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Film / The Big Lebowski

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The Dude abides.
"Sometimes there's a man — I won't say a hero, 'cause what's a hero? — but sometimes there's a man."

The Big Lebowski is a Cult Classic directed by The Coen Brothers. It's a bit hard to describe, but let's call it a Film Noir parody. The film was released on March 6, 1998.

Jeff Bridges stars as a lazy and useless slacker named Jeffrey Lebowski, who prefers to be known as "The Dude". One night, a pair of thugs break into his house, dunk him in the toilet, and pee on his rug, mistaking him for a local millionaire, also named Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston, the eponymous "Big" Lebowski). Said millionaire, who denies compensation for the aforementioned rug, ends up recruiting the Dude to help in the negotiations for his kidnapped wife, Bunny (Tara Reid), and that's when the plot takes off.

This being a Coen Brothers movie, though, the plot isn't what's important. The driving force of the movie is the bunch of various bizarre characters, almost all of whom seem to come from different movies. For more information about them, see here.


Despite being a disappointment at the box office and initially getting a mixed reception from critics, The Big Lebowski has become one of the biggest cult classics in modern film history, to the point that it has a yearly festival dedicated to it, both in America and England. Critics nowadays also look upon it far more kindly as a modern comedy classic.

In 2019, John Turturro reprised his role and directed a spinoff called The Jesus Rolls, a Foreign Remake of 1970s French film Les Valseuses.


Well, sir, it's these tropes I had. They really tied the page together:

  • Absurdism: One of the more triumphant modern-day examples, full of offbeat comedy and convoluted plot twists that turn out to signify nothing much in particular. The latter elements are one of several ideas cribbed from The Big Sleep, which the film is named after and to which it serves as a very loose homage. The film also shares some other aspects of the movement, including quirky, repetitive but still naturalistic dialogue and the portrayal of established institutions as empty and corrupt. The Dude himself can be and has been, held up as something of an Anti-Nihilist hero: lazy, unmotivated, and bound to no higher purpose, but still kind, loyal, and open to endless possibilities. There's also the random swerve into a musical...
  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: Provides the current page image. The Dude suffers multiple home invasions and, getting kinda sick of it, starts to nail a piece of wood to the floor and props a chair between it and the door. It is immediately revealed that the door opens outwards instead of inwards. And later in the film, he trips over it.
  • Actor Allusion: Mixed with Mythology Gag and Production Posse:
    • Detective Da Fino, the PI hired to find Bunny Lebowski and played by Jon Polito, expresses his admiration of The Dude's apparent playing one side against the other throughout the movie. In Miller's Crossing, Jon Polito plays a mob boss who is victim to and absolutely hates a double-cross.
    • Walter's oft-repeated line "shut the fuck up Donny!" is precisely written because Buscemi's character wouldn't shut up in Fargo.
    • John Turturro played a paederast in a play called Mi Puta Vida, which the Coens said directly inspired his character here.
    • Walter's home security business works under the slogan "Peace of Mind". In Barton Fink, John Goodman's character says he sells peace of mind.
    • Peter Stormare's character sits in the diner with the group of nihilists and all of them order pancakes. His character in Fargo was very insistent on getting pancakes as well.
    • Jeff Bridges wears the same baseball t-shirt in The Fisher King.
  • Affectionate Parody: The plot is sort of a meandering gonzo take on Raymond Chandler-style noir detective stories, in particular, The Big Sleep. The Coens have produced their fair share of straightforward examples of the genre, so it's definitely an affectionate one.
  • The Alleged Car: The Dude's Torino increasingly becomes this. It wasn't exactly a royal chariot to begin with, but over the course of the film, it is stolen and trashed by a fifteen-year-old, used as a toilet, crashed by the Dude (twice), beaten with a crowbar, and finally set on fire.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: The Jewish convert Walter automatically assumes that the Germans are Nazis and that nothing ever changes. When the Dude insists that they're nihilists, Walter notes that that would be worse, since "say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, at least it's an ethos." In the end, though, he calls one of the Nihilists an antisemite, so he apparently hasn't given up on the idea.
  • All There in the Script: In an early draft of the script, The Dude's source of income was revealed. He was an heir to the inventor of the Rubik's Cube. It was Joel Coen's idea to drop this and never say.
  • Ambiguous Situation: What The Big Lebowski's supposed role in the kidnapping ultimately amounts to. Although Dude's theory that Lebowski used Bunny's "kidnapping" as an excuse to embezzle money is very plausible, it's never outright confirmed by any of the related parties. The closest thing to any form of solid evidence is The Big Lebowski's reaction to Dude and Walter's accusation. He doesn't seem fazed nor does he even bother denying it, but instead simply counters with a "your word against mine" retort.
    • Was Smoky's foot over the line? We never see.
  • Ambiguously Trained: Walter makes it very clear in every scene that he has done service in Vietnam, but it is never made clear in which branch of the military he served. While the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Air Force were all involved, over half of the troops involved were a part of the Army, so it is likely that Walter was in the Army. But if the original screenplay is in any way canon, Walter did not actually serve any time in Vietnam, but it's never made clear in the film itself.
  • An Aesop: Although it might seem to just be a random, absurdist farce, the movie ultimately reinforces a pretty clear message of "take it easy and don't sweat unnecessarily over things". Most of the trouble for the Dude kicks off when he forgoes his usual laid-back approach to things and swipes the Big Lebowski's rug in retribution for his own being soiled by the goons who were hunting down the Big Lebowski. He later lampshades this at a point where things have become particularly perilous for him, bemoaning that "I could just be sitting here with pee stains on my rug" instead of having to deal with all the chaos.
  • Answers to the Name of God: The Jesus certainly does.
    Dude: Jesus.
