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Film / Lawrence of Arabia

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Jackson Bentley: What is it, Major Lawrence, that attracts you personally to the desert?
T.E. Lawrence: It's clean.

Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 historical epic film directed by David Lean, dramatizing British Army officer T. E. Lawrence's activities leading the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War I.

Producer Sam Spiegel purchased the rights to Lawrence's own 1922 account of his experiences in the Middle East, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, for Lean (who'd previously helmed the Spiegel-produced The Bridge on the River Kwai to great success) to direct. Lawrence took two years to make, shooting in locations like Jordan, Morocco and Spain. When finally released, it won many awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture, and remains highly-regarded by most critics decades later. The movie is intelligently written and well-acted, although some critics have issues with the historical accuracy. On a visual note, it contains some absolutely beautiful desert scenery, and Peter O'Toole is terribly pretty in the title role.

The film was twice subjected to major cuts, being reduced from its initial 222-minute length down to 187 minutes by the early '70s. Much of the missing footage was misplaced by Columbia Pictures until the 1989 restoration (216 minutes). David Lean approved of the first round of cuts, but later blamed them on Sam Spiegel. In 2012, the film was given a limited theatrical re-release both to celebrate its 50th anniversary and to show off a new screen technology known as Ultra-High Definition resolution.

Famously one of the all-time favorite films of Steven Spielberg, who has cited the legendary Match Cut as being one of the seminal inspirations for him taking up filmmaking as a career. He eagerly spearheaded a restoration of the film for DVD, with the assistance of Martin Scorsese.

Omar Sharif plays Lawrence's buddy (and subtextual lover) Sherif Ali. Alec Guinness appears as the cynical power player Prince Faisal. Anthony Quinn perfects Large Ham as an Arab warlord, Auda abu Tayi. José Ferrer plays the sadistic Turkish Bey at Deraa. And Claude Rains makes one of his last film appearances as Dryden, a manipulative English agent.

Premiere magazine ranked O'Toole's performance as the title character as the greatest in film history.

Contains examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: Original posters, trailers and TV spots highlighted (among others in the Ensemble Cast) Oscar-winner José Ferrer playing the Turkish Bey. This although Ferrer had only about four minutes of total screen time (though in an admittedly memorable scene).
  • Affably Evil: Dryden. Charming, soft-spoken and cultured, while cheerfully and cynically manipulating everyone around him.
  • Agent Peacock: When first dressed in Arabian garb Lawrence is very enamored with his own appearance. While perhaps a few feathers shy of full Camp Gay, Lawrence is nevertheless masochistic and mincing. At first.
  • The Alliance: And collecting the various Feuding Families to form this is a large part of the movie.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Lawrence. In real life, his relations with his male "companions" were (and are) considered very suspect.
    • Real life speculation about Lawrence's sexuality seems to oscillate between two extremes: he was either entirely asexual, or a masochistic gay man.
    • The Girly Skirt Twirl (see below) isn't very subtle.
    • Then there's Ali talking about his feelings. "If I fear him, who love him, how must he fear himself who hates himself?"
    • David Lean confirmed this: "Yes. Of course it is. Throughout. Lawrence was very, if not entirely, homosexual. We thought we were being very daring at the time: Lawrence and Ali, Lawrence and the Arab boys."
    • Daud and Farraj have an almost romantic devotion to each other. This part of their characterization could have been drawn from T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, in which they were explicitly described as a couple.
  • And Starring: The opening credits have "and Donald Wolfit, With Omar Sharif as Ali," and "Introducing Peter O'Toole as T.E. Lawrence". The film cemented the international reputation of the previously little-known Sharif (famous in the Middle East but not elsewhere) and O'Toole (previously a stage actor first and foremost). Wolfit, meanwhile, was an established actor (and mentor to O'Toole) but had only a minor role in the film.
  • Answer Cut: "I wonder where they are now?" Cut to aftermath of Turkish massacre.
  • Anti-Hero: Over the course of the film Lawrence becomes this, sliding right down the scale from straightforward hero to Nominal Hero or at best Unscrupulous Hero.
  • Anti-Villain: Allenby's somewhere between this and Punch-Clock Villain. He's clearly uncomfortable with some of the actions he's forced to take, assuaging his conscience with protests that he's Just Following Orders. Though in fairness, as a general he's not in much position to protest. Lampshaded late in the film:
    Dryden: Do you think it was worth it?
    Allenby: Not my business. Thank God I'm a soldier.
    Dryden: Yes, sir. So you keep saying.
  • Arch-Enemy: General George Allenby, the Turkish Bey, and Mr. Dryden to T.E. Lawrence.
  • Armchair Military: Played with by British command promoting and supplying Lawrence once his tactics prove effective.
  • At Least I Admit It: Dryden chides Lawrence for expressing disgust at the Sykes-Picot Treaty, which divides the post-war Middle East between Britain and France:
    "If we've told lies, you've told half-lies. And the man who tells lies, like me, merely hides the truth. But the man who tells half-lies has forgotten where he's put it."
  • Badass Boast: Auda abu Tayi gets a doozy.
    "I carry twenty-three great wounds all got in battle. Seventy-five men have I killed with my own hands in battle. I scatter and burn my enemy's tents. I take away their flocks and herds. The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet I am poor! Because I am a river to my people!"
  • Badass Bookworm: Lawrence is well-versed in several languages and is shown doing cartography along with being primarily desktop military before he was assigned his mission. For someone who works indoors in a white collar job and from a nation with a very cold climate, he's shown to be quite hardy, able to endure the desert environment and adapt to the nomadic lifestyle rather quick. Before the conquest of Aqaba, no one thought he'd be skilled in waging desert warfare.
    "'I cannot fiddle, but I can make a great state from a little city.' - Thermistocles"
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Lawrence starts off as this.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: When Lawrence is going through a personal crisis over his cultural belonging, he awkwardly attempts to chat up two other officers using typical British niceties, only for one of them to state to the other that he "lays it on a bit thick" the minute they think he is out of earshot.
  • Battle Butler: Farraj and Daud, Lawrence's two servants.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Lawrence wants to get out of his desk job and is excited about being sent to Arabia where he sees helping the revolt as a kind of grand adventure. It doesn't go well for him.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Subverted, in that Sherif Ali kills Lawrence's guide but offers to bring Lawrence to Prince Faisal so he will not be lost in the desert. And then Lawrence refuses, getting himself safely to Wadi Safra and the Prince.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Lawrence becomes an Ax-Crazy, ruthless Blood Knight after what happened with the Turks. Given what's implied to have happened to him, his anger is understandable even if his actions aren't.
