Steve Jobs: Musicians play the instruments. I play the orchestra.
Steve Jobs is a 2015 biographical drama film directed by Danny Boyle, written by Aaron Sorkin, and starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, and Katherine Waterston. Adapted from the 2011 biography of the same name by Walter Isaacson, the film has an explicit three-act structure that depicts three major events in the life of tech icon Steve Jobs (Fassbender):
- the 1984 introduction of the Macintosh computer, ultimately a watershed moment in personal computing;
- the 1988 product launch of the NeXT Computer, an attempt to create a new computer company following his hostile ouster from Apple in 1985;
- and lastly, the 1998 product launch of the iMac, which capped a triumphant return for Jobs, who'd become Apple's CEO once again when Apple bought NeXT in 1997. note
Instead of focusing on the launches themselves, each of the acts takes place in the behind-the-scenes confusion right before each of these product unveilings. Through the acts, the film shows how Jobs' famously abrasive personality affected his co-workers and family, and focuses on his struggle to find his own humanity through his relationship with the daughter he had always denied was his.
Not to be confused with Jobs from 2013.
Tropes featured in this movie include:
- The '80s: The first two acts take place in this decade.
- Abusive Parents: Steve and Chrisann.
- Steve is emotionally abusive to Lisa, often denying paternity in front of her. Paradoxically, he is also something of a case of My Beloved Smother, as he bribed a prestigious school to take in Lisa and spies on Chrisann.
- Chrisann hates having her parenting questioned, as shown when an infuriated Steve confronts her about throwing a cereal bowl at Lisa. She insists that she threw it on the ground when Lisa was away. Lisa later describes her as a "troubled woman".
- Actually Pretty Funny:
- When Steve is talking to Andy Hertzfeld before the 1984 product launch:Steve Jobs: You had three weeks. The universe was created in a third of that time.
Andy Hertzfeld: Well, someday you’ll have to tell us how you did it.
- When Steve is talking to Andy Hertzfeld before the 1988 product launch:Steve Jobs: I've been learning to love myself.Andy Hertzfeld: I wouldn't have thought that would be a problem.Steve Jobs: (chuckles) Fantastic burn, man.
- When Steve is talking to Andy Hertzfeld before the 1984 product launch:
- Adapted Out:
- No mention is made of Pixar, the other company Steve Jobs set up after his ouster from Apple. Note
- Steve's wife Laurene and their three children are not mentioned or shown in the 1998 section.
- Analogy Backfire:
- In act one:Joanna: Please. You have to tell me why it's so important for it [the Macintosh] to say "hello".
Steve Jobs: Hollywood. They made computers scary things. See how this reminds you of a friendly face, that the disk slot is a goofy grin? It's warm and it's playful and it needs to say "hello". It needs to say "hello" because it can.
Joanna: The computer in 2001 said "hello" all the time, and it still scared the shit out of me.
- Zig-zagged:Woz: I'm tired of being Ringo when I know I was John.
Jobs: Everybody loves Ringo.
Woz: And I'm tired of being patronized by you!
Jobs: You think John became John by winning a raffle, Woz? You think he tricked somebody or hit George Harrison over the head? He was John because he was John.
Woz: He was John 'cause he wrote "Ticket to Ride." And I wrote the Apple II.
- In act one:
- Armor-Piercing Question: Steve gets many throughout the movie, but particularly this one in the third act:Andy Hertzfeld: Why do you want people to dislike you?
Steve Jobs: I don't want people to dislike me; I'm indifferent to whether they dislike me.
- Appeal to Obscurity: A slightly ironic version involving Alan Turing; although he became more famous in the meantime, he still isn't someone people usually recognize on sight.Joel Pforzheimer: Who’s this one?Steve Jobs: Alan Turing. Single-handedly won World War II, and for an encore invented the computer. He won’t be part of the campaign, though.Joel Pforzheimer: Why not?Steve Jobs: Because you had to ask me who he was.
- Artistic License – History: Zig-zagged; most everything in the film actually happened, but they didn't all happen right before product launches. Andy Hertzfeld put it best when he said (paraphrased), "That never actually happened, but it's all true."
- Art Evolution: Live-action example. The first act is shot in 16mm to give a retro feel; the second act is shot in 35mm; and the third act is shot in digital HD.