    Jesus: You said it, man. Nobody fucks with the Jesus.
  • Antagonist Title: The protagonist is the Dude (although his surname is indeed Lebowski). The other one, the "Big" Lebowski, is one of several antagonists in the film.
  • Anti-Hero:
    • The Dude in the classic sense, a lazy stoner only vaguely interested in this mystery thing who doesn't do anything heroic at all. He is at least genuinely concerned about Bunny's well-being and is taken aback by some of Walter's shenanigans, which he tries to mitigate or rein in.
    • Walter, a violent, bumbling psychopath who thinks he's in the right and screams at people for anything, ever.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: The Jesus, a braggart who threatens our "heroes" several times over.
    Dios Mio, man. Liam and me, we're gonna FUCK YOU UP.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Without the verbalization; after another home invasion where The Dude's johnson is threatened by a nihilist ferret (which the Dude mistakenly believes to be a marmot).
    Walter: Also, let's not forget - let's not forget, Dude - that keeping wildlife, an amphibious rodent, for, uh, domestic, you know, within the city - that ain't legal either.
    The Dude: What are you, a fucking park ranger now?
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Walter is a walking example of this trope, despite supposedly serving in Vietnam, and presumably having been trained in gun handling. Notable examples include threatening someone else with a Colt M1911A1, and, in doing so, racking the slide with his finger on the trigger. There is also the incident with the disguised Uzi submachine gun while Walter and the Dude were trying to make the handoff at the bridge.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Walter misjudges the wind, and ends up pouring out the ashes from an urn all over the Dude. The Dude appears to be calm at first, but it ultimately becomes a Rant-Inducing Slight.
  • Ass Shove: The Jesus threatens to do this to Walter with Walter's Colt .45 and yank the trigger "'til it goes click" if Walter ever tries jamming a gun in Jesus's face.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The absurd fiasco of Donny's funeral improbably turns into pathos as a regretful Walter gives the Dude a hug, which the latter grudgingly accepts.
  • Babies Ever After: "I happen to know that there's a Little Lebowski on the way." Weirdly subverted, though, since Maude makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with the Dude after the child is born, and just wanted him to impregnate her so she wouldn't have to run into the father of her child everywhere she went. It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context.
  • Badass Mustache: Sam Elliot personifies this trope. The Stranger is not shown doing anything badass, but he sports some mighty impressive armlike whiskers that seem eager to punch you if you stare at them too long.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Walter got what he wanted. Donny finally shut the fuck up.
  • Bears Are Bad News: "Sometime you eat the b'ar, and sometimes, well... he eats YOU!"
  • The Berserker: When Walter gets mad, he gets mad. He points a gun at someone over an alleged bowling foul and manages to hand the nihilists their collective ass all by himself through sheer rage.
  • Berserk Button: Walter has several.
    • Walter flips right the fuck out when a bowling opponent allegedly steps over the line in a League game and refuses to acknowledge his error. Cross Walter on a rules violation, and you'll stare down the barrel of a gun.
    Walter: You are entering a world of pain.
    • Walter takes his Judaism very seriously, even though he converted for his (now ex-)wife. Getting him to break the laws of Shabbas will earn you an ear full.
    • Walter completely snaps when trying to intimidate a teenager he suspects has stolen the ransom money by smashing up what he thinks is his car, screaming, "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!"
    • Whenever Walter gets his dander up, he inevitably finds some way to link it back to some obviously unresolved issues with his tour in Vietnam. In fact, he finds an excuse to mention 'Nam in just about any situation. He even brings up 'Nam during a eulogy for Donny, despite it having nothing to do with Donny. The Dude doesn't take that particularly well.
    Dude: What the fuck does anything have to do with Vietnam?!
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • More often than not, the lyrics of the Gipsy Kings' version of the already surreal "Hotel California" are weird or make little sense in Spanish. The song tries so hard to be literal that it becomes a Translation Train Wreck. A very fitting theme for this kind of movie.
    • The car that Bunny drives has a license plate which reads "LAPIN", which is bunny in French.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Stranger argues for this right at the end of the movie. Donny is dead and the Dude and Walter will never be able to prove the Big Lebowski's guilt, meaning all they have to do now is contemplate their lives before the big game. And the Dude doesn't even get his rug back. However, we hear there's a little Lebowski on the way, albeit one that won't have the Dude's involvement in his upbringing. In addition, Big Lebowski gets traumatized by Walter for his swindle, the irritating nihilists won't harass the Dude anymore, and the Dude won't take the fall for Bunny's disappearance like the Big Lebowski planned. And, you know, come what may... "the Dude abides."
  • Black Comedy: One of the blackest. Even Walter's eulogy/funeral for Donny ends up being hilarious.
  • Black Comedy Rape: The Jesus' extremely flamboyant threat to our heroes: shoving Walter's pistol up his ass "until it goes click. YOU GOT A DATE WEDNESDAY, BABY!"
  • Bookends: When The Dude first meets Maude, she is naked and covers herself up with a robe. The last time he sees her, she takes off a robe and gets naked with him.
    • At the climax of the movie, The Dude says "Where's the money, Lebowski?" when confronting the Big Lebowski in the same way the Treehorn's goons said to him in the beginning.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Stranger talks to the audience at the very end, looking right at the camera and finishing up with one last bit of narration.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Walter replaces the real one with his undies, intending to keep the real briefcase full of money, given to the Dude to make an exchange for Bunny. ... Which turned out to not have money in it at all. Perhaps someone should have opened it. As the Dude puts it, Walter "threw out a ringer for a ringer," with the Big Lebowski hoping that the kidnappers would kill the Dude and take the heat off of him.
  • Broken Record: Walter has a tendency of repeating himself (especially when pissed - or more pissed than usual), and sometimes he goes into overdrive.