  • Berserker Tears: Lawrence sheds these during battle as he gives in to the chaos.
  • Big Good: Faisal to the Arab revolt.
  • Bittersweet Ending/Downer Ending: At the end of the movie, Lawrence has succeeded in reaching and taking Damascus with his Arab cavalry. He was also unsuccessful in uniting the Arab tribes, was tortured by the enemy, and his relationship with Sherif Ali ends with Ali storming out of his life in tears. Oh, and he dies years later in a motorcycle crash (as shown in the beginning). However, Lawrence has inspired Ali to dream of a future where Arabia is united under democracy. And Lawrence's actions gave Faisel leverage against the European countries. So despite his initial failure, he was able to help the Arabs take some initial steps towards the freedom he desired for them.
  • Blade Reflection: Lawrence uses his dagger blade as an impromptu mirror to check out how he looks in his snazzy new white robes. This was Peter O'Toole's idea.
  • Blasphemous Boast:.
    • When Lawrence is leaving at night, taking 50 men with him to conquer Aqaba:
      Faisal: And where are you going, lieutenant, with 50 of my men?
      Lawrence: To work your miracle.
      Faisal: Blasphemy is a bad beginning for such a journey.
    • After taking Aqaba, Lawrence is confident that he can cross the Sinai desert safely and inform his superiors about the siege. He compares himself to Moses, which offends Auda.
      Auda: In ten days you will cross Sinai?
      Lawrence: Why not? Moses did.
      Auda: Moses was a prophet and beloved of God!
  • Blood Knight: Lawrence's expressed aversion to violence is in fact an effort to suppress this part of his personality. At a meeting with Allenby Lawrence tells about having to execute a murderer in his army. Allenby expresses sympathy, but Lawrence explains the real problem: "I enjoyed it." The real Lawrence had no such feelings; in fact, it was just the opposite. The real Lawrence was traumatized for the rest of his life, and according to O'Toole, after the execution, Lawrence was found in a Troubled Fetal Position, sobbing. It was part of his becoming a seriously Shell-Shocked Veteran. He was outraged by the unnecessary violence by the Arabs.
  • Book Ends: The film begins with Lawrence's death in a reckless motorcycle accident. The rest of the film, which is told in flashback, ends with Lawrence being driven along a road in a staff car, while a man on a motorcycle speeds by and recklessly passes him.
    • Also near the film's midpoint before the intermission, when Lawrence and Farraj reach the Suez Canal they stop a man passing on a motorcycle for help to get to Cairo.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Faisal wishes he were alive in Medieval Cordoba.
  • Brains and Bondage: Not explicitly stated (it being 1962 and all), but the film implies that Lawrence might have a bit of a kinky streak what with his fondness for putting out matches with his fingers. Also that there might be a sexual component to his love of killing.
  • Brick Joke: "You, sir! I'd like to shake your hand!" Which he remembers proudly while criticising Bentley for describing Lawrence as "the biggest showoff since Barnum and Bailey" as they both leave his funeral at the beginning of the film... unaware that the same man he was so proud to have met was the one he slapped across the face while yelling a racial epithet after discovering him upon arrival at a filthy, underequipped hospital.
  • Brownface: Alec Guiness, an English actor, plays Prince Faisal, an Arab.
  • Camp Straight: Lawrence's actual sexuality is never touched upon (although subtext can read in any direction). But his overall mannerisms come across as rather dainty, as he is an admitted intellectual and his body language makes him look like he is prancing around at times. His adoration of himself in Arabian attire for the first time adds to it, as well as his general good looks.
  • The Chains of Commanding: It's clear that the effort of trying to keep his army together and fighting in the face of superior Turkish forces is really taking it out of Faisal. He doesn't like having to rely on the British for help but knows he doesn't have any other options if he wants to win the war. Then when Allenby accuses him of being hard, he admits that that's what it takes to be king.
  • Character Development: Lawrence obviously, though in fits and starts. Sherif Ali and Colonel Brighton both undergo significant arcs through the story as well.
  • Cheated Death, Died Anyway: After leading the Arab cavalry through the Nefud (an inhospitable region of sand dunes) during the night, Lawrence finds one of his men, Gasim, got separated from the group and is now lost. His advisors tell Lawrence that Gasim is as good as dead now that the Sun is up, but Lawrence rides back anyway and successfully rescues him. Not long after, a quarrel amongst the Arabs leaves one man dead, and Lawrence realizes the only way to prevent this from spinning into a Cycle of Revenge is if he executes the murderer himself. As it turns out, the murderer is none other than Gasim — and Lawrence does his duty and executes him.
  • The Chessmaster: Allenby and Faisal spend as much time plotting against each other as fighting the Turks.
  • Chromosome Casting: All of the named characters are men. In fact, there aren't any female speaking parts - it's generally believed to be the longest film in existence with no female speaking roles at all.
  • Circassian Beauty: The Turkish Bey asks Lawrence if he is Circassian, noting his blue eyes. The significance of this question is likely to be missed by most modern audiences, but as scholar Charles E. King observes, "it points unmistakably toward the homoerotic" and subtly sets up Lawrence's rape while imprisoned, noting that "the bey's question concerning his captive's ethnic origins follows a well-worn cultural groove — the equation of Circassians, and often Caucasus peoples in general, with sex."
  • Colonel Badass: Lawrence is a Lieutenant Colonel by the end.
  • Comforting Comforter: Sherif Ali tucks Lawrence in on a couple of occasions.
  • Composite Character: Sherif Ali (Ali ibn el-Kharish) was loosely based on Faisal's brother, but is a mix of different Arab leaders since no one figure was with Lawrence the whole time. There is a Harith chief named Ali mentioned in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but he's a minor figure whom Lawrence only meets two or three times. On another level, he is meant to embody the spirit of emerging nationalism.
    • Many of the British officers, as well as Dryden, are also composite characters.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Lawrence is caught between loyalty to his country and the Arab Revolt. In fact he talked much of this in Real Life, though when you think of it, it is inevitable in any officer seconded to an allied force. But in any case it is considerably dramatized here.
  • Consummate Liar: Lampshaded to an extent when Dryden responds to Lawrence's outburst that "There may be honour among thieves, but there is none among polititians!" by noting, "If we've told lies, you've told half-lies. And the man who tells lies, like me, merely hides the truth. But the man who tells half-lies has forgotten where he put it."
