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"I knew the people who worked for me... When you know people, you have to behave toward them like human beings."
Oskar Schindler (not a line in the movie; attributed to the man himself)

Schindler's List is a 1993 film directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by Spielberg, Gerald R. Molen, and Branko Lustig (a survivor of Auschwitz), and written by Steven Zaillian. The film features music composed by John Williams, and it was shot almost entirely in black and white.

The film is based on the book Schindler's Ark by Australian author Thomas Keneally, which was based on the actions of Oskar Schindler (portrayed by Liam Neeson in the film). Allegedly, Schindler's wife once said that he did nothing remarkable before or after the war—World War II, that is. He was a mediocre businessman in Nazi-era Germany who, while trying to profit from the German annexation of Poland, ended up running a factory that "employed" enslaved Polish Jews as the workforce. As the Nazis began exterminating the Jews and other "undesirable" groups, Schindler saved as many as he could by getting them classified as workers essential to the war effort and assigned to his factory.


In sharp contrast to Hugo Boss, Siemens, Ford, and other firms that profited from slave labor (i.e. every major company in wartime Germany), Schindler actively endeavoured to keep his workforce alive and even preserve 'unskilled' workers who were not actually useful to him. The film's title comes from the "lists" he kept of skilled workers that he could not afford to lose—those lists eventually grew to include every one of his workers, their families, and the investors who had helped him buy the factory. At great personal risk and financial cost (he bankrupted himself), Schindler saved more than a thousand people from being either worked to death as slaves rented from the SS Main Business Directorate by German companies or killed as concentration camp inmates.


Schindler's List contains the following tropes:

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  • Aborted Declaration of Love: Amon Goeth to Helen Hirsch in the basement scene. Also counts as Cannot Spit It Out.
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Goeth and Schindler play one hand of blackjack, with Goeth wagering Helen Hirsch's life against several thousand Reichsmarks of Schindler's money. We don't see the actual game, but the result becomes clear when Helen steps up to check in for the train taking Schindler's workers to Brünnlitz.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The ghetto's sewers are quite spacious; in fact, Poldek tried to escape by using them, but the Nazis caught them and although Poldek avoided execution, others were not so lucky.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The film uses clearly healthy actors to portray malnourished German slave-laborers—though some scenes do feature some pretty skinny people—but take a look at real footage of the prisoners. Making them look anything like the real slaves would have been impossible without starving them nearly to death.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Schindler's List is an adaptation of Schindler's Ark, itself based on the actions of Oskar Schindler.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: At his 36th birthday party, a young Jewish woman and her daughter present Schindler with a small gift on behalf of the workers. Oskar, already a little tipsy, and used to trying it on with any attractive woman he sees, absentmindedly gives the woman a a room full of SS officers. Gilligan Cut to him waiting in a jail cell. Schindler lampshades it as much, having the humor to laugh about the situation.
  • The Alcoholic: Schindler is presented as a very hard drinker. As in real life, he's able to use his high tolerance to alcohol to his advantage by drinking with Nazis and maintaining his composure while the Nazis get soused.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Subverted. Oskar Schindler was in fact a member of the Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party—but he, like so many other Germans, was in it for the political and economic advantages. By the end of the film, calling him a "Nazi" is both technically correct and fundamentally wrong.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: To the limited extent to which he is able to feel an emotion such as love, Amon for Helen, which is understandable, as he was a violent serial killer who made her life miserable.
  • Almost Kiss: Goeth almost kisses his Jewish maid Helen on a moment when he was confessing his twisted attraction but ends up beating her senseless instead.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Goeth is so evil that many viewers might assume that he's a fictional character, that he's a Composite Character of some sort, or that his deeds are exaggerated. Unfortunately, this isn't true; if anything, his monstrousness is actually toned down. In Real Life, there's evidence that he personally killed at least five hundred people and caused the deaths of thousands more. In fact, his treatment of prisoners at Kraków-Płaszów was so horrific that his superiors eventually removed him from his position as commandant of the camp, and later had him sent to an insane asylum when they came to suspect that he was mentally ill. Yes: his treatment of prisoners was considered horrific even by the standards of the SS.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • During an early scene, a unit of German soldiers can be seen marching through Kraków, shortly after Poland has been conquered. One of them is holding an MG-42 machine gun, which did not become available until 1942. The soldier would've been wielding its predecessor, the MG-34
    • When Schindler learns that the trainload of women and children has mistakenly been sent to Auschwitz, he races out of his camp in a car that was not available until after the war. This is especially surprising since all the other cars in the film are period-appropriate.
  • Anti-Hero: Schindler is not your typical hero, in spite of his accomplishments. He's an unrepentant Mr. Vice Guy and knowing war profiteer who takes advantage of slave labor. However, as he starts to comprehend the full scope of Nazi crimes, he's compelled to fight them by simple decency, ultimately sacrificing his fortune to save lives.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: At the beginning of the film, Schindler is a serial adulterer and war profiteer. But as the death toll and dangers grow, he becomes increasingly concerned with preserving the lives of his workers, going as far as to spend his entire fortune and risk his own life. Schindler himself believes—ironically—in the opposite: that war brings out the worst in people. If the war had not happened, Amon Goeth would have been a really nice guy. The movie itself suggests that war brings out the truth in people, i.e. Goeth is really a monster, while Schindler is a righteous man.
  • Artistic License – Awards:
    • Schindler is depicted wearing the Golden Party Badge, which was awarded for Nazi Party members 1 to 100,000. Schindler only joined the party in 1938 and thus wouldn't have been awarded it as membership was already in the millions.
    • Among the decorations Amon Goeth wears is the Silesian Eagle, which was issued in 1919 when he was only eleven. He is also depicted wearing the Iron Cross, 2nd Class, even though he never saw combat.
  • Artistic License – History: Goeth was actually fired from running the camp towards the end of the war but this isn't shown in the film.
  • The Atoner: Schindler is possibly one of the most representative characters of this trope. Once a ruthless businessman, he ends up spending all his money, time and energy to save Jews from a certain death. His last lines from the movie are a perfect illustration of this (see "Samaritan Syndrome" below).
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Amon Goeth vents his day-to-day frustrations by wantonly killing people and, if his guns happen to jam, responds like a boy trying and failing to unhook a girl's bra. This act of his personality was, if anything, toned down from how he was in real life.
    • While Goeth's men are digging up and burning all the corpses buried near the Płaszów camp, one of them starts raving wildly and shooting at the massive pyre, although that may be him having a breakdown over it.
  • Badass Boast: "This storm is different. This is not the Romans. This storm is the SS."
  • Batman Gambit: Schindler's overall plot to keep his group of Jewish prisoners from being executed, which actually originated with Stern. Through a complex system of bribery, persuasion, and illusion, Schindler is able to keep nearly all of his prisoners alive in his factory while also resisting the Nazi war effort by producing faulty shells.
  • Benevolent Boss: Schindler, even before he starts putting his life on the line to rescue his workers.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: During the Liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto, elderly and infirm patients drink poison to ease themselves into death rather then suffer being shot by the Nazi forces.
  • Big Bad: Amon Goeth is Schindler's primary opposition and the main antagonist in Płaszów's arc. Arguably, Nazi Germany's elite and Adolf Hitler are the Greater-Scope Villain.
  • Bigot with a Crush:
    • Early in the film, one high-ranked Nazi officer can be seen attending a party with his Polish mistress, in an occupied country which the Nazis intended to depopulate for German expansion.
    • Nazi commander Amon Goeth is not happy to realize that he has a Villainous Crush on his Jewish maid Helen, accusing her of manipulating him. When he's informed that the camp is going to be closed down and all the inmates shipped off to Auschwitz, he considers taking her out into the woods and shooting her a Mercy Kill. Instead, Schindler convinces him to bargain her away in a card game, which Schindler wins.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Plenty of unsubtitled German, Polish, and occasional Hebrew in the original, due to its inconsistent Translation Convention. In particular, the increasing restrictions on Jewish life blared out from microphones in German. For example, as Poldek walks down a street to the church, a truck behind him relays the message "Attention, attention! It is now forbidden for Jews to perform Kosher slaughter."