    Walter: You see what happens, Larry?! You see what happens, Larry?! You see what happens, Larry, when you fuck a stranger in the ass?! You see what happens, Larry?! (etc, etc.)
  • Busby Berkeley Number: "Gutterballs" when the Dude is insanely high.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Implied to be the reason why the Dude and Walter keep Donny around. He gets a strike every time we see him roll with one notable exception.
  • Butt-Monkey: Donny gets no respect from his friends (especially Walter) when he tries to join in on their conversations. Literally, the only time he isn't told to shut the fuck up by Walter, or something similar, is at the end - when he's dying thanks to the fight with the nihilists.
  • The Cameo:
    • Aimee Mann appears briefly as the fourth member of the Nihilist gang, who donates a toe to be sent to the Big Lebowski with the claim that it is one of Bunny's.
    • Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea is the Nihilist who gets his chest caved in by Walter's bowling ball.
    • Comedian Dom Irrera plays Maude's limo driver, he even performs a portion of his "I can't complain!" routine.
    • Pornstar Asia Carrera has an uncredited cameo in the Logjammin' sequence.
  • Camp Gay: "Knox Harrington. The video artist." Played by David Thewlis. Who giggles madly for no reason at times, much to the Dude's consternation.
  • Candlelit Bath: The Dude takes one while smoking a joint to relax, which seems to help. His mood improves further when the police leave the Dude a message that his stolen car has been found. But it's shortly ruined by the nihilists and their "marmot" (actually a ferret).
  • Captain Obvious: Donny, which may be part of the reason why Walter and the Dude ignore him all the time. (i.e.: "Jeffrey Lebowski? That's your name, Dude!")
  • Car Radio Dispute: The Dude gets in an argument with a cab driver because he "hates the fucking Eagles", culminating with his getting kicked out of the cab.
  • Cassandra Truth/The Cuckoolander Was Right: Walter speculates what really happened throughout the movie and is right almost every time. No one believes him. "Am I wrong?" The only things he wasn't right about was when he thinks the Big Lebowski isn't disabled and throws him on the floor and about Bunny kidnapping herself, but that wasn't his idea anyway, and he was right that she was safe all along. And he was right that "that's not her toe, dude."
  • Catchphrase: A number, which is a pretty big understatement.
    • "We believe in nothing!" - the nihilists.
    • "Shut the fuck up, Donny." - Walter
    • "Am I wrong?" - Walter again
    • "Let's go bowling" and variations of it.
    • "Fuck it." - The Dude's answer to any kind of adversity, an attitude that gets him criticized by both Walter and Lebowski.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: In the bowling montage at the beginning of the movie, the guy cleaning the bowling shoes looks a little bit like Saddam Hussein. Later, during a drug trip sequence, he is Saddam, suggesting that the Dude is aware of the resemblance.
  • Censored for Comedy: Since the Coen Brothers knew the scene where Walter destroys a car couldn't be aired on television with its original dialogue, they decided to go for Word-Salad Humor with the ADR.
    Walter: This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps! This is what happens when you feed a stoner scrambled eggs!
  • The Chew Toy: The Dude. The universe seems to love sending him people who break down his door, smash up his car, and pee on his carpet.
  • Chronically Crashed Car: The Dude's poor car. It is in less than stellar condition when we first see it, and over the course of the film, it gets stolen, befouled by transients, the windows smashed in, before finally being torched by the Nihilists.
  • Classical Antihero: The Dude is a nice guy, but he doesn't want to be involved in the weird conspiracy he finds himself in. As the Stranger notes, all the Dude really wants (at first) is some compensation for the two goons breaking into his house and peeing on his rug — and only sought that out after Walter pushed him into doing so. He does show concern for Bunny... but only once grievous harm is threatened. This is in stark contrast to Walter, who seems to leap at the opportunity to get involved.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: In total, there are 292 uses of the word fuck in the film. Lampshaded by the Stranger.
    Do ya have to use so many cuss words?
  • Come Alone: Immediately defied by Walter forcing his way into the Dude's car, much to his (and the kidnappers') consternation and panic.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Maude and the Dude as they watch Karl Hungus star in a porn movie as a cable repair guy. Maude comments that "the story is ludicrous" and tells Dude that he can imagine where the plot goes. The Dude ventures, "He fixes the cable?"
    • At one point, Maude shows up in the Dude's apartment, shrugs off the robe she's wearing and, completely naked, demands "Jeffrey, love me." The Dude's response? A confused "That's my robe."
    • After the Dude informs his friends about the Nihilists dropping a feral ferret into his bath and threatening to remove his johnson, Walter starts to get a bit sidetracked on the fact that bringing wildlife into the city limits is a criminal offence.
      The Dude: What are you, a fucking park ranger now?! Who gives a shit about the fucking marmot?!
  • Complaining About People Not Liking the Show: In-universe. A cab driver has a sudden outrage at the Dude for not liking The Eagles.
  • Complexity Addiction: Discussed during the "handoff" scene by Walter, who claims to dislike overly complex planning ("When a plan gets too complicated, anything can go wrong"), and offers an "ingeniously simplistic" alternative to paying the Nihilists their ransom: grabbing one of Bunny's kidnappers and beating her location out of him. The irony that Walter's actions often serve to over-complicate and problematize the Dude's plans is seemingly lost on him.
  • Cool Car: The Corvette they find during the attempt to extort the boy who stole The Dude's car. "I'd say he's still got about $960-$970,000 left, depending on the options."
    My baby! I just bought that fucking car last week!
  • Cooldown Hug: Walter gives one to the Dude to stem the Dude's fury after Donny's ashes fly in his face.
  • Covert Pervert: Bunny implies that Brandt is willing to pay to watch her have sex with other men.