  • Cool Horse: Auda Abu Tayi's favorite part of the Plunder, when they seize a Turkish train and he comes away with a handsome white horse.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Lawrence invokes this when planning his raid on Aqaba.
    "If fifty men rode out of the Nefud, they would be fifty men other men might join."
  • Creator Cameo: David Lean voices the motorcyclist who asks Lawrence "Who are you?" at the Suez Canal. Robert Bolt plays one of the officers (smoking a pipe) watching Lawrence's first conference with Allenby. Numerous other crewmembers play bit parts.
  • Crossing the Desert: Happens at least once, naturally, first when joining Prince Faisal with the guide, then crossing the Nefud with the rest of Faisal's squad, then going back into the Nefud to find Gasim. Also doubles as a Thirsty Desert.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Lawrence is viewed to be eccentric and insubordinate in Cairo, so much that the commanding general openly treats him with contempt. All that changes when he gets to Arabia.
  • Cunning Linguist: Lawrence learned Arabic during archaeological digs in the Levant before the Great War, and apparently went native to some extent.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Sherif Ali wears black robes to contrast our hero's white robes and khaki uniforms, but he's a loyal friend.
  • Dated History: Besides the Hollywood History below, the depiction of Lawrence as a sadist who enjoys killing can be traced to several critical Lawrence biographies (by Richard Aldington and Anthony Nutting) written shortly before the movie's release, something which most modern historians discount. Not coincidentally, Nutting served as an advisor to the filmmakers. On the other hand, showing him as a masochist who liked receiving pain has become widely accepted.
  • Death from Above: Lawrence and Ali witness Turkish soldiers under artillery bombardment:
    Ali: God help the men who lie under that.
    Lawrence: (dismissively) They're Turks.
    Ali: (more insistently) God help them.
  • Dead Hat Shot: The goggles hanging from the bush early on, signifying Lawrence's death in the motorcycle accident.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Lawrence is arrested by a Turkish general who picks him from a line-up of other young men. He immediately starts pawing Lawrence and remarking on his attractive face, skin and eyes. Lawrence realizes what's going on and kicks the general in the groin, after which Lawrence is brutally beaten as the Bey watches. This scene corresponds to a chapter of the real Lawrence's memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom, where he explicitly recounts being gang raped. Lawrence is a potential aversion as he himself was gay and that's abundantly clear in the book, but that was completely left out of the movie.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Lawrence crosses it following Daraa, becoming more broken and bitter.
  • Don't Say Such Stupid Things!: There is an interesting version of the trope. "All right, all right, I am exceptional."
  • Dramatization: It's based on history, but they took some liberties for dramatic effect.
  • Epic Movie: One of the most famous examples, though in many ways it's also a Deconstruction of the Epic Hero, in that the film posits that one person, no matter how remarkable or adventurous cannot truly be bigger than his surroundings, time and place. The opening scene which shows many of Lawrence's friends and associates discussing him second hand and without feeling implies that the actions which seemed so significant to Lawrence and newspaper readers at the time had by 1936 become yesterday's news in the context of England and the world.note 
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Subverted. Lawrence is ashamed that he's a bastard (his father didn't marry his mother) and tries to conceal it, and Ali is clearly initially uncomfortable with it when Lawrence tells him.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Bagpipes are played when a Highland regiment of the British army moves towards Damascus.
  • A Father to His Men: Lawrence impresses the men under his command when he makes a dangerous trek back into the desert to save a straggler.
  • Feuding Families: Major source of problems amongst Arab tribes throughout the film.
  • The Film of the Book: A loose adaptation of Lawrence's memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
  • Finale Title Drop: The title "Lawrence of Arabia" is never spoken in the film but it appears as a headline in the newspaper towards the end.
  • Finger Extinguisher: T.E. Lawrence has a tendency to put out his matches' flame by pinching it between two of his fingers. At one point he's asked by one of his friends if it hurts and Lawrence makes clear that it does, but the important part is to not mind about it.
  • Flowery Insults: A spare but pointy exchange:
    Auda abu Tayi: Harith! Ali, does your father still steal?
    Sherif Ali: No. Does Auda take me for one of his own bastards?
    Auda abu Tayi: No, there is no resemblance. Alas, you resemble your father.
    Sherif Ali: Auda flatters me.
    Auda abu Tayi: You're easily flattered. I knew your father well.
    Sherif Ali: Did you know your own?
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Lawrence's guide, whom he thinks of as a friend. He becomes friends with Ali, the man who killed him, quite quickly.
  • Futile Hand Reach: Lawrence does this towards Daud, who just sank into quicksand.
  • Freudian Trio:
    • Ego: Lawrence, a quiet, calculating man who only acts before careful deliberation. Freud believed that the ego is the conscious manifestation of a man and the part of him which the world sees (just as Lawrence is the face and title of the film), and that it is constantly trying to balance the desires of the basal, instinctive id and the moralistic superego just as Lawrence takes battle advice throughout the film from his two commanders, Auda and Ali. The scene before the Arab Army massacres a band of Turks while on its way to take Damascus before the British is about as great a demonstration of the role Freud believed the ego played as one can get: Auda (id) and Ali (superego) lean over his shoulders, each shouting what they think should be done about the Turks on the horizon (who have themselves just departed from and burning and slaughtering the inhabitants of a village the Arabs have just ridden into) into his ears, leaving him to choose whose advice to follow. Ali's advice? "Damascus, Aurens. Think of Damascus"; his advice is to stick to the plan and not take lives for revenge. Very moralistic. Auda's advice? After a soldier in Lawrence's cavalry charges toward the Turks, sword drawn, in defiance of Lawrence's order to wait as he deliberates with his commanders, Lawrence starts to ride off to stop him. Auda then interrupts: "No, Aurens. This was his village." Lawrence listens to Auda.
    • Id: Auda Abu Tayi, a battle-hardened warrior who readily switches the allegiance of the Howeitat to Lawrence's side when offered a greater sum of loot for his labors. He is prone to outbursts of rage, furiously smashing Bentley's camera when he attempts to take Auda's picture (Auda believes cameras 'steal his soul'), for instance. He is extremely self-centered as well, only embarking with Lawrence on his campaigns to destroy the Turkish railways through Arabia so he can plunder their trains' cargo for himself. His Badass Boast to Lawrence and Ali (even if it is completely justified; he proves himself a badass several times later in the film) when they invite him to join the Arab Revolt clearly demonstrates his lofty view of himself, just as the id epitomizes self-centeredness.