  • Bittersweet Ending: Schindler rescues hundreds of Jews, ruining his life in the process, yet he could only save so many. In the end, he's wracked with guilt for not having done even more. He has to be consoled by Stern: "There are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you." The film also acknowledges that the remainder of Schindler's life was plagued by failure, and he spent his final days living on donations from Jewish charities.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Schindler is portrayed as an extremely flawed man: an alcoholic war profiteer and serial philanderer. However, when faced with the enormity of Nazi evil, it's Schindler who sacrifices his fortune and risks his life to save lives.
  • Black Market: Discussed and utilized by Schindler at several points. He raises the money to buy the factory by offering Jewish investors in Krakow a portion of its output — durable goods that will be more valuable than cash inside the ghetto. He then uses his contacts to obtain luxury items (rare foods, liquor, etc.), which he offers as gifts to SS officials in order to secure military production contracts. Later, he begins to offer bribes in the forms of gems and jewelry (such as the bag of diamonds he gives to Rudolf Hoess at Auschwitz), arguing that these items will be more useful than German currency once the war ends. At the very end, he issues a bottle of vodka to every worker so they will have something valuable to offer in trade.
  • Blessed with Suck: Helen Hirsch is spared from living in the horrible conditions of Płaszów when she's hired as Goeth's maid but has to live with a violent excuse for a human being as her master. Even worse, since he took a shine to her Schindler points out that he won't kill her, but since he's forbidden to act on it, he reacts by being even more cruel to the poor girl. There's a reason why Itzhak Stern once mentioned Helen Hirsch being the "most unfortunate of all the inmates of the kid's camp."
  • Boom, Headshot!: The preferred method of execution by the Nazis.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Schindler's description of the things Goeth likes, though not by his intent.
    Schindler: He is a wonderful crook. A man who loves good food, good wine, the ladies, making money-
    Stern: Killing.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Schindler dreams of being able to take home two steamer trunks full of cash once the war is over. By the time he has to close down his Krakow factory, he does indeed have enough money to fill several suitcases — one of which he delivers to Goeth as a bribe in order to get permission to move his workers to Brünnlitz.
  • Butt-Monkey: Goldberg has a habit of antagonising the other Jews, particularly Poldek, either through incompetence (ordering shoe polish in glass containers, which shatter in the cold winter when the German army tries to use them) or opportunism (joining the Jewish Police). He still manages to remain a part of the wider group, however, and thus survives by ending up on the list.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You:
    • Thanks to his business savvyness and managerial skills, Stern ends up being indispensable to Goeth for administering the work camp. This is even discussed in one scene when Stern bitterly remarks that he must organize the entire dismantling operation of the work camp and then put himself on the last train to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
    • Defied in another scene. When the concentration camp is being built, a Jewish prisoner who has a degree in structural engineering is working on the project. She objects to the designs because they're not sound but the head of the camp, Goeth, orders her to be executed for speaking out of turn. The other officers try to talk him out of it since she's the only person in the entire camp that actually has the knowledge to oversee the project. The man who shoots her groans while he does it.
  • Catchphrase: Every Schindler Jew was eventually classified as an "essential worker" - even the children, who (according to Schindler) were the only ones with fingers small enough to polish the inside of a shell casing. This status was the group's only protection against repossession by the SS Chief Business Office and euthanasia (if unfit for rental) or rental to an employer who would work them until they were unfit (because they could be exchanged for fresh slaves for free) or dead.
  • Central Theme: "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."note 
  • Character Development: At the beginning, Schindler only saves people because he needs them for his business. By the end, he has spent his entire fortune on them, and at tremendous risk to his own life.
  • The Charmer: Oskar Schindler. He can make total strangers his close friends in next to no time, and uses his charisma to get a foothold in German industry. He later uses every bit of his power of persuasion trying to convince Goeth to become a more merciful person. Amazingly, it seems to work, but Goeth quickly abandons it.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: The first part of Schindler's "People will remember my name" speech to his wife. More subtly, Stern's fake lecture to the history and literature teacher about leaving his papers in his drawer, given so Stern can give the man a second chance at being deemed an essential worker. Some time later, Stern himself leaves his card at home and almost dies because of it.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Oskar is quite popular with the ladies.
  • Les Collaborateurs:
    • Subverted with Stern, as he is introduced as a member of the Judenrat, yet he and his colleagues are shown using every connection and resource at their disposal to find ways of saving as many of their fellow Jews as they can.
    • Others, like Goldberg, join the Jewish Police early on out of self-preservation; and although he brags about how smart he was and how made the "right decision", he is never seen betraying any of his fellow Jews, he even joins them when they're all together talking and ends up being one of the people saved by Schindler.
    • Subverted also with Adam Levy, the boy who was a member of the Jewish Police. He hides Danka Dresner from Nazis, then afterwards takes her and her mother Chaja to "the good line" so they'll be put to work instead of being executed.
  • Colonel Kilgore: Goeth is something of a cross between this and Psycho for Hire. He's delighted that there is a war on, because it lets him do what he loves to do most: killing, molesting, and torturing people who are at his mercy.
  • Composite Character: Stern was real, but was used to represent nearly all of the financial and business actions of the factory which was split up among other characters.
  • Convenient Misfire: A scene in which Goeth attempts to execute a Jew due to failing to fulfill the quota despite the speed of crafting equipment, but his pistol misfires. He tries another gun, but that misfires as well and he gives up on the idea, being happy enough to Pistol Whip the prisoner instead. This scene is based on an incident in Keneally's book.
  • Cooldown Hug: When Schindler starts to cry on receiving the ring as thanks, Stern tries to reassure him he saved their lives. Schindler keeps sobbing and insisting he could have gotten one more life out. Realizing Schindler is breaking down from the stress of keeping his "essential workers" alive, Stern and the other survivors hug Schindler, to comfort him. This gives him the courage to say farewell and leave.
  • Covers Always Lie: A minor one: The smaller hand in the movie poster is the little girl in the red coat's one, as if she was one of the people saved by Schindler, but in the movie she died during the Ghetto massacre.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Liam Neeson appears As Himself in the final scene to place flowers on Oskar Schindler's grave.
    • In Schindler's introduction, the maitre'd is producer Branko Lustig, a Holocaust survivor himself.
    • Steven Spielberg appears in the scene of the Schindler Jews walking across the fields slightly earlier.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Schindler knew that Stern was using the factory as a safe haven for "skilled" Jewish workers but when a woman came talking about it as an Open Secret and asking him to request her parents to work at the factory he got furious at the implication, verbally abusing her and kicked her out of his office. That made him confront Stern openly, explaining in absolute terms how dangerous it would be if that knowledge came around to the SS, then asked him to request the parents of the woman.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Truth in Television with the term "Special Treatment", this is even discussed and lampshaded on a scene between Schindler and Stern:
    Schindler: I made Goeth promise to put in a good word for you. Nothing bad is going to happen to you there, you'll receive Special Treatment.
    Stern: The directives coming in from Berlin mention "Special Treatment" more and more often. I'd like to think that's not what you mean.
    Schindler: Preferential Treatment. All right? Do we have to create a new language?
    Stern: I think so.
  • Defiant to the End: Sadly, even karma catching up with him feels hollow when Amon Goeth somehow looks positively bored when he's finally hanged for his crimes. And he still has time to fix his hair and give one last "Heil Hitler" before the guards kick the chair out from under him.
  • Deliberately Monochrome:
    • Excluding the very beginning and end, and a few significant exceptions listed in Splash of Color below.