  • Cowboy: The Stranger "got a whole cowboy thing going". His style is very diggable.
  • Cultural Posturing: Courtesy of Walter, who was not raised Jewish, but converted to Judaism for his (now ex-) wife. According to most Jewish theologians, he is at least an ideological inheritor of the religion and its traditions, but the Dude is unconvinced.
    Walter: Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax. YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I'M LIVING IN THE FUCKING PAST!
  • Curse Cut Short:
    Walter: Donny, shut the f- When do we play?
    Walter: Who the f- (As in the Dude's "Who the fuck is Arthur Digby Sellers?)
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: Lebowski receives a ransom note for Bunny, from the Nihilists.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Dude gets in a few good quips.
    • The first scene features two from the Dude. When one of the punks is dunking the Dude's head in a toilet and shouting "where's the fucking money, Lebowski?!" the Dude answers "it's down there somewhere. Lemme take another look." Later, when the same punk asks "what the fuck is this" when he looks at the Dude's bowling ball, the Dude says "obviously, you're not a golfer."
    • Regarding the porn movie Bunny's been in:
      Maude: Lord, you can imagine where it goes from here.
      Dude: He fixes the cable?
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of the Film Noir genre and detective stories in general. The "detectives" are made up of a stoner, a 'Nam obsessed lunatic, and a random friend of theirs who is forcibly kept out of the plot. It's actually perfectly in line with most noir, though, that solving the mystery doesn't bring the guilty parties to justice.
  • Deranged Taxi Driver: The Dude complains about the Eagles playing in the taxi taking him home from Malibu; the cab driver responds with a Cluster F-Bomb and throws him out on the side of the road.
  • The Determinator: Walter tends to take things too far...
  • Digital Destruction: Universal's Blu-Ray release of the film has been subject to quite a bit of criticism due to its overuse of edge-enhancement and DNR (digital noise removal), which, while removing a lot of film grain, also removes much of the texture and detail from the movie. This was later fixed with the Ultra HD release of the film.
  • Dirty Cop: The "fuckin' fascist" chief of police of Malibu, a real reactionary who assaults the Dude after he is drugged and ejected from Jackie Treehorn's party.
  • Disney Acid Sequence:
    • The "Gutterballs" Busby Berkeley Number dream. And see about two minutes in for Between My Legs.
    • Happens earlier, too, when Maude's goons knock The Dude out to take her rug back. It consists of him flying through the air above LA and following Maude on a flying carpet (the Persian rug that was just taken from him), then suddenly having a bowling ball in his hand and falling to Earth.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Walter threatens to shoot Smokey after he tries to mark it eight when he was over the line.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: The Dude, when trying to explain his relationship with Maude to a private detective.
    "She's not my special lady; she's my fucking lady friend! I'm just helping her conceive, man!"
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: "Do you like sex, Mr Lebowski?"
    "You mean... coitus?"
  • Dreams of Flying: After being drugged by Jackie, the Dude has a flying dream. It also happens earlier, when he is knocked out by one of Maude's goons and his recently acquired rug taken.
  • Dress Hits Floor: And Maude gets loved.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Donny's death is a deliberate subversion of the unwritten rule that nobody ever dies for random or plot-unimportant reasons in Film Noir, or really, any genre except weird comedies. "It's a heart attack." Though, considering the scene in which his death occurs, it may be a Double Subversion.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Walter, the most insane and incompetent character in the movie, turns out to be the only one who even remotely figured out the plot. The only things he got wrong were the belief that Bunny had kidnapped herself and the belief that the Big Lebowski isn't disabled and throws him on the floor, otherwise, he was dead-on accurate.
    • Although technically the Dude figured it out first ("she probably kidnapped herself, man."). Walter just latched onto the Dude's speculation as fact and refused to let it go. He did turn out to be right, but it was the Dude who gave him the idea in the first place.
  • Dude, Where's Our Car?: The Dude's car is stolen (with the real ransom money briefcase still inside), prompting Donnie to ask: "Say, Dude, where is your car?" The title of the movie Dude, Where's My Car? was inspired by this movie.
  • El Spanish "-o": You can call him "El Duderino" if you're not into the whole brevity thing.
  • Erudite Stoner: The Dude. Has "the occasional acid flashback".
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • The first thing His Dudeness The Slacker is shown doing is shopping for half-and-half in his robe, tasting it in the store, then paying for it by writing a check for 69 cents. On further analysis, the check is postdated.
    • Walter's first scene is conversing with the Dude about the first home invasion and spouting off various theories and odd phrases, showcasing his Cloud Cuckoolander personality.
    • Donny's first scene is him scoring a perfect strike while bowling then immediately being ignored or berated by Walter when he asks what's going on, establishing his bowling skills and background character status.
    • The Big Lebowski's first real appearance has him berating the Dude for asking for compensation and insulting him for being a bum, all while talking about how amazing, hardworking, and successful he is.
    • Maude is introduced performing some sort of ridiculous, self-styled painting method, then awkwardly and nonchalantly asking the Dude if he enjoys sex before going on a small rant about how men are uncomfortable with sex, establishing herself as avant-garde and an opinionated feminist.
  • Evil Plan: The titular Lebowski's machinations during the kidnapping; If the Dude opened the case and saw that he was never handed the ransom money in the first place, his total lack of credibility ensures that he ends up taking the heat for "botching" the exchange.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Subverted; the Dude is in a conversation with Jackie Treehorn when the latter receives a call, writes down something on a notepad, tears off the notepad, and excuses himself. The Dude, in full sneaky investigator mode, grabs the notepad and shades it with the side of a pencil to highlight the impression made on the next sheet of paper. It turns out to be an anatomically exaggerated picture of a man and his...manhood.
