.
  • Slower than a Speeding Bullet:
    • Artistically subverted at the end of the opening scene. After the rest of her family is slaughtered, Shoshanna runs away from the house. Landa steps outside, takes out his gun and takes careful aim. By this time Shoshanna is already at fairly long range for a handgun, and is about to disappear over a nearby hill, but this is the point where most movies would add onto the bad guy's Villain Cred by having him shoot her. Instead Landa shrugs and decides not to shoot at the last moment, playfully/mockingly calling out an "Au revoir" (more or less saying "See you later") to Shoshanna.
    • After the brave Sergeant Rachtman dies a brutal death in front of his two remaining men, one of them panics and tries to run, and is immediately shot in the back, showing that he is not faster than a bullet.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Wilhelm is in the film for about five minutes, but the fact that his wife had a baby is why his entire unit is in the pub where von Hammersmark is supposed to be rendezvousing with the Basterds. Their presence there is the catalyst for Hicox blowing his cover and the ensuing chaotic shootout. This causes the Basterds to lose their native German speakers, who were supposed to go with her to the premiere. Bridget also gets shot in the leg and has to create a cover story about a mountain climbing accident. This all causes Operation Kino to not go as smoothly as anticipated.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Maj. Dieter Hellstrom, with his detective skills and cocky, smug attitude, clearly thinks he's some sort of Col. Hans Landa. That's the kind of thinking that will make you say "auf Wiedersehen" to your Nazi balls by a bullet at point-blank range.
    • Bridget von Hammersmark is a rare heroic example who sneers at the unfortunate and fatal mistakes made by Hicox, but who then doesn't think to take back her shoe or the autograph she gave Wilhelm. It gets her killed.
    • She was dead either way. The horrible accents would have given the Basterds away to Landa anyway, or at least given Landa enough of a reason to check her leg to see if it had really been broken in a mountain-climbing accident — and even if the rendezvous had gone as planned, he would almost certainly have recognized Stiglitz from the papers or picked up on Hicox's bizarre accent himself.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: All the Basterds can qualify for this, though Hugo Stiglitz is the one who really takes the cake.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The scene where Shosanna gets shot and killed in slow motion versus the rather romantic music being played over the top of it. Then there's an immediate cut to Omar and Donny preparing to take out the guards to Hitler's box with much different music.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Lt. Aldo Raine, of course. He even mentions on his Establishing Character Moment that he's a descendant of Jim Bridger and that he comes from the Appalachian mountains.
  • El Spanish "-o": Aldo's attempt to speak Italian. The result is quite... err.... incorrecto....
  • Spare a Messenger: The Basterds usually leave a survivor when they slaughter a German patrol, as they want to spread fear through the ranks — but not before carving a swastika into their foreheads, so even if they don't tell the story, other people will know it. That's how the story goes, anyhow. The Basterds actually spare the first Nazi willing to betray their side by telling the Basterds what they want to know. Obviously, this cowardice would be punishable by execution if the Nazi's superiors knew about it, to discourage other cowardly Nazis from doing it in the future. Hence, the official reason they're spared is to spread the word, and the Nazis' superiors are content to order them not to tell anyone.
  • Spot the Thread: Hellstrom is moved to suspicion upon hearing Hicox's accent, but the small detail that ultimately gives him away is using the wrong fingers to signal "three."
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa.
  • The Starscream: Landa, who has put explosives in Hitler's box, though this is actually just a backup plan in case the Basterds' plan fails. Either way, he hopes to take the credit for Hitler's death and be glorified by the Allies, instead of being tried for war crimes when the Germans inevitably lose, like the brilliant schemer he is.
  • Stealth Parody: Of WWII movies, especially of the behind-the-enemy-lines variety.
  • Stealth Pun: Ed Fenech to Lt. Hicox during his briefing: "The Basterds will be waiting for you."
  • Steel Ear Drums: Landa can hear Shosanna escaping, and does not even flinch after a few of his soldiers spray up the floorboards in a confined space. The soldiers might be wearing ear protection, but Landa sure isn't.
  • Stock Scream:
    • The infamous Wilhelm Scream is in a scene of Nation's Pride when a soldier is shot and falls into a fountain. Hitler reacts with laughter. This may seem like Anachronism Stew at first because the Wilhelm scream was first recorded to be used about a decade after the movie is supposed to have been set, in 1951. It's not unjustifiable, though, because the entire movie plays fast and loose with history, so the first movie to use this stock scream probably copied it from Nation's Pride in this version of history.
    • When the theater explodes, it sounds like they're using it again: actually, that time, it's Kurt Russell screaming at the end of Death Proof.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Hicox. Realizing he's been found out and is about to die, he nods, apologetically switches back to speaking English, and takes time to finish his drink, saying that "There's a special ring in Hell reserved for people who waste good Scotch."
  • Stylistic Suck: Nation's Pride, the Show Within a Show, can be watched in full as a special feature on the DVD release.
  • Suicide Mission: Implied for both plots:
    • Shosanna never discusses any plan to escape the theater after lighting it on fire. Her tearful goodbye to Marcel, and the fact that he bars the doors without hesitation, imply that this was the plan from the beginning.