    • Notably, this was the first black-and-white film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since The Apartment, thirty-three years earlier.
  • Deliberate Under-Performance: Schindler makes sure his factory in Czechoslovakia doesn't produce anything.
  • Demoted to Extra: Mietek Pemper in real life played a major role by typing and compiling the famous list. His role and character are integrated to Itzhak Stern's in the movie in order to make him a composite character. Mietek, in the movie, is just reduced to a few scenes. The real life Mietek dismissed this.
  • Desecrating the Dead:
    • The Płaszów camp is built on a former Jewish cemetery, and the road is paved with the headstones.
    • Towards the end of the war, Göth is ordered to exhume the mass graves in the area and burn all of the bodies to cover up the crimes. The ash covers the entire region, and the bodies are piled high as they are incinerated.
  • Domestic Abuse: Amon Goeth regularly abuses his Jewish maid Helen Hirsch even if he's romantically interested in her.
  • Double-Meaning Title: In Scandinavia, the name was left untranslated, possibly because "list" in Scandinavian languages means "plan" or "cunningness."
  • During the War: The great majority of the film takes place from the aftermath of the Nazi's invasion of Poland in September 1939 to the surrender of Germany in May 1945.
  • Dying Candle: The film starts with a Jewish prayer said around a table with several candles burning. As the prayer closes, the last candle grows dim and then goes out. The smoke rising from the wick is then Match Cut to smoke from the locomotive that will be carrying Jews off to first the ghettos, and then eventually the concentration camps.
  • End of an Era: Once the surrender of Germany is announced, Schindler announces that he is now a wanted man (for being a slave labor profiteer), the Jewish workers can now move freely and the German soldiers around them can go home to their families. The road ahead was not easy, but was doable.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Near the beginning, a waiter offers Schindler his best German wine, which Schindler declines, preferring French wine. This establishes him apart from his fanatically nationalist Nazi peers. Moments later, he demonstrates what a womanizer he is with his flirtations with the girls at the party, beating a hopeful bigwig officer to their attention.
    • Not long after Amon Goeth is introduced, he faces an issue where a female Jewish engineer (Diana Reitner) argues with German soldiers. She claims that the foundation of a barrack has to be torn down and be repoured, or else the barrack will collapse. Goeth has her executed, even when his soldiers say they need her, claiming he won't argue with 'these people'. Then he orders them to do exactly as she said. This establishes him as someone with complete disregard for the lives of Jews, even though he implicitly admits they certainly have knowledge and skills.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Subverted. During the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto, two German soldiers are dragging a teenage boy along, who is suddenly shot by another German soldier. One of the two men then runs up to the shooter, and chews him out about it. It seems like this trope to anyone who can't understand what he's saying in German. In reality he's only pissed off because the shooter almost shot him instead of the Jewish boy.
    • Early on, Schindler wants to have respect for Goeth as a wonderful "crook" who's just, uh, under a lot of pressure and doesn't really want to kill anyone, and reacts a bit badly when he hears what the man did to a group of prisoners.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
    • When Schindler is having German soldiers hose down the Jews that have been stuffed into deathly-hot cattle cars, Goeth and the other Nazis initially laugh at what is apparently one of their own tormenting the Jews with a little taste of water, but Schindler keeps hosing the cars and even has drinking water and food brought to the train for the guards to give to the Jews every time they stop. By the end of the scene Goeth is staring at the scene with blank incomprehension; he has gone through humor, exasperation and boredom, and has now reached a point where he really cannot figure out what the hell Schindler is doing. The idea that Oskar is trying to help the Jews just does not fit.
    • At one point, Schindler asks Goeth for a transfer of prisoners from the camp, and Goeth initially refuses, not because he cares about following the protocol, but because he figures Schindler is trying to put one over on him, repeatedly asking him rhetorically "What's the scam?" The fact that Schindler is taking these Jews out of the camp, not because he's found a way to profit off them, but because he cares about their lives never even enters Goeth's mind, even for a second.
    • In another scene, Schindler advises Goeth to be more merciful by saying that mercy, not punishment, is a true show of power. Goeth, though incredulous, gives it a try and spares several prisoners he would have otherwise killed. For a while it seems like Goeth has finally gotten it... then he changes his mind and shoots a Jewish boy he just forgave for not being able to clean a stain out of his bathtub.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • During Göth's introduction and tour of the camp under construction, one of his aides takes pleasure in pointing out that they are planning to turn the local synagogue into a stable. Göth doesn't even notice, as he is too busy complaining that his promised 'villa' is just a house.
    • At one point, on their way to work at Schindler's factory, a large group of Jews are suddenly commanded by a passing snow-clearing patrol to shovel the street of snow. Schindler, who is upset that his workers are being delayed, is told that the Jews clearing snow has 'symbolic significance, i.e is purely an act of domination and humiliation on the Nazis' part.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Goeth, surprisingly. During his hanging, he keeps a stoic, almost bored expression on his face, and his last words are a calm "Heil Hitler".
  • Fan Disservice: The film contains male and female full frontal nudity, but this is during the concentration camps entrance process, thus lacking any eroticism. This being despite the actors having normal healthy bodies, visibly clean, trimmed and hairless in the scene with the trainload of women being sent to the showers.note  They did not recreate the scene realistically to avoid distressing viewers.
  • Fanservice: The film includes sex scenes between Schindler and his mistress and Goeth and his lover that contain erotic nudity.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Goeth is this one in spades towards Schindler, the latter referring the former as a "Wonderful Crook" as long as they are not a Jew. If the person IS a Jew and Goeth is acting friendly however, then that person better pray for a quick death.
  • Fat Bastard: Downplayed with Goeth, who's "skinny fat". He's got a noticeable gut, but it doesn't show on the rest of his frame, and with enough clothes on you can't see it at all. As for the bastard part, he's got that down pat.
  • Feigning Healthiness: During the annual health inspection, the prisoners of the Plaszow concentration camp are separated into healthy workers and sick workers, with the latter inevitably destined for "special treatment". Mind you, every prisoner is a slave laborer working ungodly hours on starvation rations, which is intentional. Several of the women draw some of their own blood to improve their complexion and appear healthier to the inspectors.
  • Fire-Forged Friendship: At the end, this is the relationship between Stern and Schindler. The thing that before making the list they share a drink together when Stern previously refused seals their friendship.
  • Foreign Re-Score: The song "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" ("Jerusalem of Gold") plays during a key moment near the end of the film. This caused some controversy in Israel when the film was released because the song was written in 1967 and is widely known in Israel as a pop and folk song. The song was therefore edited out of the Israeli release of the film and replaced by the song "Eli, Eli", which was written by the Jewish Hungarian poet Hannah Szenes during World War II and is more appropriate for the time period and subject matter of the film.
  • For the Evulz: Goeth does not have any reason to do the horrible things that he does, other than the fact that he can. Goeth's truly inhuman nature was actually underplayed, because Spielberg thought people would have a hard time believing someone could actually be that pointlessly sadistic.
  • Freak Out:
    • The SS soldier in the scene of mass burning of bodies is quite literally Driven to Madness. This is a case of Reality Is Unrealistic - the image of the typical Nazi is usually one of Punch Clock Villainy, devotedly efficient, remorseless and robotic, and somewhat less frequently taking explicit joy in their victims' suffering, yet survivor tales quickly point out the way SS guardsmen lost their temper and went into bouts of hysteria after a particularly disgusting mass killing and how often this did happen.note 
    • The poor guy is portrayed with Infantry Assault Badge (awarded for fighting in at least 3 distinct infantry assaults on the frontline) and an Iron Cross 2nd Class ribbon (awarded for at least one heroic deed on the frontline). Unlike Goeth, who never saw combat, this is a hardened veteran of 3rd SS Division "Totenkopf" losing his temper.