  • Excrement Statement: A goon pees on the Dude's fucking rug while proclaiming "Ever thus to deadbeats." Walter and the Dude decide that this aggression will not stand.
  • Faked Kidnapping: Walter and then the Dude believe this might be the case.
    "It's like Lenin said. You look for the person who will benefit, and, uh, you know."
  • Fanservice: Slow-motion bouncing topless women at a beach party, and Julianne Moore painting naked.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: Parodied; the Stranger tries to present a sage, wise perspective on things, but keeps losing his train of thought.
  • Femme Fatale:
    The Dude: Uh, I'm just gonna go find a cash machine.
  • Finger in the Mail: The eponymous "Big" Jeffrey Lebowski is sent one of his wife's, Bunny, toes after a botched money exchange. It's later revealed to not be his wife's toe, but rather, the female nihilist's.
  • Fish out of Water: What makes the film so funny in the first place; the Dude is stuck in a Film Noir narrative with all the various interests around him (aside from Walter and Donnie) behaving accordingly.
  • Foreshadowing: "You guys are dead in the water." Where do Walter and the Dude take Donny's ashes?
    • After he fails to strike (for the first and only time in the film) and sits back down near the end, you can see Donny start to wiggle and flail his arm in discomfort. The arms tend to go numb just before someone has a heart attack.
    • There's another, surprising one if you think about it: the poster image on this very pagenote .
  • Fourth Wall Greeting: The DVD introduction includes a thoroughly bizarre parody of film preservation societies, apropos of nothing. And yet, it's completely in keeping with the film.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When the Dude picks up Walter for the dropoff, one can clearly see Walter runs a store selling security equipment. Given his devout Judaism and very vocal hatred of Nazism, it's a little weird to see that the logo for Sobchak Security is a big "SS".
    • In the beginning, when the Dude is in the supermarket writing a check for the carton of half and half, the date on his check is Sept 11. And President George Bush (the first one, though) is on TV talking about invading Iraq. This is all just a weird coincidence, though, since the movie came out a few years before the Twin Towers fell.
  • Freudian Threat: "Tomorrow we come back and we cut off your chonson."
  • Friendship Moment: Happens after the last time the Nihilists show up. Donny gets scared and Walter gently reassures him that they aren't in any real danger. That's it. Just one quick moment, not particularly touching, but if it weren't for this, Walter's a heartfelt eulogy for Donny would seem like it came out of nowhere, seeing as the rest of their interaction in the film is Walter shouting at Donny and telling him to shut the fuck up.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": "Goddammit, Walter! Everything's a fuckin' travesty with you, man! What was all that shit about Vietnam?"
  • Funny Background Event:
    • While the Dude and Walter bicker in the car after Walter pulled a gun on Smokey, you can see cops pull into the lot and run into the bowling alley in response to the incident being called in.
    • You can also see Bunny, presumably as high as a weather balloon on drugs, happily prancing around naked outside in the background while the Dude and Walter confront Brandt on their way to see Lebowski.
    • When Walter and the Dude talk, Donny remains in the background but still "participates" in the scene with Facial Dialogue alone, usually the vivid and amusing kind. When Walter pulls a gun, Donny promptly stands up and puts some safe distance between him and the unfolding events.
  • Gambit Pileup: Subverted when very little of it ends up mattering.
  • Genre-Busting: It's a Stoner Flick masquerading as Film Noir, while the narrator insists it's The Western.
  • Genre Refugee: All of the characters seem to have stumbled into this movie from different ones and consequently don't seem to be quite sure of exactly what kind of movie they're in. In addition to the Stranger's confusion over whether this is a Western or not:
    • The Dude's walked right out of a stoner comedy or a 1960s New Hollywood-style counterculture flick.
    • Walter acts like he's in a Vietnam drama that chronicles the veteran's harrowing struggle to reacclimatize back into civilian society after everything he's seen and done.
    • The Big Lebowski, Maude, Jackie Treehorn and Da Fino seem to think and act like they're playing a Film Noir straight (and even manage to convince Walter of this for a time).
    • The nihilists believe they're in a quirky-but-dark Tarantino-inspired crime thriller about a gang of eccentric Villain Protagonists, and that they're the protagonists in question.
    • Bunny's dialogue and attitude is essentially a porn movie starlet.
    • The Jesus mashes up Latin Lover comedies with being the Opposing Sports Team personified.
    • Donny is just an ordinary guy who thinks he's in a slightly eccentric bowling team but has an otherwise normal life. He's probably the most wrong out of all of them.
    • And on top of all that, there's a comically Westernesque narrator.
  • Glorified Sperm Donor: The Dude for Maude, although the "glorified" bit is definitely averted. "I don't want the father to be someone I have to see socially, or who will have any interest in raising the child himself."
  • Godwin's Law: After the Dude is attacked by a group of German nihilists, Walter calls them Nazis purely on them being German.
    Walter: Fucking Nazis.
    Donny: They were Nazis, Dude?
    Walter: Oh come on, Donny. They were threatening castration! Are we going to split hairs here?
    • However, Walter backtracks surprisingly fast from his claim when hearing that the attackers were nihilists since at least Nazis believe in something.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Walter is not a bad guy, all right, but, heavens, he has a way to behave towards Donny or towards people in general. Then there's also the Dude himself, who isn't a violent person like Walter was, but makes up for it by being an incredibly lazy and occasionally stubborn slacker.
  • Good Night, Sweet Prince: "In accordance with what we think your last wish may very well have been, we now commit your mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean. Good night, sweet prince."
  • Goshdang It To Heck: Only on TV broadcasts. "Do you see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?" The TV broadcast version also might benefit from the heavy censorship in the scene where the cab driver throws the Dude out of his taxi and shouts, "Get out of my peaceful cab!" which coincides with the scene, the song being played, and also provides a little Hypocritical Humor.