    • Omar and Donny have have bombs strapped to their ankles and never remove them. They make no attempt to escape as the theater is burning down, implying that they were there to die fighting.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • American and British agents attempting to pass themselves off as native speakers of other languages get caught for their less-than-perfect accents, something that rarely happens in spy and trapped-behind-enemy-lines stories. Aldo's limited and terrible Italian is so noticeable that one doesn't even have to speak the language to know that it's wrong, and in the case of Hicox, even though he speaks fluent German, he doesn't have a native accent, and this is noticed as soon as he opened his mouth. While he briefly manages to salvage the situation with a semi-plausible cover story, he soon gives himself away by making a small cultural mistake, showing exactly how difficult it can be to infiltrate an entirely foreign culture and how much truly goes into trying to pass for a native.
    • Aldo comes up with a half-baked idea for Bridget to try to pass off her leg injury from the shootout as a result of mountain climbing, based on nothing more than a stereotype about Germans. While the idea of a glamorous socialite like Bridget trying her hand at mountain climbing is already highly implausible, there are no mountains around Paris close enough that she could have climbed, been injured, gotten treatment, and then shown up at the premiere with a cast as fresh as the one she's wearing, so this excuse falls apart instantly with Landa (who already had cause to be suspicious of her), and wouldn't work on anyone at all familiar with the geography around Paris.
    • Even though Marcel is a talented man, Shosanna is told that she is to man the reels during the premiere, since Goebbels refuses to let his premiere's success rest in the hands of a black man.
    • At the end of the film, Landa is completely at the mercy of a Jewish group of vicious and famed Nazi-hunting war criminals. They never planned to keep their word to a Nazi Jew-hunter.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: The security around the theater in the climax is remarkably light, considering that the entire German high command is there. Shosanna carries around a pistol, and she and Marcel have free reign of the theater. Omar and Donny are able to skulk around the corridor only 30 feet from Hitler and Goebbels, defended by only two guards who are apparently just staring at the wall across from them instead of watching the corridor entrances. How much of this is due to Landa's interference is ambiguous.
  • Switch to English:
    • Colonel Hans Landa starts speaking to LaPadite in French, and he suggests that they switch to English because it is better than his French. This is a lie, of course. His French is just as good as his English. The real reason is that the Jews that LaPadite is hiding do not speak English, and Landa doesn't want to alert them to his suspicions too soon.
    • Hicox switches to English after it's clear that he's about to die. The rest of the Germans at the table follow suit.
  • Sycophantic Servant: Goebbels is clearly this to Hitler. He's moved to tears when Hitler compliments his film.
  • Tearing Through the Movie Screen: Shosanna Dreyfus enacts her revenge upon the Nazis by hosting a film premiere for them at her theater, and then locking the doors and lighting a fire right behind the screen, which quickly grows to consume the rest of the theater thanks to all of the highly flammable material everywhere. She even takes the time to record a final message that she then splices into the film, timed to play just before the flames burst through the screen:
Shosanna: I have a message for Germany: that you are all going to die!
  • Tears of Fear:
    • LaPadite's eyes well up when it becomes apparent that Landa has his number.
    • Pvt. Butz when he hears Donny tapping on the wall of the tunnel and realizes what's coming.
  • Terror Hero: The Basterds' preferred tactic is to kill Nazis in such a brutal manner that any survivors give up out of fear.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In the climax, a crowd of people is locked in a cinema that is burning down on top of them while getting shot apart by two men with submachine guns until the whole damn building just blows up. During the same scene, Donowitz continues to pump bullets into the already very dead Hitler's face and head region; this was allegedly Eli Roth's idea — he told Tarantino that if he were in his character's place, he'd want to make absolutely sure the son of a bitch was dead. It also makes sense historically, since Hitler had already survived a number of assassination attempts.
  • Third Act Stupidity: Hans Landa is made out to be a smart mind, but in the final chapter he decides to trust his opponents' words and delivers himself to them without a backup plan. Of course, he possibly had no idea who he was dealing with. His deal with the Allies was legitimate, and any normal soldier probably would have delivered him and the other Nazi soldier to the Allies as he had planned. Unfortunately for him, Aldo isn't any normal soldier.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: It's clear that Raine and von Hammersmark know that their cover is blown when Landa starts laughing hysterically at the former's excuse of why her leg is broken and his reaction to the Basterds' pathetic attempts at Italian. They have little choice but to keep going, though.