  • Friendly Enemy:
    • Goeth only once suspects that Schindler is double-crossing him, in spite of overwhelming evidence (and even then he misses the mark: "If I'm making one hundred, you've got to be making three. And if you admit to making three, then it's four, actually. But how?"). When Schindler is arrested at one point for kissing a Jewish woman, Goeth goes out of his way to speak on his behalf and offer a bribe to get him released.
    • Stern actually starts as this for Schindler, as at first he uses his position and knowledge to obtain forged documents for his fellow Jews in order to pass them as skilled workers in Schindler's factory. He suggests that Schindler hire Jews in order to take advantage of lower wage rates, and manipulates him into getting elderly and handicapped people hired. Schindler, however, quickly realizes this and calls him out on it on one scene, but later he starts pretending not to notice and then starts collaborating with his scheme!
  • From Bad to Worse: Jews several times remark that "The worst is over." This leads to an Ironic Echo Cut:
    Schindler: (casing his new apartment, which used to be owned by an evicted Jew) It couldn't be better.
    Cut to
    Mrs. Nussbaum, the evicted Jew, now living in the ghetto: It could be worse.
    Mr. Nussbaum, losing it: Look around! How could this possibly be any worse?! (cue 12 others sharing their tiny room)
    • Ironically the only time no one says it is when they arrive at Brünnlitz.
  • Furnace Body Disposal: To a degree that is pure Nightmare Fuel. Oskar Schindler is talking with a Nazi officer near the Plaszow furnaces. There are ashes raining down all over the nearby Krakow because of the incinerating of hundred of bodies all day, every day under Hitler's "Final Solution."
  • Gilligan Cut: A couple earlier on in the film by way of comic relief, as events start to get worse:
    • Emilie promises Oskar that she will remain with him in Krakow as long as no doorman or maitre'd will assume she's anything other than his wife - that is, as long as he's not openly seeing other women with such regularity that the doorman assumes she is another of his flings. Cut to Oskar waving Emilie goodbye as the latter's train out of Krakow departs.
    • When Stern is arrested, having forgotten his papers, Oskar demands that the two bureaucrats responsible for organizing the train find and release him. He flexes his political muscle to do so when they repeatedly refuse, taking down their names and promising that the pair of them will be in the midst of the meatgrinder campaigns then taking place in the Ukraine by the end of the month. Cut to the pair of them frantically shouting Stern's name in desperate hope of finding him.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil:
    • For a long time Schindler seems to think that Goeth would be a much better person if there weren't a war going on, which Schindler thinks brings out the worst in people. He's incredulous that Goeth could enjoy killing people until Stern confirms the number of atrocities that the Nazi Captain has already committed.
    • Before his Character Development, Schindler's only interest in the Jews is for their potential to make him a profit. The pointless sadism of the other Nazis never occurs to him. When they transgress into realms that defy all logic and morality, he goes against even his own financial interest to rebel against it.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Generally averted. However one example which made the scene even more chilling was when we hear the shots Goeth is taking at his servant we see Stern walking a few paces behind. Stern then winces when we hear one shot, indicating the boy has clearly been hit. Seconds later we in fact see the boy's dead body and workers running to retrieve him.
  • Gratuitous German: Some German vocabulary (mostly when referring to people of power) is kept in the English dialogues to make the atmosphere more believable.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: The final scene of the film shows the actual Schindler Jews, and the actors who played several of them, visiting the grave of the actual Schindler in Israel. They each leave a stone on the marker to mark their visit, as per Jewish custom. By the time they finish, every bit of space on the marker (except for the inscription) is covered with stones. A lone man then places two red roses on the marker; while his face is not shown, it has since been revealed that this was Liam Neeson.
  • Group Hug: Combined with Cooldown Hug. When Schindler breaks down in tears over not having done more, Stern and his workers all hug him to show how much he did.
  • Guile Hero:
    • Oskar Schindler uses bribery and convincing lies to stuff his factories with as many Jews as possible, and thereby save their lives.
    • Both Stern and Poldek Pfefferberg are prone to scheme and lie to get away with saving people or smuggling essential goods.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Amon Goeth is prone to killing people for random infractions.
  • Hanging Around: Amon Goeth is tried and executed for crimes against humanity this way.
  • Hate Crimes Are a Special Kind of Evil: Historical Fiction, though based on the accounts of those who survived, the film is replete with numerous examples of hate crimes.
    • The emptying of the ghettos, with some taken prisoner, and others being executed, based on their Jewish heritage.
    • SS officer Amon Goeth is particularly sadistic. When a Jewish woman with a degree in engineering tries to explain that the foundation for a building was incorrectly poured and would crack, Goeth orders her shot, despite her pleading that she's only doing her job. Then he orders that the current foundation be torn down and repoured per the woman's specifications. At one point, Schindler tries to explain the concept of mercy as power to Goeth, and for a very short while, it seems like the speech had inspired him, only for him to decide that he didn't see the power in mercy and start shooting at Jews from his window. Goeth never reforms, and is hanged for his crimes.
    • Schindler actually convinces other members of the SS not to commit further crimes, as they'd been ordered at the fall of Germany in the war to execute the Jews before fleeing. This is one hate crime that Schindler is actually able to avert, though he breaks down in the end over the lives that he wasn't able to save.
  • Hate Sink: Amon Goeth is a one-man cipher for the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust. As commander of the Plaszow concentration camp, he enslaves the Jewish prisoners until he can get no more labor from them, after which they're sent to the gas chambers. Many don't even make it that far, being either killed as an example or for Goeth's own amusement. Despite genuinely believing that Jews are not human, Goeth develops a lust for his maid Helen Hirsch, nearly raping her until he decides such a victim would be beneath him. Instead, he beats her senseless. Oskar Schindler initially pretends to be a sycophant to flatter Goeth into not looking into his anti-Nazi activities, but eventually feels compelled to speak up and try to convince the man to be more merciful. Goeth does attempt this, initially allowing a boy he enslaved to live despite an error, but ultimately decides that kindness is boring and kills the boy.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • At the start of the movie, Oskar Schindler is perfectly willing to bribe Nazi officials and manipulate people in order to make money. He slowly comes to realize that the Nazis, and especially Goeth, are monsters.
    • Subverted with Goeth. After Schindler's speech to him on the virtue of "real power", we see Goeth do several uncharacteristic acts of...kindness. So much so that the audience can easily mistake Goeth for being moved/enlightened. How wrong they are...
  • The Hero Dies: The film ends with the Schindler Jews putting rocks on Oskar's grave.
  • Heroic BSoD: After finally rescuing his workers, Schindler suddenly becomes overwhelmed with guilt that he did not save more and breaks down in tears.
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • The connection Emilie Schindler has with Jewish workers is underplayed. Spielberg admits her story could be an entirely different movie. Like her husband, she was named a "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem.
    • Julius Madritsch, the other kindly industrialist who ultimately decides not to collaborate with Schindler, did in fact save many hundreds of his workers and other Jewish prisoners by granting them a haven in his sewing workshop and helping to smuggle them out of the ghetto to freedom. Among other schemes, he had his workers' children smuggled into the workshop in cloth sacks, and had around 100 of their names added to Schindler's list before the liquidation of Płaszów. Like Oskar and Emilie Schindler, he was honoured as a "Righteous Among the Nations".
  • Hiding in Plain Sight:
    • Schindler doesn't really put that much effort in to hide the fact that not only is he moving as many Jews out of the concentration camps as possible, but he's trying to make sure the actual labor they do is as unproductive and un-strenuous as possible. Goeth correctly guesses there's more to his scheme than he's letting on, repeatedly asking Schindler, "What's the scam?" Schindler gets away with it anyway, because the Nazis never even entertain the possibility that Schindler is doing this out of nothing but pure altruism.