- Batman Gambit: Steve dragging his feet on the NeXT while he waits for Apple to flounder so they have to hire him back as CEO and let him save the company. Lampshaded by Joanna (see Insult Backfire below).
- Beleaguered Assistant: Joanna Hoffman has to deal with the insanely high demands of Steve Jobs, be a buffer between the public and his abrasive manner, and even won an award at Apple for being able to put up with his ego. Three years in a row.
- It's no coincidence that in a scene where Joanna isn't present, Jobs and Wozniak get into a bitter and public argument.
- Biopic: Refreshingly, the movie doesn't take a conventional approach to biopics but instead focuses on three important points in Steve's life: the launch of the Macintosh, the launch of NeXT, and the launch of the iMac.
- Boring, but Practical: Steve takes this view of the Apple ][—a simple and accessible computer that singlehandedly keeps Apple afloat with its continually robust sales, but is nonetheless technically unimpressive compared to the Awesome, but Impractical Macintosh.
- Brick Joke: During the first segment, Jobs orders Andrea Cunningham to find a way to have the exit sign lights turned off so the auditorium can go completely dark. Early in the third segment, when Jobs is rehearsing, he notices something different, and realizes the exit sign lights have been turned off.
- In the same scene, when a handheld camera examines the iMac up close, Steve Jobs notes that you can see in the machine, but you still can't open it. This is a nod to the difference in philosophy between Jobs (who wanted consumers to not be able to tinker with their machines) and Woz (who wanted the opposite). To Jobs, the iMac is a nice compromise of these two viewpoints.
- Broken Pedestal: Jobs and John Sculley, from both their perspectives.
- Brutal Honesty: In act two, Woz tells Jobs upfront that NeXT will fail.Woz: I came here 'cause you're gonna get killed. Your computer's gonna fail. You got a college and university advisory board telling you they need a powerful work station for $2 to $3,000. You priced NeXT at $6,500, and that doesn't include the optional $3,000 hard drive which people will discover isn't optional, because the optical disk is too weak to do anything, and the $2,500 laser printer brings the total to $12,000, and in the entire world you are the only person that cares that it's housed in a perfect cube. You're gonna get killed. And I came here to stand next to you while that happens 'cause that's what friends do... that's what men do. I don't need your pass. We go back, so don't talk to me like I'm other people. I'm the only one that knows that this guy here is someone you invented. I'm standing by you because that perfect cube, that does nothing, is about to be the single biggest failure in the history of personal computing.
Jobs: Tell me something else that I don't know.
- While at this time, this appeared to be the likely scenario, and while the NeXT by itself was a failure, it in fact became the Macintosh (and by extension, the iPhone and iPad), while the Macintosh of old gradually disappeared.
- Call-Forward: To future Real Life inventions by Apple:
- Woz shows Jobs a watch that he thinks is cutting edge but Jobs says will never catch on (and thinks it looks like Woz is activating a bomb!). Years later, Apple would make the Apple Watch.
- Though Woz was way off on the timeline of 10 years and hardly 'everyone' is wearing them as they are seen as mostly an expensive novelty, at least currently.
- When Jobs and John Sculley make amends in act three, Jobs reveals why the Newton failed: by using the stylus, you're not able to use your fingers — a reference to what would become many finger-activated touch-screen devices, but particularly the iPhone and iPad.
- At the end, Jobs tells his daughter that he's going to put between 500 and 1,000 songs in her pocket, because he can't stand looking at her bulky Walkman anymore. Obviously, a nod to the iPod.
- Woz shows Jobs a watch that he thinks is cutting edge but Jobs says will never catch on (and thinks it looks like Woz is activating a bomb!). Years later, Apple would make the Apple Watch.
- Character Development: In the first act, Steve Jobs puts Andy Hertzfeld through hell to make him fix the voice demo before the scheduled time they're supposed to open the launch: "We're a computer company! We can't start late!" This is echoed in the second act, when after having told off John Sculley in an explosive confrontation leaves with the words "We can't start late." Finally, there's the end of the third act, where Lisa finally calls out Steve on all his bullshit and storms off. Truly feeling shame over how he's treated her all these years, he follows Lisa up on the rooftop to try to make amends with her and apologize. Their exchange?Lisa: It's after nine. You're gonna be late.Steve: I don't care.