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: The Dude has a flying dream which ends when he notices he's holding a bowling ball and promptly hurtles groundward.
  • Groin Attack: "I said WE'LL CUT OFF YOUR CHONSON!"
    "Ja, maybe we stomp on it and skvoosh it!"
    "My only hope is that the Big Lebowski will kill me before the Germans cut my dick off..."
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Walter. "For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint!"
    • The taxi driver the Dude takes from his escapade to Treehorn's mansion also really doesn't like people badmouthing The Eagles.
  • Hate Sink: Treehorn's thugs are introduced having broken into the Dude's home, one of them giving him a very violent swirly while the other pisses on his living-room rug just to be mean. Then the first thug carelessly drops the Dude's bowling ball onto the bathroom floor cracking the tiles, call him a loser and leave, treating the situation as though it was the Dude's fault they mistook him for the Big Lebowski.
  • Hero of Another Story: Da Fino. The real Private Detective who follows The Dude under the assumption he's an investigator like him to return Bunny to her parents. The Dude only meets him face to face once.
    • The Dude himself counts; his involvement in most of the ongoing plots is tangential, whether the struggle between Maude and the eponymous Big Lebowski over his embezzlement (and Maude's subsequent quest to find a "sperm donor" to get her pregnant), Jackie Treehorn's dispute with Bunny Lebowski (which kickstarts the plot due only to the incompetence of Treehorn's hired thugs), or Da Fino's struggle to return "Bunny" to her family back east. Inverting this trope, The Dude is the hero of the story of the bowling league and his team's struggle against the Jesus, but we never get to see how that turned out.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: "Fuck it, Dude. Let's go bowling." The last of which was preceded by a man-hug.
  • Hidden Depths: For all his apparent psychopathy, Walter deeply loves his ex-wife Cynthia, even though she's long since moved on with another man. He frequently does random favours for her at the drop of a hat, and it's heavily implied that he only clings to Judaism because it's the only connection that he has with her (he was raised Catholic, and converted to Judaism when he got married).
  • Historical Character Confusion: The Dude is struggling with a Lenin quote ("You look for the person who will benefit...") which he cannot remember properly. Donny, trying to be helpful, repeatedly mentions John Lennon's 1967 song "I Am the Walrus". Considering the context, he is most likely actually quoting Cicero's note  "Cui bono?"("to whose benefit?") who used it in the sense "Who benefits from the crime?"; Lenin would later quote Cicero.
  • Homage: "The Dude abides."
    • Also, Lebowski and his family are based on General Sternwood's family from The Big Sleep, which shares a similar noir plot involving kidnapping and pornography in LA.
  • Humble Goal: "All The Dude ever wanted was his rug back."
  • Hypocritical Humor: Many of the film's ironies can be found in the characters' various hypocrisies, for example:
    • Maude expresses disapproval of people who have sex only compulsively, without love or pleasure, and yet she only sleeps with The Dude because she wants his seed.
    • Walter says pacifism is nothing to hide behind, and yet he's flashing the peace sign when the actual owner of "Larry's" car angrily brandishes his crowbar at him and refuses to retaliate when he begins smashing up the Dude's car.
    • Jeffrey Lebowski goes off on a massive rant about how The Dude should get a job and make something of himself, and yet is only what he is because he inherited his late wife's money.
    • The Dude maintains that he really doesn't care about what's going on and just wants his rug back. But he still has his rug. His involvement continues because he wants one that hasn't been peed on.
    • The Dude is noticeably disturbed by the Nihilists' threat to castrate him, to the point of having a drug-addled nightmare about it, and yet he nonchalantly threatens to do the same thing to Larry, a fifteen-year-old boy.
    • The Nihilists constantly say that they believe in nothing, yet, at the end they complain that it's not fair that they didn't get any money.
      Walter: Fair?! Who's the fucking nihilists here, you bunch of fuckin' crybabies?!
    • In the final confrontation between the Dude, Walter and Jeffrey Lebowski, Lebowski insinuates that he's willing to accuse the Dude and Walter of stealing the money. Walter bellows "As if we would ever dream of taking your bullshit money!" ... conveniently forgetting that he did, in fact, intend to steal what he thought was the money.
    • One of Those Two Guys working for Jackie Treehorn at one point smugly informs the Dude that "you're not dealin' with morons here." Yes, in fact, he is. As evidenced by the simple fact that in the very first scene they took forever to figure out that maybe the grungy hippy bachelor living in the dive wasn't a married millionaire.
    • And of course, Walter screaming, "AM I THE ONLY ONE AROUND HERE WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THE RULES?!" while brandishing a pistol at someone in a bowling alley over a score dispute. It turns out that their league does indeed have a rule against "brandishing a firearm during league play".
    • Also, Walter calls out The Dude for using the racial slur "Chinaman", but used the word in the sentences directly preceding and following said calling-out, and is perfectly fine with using the slur "kraut" in casual conversation.
    • Maude notes that the word "vagina" makes some men uncomfortable as though it's indicative of some kind of problem in society... while dancing around saying the word "penis" in the same sentence. She also says "beaver" instead of "vagina" later.
    • At the end, after learning that their game has been rescheduled, Quintana shows up, throws a flamboyant tantrum about the excuse given (that Walter doesn't bowl on the Sabbath), and makes a big show about how he's going to wipe the floor with them at the rescheduled game — yet one of the things he yells is "I don't care! It don't matter to Jesus!" It very clearly does matter to him, as Walter nonchalantly observes with a calm "He's crackin'."
  • I Am Not Shazam: "I am not Mr. Lebowski. Okay? You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm The Dude. So that's what you call me." invoked
  • I Have Many Names: "Or, you know, Duder, or His Dudeness, or El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing."