    • During the raiding of the ghetto, a Poldek trying to escape avoids detection by claiming that he's been asked to clear the road for the soldiers. They laugh at him and move on, never realizing that he was lying through his teeth.
  • Hired for Their Looks:
    • Schindler is looking for a secretary for his new business, but appears clear that he's looking specifically for a Sexy Secretary and ends up surrounded by a bunch of very attractive girls. Since he can't decide which to keep​, he hires them all.
    • In a far less humorous fashion, when Goeth is looking for a housemaid (read: house slave) among the Jewish inmates, he picks the prettiest of the bunch despite her being the only one not to raise her hand when he inquired who among them had domestic experience.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Goeth is displayed proudly wearing the Iron Cross 2nd Class, the Sudetenland Medal and the Silesian Eagle, none of which he won in Real Life. His importance in the political machinery of the Holocaust is overplayed: he never got above the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) and never held any sort of political and military power.
  • Historical Beauty Update:
  • Historical Downgrade:
    • In Real Life Schindler knew about the mass murder of Jews from the outset (they began almost immediately in 1939; historical debate concerns asking from what point "mass murder" turned into Kill 'Em All) and did not need convincing by Stern or experience to save them. He was also in contact with several Jewish groups in other countries trying to make them aware of what was happening. Schindler was also a member of the Abwehr, German military intelligence, which was run by one Admiral Canaris, who was secretly a member of the anti-Nazi German Resistance. Schindler knew exactly what the Nazis were like before the war even started.
    • Julius Madritsch, the other kindly industrialist who treats his Jewish workers well, but ultimately decides not to collaborate with Schindler in the movie, did in fact save many hundreds of his workers and other Jewish prisoners by granting them a haven in his sewing workshop and helping to smuggle them out of the ghetto to freedom. Among other schemes, he had his workers' children smuggled into the workshop in cloth sacks, and had around 100 of their names added to Schindler's list before the liquidation of Płaszów. Like Oskar and Emilie Schindler, he was honored as a "Righteous Among the Nations".
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: The real Amon Goeth was actually far worse than his film counterpart, Spielberg excised some of his more heinous acts for being so unimaginably horrible that audiences simply would not have believed they had actually happened. See that page for examples of how bad he was. In real life, he treated the prisoners so badly that he was actually fired by his superiors. Imagine how bad you have to be to get fired for "maltreatment of prisoners" while running a concentration camp.
  • Honor Before Reason: One of the best examples in history.
  • Hope Spot: Several.
    • The one-armed old man who personally thanks Schindler for giving him a job-the next day he is shot by SS officers, just because.
    • "The worst is over... we are workers now!"
    • The Jewish boy scrubbing Göth's bathtub. Thinking about what Schindler told him earlier, he pardons the boy for making a mistake and sets him back to the work camp. However he decides that being "Amon the Good" isn't for him after all, or perhaps realizes, in some part of himself, that he's simply too far gone to redeem. Cue Boom, Headshot! and Stern walking past the boy's body.
    • Schindler's female workers are seen happily boarding a train that will supposedly take them to Schindler's plant. They end up at Auschwitz-Birkenau by mistake, but he gets them out safely with a well-placed bribe.

  • Ignored Epiphany: Goeth almost seems to have had an epiphany following Schindler's speech to him about mercy and real power, going as far as pardoning the Jewish boy who's failed to clean his bathtub. Then he changes his mind and shoots the poor kid In the Back from his balcony.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: Invoked. Once Schindler makes the decision to buy all his workers and transfer them to a new factory in his home town in Czechoslovakia, he deliberately ensures that his factory never produces anything of real value, and wastes more and more money buying materials from successful factories at a mark-up while buying off any Nazi officers who question it.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: During the final scene when Schindler is lamenting that he didn't save enough people despite saving over a thousand, he breaks down sobbing and collapses into the arms of his accountant, Itzsak Stern, simply because he couldn't save one more person.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: Schindler takes off his Nazi pin at the end of the movie.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Schindler is having sex with his mistress when he's informed that Stern has been mistakenly put on the train that takes Jews to the death camps.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune:
    • The scene when the little girl with the red coat is introduced. This is an interesting case: it is a children's song (a Yiddish song about children learning how to read Hebrew) but the ending of the song makes the tune as a whole fit quite well into the movie (it's about the suffering which Jews have gone through in history).
    • Later, when the Nazis use the children's song "Mamatschi" to lure children out of Plazsow onto trucks bound for extermination camps.
  • Irony: "And he's got the war. Which brings out the worst in people. Never the good, always the bad. Always the bad." - Schindler
  • I Should Have Been Better: Schindler's Heroic BSoD when he meets the people he's saved one last time before having to evacuate ahead of the Russians' march. Even with Stern's reassurance that he did what he could and 1,100 people is no mean feat under the circumstances ("There will be generations because of what you did!"), Schindler keeps muttering that he could have saved more, even pointing out the items in his own clothing and the car he's going to use to escape, that may have allowed him to pay for the life of just one more person at least.
  • It's All About Me: Several Nazis complain about the paperwork their genocide brings.
  • Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot: In the beginning, Schindler is an unfaithful husband who drinks too much and has a bad temper. He takes advantage of the war and he hires Jews just because he does not have to pay them, so he will make more money. Throughout the movie, he comes to realize that his moral duty is to save as many Jews as possible and he even puts his own life at risk in the process.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Schindler is an unfaithful husband who drinks too much and has a bad temper. That does not stop him from being a hero.
  • Karma Houdini: Amon Goeth is a downplayed example: while he is tried and executed like in Real Life, he dies a relatively quick and painless death by hanging, and just utters a monotone "Heil Hitler" before he dies.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Göth does this fairly often.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The young girl screaming "Goodbye, Jews!" as they are rounded up and the boy who makes a Throat-Slitting Gesture as their cattle truck passes by him on the railroad to the extermination camp. In the German dub, the girl says "Verschwindet, ihr Juden!" (Disappear, you Jews!), which is even harsher.
  • Lack of Empathy: A lot of the Nazis display this. It's really, really creepy.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • When Goeth finds Rabbi Lewartow in the factory who is working very slowly he takes him out to execute him, only for the gun to jam. It looks like this is just going to be a brief, agonizing reprieve, but it jams over and over again, as does a borrowed gun. Finally Goeth gives up, pistol whips him savagely, and then storms off in a huff. At the end of the film, we see Goeth's execution by hanging as a war criminal. Apparently it is quite a low-budget affair, as he is just standing on a chair. The executioner takes several attempts to kick it all the way out from under him, and we see him flinching all the way. This was loosely Truth in Television, as it took three attempts to execute Goeth due to repeatedly miscalculating the necessary length of rope.
    • Happened with Schindler in real life; it turned out he was never a successful businessman and spent the rest of his life poor. The people who ended up supporting him were from Jewish organizations, as thanks for what he did. In the film, the factory workers give him a letter that vouches for him being a good man who saved their lives, as well as a ring that is inscribed with, "He who saves one life, saves the world entire."
  • Left the Background Music On: During the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, a bizarrely upbeat piano piece suddenly starts playing as people who hid away from the SS soldiers are being massacred, until it's revealed that one of the Nazis on the scene found a piano and decided to test his skills.
  • Lima Syndrome: Goeth, to the limited extent to which he is capable of such a thing, falls in love with Helen by the time she is to go to Auschwitz.
  • Little Dead Riding Hood: The only color shown in the movie (aside from a candle at the beginning, the Blauschein stamp, and the ending scene) is a girl in a red coat, shown hiding from the Nazis. Later in the film, she is seen in passing again as one of a stack of corpses, only recognizable because the red coat is again the only color shown. Steven Spielberg wanted to use red because of the association with blood, and because Oskar Schindler really did see a toddler dressed in red.