- Commonality Connection: In 1984, after having been cold, callous, even outright cruel to Lisa by telling her the LISA wasn't named after her, the moment Lisa shows Steve the abstract drawing she has done in MacPaint, there is an immediate and noticeable thaw. At once he shows concern over the fact that Lisa isn't in school on a school day, and promises that he will give Chrisann all the money she needs and buy them a house. Lisa didn't need any instructions for using the software, she just intuitively understood it. In her hands, it has become a bicycle for the mind.
- Control Freak: Jobs, in terms of product design (Macs famously can't be opened up or altered without special tools available exclusively to Apple engineers) and the product unveilings, where he goes so far as to insist that the signs for the fire exits be shut off so that the lighting would be appropriately dark. Unfortunately, it also applies to his personal life, as he more or less cannot stand that Chrisann and Lisa are a part of his life as they do not do what he wants, especially when Chrisann sells the house he bought for them.Steve: As long as you have control... I don't understand people who give it up.
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: At age nine, Lisa listens to a cassette tape of both versions of "Both Sides Now". She describes the earlier version as "girly", and the latter version (recorded decades later) as "regretful".
- Deadpan Snarker: Most every character. It's an Aaron Sorkin movie, what would you expect?
- Disappeared Dad: Jobs' angst over being abandoned by his biological parents is shown as a possible reason for his jerkishness. Notably, he is also a self-imposed version of this to his daughter until the end.
- Distant Prologue: In technology terms, anyway. The film opens with a vintage film reel from the 1960s, where author Arthur C. Clarke (correctly) predicted the future, where everyone would have their own personal computers and would be able to do everything with them. After this brief scene, the movie flashes forward to 1984.
- Dramatization: The movie has no real pretensions to being an accurate depiction of the events portrayed (although most of the small historical and character details are accurate). Instead, it uses the three-act structure as a way to examine the changing nature of Jobs's personality and how the world perceived him.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Steve Wozniak spends the entire movie begging Jobs to at least acknowledge the Apple II team (whose success is what gave Jobs the means to create the Mac in the first place).
- Steve Jobs throws it back at him during their public duel when he says the reason he never gave Woz any respect is because Woz, at least in his own view, never respected him.
- Dueling Movies: With Jobs, released in 2013. Steve Jobs was actually announced first, but delays meant it wasn't released until 2015.
- Dutch Angle: The film begins using these towards the end, most notably in the board meeting where Jobs is fired has this along with deep shadows and rain pouring down the windows to amplify the seriousness of the situation.
- Failure Gambit: It's revealed that Steve designed the NeXT Computer fully intending for it to fail, despite being a technically impressive computer. His real plan is to entice Apple to buy NeXT after the company's failure, allowing him to regain a position of power at Apple.
- Financial Abuse: Chrisann has to go on welfare because Jobs (who at this point in the story is worth several hundred million) steadfastly refuses to pay child support.
- Technically, he pays the exact amount the judge decided he should pay: $385/month. Chrisann confronts Jobs about the disparity between his means and her needs.
- Flower Motifs: At the NeXT launch, Jobs switches out the flowers on the demo table with more funereal white lilies.
- Freudian Excuse: The movie openly suggests that Jobs's jerkassery can be traced back to his feelings about being given away in adoption and not feeling loved by any kind of parent, either biological or adoptive.
- Fun with Acronyms: Played for Drama; early in the film, Jobs claims one of his early computer models, the "Lisa", was not in fact named after his daughter (whom, at that point, he denied was his), but instead stood for Local Intergrated Systems Architecture. At the end of the movie, Lisa calls him out on this, and Jobs admits he lied, and the acronym he made up doesn't even mean anything. (In real life, he admitted it stood for Lisa Invented Stupid Acronym.)
- The Golden Rule: Steve Wozniak's reasoning on why Steve Jobs should acknowledge the Apple II team.Woz: Do it! It's right! It's...it's right.
- Hidden Disdain Reveal: Andy Hertzfeld does this to Steve Jobs in act three.Andy Hertzfeld: Why do you want people to dislike you?