  • I Have Your Wife: Bunny, the millionaire Lebowski's wife is kidnapped. Or is she? In fact, it turns out that no, she isn't.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction:
    Big Lebowski: I don't blame anyone for the loss of my legs! Some Chinaman took them from me in Korea!
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "They're Nihilists, Donny. There's nothing to be afraid of."
  • Informed Ability: In his eulogy, it is mentioned by Walter that Donny loved to surf. This is the only time that hobby comes up in the movie. Subverted entirely when it comes to Donny's bowling skills. Watch carefully throughout the film's bowling scenes - The only time Donny misses a strike (and looks visibly perturbed by it) is the scene just before the fight with the nihilists near the end.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Walter corrects the Dude because "Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please." Only to promptly subvert it with "The Chinaman is not the issue here!"
    • "She's not my special lady, she's my fucking lady friend!"
    • The Dude: "I'm The Dude. So that's what you call me."
    • The police chief repeatedly refers to Malibu by the curiously precise term "beach community".
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: This is the reason The Dude's rug gets pissed on at the beginning of the movie.
    • Also, the "You see what happens, Larry!?" scene.
  • I Resemble That Remark!:
    Stranger: Do you have to use so many cuss words?
    Dude: What the fuck are you talking about?
  • Ironic Echo: The Dude, having turned the tables on The Big Lebowski: "Where's the fucking money, Lebowski?"
  • Irony: The film has a lot of it.
    • For a stoner who supposedly "abides" and puts on airs of being calm, the Dude gets angry a lot and often tries to change, or unintentionally winds up changing, events around him that he wants no part of.
    • As it turns out, the Big Lebowski doesn't actually have any money of his own, despite his posturing and elitist bluster at the Dude for fitting into his bias of the lazy, unemployed leeches looking for a handout.
    • In one scene, Walter, the (as he'll tell you) Vietnam veteran who pulled out a pistol on a fellow bowler over tournament rules and constantly argues with people over his right to be angry, wimps out and flashes the peace sign to an angry owner of the car he just angrily wrecked. Earlier, he correctly points out he is, in fact, calmer than The Dude is.
    • Maude, as an artsy, Avante-garde type who dislikes capitalism (as most artists do) and materialism, gets involved to protect her family's money... and her mom's rug.
    • The Nihilists, who "care about nuzzink!" and think they're uncaring villains defying weak men's' laws, whine that it's not fair when it's revealed neither the Big Lebowski nor the Dude have the money they wanted.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!:
    Dude: Fuck the Tournament. Fuck you, Walter.
    Walter: Fuck the Tournament?
  • Incest Subtext: Even though we're assured that Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski (the hippy bachelor) and Jeffrey Lebowski (the paraplegic billionaire philanthropist) have no relationship to each other, it's more than a little bit disturbing when the Dude winds up impregnating Maude Lebowski by the end of the movie, thus assuring us that Maude's child will still carry the Dude's name.
  • It's All About Me: Walter, who makes everything about how he fought in Vietnam just to see what the world has become.
    Waitress: Sir, if you don't calm down, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.
  • It Began with a Twist of Fate: The entire plot of the movie gets kickstarted because a pair of Stupid Crooks went to the wrong Jeffrey Lebowski's house to try to collect on his wife's debt.
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art:
    Jackie Treehorn: I deal in publishing. Entertainment. Political advocacy.
    The Dude: Which one's Logjammin?
  • It's the Principle of the Thing: "They peed on your fucking rug." In fact, most of the film revolves around the fact the Dude wants his rug and car returned or compensated. "That rug really tied the room together."
  • Jerkass: Walter gets constantly called out on his obnoxiousness and The Dude once on passing (see I Resemble That Remark! above). They pay little mind to mild language. Varying cases can be made for the rest of the picturesque cast. The nihilists, sociopathic wannabes who pretend to kidnap Bunny and threaten the Dude with castration, may tower above their peers.
  • Jerkass Has a Point
    Walter: Am I wrong?
    The Dude: No you're not wrong.
    Walter: Am I wrong?
    The Dude: You're not wrong, Walter. You're just an asshole!
    Walter: Okay then.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Walter. He pulled a gun on a man in a bowling alley where everybody knew who he was and destroyed a brand new luxury car, and somehow manages to avoid jail time or any other form of actual punishment.
    • Bunny. The whole kidnapping scam and Treehorn harassing the Dude was because Bunny decided to leave L.A. with some friends without telling anyone, and as far as we know she never finds out about any of it.
    • Also, the Big Lebowski over his scheme, unless you count Walter traumatizing him and crushing his inflated ego.
  • Karmic Misfire: Much of the plot involves The Dude either being abused or held responsible for things beyond his control, mainly due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time and certain parties giving conflicting information. The plot kicks off when he is mistaken for the Big Lebowski, whose wife owes money to Jackie Treehorn, getting violently swirlied by one thug and having his rug peed on by the other. The Big Lebowski, Jackie Treehorn and the Nihilists then make the Dude completely responsible for their transaction of money, Treehorn and the Nihilists routinely intimidating and harassing the Dude over the money they think he has and in the Big Lebowski's case using him as a patsy in a Frame-Up to steal money from his own charity.
  • Kick the Dog: More like Shove the Dog: Big Lebowski did this to a dog that was just trying to comfort him.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Dude's car meets its end this way at the hands of the nihilists.
    "Well, they finally did it. They killed my fucking car."
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: Donny. At first, it may seem like he's just unaware of the facts (because Walter refuses to fill him in), but a few lines suggest that he is genuinely kind of stupid.