  • MacGuffin Title: Referring to the list of Jewish workers Schindler marked as too important to kill.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • During the liquidation of the Ghetto, a nurse and doctor hurriedly give their elderly and infirm patients poison to ease them into death just before the Nazi soldiers arrive and start shooting at them.
    • Near the end, when requested by Schindler to give her to him, Goeth was considering shooting his Jewish maid rather than letting her be sent to Auschwitz.
  • Messianic Archetype: Oskar Schindler.
  • A Million Is a Statistic:
    • Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess (often diagnosed as a sociopath after the war), whose whole industry is mass murder, is extremely casual about the matter when Schindler arrives to bribe him for the female Schindler Jews who were shipped to the death camp instead of Schindler's factory in Moravia by mistake. Hoess refers to the prisoners they're killing as "units", first offers Schindler 300 other arrivals instead of the ones he wants, and is only bothered by the extra paperwork that it will bring.
    • Defied during Schindler's Heroic BSoD at the end of the movie when he's beating himself up for not doing more to save more people. When he stares at his gold pin and says that Goethe might have given him at least one more person for it, he's clear that this hypothetical person wouldn't be just a +1 on the total number of Jews he'd saved- that every single individual whose life is saved or lost is a human being.
      Schindler: One more person. A person, Stern!
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The physical scene in the camp. After the adults pass, they are seen relaxing, even smiling and laughing. Cue the children of the camp being driven by...
    • When the women are lead into the showers, expecting to be gassed only to find out they are in actual showers. They are ecstatic to have survived, but then as they are leaving they see another batch of women going into a different set of "showers", this one beneath a crematorium...
  • Morton's Fork:
    • A small one by Goeth. He asks a Rabbi Lewartow to make him a hinge and times him. If he makes it too slowly Goeth can shoot him for being inefficient. If he makes it quickly, Goeth can point out that though his work is fast, the number of hinges he has made throughout the day is very small and shoot him for slacking off on the job. In fact, the machines were being recalibrated that morning so he couldn't work. Goeth chooses the latter and tries to execute Lewartow, but settles for beating him unconscious after the pistol misfires.
    • The Jewish woman who designed the barracks was faced with one too, she just didn't know it. Goeth has her shot for pointing out flaws about the design, but if she had said nothing and the building collapsed, she would most certainly have been shot anyway. She didn't think Goeth was spiteful enough to murder the one person with the skills to see the project to completion.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Oskar Schindler's vices, including his shameless womanizing and hard drinking, are bluntly presented. In fact, it's the very fact that Schindler was such a boozy, glad-handling skirt-chaser as well as a heroic savior that makes him so interesting.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: More like My God, Why Didn't I Do More.
  • Nazi Protagonist: Oskar Schindler starts out as one of these. He gets better later on. Much better.
  • Near-Rape Experience: A variation is used. Nazi Captain Amon Goeth develops a creepy infatuation for his Jewish maid, and makes an abortive attempt to force himself on her while she's standing motionless and frightened in a wet shirt, never saying a word. He stops himself, but not on any moral grounds; he accuses her of "seducing him" because he considers her an inferior, and beats her senseless instead.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Schindler, because of this trait he always treated his workers and subordinates with respect, and then saved them.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Schindler bankrupted himself to save as many of his workers as possible. Though they do give him a letter of thanks, and time to escape with his wife before the Allies come. note 
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: When Stern forgets his papers and is loaded onto a train to a camp, Oskar encounters two low-level SS men with no interest in his excuses. It's only after he threatens to use his upper-level SS contacts to have them reassigned to the Russian front that they oblige Schindler. One of them tries to make light of the situation after Stern is released, admitting that he doesn't want to have to deal with the associated paperwork.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: On the scene of the mass exhumation and burning of the massacre victims' corpses.
  • Only in It for the Money: Schindler couldn't care less about political ideology, seeking only immense wealth. To begin with, anyway.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Stern never drinks, and is even called out by Schindler for this. When Schindler learns that everyone in the Płaszów camp (including Stern) is to be sent to Auschwitz, he says he was planning to have a drink with Stern after the war. Stern decides to take him up on the offer then and there, not knowing if he will live that long.
  • Out-Gambitted: Goeth gets this from a young boy, in the scene where he wants to find out which worker stole a chicken. He says he'll start shooting people if nobody admits who it was. Nobody speaks up, even though the SS guards warn them that he'll make good on the threat. Sure enough, Goeth selects a random worker, shoots him in the head, and once more demands to know who stole the chicken. An orphan boy steps forward and accuses the dead man of the theft, saving the other workers' lives and earning himself a transfer to Schindler's factory once Stern passes the story along.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Amon Goeth when speaking to his Jewish maid, Helen, in the basement, but then subverted when he switches back to his usual awful self.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: One scene shows a history and literature teacher being refused employment in the factory as his skills are deemed "useless" (since they only want Jewish citizens as cheap labor) and presumably deported to an extermination camp. Itzhak realizes this and tries to save certain Jews with artistic and intellectual skills by telling the Nazis they also have manual labor experience. It was par the course for Nazi policy to persecute intellectuals that were deemed "subversive", along with of course all those that were Jews, period (Polish intellectuals as a whole were also purged, to destroy potential leadership for any resistance).
  • Pet the Dog: Played straight in a couple of fleeting moments of humanity from Goeth, like taking the time to thank his servant, Helen, and removing Poldek from the execution line after an inspection, but predominantly subverted.
    • Goeth tries this several times, succeeding the first two. He gives up with the third, a Jewish boy who cannot clean the stains from his tub; after pardoning the boy, Goeth snipes him down while he is walking back to the barracks.
    • And then, of course, there is the scene where he tells Helen his appreciation of her before beating her and smashing a shelf full of wine on top of her.
    • While probably either apocryphal or dramatized, Goeth going out of his way to try and get Schindler out of prison (read Friendly Enemy above) definitely counts. The movie does make it vague if this was because of Schindler's money and bribes or if it was because Goeth actually cared and viewed him as a friend. The hints towards the latter were him telling the truth that Schindler was too drunk to realize what he was doing.
    • Schindler initially comes across as selfish and ignorant of the atrocities happening around him, playfully manipulating both Germans officers and Jewish businessmen to let him open the factory. When Stern was mistakenly loaded into a train (due to misplacing his paperwork) Schindler uses all that same manipulative power to recover him.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Commander Goeth takes a Jewish worker in the factory out back to execute him, but the pistol keeps jamming, then another one as well. Eventually, he gives up and hits the man with the butt of the gun before storming off in a huff.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Averted with Oscar Schindler. While he does use Jews as cheap labor, he is clearly not antisemitic.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Nazis, obviously.
  • Poor Communication Kills: A paperwork error results in the train filled with women and children to be directed to Auschwitz instead of Schindler's factory. Fortunately, he is able to bribe Hoess into returning them to him.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The reason why, at first, Schindler hires Jews for his factory, in essence rescuing them from the likes of Goeth. It's not for any moral reasons, but because Jewish labor is dirt cheap. Later once he actually starts trying to save them, he uses pragmatic excuses to justify his actions, such as near the end when the factory children are being put on a train to a concentration camp, he tells the officer in charge that he needs to the children's small hands to clean the inside of artillery shells.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Goeth. He has tantrums like a child, does things on a whim, and likes to break his toys. Unfortunately, in this case, his toys are human beings being starved and worked to death, who he kills on the merest whim (e.g., he wants to kill someone). Accent on the "merest" part.
  • The Purge: The Krakow Ghetto is "liquidated" as the local labor camp is established. This long sequence was the first indication of where Schindler's morality really was, as he's horrified by the sight.