Steve Jobs: I don't want people to dislike me; I'm indifferent to whether they dislike me.
Andy Hertzfeld: Well, since it doesn't matter, I always have.
Steve Jobs: (surprised and saddened) ...Really? I've always liked you a lot. That's too bad.
Andy Hertzfeld: ...Knock 'em dead. (leaves)
Woz: Y'know, when people used to ask me what the difference between me and you is, I'd say, "Steve's the big picture guy, I like a solid workbench." Whenever people ask me now, I just say, "Steve's an asshole." The things you make are better than you are, brother.
- Steve Wozniak did this twice in the film: Once, when Jobs first left Apple and called him an "insulting and hurtful guy"; and again in act three, when one of the last things he says before leaving the auditorium is:
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Defied. This movie was not afraid to show the less pleasant aspects of Jobs.
- Historical In-Joke: Jobs mention to John Sculley how the Newton failed for having a stylus instead of letting people use their own fingers, and his annoyance at Lisa's walkman apparently inspired him to create both iTunes and the iPod.
- History Repeats: Thrice, Jobs has to face the things he did wrong while preparing a product presentation. He even lampshades it at one point:Steve Jobs: It's like five minutes before every launch, everyone goes to a bar, gets drunk and tells me what they really think.
- Hippie Parents: Steve and Chrisann.
- Steve is a Bourgeois Bohemian, he cut his long hair, wears suits and runs a successful business, but he still adores Bob Dylan and prides himself on his products being counter-culture.
- Chrisann is a a dramatic Granola Girl, as she has her house blessed for $1500 and purchases antiques and sells them for substantially lower value.
- I Like Those Odds: Inverted. Jobs dismisses a DNA test saying that there's a 94.1% chance that he is Lisa's father by calculating that that meant 28% of men in the United States could have been the father. The mother interprets that as being called a slut.
- Lisa points out later in the movie that multiple Harvard statisticians have tried and failed to figure out how Jobs arrived at this number, and he appears to have pulled it out of thin air.
- Insufferable Genius: Jobs. The slightest questioning of his methods or motivation is enough to send him into a rant. It's mentioned that the Apple staff give out an award to the employee who is best able to stand up to his raging.
- Insult Backfire: A couple instances:
Steve Jobs: I'm the world's leading expert on the Mac, John, what's your resume?!
- The John Sculley/Steve Jobs meeting:
John Sculley: You're issuing contradictory instructions, you're insubordinate, you make people miserable, our top engineers are fleeing to Sun, Dell, HP, Wall Street doesn't know who's driving the bus, we've lost hundreds of millions in value and I'm the CEO of Apple, Steve. That's my resume.
Steve Jobs: But before that, you sold carbonated sugar water, right? I sat in a fucking garage with Wozniak and invented the future, because artists lead and hacks ask for a show of hands!
Joanna: This guy, Kawasaki in Macworld, he accidentally got it right, didn't he? You've been dragging your feet on the NeXT OS 'til you can figure out what Apple's gonna need.
- A few minutes later:
Steve Jobs: ...Even if that were true, it doesn't sound that diabolical to me.
- Invisible Subtle Difference: A programmer goes through 39 different shark pictures for the iMac presentation before Jobs is satisfied. The programmer doesn't see the difference between that shark and the other 38 sharks he looked at.Steve Jobs: Nobody gets it right the first time, but I should've been shown this, like, 15, 20 sharks ago.
Programmer: You probably were.
- It Will Never Catch On: A rare inversion. In a scene set in 1988, Woz shows up to a product launch wearing an experimental Nixie tube wristwatch, and claims "Everyone's gonna be wearing these in ten years!" Jobs isn't convinced, and points out that it's way too difficult to change the time on the thing (it requires using a screwdriver to open it and reset the dials, and it looks suspiciously like an explosive when it's opened). Jobs was right, of course: Nixie tube watches really didn't catch on.
- It's All About Me: Jobs would claim it's about the product, but he's not really fooling anybody.
- Jerkass: Jobs. The movie portrays him as an unempathetic, condescending prick who treats his co-workers like crap, both by putting them into alot of stress and not giving them credit for their work. Not only this, but he's a neglectful father too, denying his fatherhood for Lisa for the first half of the movie.