    • Superego: Sherif Ali, a proud, intelligent leader who is always thinking of what is best for the greater good. He shows rabid opposition when Lawrence leaves the Aqaba raiding party while they are crossing the Nefud in order to rescue Gazim, as in this case, the saving of one man might mean the destruction of all the party's men and any resistance to the Turks. He is a Sherif of the Harith tribe, and thus a guardian to his people and its ideals just as the superego grapples with morality and higher realms of thought. He is the most meditative character in the film, and concerns himself so much with matters of what is right that after his land is freed from the Turks, he hopes to become a politician in Faisal's new kingdom.
  • General Failure: General Murray, Lawrence's initial commander. After hearing Murray's relieved of command, Lawrence remarks "That's a step in the right direction!"
  • Genre Deconstruction: The film is often cited as the archetypal Epic Movie, even though it largely subverts the genre's conventions. The hero isn't an upright, masculine strongman but a neurotic, Ambiguously Gay genius; there's no outright love interest (unless you count Sherif Ali); the elements (namely the desert), and the hero's own commanding officers, are more of an obstacle than the enemy; the Arabs have their own ambitions which often run counter to Lawrence's. Even the battle scenes are marginalized, David Lean preferring Scenery Porn over bloodshed. It culminates in a Downer Ending where the protagonist gives in to mindless killing, the Arabs collapse, the British take over, and Lawrence can't even claim a moral victory.
  • Girly Skirt Twirl: A pretty rare example of this trope being played straight with a male character. Lawrence does this after he is given Arab-style robes to replace his British Army khakis.
  • Going Native: A Discussed Trope in the film. Lawrence's superiors wonder if he's going native, and one of Lawrence's internal conflicts is that he wishes he could, but he knows he can never be truly accepted by the Arabs as one of them. His friends and colleagues in the Arab Revolt fluctuate between seeing him as an English adventurer Glory Hound (Prince Faisal at first, Auda Abu Tayi later) and a genuine Arab sympathizer, who however cannot truly commit to the revolt because of his position and personal character.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Auda beheading a Turkish soldier during the first train attack.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: No side comes off looking particularly good in this film, and all of the characters have varying degrees of moral ambiguity.
  • Guile Hero: Lawrence.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Brighton goes from stuffy martinet to admirer of Lawrence after the latter captures Aqaba. He's pushed even further during the Damascus scene, as he urges Allenby to help the Arabs (and is callously ignored).
  • Heroic Bastard: Lawrence. Literally, as he's a formidable soldier whose biological parents were not married.
  • Heroic BSoD: Lawrence has one after he's unable to save Daud from quicksand. After his disastrous foray into Daraa, he crosses the Despair Event Horizon.
  • He Will Not Cry, so I Cry for Him: Lawrence and his Arab followers have succeeded in defeating the Turks, but their own internal squabbles have doomed any attempt at forming a united post-independence government before it began, leaving Lawrence broken and disillusioned. Sherif Ali, witnessing the defeated Lawrence, begins weeping, and when confronted by Auda abu Tayi over why he weeps for a man he claims to fear rather than love, he replies, "Because if I fear him who love him, how must he fear himself who hates himself?"
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: The film portrays the Arab Revolts successes as being almost entirely Lawrence's creation and ignores how there were other many British officers who played just as much a major role as he did in expelling the Ottomans from the Arabic speaking regions including Allenby. On top of that the film also neglected just how much of a role the Arab tribal leaders played in the role in planning military acts and commanding in the battlefield and credits all military brilliance the Arab guerrillas did to his leadership.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Not that the real Lawrence was hideous or anything, but he was fairly homely especially compared to the frankly gorgeous Peter O'Toole.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The film's treatment of General Edmund Allenby drew considerable criticism. The real Allenby was a skilled general who was friendly with Lawrence and much more sympathetic to the Arabs than the film suggests. For instance, he served as Egypt's High Commissioner in the early '20s and threatened to resign if London didn't grant Egypt independence. In the movie he's equal parts Armchair Military and Manipulative Bastard who hides behind his military duties to excuse his actions. Robert Bolt wrote that he respected Allenby and tried to make him a sympathetic character, but it's not really evident in the finished movie.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: This is how the Turks are fought.
    Lawrence: "We can cross Arabia while Johnny Turk is still turning around. I'll smash his railways. And while he's fixing them I'll smash them somewhere else."
  • Hollywood Darkness: It's obvious by the shadows cast in the sand that all nightly desert scenes were shot during day time.
  • Hollywood History: A very, VERY reliable source for it.
    • The British general staff and Lawrence were on overwhelmingly good terms save for a few exceptions. Lawrence was, however, quite contemptuous of the military rank-and-file and their strategic objectives (he saw it as his aim to subvert the Sykes-Picot agreement which wanted to divvy up Syria instead of creating an Arab state). Secondly, the taking of Aqaba was not a glorious cavalry charge into the town but a prolonged melee for a pillbox a few miles outside of town. Thirdly, the relations with the Saudi-dominated Najd are almost completely ignored when in fact they were a crucial part of diplomacy Lawrence was involved in. And this is before we get into the issue of who exactly liberated Damascus (Western Allies or Arab rebels), which is STILL a matter of pride that is fiercely contested to this day. The screenwriter, Robert Bolt, based the movie off of Lawrence's memoirs because there were too many conflicting sources; the accuracy of his writings has been brought under serious scrutiny by recent historians.
    • In keeping with the Hollywood attitude of the time, Capitaine Rosario Pisani and other Gauls with Grenades, such as the adjudant Lamotte, who rode the 1000 km to Aqaba with Lawrence, are not even mentioned. To be fair, Pisani wrote only 60 pages about his mission, mostly still classified, compared to the 800 public pages of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and the Foil of most French soldiers compared to the Arabs was not as large as the one with Lawrence, since they mostly grew up and learnt to fight in Maghreb with Arabs and against Arabs.
    • Perhaps the biggest (and to some, most insulting) alteration is the ending, which shows Faisal's "Arab Council" collapsing from in-fighting, Damascus degenerating into chaos, and the British (after having refused to help Faisal) taking over. While there was tension and occasional violence between the different Arab factions (mostly between Faisal's Bedouin and the Damascus-based "city Arabs"), it didn't cause Faisal's government to disintegrate. In fact, Faisal's kingdom lasted through 1921, when the French army invaded Syria. Also, the Turks and their German allies destroyed much of Damascus while evacuating - a more proximate cause for the chaos than Arab incompetence. Neither did Allenby refuse to help Faisal, a depiction the General's family bitterly resented.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: And one just barely hidden, too. There are no important female characters to speak of, Lawrence is a swishy, campy fellow and the central emotional relationship between him and Sherif Ali famously plays out near-identically to a romance. David Lean, the director was very candid about their homosexual relationship during interviews.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: One of Lawrence's major internal conflicts is between this and I Just Want to Be Normal.