  • This Means Warpaint: Shosanna nods to this trope in the middle of her Lipstick-and-Load Montage as she's preparing for her revenge against the Nazis, sharply smearing rouge across her cheekbones like it's warpaint before fading it in.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: It could be a second title, as this movie is the epitome of the trope.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Hellstrom acts a lot like Landa... but he lacks Landa's sense of self-preservation. One has to imagine that if Landa had been in Hellstrom's place at the bar, once he confirmed that that Hicox and the Basterds were not who they claimed to be, he would mostly like have politely excused himself and alerted someone else to do the grunt work of arresting everyone there (or otherwise covertly signaled for help, either from the soldiers or collaborating bartender), much as he does at the theater with Aldo and company. For some reason, Hellstrom decides to openly announce his intention to try to take down the multiple suspicious characters, and to do so by himself, without having any backup ready to immediately step in. (There are the drunken, oblivious soldiers at the other table, but by the time they get involved Hellstrom would have surely been shot, stabbed, or taken hostage by the enemy.) That kind of behavior gets you killed.
    • Von Hammersmark doesn't Know When to Fold 'Em or do nearly as much to cover her tracks as a spy should. She knows pretty much from the start that Raine's proposed alteration to Operation Kino is doomed, but the fact that Hitler himself will be attending makes her decide to push on regardless, despite the operation now facing impossible odds. It also never occurs to her that someone from the Basterds should return to the bar and make sure there are no clues or traces left behind that could point suspicion at them. This all leads directly to her death.
  • Translation Convention: Notably averted, unlike most more "serious" World War II movies. The Germans speak (subtitled) German, the French speak (subtitled) French, and the Americans and British speak English. In cross-cultural conversations, in one case it is outright stated that they will use English as a median language to accommodate both parties' unease with the other's language, in two cases interpreters are used, and in most other cases the German party yields to their counterpart's language, being that in most cases whomever they're talking to doesn't speak a word of German. Certain instances are pushing it, however, although not to a degree which breaks the suspension of disbelief.
  • Trunk Shot: Wouldn't be a Quentin Tarintino movie without one. In fact, there's two. Both of them involving a knife, blood, and a Nazi screaming in pain from having a swaztika carved into his forehead with said knife by Aldo Raine.
  • Truth in Television: Winston Churchill (who has a cameo) actually commissioned a team of British soldiers for special assignments behind enemy lines. The official records remain sealed to this day. Among the members were cousins Ian Fleming and Christopher Lee.
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: The shotgun-wielding bartender is among the victims of the bar Blast Out.
  • Villain by Default: Hitler, since he's the leader of the Nazi regime.
  • The Villain Must Be Punished:
    • At the end of the film, the Axis is doomed to be defeated swiftly by the Allies thanks to the Nazi Hans Landa selling out the top leadership in exchange for his own pardon. However, Lt. Aldo Raines is unwilling to let Landa go on with his life scot-free after everything he's done, so he breaks the rules and carves a swastika onto Landa's face, scarring him with the mark of a Nazi for life.
    • In a meta-sense, the film itself can be considered this trope, as it imagines an alternate history for World War II where Adolf Hitler was killed in revenge by Jews instead of committing suicide before any of the Allies could reach him.
  • Villains Out Shopping: The Nazis. They are shown having fun in a bar, attending a movie premiere, not to mention Hitler asks his SS guards for chewing gum. Lampshaded by Hicox, who dryly refers to the movie premiere as "the Master Race at play."
  • Villain Respect: Landa considers Raine a Worthy Adversary, and is a bit disappointed to discover that they simply aren't operating on the level of mutual respect he assumed.
  • Villain Protagonist: Hans Landa has more screen time than Aldo Raine and Shosanna Dreyfus.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Landa has one at the very end of the film when he realizes that Aldo Raine has no intention of extending his honor to any Nazi, turncoat or not.
  • War Is Glorious: Extensively played with.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Basterds to the core.
  • Wham Line: "So, gentlemen, what shall the history books read?"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There are nine original Basterds total. Wicki dies in the bar, Aldo and Utivich survive, a minor Basterd is seen in the background at the animal clinic, and Donny and Omar die in the theater. This means there are four Basterds unaccounted for by the end of the film. The one in the background at the animal clinic, Kagan, also mysteriously vanishes between that scene and the final scene in the cinema According to Word of God, any Basterds not seen in the bar or subsequent scenes are dead.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: In-story, the German radio operator is shot by the Basterds because they wanted another dead Nazi. Aldo explains that the brass only needs Landa, and will only "chew him out" for the action.
  • Wicked Cultured: Landa personifies this trope, having fluency in multiple languages, among other skills.
  • World of Ham: Oh come on! We have Brad Pitt, Adolf Hitler, and a lot more out there.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: As stated in the trailer, the Nazis "conquered Europe through murder, torture, intimidation, and terror. And that's exactly what [the Basterds] are gonna do to them." Landa says of Operation Kino that "some would call it [a] terrorist plot." The Basterds' attack on the movie theater? Yep, they're suicide bombers.

"You know somthin', Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece."


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Alternative Title(s): Inglorious Basterds


Nazi Dies for His Country

Even if he is a soldier for Nazi Germany, it's hard not to admire his brave refusal to sell out his fellow soldiers in the face of a brutal beatdown.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

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Main / VillainousValour

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