  • Rain of Something Unusual: A scene in which Schindler is walking outside to his car there are children running out playing in what looks like snow. But when Schindler wipes it off his car one can see that it is actually ash that has come from the exhumation and incineration of mass graves outside Krakow.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • When the film was released, some criticized Spielberg for including such a "blatantly evil" villain as Goeth in the film, claiming that he was too pointlessly cruel to be believable. What these people are unaware of is that Spielberg toned down what a monster Goeth was in real life. He regularly tortured people, and had a special dungeon built under his villa for this specific purpose, and is believed to have personally murdered over 500 people (about a fourth of the deaths that occurred in his camp). And yes, there is tons of documentation and witnesses for all of it.
    • Additionally, some reviewers singled out the scene where the female Schindler Jews are ushered into a shower room at Auschwitz, only to gasp in relief when it turns out to be a real shower room. The Nazis really did this; prisoners who were chosen to work on their arrival at Auschwitz were sent to real showers and delousing. Those who weren't selected for slave labor on arrival were sent to fake showers and gassed. The Schindler Jews actually witness another transport of women and children being sent to the fake ones. No small part of this was for the sake of keeping some veneer of deniability up - of course people get showered and not gassed, what silly rumors! Although by 1944, most people knew what that "snow" around Auschwitz was.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The movie ends with showing the real-life Schindler Jews (and some of the actors who portrayed them) placing stones on the real Oskar Schindler's grave.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Weaponised by Schindler to get what he wants. When a couple of SS personnel refuse to help him locate Stern, Schindler makes a note of their names and warns them that he will use his connections to have them sent to the Eastern Front. Both men immediately change their minds and begin to search.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • Schindler claims to be supporting the Nazi party while deliberately having his Jews work unproductively in his factories, both to simply save the Jews from being gassed and to put a dent in the Nazi war machine. And he gets away with it.
    • In the last hour of the movie, he pulls 300 of his female workers out of Auschwitz with little more than a bag of diamonds and a lot of guts.
    • Once the German surrender is announced, Schindler gathered all factory workers and German army guards to explain what was going to happen. He freely admits that the guards technically have a responsibility to kill everyone there, even goading them to do so, but noting that it serves no purpose now.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: One Jew ends up being pistol whipped rather than shot in the head because Göth cannot get either of his pistols to fire, no matter how much he attempts to clear any jams.
  • Restricted Rescue Operation: Out of necessity to keep the Nazis from catching on.
  • Robbing the Dead:
    • The possessions of the Jews sent to the camps are looted for anything valuable. This includes pulling out their teeth in order to get their gold fillings.
    • The road into the Płaszów camp is paved with headstones taken from the Jewish cemetery that used to be at the site.
  • Rousing Speech: Amon Goeth in front of his troopers just before the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto.
    Today is history.
    Today will be remembered.
    Years from now the young will ask with wonder about this day.
    Today is history and you are part of it.
    Six hundred years ago when elsewhere they were footing the blame for The Black Death, Casimir the Great - so called - told the Jews they could come to Krakow. They came. They trundled their belongings into the city. They settled. They took hold. They prospered. In business, science, education, the arts. They came here with nothing. With nothing! and they flourished. For six centuries there has been a Jewish Krakow. Think about that. By this evening those six centuries are a rumor. They never happened.
    Today is history.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Throughout the movie, smoke is used to represent the Holocaust victims; the opening scene has a candle being lit representing hope and life, then the candle flame is extinguished and the smoke plume then transitions to the smoke billowing from a train steam engine that has just delivered a group of deported Jews to the Nazi authorities.
    • There are countless arguments about the meaning behind the Girl in the Red Coat, which is the only predominant color in the film:
      • One theory is that it represents the loss of innocence, particularly of the Jewish people. The young girl wanders through the chaos of ghetto liquidation, not understanding what's happening, and eventually hides under her bed hoping that this small bit of security will protect her. When Schindler later sees her in the pile of corpses he realizes that there is no hiding from what is going on, and you cannot just ignore it and hope it passes you by.
      • Another theory is that she represents the loss of family and loved ones of the Jews who perished. There are several stories from Holocaust survivors of their last view of loved ones being the red clothing they wore, since it stood out against the grey, brown and black clothing surrounding them. Even when they couldn't see their faces anymore they could still see the red...until they couldn't, and they never saw them again.
      • A third interpretation is that she represents the fact that high ranking people in other countries who knew what was going on (like the Roosevelt administration) refusing to do anything that would stop it or slow it down, such as bombing out rail lines. The red against the monochrome is just as obvious as what what was happening and what would eventually happen to that poor little girl.
  • Sadist: Goeth seems to murder people because he's a hollow-on-the-inside psychopath who enjoys the exhilaration.
  • Samaritan Syndrome: It causes a Heroic BSoD for Schindler towards the end.
    Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I'd just... I could have got more.
    Stern: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.
    Schindler: If I'd made more money... I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I'd just...
    Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.
    Schindler: I didn't do enough!
    Stern: You did so much.
    [Schindler looks at his car]
    Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.
    [removing Nazi pin from lapel]
    Schindler: This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this. I could have gotten one more person... and I didn't! [crying] And I... I didn't! [sobs into Stern's chest]
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: This is Oskar Schindler all over at the end.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Schindler deliberately forges friendships with the regional SS commanders to get the necessary permits for his enamel factory, and to get him out of trouble if necessary. When he's arrested by several German kripo (kriminalpolizei) agents for violating the racial laws, Goeth and his boss Scherner pull some strings to see him released.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: With the rules being those of the Nazi party, Schindler has to use his wealth to circumvent them. He pays off Goeth for every name that is put on the eponymous list, bribes Rudolf Hoss (the Auschwitz commander) with diamonds, as well as bribe any suspicious officials from the armaments board.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Schindler skirts and flouts just about every racist Nazi law to rescue his Jews.
  • Servile Snarker: This characterises Itzhak Stern's initial demeanor towards Schindler.
  • Sexy Secretary: Wiktoria Klonowska, Schindler's mistress, definitely is. Schindler purposefully hires pretty girls, overlooking the homely (but often more skilled) ones.
  • Shadow Archetype: Goeth to Schindler. The Central Theme of the movie is about the value of life; Goeth's casual and uncaring manner of killing people is contrasted with Schindler's pretending to be equally uncaring in order to wrap them up in his protection. By the end, despite saving over a thousand people, he breaks down in tears over not being able to save more. On the other hand, Goeth goes to his death unrepentant and utterly unmoved.
  • Shaming the Mob: When German surrender is announced, Schindler gathers both his workers and the guards in the factory. He then tells to the guards that he knows about their orders to dispose of the workers, but gives them a choice: either go with it, Just Following Orders... or simply leave and maintain their humanity, without being murderers. Knowing the war is over and their superiors dead or soon to be put on trial, they opt to leave without a single word.
  • Shirtless Scene: Goeth...while sniping Jewish inmates.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Siding with the Suffering: Industrialist Oskar Schindler asked his Nazi compatriots for a crew of Jews to staff his factories, since his regular workers had been conscripted into the Nazi Army. At first, these Jews were slave labor, making household goods in Schindler's factories, then later forging munitions. Over time, Schindler saw his labor force endure their work with quiet dignity, as it was far better than the "death camps" in the east, and it softened his view of them. Ultimately, Oskar Schindler kept hundreds of Jews from meeting a gruesome end, for which he was interred in the state of Israel with honors.
  • The Sociopath: Goeth and Höss are standout examples. The former murders people on a whim to alleviate boredom, the latter is annoyed by all the paperwork that comes with being a mass murderer.
  • Splash of Color: The little girl in the red coat; the Sabbath candles; the Blauschein stamp.
  • Street Urchin: Adam Levy, the brave young kid that is a Guile Hero in his own right as he smuggles Chaja Dresner and her daughter Danka to a safer zone and cheats Amon Goeth, blaming a dead man for a stolen hen in the camp.