  • Iconic Outfit: Lawrence's lovely white Arab clothes are the outfit for any hero crossing the desert. Granted, that's the practical outfit for crossing the desert, but still.
  • Impassable Desert: Invoked with the Nefud. "It cannot be crossed!" Yes, it can.
  • Implied Rape: The scene where Lawrence is captured at Derra. What exactly happened to him is never discussed, but the way the commander handles and talks about him, the extent to which Lawrence is emotionally destroyed in the aftermath, and the way he talks about it strongly suggest that it was more than just a beating that took place.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes/Icy Blue Eyes: O'Toole's eyes almost seem to shift with his character. At the beginning of the film they seem to fit with his naiveté but as the film progresses they start to look much colder.
  • In-Joke: Lean uses a Kenneth J. Alford march, The Voice of the Guns as a leitmotif for the British Army. A more famous Alford tune was the theme song of his previous movie.
  • Intermission: It's long enough to need one. In this film, it occurs when General Allenby, Mr Dryden, and Colonel Brighton discuss how they will aid Lawrence and the Arab Revolt.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Mr. Bentley, who goes on campaigns through the desert with Lawrence.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Ali has a tendency to refer to members of other Arab tribes as "that" instead of "he" or "him", to Lawrence's disgust. This reflects the sectarian attitude between the tribes at the time, something Lawrence decries in the film.
  • It's All About Me: How Lawrence sees the Arab Revolt to some extent; Faisal calls him on this right away.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: General Murray, who is depicted to be a blowhard and a General Failure, especially compared to his replacement Allenby, asks Dryden:
    "Does the Arab Bureau want a big thing in Arabia? If they [the Bedu] ride against the Turks does the Bureau think they're going to sit quietly under us when this war is over?"
  • Judgment of Solomon: Lawrence's friend Gasim murders a man from another tribe. For him not to be executed would shame the wronged tribe and ruin the tentative alliance and consequently the plan to sack Aqaba; for the wronged tribe to execute the murderer would simply escalate the Cycle of Revenge and would also threaten the alliance. To fend off the dispute, Lawrence, to his distaste, personally carries out the execution because as an outsider, he can do it without the tribal implications.
  • Just Following Orders: General Allenby's fallback excuse:
    Dryden: You give them artillery and you've made them independent.
    Allenby: Then I can't give them artillery, can I?
    Dryden: For you to say, sir.
    Allenby: No, it's not. I've got orders to obey, thank God. Not like that poor devil. He's riding the whirlwind.
    Dryden: Let's hope we're not.
  • Kill the Cutie: The sprightly teenage orphans Daud and Farraj accompany Lawrence in his adventures, only for Daud to be lost to quicksand, and Farraj is mortally wounded in an accident with a detonator and mercy-killed by Lawrence.
  • The Lancer: Sherif Ali (played by Omar Sharif).
  • Large Ham:
    • Lawrence was Peter O'Toole's first starring role, and he'd mostly done stage work up until then. As a result, his performance was a little...outsized. Subverted by the fact that Lawrence, as portrayed in the film, pretty much exemplified this trope as well. Of course, the stage doesn't get any bigger than a vast desert.
    • Anthony Quinn is hammy as Auda. He roars around like a big child, and at one point he walks across a table to yell at someone. And Jose Ferrer shows up for a whole scene to be a big, creepy, creepy ham.
  • Last Breath Bullet: One soldier during the train attack fires his gun at Lawrence with his last strength. He can only wound him though before getting beheaded.
  • Laughing Mad: Lawrence several times, most notably the hospital scene near the end.
  • Leave No Survivors: "NO PRISONERS!" Directed at a column that had just slaughtered some villagers.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The film features many long shots of majestic landscapes set to soaring music. It's been said you can tell a person's age by whether they're enthralled or bored out of their mind.
  • Life Will Kill You: After all his dangerous adventures, Lawrence dies years later in a road accident on his motorcycle. And at the beginning of the film, no less.
  • Logo Joke: Sort of — the Columbia logo is merely a still painting. This was because there was no 70mm version of the logo available to use. This was plastered with the standard Columbia logo for some time on re-releases, VHS and on TV, until the 1989 restoration.
  • Lovable Rogue:
    • Auda abu Tayi.
    • Also, to a lesser extent, Lawrence and Daud/Farraj.
  • Love Hurts: Achingly shown with Ali's bitter, angry tears when he realizes Lawrence is defeated.
  • Macho Masochism: Less flashy example when Lawrence pinches out a burning match. Notably, masochism seems to be the one aspect of Peter O'Toole's Lawrence that historians agree is pretty much dead-on.
    "The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."
  • Magnetic Hero: Lawrence. Ali and Auda both are both good examples, as well.
  • Majorly Awesome: Lawrence is promoted from lieutenant to major in charge of leading the Arab guerilla forces against the Turks after successfully taking Turkish-held Aqaba.
  • Male Gaze: This film is a rare instance of it being exclusively directed on other men. For instance the scene where Ali walks into the tent has a long slow pan up his body from Lawrence's point of view. This is a shot normally used to indicate that the character in question is a love interest (in his essay on the film Martin Scorsese pointed out that in Film Noir the Femme Fatale is often introduced like this). Make of that what you will. Also the scene where Lawrence is stripped and beaten by the Turkish soldiers has a lot of lingering shots of half naked Peter O'Toole.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Twice Lawrence returns from the desert emotionally shattered and requesting reassignment. Twice Allenby persuades Lawrence to go back.
  • Match Cut: A particularly famous (and literal) one, when Lawrence blows out a match, cutting to the sun rising over the Arabian desert.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • Early in the film, Lawrence's Bedouin guide is shot by a man from another tribe (Sherif Ali), for drinking from his well. Angry, Lawrence yells at his retreating back, "So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people; greedy, barbarous and cruel, as you are." Later in the second half of the film, Lawrence's men slaughter a unit of Turks in revenge-fueled lust (in which Lawrence himself snaps and kills at least two dozen Turks himself). Later, when Mr. Bentley arrives at the scene, stunned, Sherif Ali essentially parrots what Lawrence had said to him before:
      "Does it surprise you, Mr Bentley? Surely, you know the Arabs are a barbarous people. Barbarous and cruel. Who but they! Who but they!"