- Jerkass Has a Point: YMMV on much, but Steve Jobs does have some fair points from time to time.
- Jobs' is being a jerk, but he did give Hertzfeld and the team weeks to prepare the voice demo and it worked consistently until a half-hour before the product launch.
- Although it's a nice gesture a product launch is mainly to celebrate a new product, so Jobs speaking about the Apple II is superfluous at best.
- Jobs is right to be annoyed that Chrisann spends money he gives her on frivolous purchases rather than the necessities, especially as she comes to him asking for more money.
- Lack of Empathy: Jobs certainly qualifies at times.Chrisann: I applied for welfare yesterday. (Beat) The Time article said your Apple stock is worth $441 million, and I wanted to ask you what you felt about that.Steve: Well, I feel like Apple stock has been dramatically under-valued. This would be a good time to get in.
- Lampshade Hanging: At the third act, Steve remarks that people can't seem to help dramatically confessing their true feelings to him just minutes before his product launches.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: John Sculley wants to keep it between himself and Steve Jobs that they used real skinheads in the famous "1984" ad.
- Like a Son to Me: Sculley to Jobs. It doesn't last.
- The Makeover: Joanna has three distinct looks in the film: In 1984, her hair is short, she wears glasses, and dresses in a formal business suit and dress. By 1998, she has lost the glasses, dresses more informally (but still professionally) and has longer hair.
- Metaphorically True: Jobs' conflict with Sculley in the 1990s largely hinges on Steve publicly claiming that Sculley fired him from Apple, which Sculley claims isn't true. While there's more than a grain of truth in Jobs' claims, the full story turns out to be much more complicated: Sculley threatened to resign from Apple unless Jobs was fired, and asked the board of directors to vote on whether to keep him in the company, effectively asking them to choose between him and Jobs—and Jobs dared him to call for a vote, despite Sculley apparently warning him beforehand that the board would never take his side.
- Narcissist: Steve Jobs had many traits of this. It's even explained here.
- Never Hurt an Innocent: While the line demonstrates the patronizing attitude Steve has for Woz, it also makes clear that Steve cares deeply for his old friend, who has maintained an innocence Steve and John lack by staying out of the rough and gritty business side of things where the latter two operate, instead only ever being in the computer game due to his love and talent for technology. To therefore try to use Woz as a weapon against Steve, that is something that Steve just cannot countenance:Steve Jobs: You want some advice, Pepsi Generation? Don’t send Woz out to slap me around in the press. Anybody else. You, Markkula, Arthur Rock, anyone but Rain Man. Don’t manipulate him like that. Whatever you may think, I’m always gonna protect him.
- Never My Fault: A major source of tension between Jobs and Sculley is Jobs' continual insistence on blaming all of his problems with the Macintosh on Sculley. Sculley calls him out on this around the midpoint of the film, noting that Jobs (wrongly) convinced the public that Sculley fired him from Apple; in reality, Apple's board of directors voted him out after he brazenly ignored Sculley's warnings about challenging the board over their decision to revoke support for the Macintosh. When Jobs describes his ouster from Apple as a "homicide", Sculley retorts that it was a suicide.
- Non-Answer:Chrisann: I'm asking you how you feel. If it feels all right to you that your daughter and her mother are on welfare while you're worth $441 million for making that [the Mac]?
Steve Jobs: I'm proud to say Apple donates computers to underfunded schools, and we'll be doing more of the same with the Mac...
Steve Jobs: Apple donates millions of dollars' worth of computers to schools.
Chrisann: What does that have to do with...
Steve Jobs: Imagine an underprivileged kid that has their favorite teacher with them 24 hours. We're minutes away from being able to do that.
Chrisann: In your head, was that an answer to my question?
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Interestingly, the movie never shows Steve Jobs's product launches, only the lead-ups to them.
- Old Shame: In-universe, this is why Steve Jobs refuses to acknowledge the Apple II team; he wasn't satisfied with Woz defying his instructions to limit the slots, as he thought it went against his philosophy of "end-to-end" control. He also didn't want to dwell on the past, claiming that the company should always look to the future.Steve Jobs: This is a product launch, not a luncheon. And the last thing I want to do is connect the iMac—
Steve Wozniak: —to the only successful product that this company ever made.