  • Stunned Silence: When Schindler enters the Jewish administrative offices, barging past long lines of people waiting and calls out for Itzhak Stern, the noisy room immediately falls silent and everyone looks at Schindler nervously. He came to the place wearing the coat and boots commonly worn by plainclothes Gestapo men and with his Nazi Party badge clearly visible, using this to scare everyone there into letting him barge in without needing to wait or deal with other hassles to find and speak with Stern.
  • Stupid Evil: A crucial element of Goeth's character is that, while a truly evil and remorseless mass murderer, Goeth is not actually that smart, killing Jews, even the ones who helped him, for the pettiest possible reasons even when he could have benefited from keeping them alive. When one of the prisoners reports a structural flaw in the barracks they're building, Goeth has her shot because he won't let a Jew argue with him (even when she's right). When things don't go his way, he reacts violently, ignores simpler and more efficient solutions, and on one memorable occasion (see Out-Gambitted above) is outwitted by a child. Most crucially, he never catches on to the blatantly obvious fact that Schindler is only employing the Jews to keep them alive and sabotage the war effort, because the thought never so much as enters his mind, even for a moment, that Schindler could be protecting the Jews because he can't stand to see innocent people slaughtered. The scene where Goeth tries and fails to shoot an old Jewish man - repeatedly - was actually included for this very reason, Luger guns really were prone to jamming, and Spielberg wanted to show how lazy the Nazis (and Goeth in particular) were at taking care of their weapons.
  • Survivor Guilt: After his Heel–Face Turn, Schindler financially ruins himself bribing Nazi officials in an effort to save Jews from the Holocaust. After he escapes, he forlornly notices that hawking his getaway car could've saved more lives, too, and the Nazi Party pin he wore could've bribed someone for just one life.
  • Survivorship Bias: The film and its entire premise runs on this trope; its focus is on a small number (by comparison) of Jews that were spared the Holocaust thanks to Schindler's actions. This example proves Tropes Are Not Bad, because if one wants nothing but depressing news about the Holocaust, you can certainly find it elsewhere.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Oskar Schindler has left his German wife Emilie back home and has a Polish mistress in Krakow. When Schindler's wife comes to visit and finds the two together, her response towards Oskar is fairly tame (probably due to the more conservative gender roles of the period), while the one most embarrassed by all this is the mistress, who leaves in a hurry. Emilie does remind Oskar that she doesn't have to tolerate it, and they spend an evening together where he reaffirms that he still loves her.
  • Sympathetic Slave Owner: Schindler starts out as a self-interested war profiteer, undisturbed by the fact that his labourers are unpaid prisoners, but gradually morphs into this until his only motivation for buying as many Jewish "slaves" as possible is to save their lives. In the end, he saves over 1,000, but is distraught that it wasn't more and breaks down before the survivors. He is the only Nazi Party member buried in Israel, and was awarded for saving so many.
  • Tempting Fate: At every stage of the Jews' predicament, someone comments that things can not get worse, or that they are now in a pretty good position (as workers that is). Justified of course, given this was barbarity on an unimaginable scale.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: Played with in a comic relief scene. A series of increasingly attractive girls with increasingly poor typing skills appear in Schindler's office, trying to get a job as his secretary. Schindler the incorrigible womanizer is in turn increasingly besotted. The sequence ends with Schindler slumped down in his chair, depressed, as an older, stern-looking woman types away at lightning speed, while chewing a cigarette and slamming the typewriter's slide each next line. He ends up hiring all of them to have his cake and eat it too.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Oddly enough, variously played straight (holy shit but Nazis apparently know how to party), and subverted. By the end, no one is being "wacky."
  • Translation Convention: Applied haphazardly. Sometimes everyone speaks "English," while other times, it is in unsubtitled German or Polish. The general idea seems to be that we don't hear "English" when the focus characters (for example, the Polish Jews at Auschwitz) can't understand the language being spoken, but it can be really hard to tell sometimes. Yiddish, meanwhile, is seemingly never translated.
  • Traumatic Haircut: The Schindler female workers when they arrive at Auschwitz.
  • Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: The protagonist wrestles with his conscience for quite a while before making the leap from being an opportunistic entrepreneur to a subversive hero. This is never remarked upon until the closing minutes of the film, not even by Stern. As Roger Ebert observed, there seems to be an unspoken understanding between the two men, as though saying it aloud would mean instant death.
  • Undead Author: Why one character argues the Nazis can not really be killing everyone, because then who would be telling the stories about them killing everyone?
  • Unknown Rival: It never occurs to Goeth that Schindler is using their friendship to save as many Jews as possible and subtly tries to manipulate him to be more merciful. While Goeth is correct in thinking that Schindler is a businessman first, he never suspects that he is also a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Emilie is so used to her husband's infidelity that she barely reacts when she arrives in Kraków and finds him in flagrante.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The SS guardsman howling in the corpse burning scene as in the Freak Out example above. Contrast: Goeth, as usual, despite the stench, cries, smoke, rotting bodies around, is unflinching.
    This incineration of disinterred corpses was such a horrific procedure from the human, aesthetic, and olefactory aspects that it is impossible for people who are now used to living like ordinary citizens to be able to imagine this horror (quoted from the testimonies of Heinrich Gley, former Death Camp Belzec guardsman)
    • Amon Goeth has a small one when he attempts to execute a worker, only to have his second gun repeatedly jamming, same for the first one. Finally snapping, he just hits the worker's head with the gun with all his might, before leaving.
  • Villainous Crush: Amon Goeth has one on Helen Hirsch, his Jewish maid. This leaves him conflicted because he believes her to be inferior to him.
  • Villainous Rescue: Goethe of all people pulls this. When Schindler is arrested for kissing a Jewish girl, Goethe argues for his release, saying that Schindler was drunk. Which is technically the truth. Schindler goes free the next day.
  • What Are You in For?: When Oskar Schindler is arrested by the German police in occupied Poland for possibly violating the Nazi racial acts by kissing a Jewish girl, his cellmate's first question is "What about you?". Schindler's answer prompts the incarcerated man to counter with a lurid anti-Semitic joke.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Julian Scherner is shown to be another important SS associate of Schindler, but unlike Goeth his fate isn't addressed. Scherner was caught for embezzlement of stolen Jewish property like Goeth himself. Although instead of being kicked out of the SS, he was demoted to a penal unit and was either killed in action or committed suicide just before the war ended.
  • "What Now?" Ending: At the end, the Schindler Jews are approached by a lone Soviet soldier on horseback who yells out a boilerplate announcement of their liberation. He then goes off-script and confides that most people still despise the Jews, but they might have luck finding food in the next town over.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A unique and famously powerful variation, where 128 of the real life Schindlerjuden walk hand in hand with the actors portraying them to lay stones on Schindler's grave. Liam Neeson himself lays down flowers, while subtitles inform you that Schindler was exonerated by a Jewish council, while also sharing the statistics of the Holocaust and those who survived because of him. The question is only when, not if, you will need tissues while watching it.
  • White Man's Burden: It's a Holocaust movie in which the titular hero is a gentile.
  • Wicked Cultured: During the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, an SS officer is happily playing on a piano amidst all the executions occurring around him. It was Bach, despite what the two obviously less-than-cultured soldiers at the door said (Prelude to the 2nd English Suite). The music fit right in, its rapid-fire percussive staccato nature lining up with the gunfire and muzzle flashes peppering the night.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: At one point, Goeth orders an enslaved rabbi (Lewartow) to make a hinge and times him, with the implication he will be shot if he's not up to snuff. Lewartow does well enough that Goeth actually praises him...and then decides to shoot him anyway, on the basis that he hasn't made enough hinges. Miraculously enough, he survives when Goeth has not one but two guns misfire.

There are fewer than four thousand Jews left alive in Poland today. There are more than six thousand descendants of the Schindler Jews.
— from the epilogue


Amon Goeth

Amon Goeth killing 25 prisoners as retaliation for one of them escaping.

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