    • "Nothing is written!" and several variants are repeated throughout the film.
    • Lawrence admiring himself in the blade of his dagger, just after Ali presents him with his Arab robes. Much later, Lawrence repeats the gesture during the final massacre.
  • Memetic Badass: Lawrence, in-universe;
    "Don't you know I can only be killed with a golden bullet?"
  • Mercy Kill: The Arabs kill most of their wounded so the Turks don't get them. Lawrence is forced to kill Farraj for this reason too.

  • Metaphorically True: Brought up around midway through the film:
  • Mighty Whitey: Deconstructed. At first it's played straight; Lawrence impresses the Arabs and is made one of their leaders. However it gradually becomes apparent that Lawrence doesn't really understand their culture, their motivations, or their problems, nor does he fully want to. He vastly overrates his own abilities to inspire and unite them, often conducts actions that compromise and complicate the moderate elements within the Revolt (Sherif Ali) and in the end perhaps sabotaged their cause by unrealistic expectations and promises that, regardless of his sincerity, was beyond his minor position to deliver and uphold. For all his efforts the united Arabian tribes are on very tentative grounds and he is reassigned knowing things were only going to get worse. Lawrence's attempts to play this trope straight are summed up in one scene:
    Colonel Brighton: They think he's a kind of prophet.
    General Allenby: They do, or he does?
  • Mission Briefing: Played with. Some scenes are played straight, like Lawrence's first scene with General Murray and Mr. Dryden ("What is the job?" "Find Prince Faisal."). Others are used more to develop Lawrence's character than to advance the plot, like his first meeting with General Allenby, where they spend a minute or so discussing strategy and the rest of the scene discussing the campaign's effect on Lawrence.
  • Mission Creep: Lawrence's overall mission is to recruit the tribes to fight against the Ottoman Turks. To achieve this mission, he decides to help feuding and warring tribes get together to fight for a bigger cause, accidentally helping Prince Faisal to trigger Arab nationalism with promises to help them independence, neither of which was ever in his ability to promise and deliver, and in the case of independence, never something the English, and the French, were going to give the Arabs anyway. This realization that he had overreached and extended his abilities and directive makes Lawrence increasingly reckless and self-destructive near the end.
  • Mood Whiplash: The first half is an epic adventure film which climaxes in a triumphant battle scene, Lawrence's promotion and Allenby promising to help the Arabs. The second half becomes increasingly downbeat, showing how deluded Lawrence is about his role and function in the Arab Revolt, his gradual descent into needless violence and the crushing of the Arabs' dreams of independence in the face of British imperialism.
  • Mooks: Ottoman Turkish soldiers. They drop like flies in just about every altercation.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole (somewhat averted by the latter's aversion to sex).
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Lawrence has to execute an Arab who murdered a member of another tribe, in order to avoid an all-out war among the Arabs.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jackson Bentley was clearly based on Lowell Thomas. Though the real Thomas' writing about Lawrence comes off as offensive to Arabs and (in the case of one of his articles) homophobic to a modern audience, he wasn't as predatory as Bentley in the film. He seemed to genuinely just think Lawrence was a heroic figure who made for a good story, unlike Bentley who sees the worst Lawrence is capable of and lies about him to the rest of the world.
  • No Antagonist: Despite being a war film there's no central antagonist impeding Lawrence's path. Conflict is less with the Turks than the desert itself, the struggle to unite the Arab peoples and Lawrence's own increasingly deranged personality. The actual battle scenes are downplayed in favor of Scenery Porn, with the sight of larger and larger groups of people gathering.
  • No One Gets Left Behind:
  • No Woman's Land: It is a World War I movie, but still - no women are shown on screen, except for a handful of veiled extras here and there, and some nurses. There are no women with speaking roles. (Ululating doesn't count.)
  • Non-Answer: Lampshaded:
    Jackson Bentley: You gonna be a democracy in this country? You gonna have a parliament?
    Sherif Ali: I will tell you that when I have a country. [Brief pause] Did I answer well?
    Jackson Bentley: You answered without saying anything. That's politics.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
    • Sir Alec Guinness as the Arab Prince Faisal sounds quite British - on the DVD it stated he was actually copying co-star Omar Sharif's real refined Egyptian accent.note 
    • Anthony Quinn and Jose Ferrer play their characters (Arab and Turkish, respectively) with their natural, Hispanic-inflectednote  voices, yet rarely draw the same comments as Guinness. Possibly a case of As Long as It Sounds Foreign?
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Lawrence seems to play up his eccentricity in Cairo, to the point where the other officers have no awareness of his expertise.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Allenby, who is shown scheming and plotting behind the Arabs' (and Lawrence's) backs. Some say this is Historical Villain Upgrade.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: The Arabs want to not be ruled over by Turks anymore. As Lawrence puts it:
    Bentley: What, in your opinion, do these people hope to gain from this war?
    Lawrence: They hope to gain their freedom.
    Bentley: [blank stare]
    Lawrence: Freedom.
    Bentley: "They hope to gain their freedom." There's one born every minute.
    Lawrence: They're going to get it, Mr. Bentley. I'm going to give it to them.
  • One-Liner, Name... One-Liner: Bentley to Dryden: "Walk away, Dryden, walk away."
  • One-Woman Wail: Appears in-universe and to chilling effect while the Harif army is setting out to cross the Nefud and attack Al-aquaba. The shot from the top of the cliff with the ululating women drowning out the stirring battle songs from below, which could be interpreted as either mourning the men they expect never to see again or giving the men an encouraging send off.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The killing of the Turkish soldiers responsible for the Tafas massacre.
  • Plunder: The sack of Aqaba. Also the ambushed Turkish train.
  • Prelap: The sound of a train whistle is heard over the end of the previous scene. The Ur-Example and Trope Maker.
  • Pride: If Lawrence has one flaw it is his belief that he and his army are untouchable and can do anything. For a long time he is right, until he reaches Daraa.
  • Promotion, Not Punishment: When Lawrence returns from Aquaba, the British General points out that he acted without orders only to then promote him Major.
  • Prophecy Twist: Gasim gets lost in the desert. The other Arabs refuse to go and try to find him because "It is written," at which point Lawrence says "Nothing is written," and goes into the desert alone to rescue him. He succeeds, to general wonderment and rejoicing. A few days later, Gasim kills a man from another tribe and Lawrence is forced to execute him to prevent a feud. The head of the tribe asks why Lawrence looks so distraught. When someone mentions Lawrence had a few days ago saved Gasim from the desert, he nods knowingly and says, "So it was written, then."