- One-Steve Limit: Literally averted, as both Jobs and Wozniak are major characters. Also less literally averted in a more amusing way, as Jobs is irritated that in the 15 years that the film spans, people still call Andy Hertzfeld and Andrea "Andy" Cunningham by the same name, and he has to ask for clarification every single time.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Wozniak is known throughout the movie as "Woz".
- Papa Wolf: Even though Jobs repeatedly denies paternity, pays only what the court requires in child support (at first), and is not involved in raising Lisa, when he finds out that Chrisann might have hit her, he bluntly tells Chrisann he has the resources to have her murdered.
- Parental Substitute: Andy Hertzfeld acts as one to Lisa; not only does he recommend Lisa see a therapist, but he pays for Lisa's first semester of college because Jobs initially refused to. Jobs asked Andy point blank if he recommended Lisa to a therapist because she was lacking a paternal authority figure; after a pause, he affirms: "I did."
- Platonic Life-Partners: Jobs and Joanna Hoffman. She's one of the few people he genuinely respects.Steve: Why haven't we ever slept together?Joanna: We're not in love.
- Protagonist Title
- Real Soon Now: In act two, Steve Jobs is followed by a reporter who wants to know, off the record, when NeXT will be ready for launch. Joanna tries to reply but Steve interrupts her: "When it's done." When the reporter presses for details, Steve admits that the one thing holding them back is... they don't have an OS. The computer knows how to run a presentation and that's it.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- Joanna finally gives Steve one over how he treats his daughter.
- Woz also gives Steve one over how he treats his employees, while Steve is giving Woz one for not understanding how the business works.
- Steve gets one from his daughter in act three:Lisa: You know, my mother might be a troubled woman, but what's your excuse? That's why I'm not impressed with your story, dad. It's that you knew what I was going through, and you didn't do anything about it, and that makes you an unconscionable coward. And not for nothing, but "think" is a verb, all right, making "different" an adverb. You're asking people to think differently. And you can talk about the Bauhaus movement and Braun and "simplicity is sophistication" and Issey Miyake uniforms and Bob Dylan lyrics all you want, but that thing [the iMac] looks like Judy Jetson's Easy-Bake Oven.
- The Reliable One: Joanna Hoffman. Whatever Steve Jobs needs to have happen right this second, Joanna makes sure it gets done.
- Rule of Symbolism: There's some inventive staging done to highlight Jobs and Woz's overall roles when it came to founding Apple.
- When Woz shows off his Nixie watch to Jobs before Next's unveiling, the both of them sit down in front of the music stands where the conductor is usually positioned. While Jobs boasts about being the conductor of the orchestra, their position makes it clear that Woz is just as much a conductor as Jobs claims to be. It's especially amusing when Jobs describes Woz as just another musician and should stay where he belongs... despite the fact that Woz is still standing where the conductor should be.
- Their confrontation about acknowledging the Apple II team has Woz in the audience seats while Jobs is on stage, highlighting how Jobs is the public face for Apple while Woz is more of The Everyman and prefers to watch from the sidelines. However, since this scene was about his anger at Jobs's refusal to give credit where credit is due, he noticeably gets out of his seat to chew him out, demonstrating how he's fed up and no longer wants to just sit by while Jobs (quite literally in this setting) hogs the spotlight.
- Running Gag: Due to there being multiple people named "Andy" (Hertzfeld and Andrea Cunningham), the exchange of "Andy!"-"Which one?" is heard throughout.
- Shout-Out: Steve calls Joanna "Yentl" at one point.
- Speech-Centric Work: It wouldn't be an Aaron Sorkin movie otherwise.
- Stop Saying That!: Jobs and Woz get into an argument about how many slots should be on the Apple II (with Jobs arguing it should have less, and Woz wanting more), prompting this:Woz: Computers aren't paintings.
Jobs: Fuck you. I'll say "fuck you" every time you say that until you either die or stop. Try it. Say "computers aren't paintings" again.
Woz: ...Computers aren't p-
Jobs: Fuck you.
- Take a Third Option: Averted; in act two, Steve wants to know why they're still offering three options for a clock on the NeXT desktop. He wants only two options: "Buy it, or don't."