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I. Don't. Want. To be. Part. Of your. BIG. PUSH!"
  • Quicksand Sucks: Quicksand shows up in the desert, swallowing a servant in moments. Easy to write off as Artistic License – Geology (and it is a scene that was invented for the film, as the real Daud died of illness), but it's mentioned in the folklore of many desert cultures, and it's recently been discovered that may be for good reason: dry quicksand exists and behaves more like Hollywood quicksand than the liquid variety.note  Its also worth mentioning that the wet form of quicksand forms in deserts, too. note 
  • Rape as Drama: Lawrence and the Turkish Bey. It comes close to breaking Lawrence completely.
  • Rated M for Manly: A movie about Bedouin riding around on Cool Horses and camels in scorching deserts, killing large numbers of Turkish soldiers! That's also about beautiful desert landscapes, British imperialism, one man's war with his own nature, and features barely any battle scenes, instead being rife with sexual tension between men. Not exactly Predator, then. The film has no speaking roles for women at all.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Faisal, who is much more willing to play politics than the idealistic Lawrence.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The Turkish Bey utters the line, "Two years I have been posted to Daraa. If I had been stationed on the dark side of the moon I could not have been more isolated."
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Bureaucratized: The Arab National Council that forms after the occupation of Damascus exemplifies this trope. The tribesmen who fought alongside Lawrence have no experience with technology, urban administration, or modern politics, and soon found themselves unable to oversee a modern city.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Arab uprising is portrayed leaving in the infighting, shallow motives and ruthless tactics.
    • Its origins are not the heroic gathering of a single group for a great cause, but more or less a Staged Populist Uprising promoted by one colonialist empire against another colonialist empire, who manipulate sincere romantics like Lawrence to tap into Arab nationalist fervour without regard of the consequences, and without any real intention to deliver on the promises.
    • The heroes of the Revolt end up realizing that they were being used, betrayed and discarded by the real power holders who more or less feel that they have outlived their usefulness, and that there's little room in the new order for them. In the end they part ways. Sherif Ali to moderate political reform, Auda Abu Tayi back to the same position he held before the Revolt, and Lawrence back to England and obscurity, feeling that he never quite fulfilled his potential.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The entire funeral scene takes on new meaning when you know who the various players are and how each of them related to Lawrence.
  • Right in Front of Me: A British officer is honoured to shake Lawrence's hand, unaware that Lawrence was the "dirty wog" he'd slapped earlier.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The primary hurdle in helping the Arabs is teaching them about the technological evolution of war, particularly in that Faisal's entire camp was helpless against a pair of planes harassing them. However, their strategy for taking Aqaba was to outsmart their technology, relying on the fact that they did not anticipate an attack from behind and have even set up their heavy artillery permanently facing the sea. Despite the Turks' superior weaponry, the surprise attack lead to a near effortless victory because of how completely unprepared they were for it.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: Lawrence and Farraj are dumbfounded to see a ship sailing through the Sinai desert. It actually means they've reached the Suez Canal and safety. The funny thing about this is that ancient versions of the Suez Canal have been constructed and reclaimed by the desert before, in ancient human history. If the Suez Canal of today were to be abandoned, it would eventually sand in.
  • Scenery Porn: Never has a desolate desert wasteland looked so beautiful. The film is oft-cited as reason enough alone to preserve three-strip Cinerama with wrap-around 70mm movie palace screens (and, on a somewhat related note, for Letterboxing).
  • Screw Destiny: "Nothing is written." But as it turns out You Can't Fight Fate.
  • Sea of Sand: The film’s camerawork emphasises the vast, beautiful emptiness of the desert, over which the Arabs are fighting a war of mobility. The score sometimes serves to ram the point home.
  • Self-Destructive Charge: Tallal after seeing his village razed by the Turks. Inspires Lawrence to initiate a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Shoot the Dog: Lawrence has to shoot Gasim, who's guilty of murder, to prevent his alliance falling apart. Which is also an example of Shoot the Shaggy Dog, since beforehand Lawrence went across the desert to save him, though it did earn him the respect of some of the tribesmen.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Lawrence unites the Arab tribes and defeats the Turks, suffering great personal trauma, only for the British and French to assume control over the Middle East the moment the war ends.
  • Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: Lawrence's batman Gasim disappears in the desert. The bedouin refuse to try to save him because "it is written" (and because a bedouin would know well enough to be afraid of the desert). Lawrence rides off claiming, "nothing is written" and comes back in a few hours with Gasim. However it is ultimately revealed that perhaps it was written, given that Lawrence ultimately has to execute Gasim to prevent a blood feud.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Famously used as an example why failing The Bechdel Test doesn't automatically makes a movie misogynistic since it takes place during a military campaign during World War I.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Lawrence grows closer and closer to this trope as the movie goes on, finally culminating in the massacre at Tafas.
  • Soldiers at the Rear: Lawrence begins the film like this.
  • Something Else Also Rises: A very creepy example thereof. According to Word of God, when Lawrence lifts his gun after murdering the boy, it symbolizes... well, you know.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: In the echo scene, Lawrence is singing the chorus to "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo" but forgets some of the words and fills them in with nonsense syllables. At least he remembers the title phrase!
  • So Proud of You: When he returns from Aqaba, Lawrence gets this from the officers in Cairo who previously derided him; he's decidedly nonplussed by it.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The opening titles appear with a very jaunty tune over the top of Lawrence getting ready for his fatal motorbike ride.
  • Spiritual Successor: Lean's next film, Doctor Zhivago, was set in Glorious Mother Russia, this time with Russian steppe.
  • Stab the Sky: The DVD cover art, sometimes referred to as a "plane-swatter".
  • Starts with Their Funeral: Starts with Lawrence crashing his motorcycle, his funeral, and then flashes back to before he became famous.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: General Allenby qualifies, especially when Damascus dissolves into chaos late in the film:
    Brighton: Look, sir, we can't just do nothing.
    Allenby: Why not? It's usually best.
  • The Stoic: Discussed. In the very start of the film Lawrence insists on practising his resistance to pain by holding his hand on a burning match. Or alternately, an implication of the real Lawrence's suspected masochism.
    "The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."
  • The Strategist: Lawrence.