- Technician Versus Performer: Wozniak is the technician, in that he's the skilled engineer who actually knows how to code, and his workhorse Apple II is the primary moneymaker for the company, while Jobs is the performer; his glossier, more ambitious projects are more likely to fail, but people are enthralled and inspired by their glossiness and ambition, and those are the qualities that keep people interested in what Jobs is going to do next, whereas Wozniak imagined that computers would be chiefly of interest to people who knew how they worked.
- Time-Compression Montage: Between each of the three acts, we get a montage of news stories detailing the story leading up to the new product launch.
- Tough Room: At the start of act three, Steve Jobs is rehearsing his iMac presentation and says the computer "has the coolest mouse you've ever seen. This time, we used actual mice." Most of the Apple employees laugh, except for Joanna, who tells him to stick to the script because they're running low on time.
- Troubled Abuser:
- Chrisann was described by Lisa as a "troubled woman" who may or may not have physically abused her, but Steve does absolutely nothing to financially support her or Lisa or even acknowledge the disparity in financial opportunities between them.
- Steve actually also counts, as he reveals in the final act that he was actually very affected by the fact that he was abandoned by his birth parents and then the first set of parents who were supposed to adopt him, instilling in him a need for total control over everything. He succinctly describes himself as such as Lisa finally calls him out for abandoning her:Steve: I'm poorly made.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Some of Jobs' animosity toward Sculley stems from him blaming Sculley for the Macintosh's lackluster sales, despite him being one of its strongest supporters. Even after Sculley risks his career to ensure that the Macintosh's famous Super Bowl ad makes it to television over the objections of Apple's board of directors, Jobs still accuses him of trying to sabotage him by killing the ad.
- Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Of the parental kind of love. As a child, Lisa spends all her time desperately trying to earn Steve's attention and love, only to be met with a lot of distraction and disapproval. When she's an adult, he spends much of his pre-launch time trying to get her to talk to him, only for her to be the one giving him the cold shoulder. Downplayed as they clearly care about each other, and it's turned on its head at the end when it's revealed Steve saved her childhood drawing all along and did name the LISA after her.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Steve and Woz have some of the most amazing verbal confrontations in the history of cinema, where both sides are absolutely right and have strong convictions to back them up. You'd think that'd make them bitter enemies, but Woz is incredibly loyal to Steve (basically being one of his closest Honest Advisors), and Steve gives Woz 'a free pass for life', which is apparently sincere even if Woz finds it insulting.
- Joanna counts as one for Steve too, since she can take a lot of his snark and not wilt, while dishing back in equal amounts (which he apparently relishes).
- Walk and Talk: Obviously, as this is an Aaron Sorkin movie (though it's also Truth in Television, as Jobs in real life liked to conduct one-on-one meetings while taking a walk).
- What Could Have Been: In-universe example. Jobs and Sculley finally bury the hatchet, but regret that they couldn't have been working together the whole time.Sculley: The things we could've done...
- What the Hell, Hero?:Joanna: I love that you don't care how much money a person makes, you care what they make. But what you make isn't supposed to be the best part of you. When you're a father, that's what's supposed to be the best part of you, and it's caused me two decades of agony, Steve, that it is, for you, the worst.
- What Were They Selling Again?: Discussed. Steve and Sculley get into an argument about the Macintosh's famous "1984" Super Bowl ad, which Apple's board strongly disapproved of. As Sculley points out: despite the ad being a powerful and evocative short film, it never actually showed the Macintosh, and told consumers absolutely nothing about it.Sculley: People talked about the ad, but most of them didn't know what we were selling.
- Who Dares?: Steve's reaction when Sculley gives the board of directors an ultimatum, threatening to resign unless Steve is fired.Sculley: I'm perfectly willing to hand in my resignation tonight—but if you want me to stay, you can't have Steve. Settle him out. He can keep his share of stock so he gets our newsletter. He'll have to sever his connection to Apple. (beat) I'm dead serious. I want the secretary to call for a vote.
Jobs: How fucking dare you!
- World of Snark: As is par for the course for Sorkin.
- Yiddish as a Second Language: When Steve asks Joanna to get Lisa to come backstage and talk with her by doing her old, wise European act, Joanna replies, "You know I wasn't born in a 19th century shtetl, right?".