  • Suppressed Rage: T.E., in spades. Only observant characters understand this. When he finally lets it out, the results are not pretty.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The Turkish Bey says a variant: "I'm surrounded by cattle."
  • Take a Third Option: After Gasim murders a man from another tribe, they threaten war if they're not allowed to kill him, while Sherif Ali will be obliged to start a blood feud if they do. Lawrence then determines that the rival clan will be satisfied with Gasim's death even if he's not the one to do it, and does the deed himself, not being affiliated with any clan and thus incurring no reprisals.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome:
  • A Taste of the Lash: Lawrence is flogged by the Turkish officer when captured.
  • Tastes Like Friendship: Lawrence gives his gun to his guide who answers by giving him some of his food. Lawrence tries to not let his horror show when he tastes it (but fails completely).
  • Television Geography: Sinai is not a white and sandy desert as depicted in the film, but an area of red-brown rock and mountains, and was filmed elsewhere (Spain, Morocco, or California). The Wadi Rum scenery, in contrast, was actually filmed in Wadi Rum. T.E. Lawrences' Seven Pillars of Wisdom, on which the film was loosely based, describes the diverse geography of the Sinai and Arabian deserts in detail.
  • Thirsty Desert: The Arabian and Sinai deserts.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Although he would do it when he had no choice, Lawrence was known for being highly averse to bloodshed ("I've never seen a man killed with a sword before." "Why don't you take a picture?" // "Prisoners, sir, we took them prisoners, the entire garrison. No, that's not true. We killed some; too many, really, I'll manage it better next time."). That is, until Daraa; he returns a "changed man", despite Sherif Ali's claims to the contrary.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: When Lawrence gets out of the Sun's Anvil (for the second time in a day), he's too busy blankly staring ahead like a seated corpse to notice people offering him water. And that's BEFORE the traumas start piling up.
  • Translation Convention:
    • This happens pretty liberally when Lawrence (and some other characters) switches pretty seamlessly between English and Arabic (and maybe Turkish). Some Arab actors are actually dubbed into English, despite their characters quite likely speaking Arabic.
    • Interesting side note: In real life, Lawrence had to serve as a translator between General Allenby and Prince Faisal. This was especially awkward for Lawrence, since it meant he had to be the one to inform Faisal that the British weren't going to honor their commitment to an independent Arabia. Needless to say, the film has Allenby and Faisal speaking English to each other with no need for a translator.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Of the Epic Movie genre. While unquestionably sweeping, dramatic, and very long, there's no love story (unless you count the Homoerotic Subtext between Lawrence and Ali) or any women with speaking roles at all, the main character is not a rugged strong man but a neurotic, homosexual Insufferable Genius whose growth as a warrior runs parallel to his descent into madness. Neither side is particularly good or evil, all of the victories accomplish nothing in the long run and it's made abundantly clear that the world at large cares nothing for Lawrence's achievements. See Genre Deconstruction for more details.
  • Undying Loyalty: Ali tells Lawrence that he'll stay with him even if everyone else leaves, but after the Tafas massacre he can't keep to that, admitting to being afraid of him.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Discussed in the film (as even in real life arguments are still had about Lawrence's exact role), Lawrence doesn't feed his superiors outright false information but a lot of his reports exaggerate their success and man count. From a larger sense, the film was based on Lawrence's autobiography, and some contemporaries disputed his accounts of some events, such as Daraa, or the idea that he was gang-raped, and instead had an innocent homosexual fling.
  • Verbal Business Card:
    Auda: I am Auda Abu Tayi, does Auda serve?
    Lawrence: Lawrence. I've been seconded to the Arab Bureau.
  • Walk on Water: Alluded to. Ali tells Lawrence that instead of wanting the Arabs to do reasonable things, he wants them to walk on water. Later in Deraa, Lawrence walks across a puddle and laughs at Ali's expression.
  • War Crime Subverts Heroism: Lawrence and the Arabs cut down surrendering Turks in retaliation for their own massacre of the village of Tafas. One of the relatively rare scenes in film where the perpetrators are meant to still meant to retain some sympathy, and it also shows just how much of a toll the war has taken on Lawrence.
  • War Is Hell: Not at first, but evident throughout the second act as Lawrence's losses and personal traumas stack up. His efforts to live up to the war hero persona he has cultivated to both British superiors and Arab allies has an impact on his emotional stability. This culminates in the final battle, a pointless massacre that could easily have been avoided.
  • Warrior Prince: Ali is great for this. He was a perfect Hollywood version of a romanticised Bedouin warrior-prince, being dignified, honourable, and quite badass.
  • Warrior Poet: Lawrence, who is even described by a journalist who knew him, as "a poet, a scholar, and a mighty warrior" (as well as some less flattering things) in the opening.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The tribal factions that make up Lawrence' Arab troops have deep-seated resentments. Part of Lawrence's struggle as a military commander is getting the tribes to set aside their differences in the name of a common goal. After the occupation of Damascus, the tribal resentments come to the surface again as the Arab National Council descends into childish bickering. After an argument that nearly becomes violent, Auda tells Ali that being an "Arab" (as opposed to a member of a tribe) will be harder than he ever imagined. This could have been the filmmaker's jab at the Pan-Arab movement of the 1950s and 60s.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Lawrence gets many, but Tafas is probably the most glaring example.
  • White Shirt of Death: When Lawrence starts Going Native, he begins wearing a white robe and keffiyeh in the Bedouin style. This very stark white attire then contrasts the repeated times he ends up with blood on him.
  • Who Are You?: Far too many times to count. Once even before the film transitions into the extended flashback that makes up the vast majority of it.
  • Wicked Cultured: Dryden keeps classical art and Egyptian statuary in his office.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Lawrence is exceedingly naive about Britain's imperial ambitions in the Middle East, the warring tribes' ability to get along, and his army's ability to hold and govern Damascus. Though there's an element of self-delusion there as well.
  • Widescreen Shot: Filmed on 70mm film, and Lean was a master of cinematography.
  • The Wise Prince: Faisal.
  • World of Snark: Lawrence, Ali, Auda, Allenby, Dryden and Bentley are all quite handy with sarcasm and droll putdowns. Ali and Auda's first meeting is an epic piece of Snark-to-Snark Combat.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Turkish officer at the train.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: "It is written."
  • You're Insane!: When Lawrence suggests a rather foolhardy course of action, Ali's response is "you are mad!"


Video Example(s):


Arabian Desert

Montage of desert scenes T.E. Lawrence travels through to meet Prince Feisal

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / SceneryPorn

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