  • Knight Knave And Squire: Though this movie is not an action movie in the traditional sense, Walter, the Dude and Donny fit this trope surprisingly well (as Knight, Knave and Squire, respectively). note 
    • Walter is a fiercely patriotic and devoutly religious veteran soldier who always brings the guns into every tough situation, and always charges headfirst into every problem.
    • The Dude is a laid-back ageing hippy with no loyalty to anything but his own petty self-interest, and he prefers to talk his way out of every situation.
    • Donny is just an average guy with no interest in crime or intrigue, and he spends most of the movie completely out of his depth.
  • Laborious Laziness: The whole plot might not have happened if the Dude had just bothered to clean his rug after it had been peed on.
  • Lame Comeback: "Yeah, well, you know, that's just like... uh... your opinion, man."
  • Large Ham: Walter, and Jesus Quintana. The title character certainly is, as well.
    "Fuckin' Quintana. That creep can roll, man."

    "It don't matter to the Jesus!"

  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: In-Universe, this is at least partially the reason Walter refuses to explain anything to Donny.
    Walter: So you have no frame of reference here, Donny. You're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know...
  • Law of Conservation of Detail: Subverted over and over, part of the movie's Deconstructive Parody of the Film Noir genre.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Autobahn, the extremely obscure '70s synth-pop band that Uli and his nihilist friends were in, is loosely based on Kraftwerk and takes its name from Kraftwerk's best-known album.
  • Lazy Bum: The Dude, and referred to as such by The Big Lebowski and the Malibu chief of police.
  • Lemony Narrator: "Way out west, there was this fella I wanna tell you about..." Variation in that he's not sarcastic, just completely clueless about the genre.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: While Walter does seem less-than-stable throughout the movie, it's mostly in a bombastic and ineffective way that tends to make him less useful rather than more. At the very end in the confrontation with the nihilists, however, he demonstrates how effective he can really be. Although as the other two point out, they are only being shaken down for about twenty bucks (The Dude had $4 or $5, Donny had $18).
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Coming from Dutch Pinball in 2005, complete with rug and a White Russian. Click here for tropes.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Walter proves to be much faster than you'd expect a man of his size to be, as shown by his fight with the three Nihilists.
  • The Load: Walter is less-than-useful to the Dude for most of the film.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: "Shut the fuck up, Donny."
    • "Donny? Please."
    • "DonnyshuttheFUCKup"
    • Possibly "Life does not stop and start at your convenience, you miserable piece of shit!" Walter may be replying to The Dude's story about Brandt giving The Dude a beeper so he can be contacted at any time.
    • "Donny, shut the f- when do we play?"
  • Malaproper: "Mr Treehorn treats objects like women, man!"
    • Considering Treehorn mentions electronic innovations in erotic entertainment, this may be a subversion. On the filmmakers' part, at least.
    • "Does the Pope shit in the woods?"note 
  • Manly Tears: "Do my tears surprise you? Strong men also cry, Mr Lebowski. Strong men...also cry..." Possibly a subversion since you never see his tears indicating that he either knows she kidnapped herself or that he actually doesn't care about her.
    • He sheds a few real ones when Walter tosses him to the floor, but by then we know he's not really a strong man anyway.
  • May–December Romance: Taken to a ridiculous extent by "Big" Jeffrey and Bunny Lebowski. For perspective, Tara Reid is about 15 years younger than Julianne Moore, who plays her step-daughter. Da Fino reveals Bunny should be in High School.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Donny is seen holding his hand strangely and wincing as he moves it in the scene immediately preceding his heart attack.
  • Messianic Archetype: The Dude is one. He does happen to have long hair, a simple attire consisting largely of robes, a close group of "disciples," and a tendency to suffer for things he has no responsibility for.
  • Meaningful Echo: Except the joke lies in the echoes being meaningless, gratuitous and/or random. Several quotes or words are recycled over the course of the so-called story.
    • Bush the Elder's speech about "unchecked aggression" is paraphrased later by Walter and The Dude regarding the rug-related invasion, which will not stand.
    • The Dude adds Maude's "in the parlance of our times" line to his "young trophy wife" when he is summoned again by The Big Lebowski.
    • The only example of a phrase that gets more rather than less powerful by being repeated comes near the end: "Where's the fuckin' money, Lebowski?"
  • The Millstone: By involving himself in the Dude's "case", Walter probably causes more trouble than he solves.
    "Yes, Walter, there is an unspoken message here, it's fuck you! LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE! ...Yes, I'll be at practice."
    • Double subverted a bit later. If Walter had never been involved, who would have saved the Dude and Donnie from the Nihilists? They would have probably been content with taking the money that Donny and the Dude had on them at the time before Walter chimed in with his retort of "Fuck you. What's mine is mine." And Donny wouldn't have had his heart attack. And really, if the Dude had never listened to Walter, he never would have met the Nihilists, to begin with.
    • Well with Walter, it could go either way. If Walter hadn't gotten involved at the very beginning. Dude would have either just been left with a peed-on rug or no rug at all and everything else avoided. However, if Walter didn't get involved after the Dude met Lebowski, the Dude would have been framed for stealing $1 million, having both the Nihilists AND police after him
  • Misplaced Retribution: Twice in the same scene. Walter assumes the new Corvette in front of a house belongs to Larry, who Walter thinks stole the $1 million (he didn't), so he smashes it with a crowbar. It turns out to belong to Larry's neighbour, who takes the crowbar and starts smashing The Dude's car, which The Dude quickly points out doesn't belong to Walter.
  • Mixed Metaphor:
    Jackie Treehorn: Refill?
    The Dude: Does the pope shit in the woods?
  • MockGuffin: "It's my dirty undies. Laundry, the whites."
  • Mock Millionaire: It turns out Big Lebowski only has very limited control over his late wife's fortune and is embezzling money
  • Mood Whiplash: Donny's death. After two hours of intrigue and crazy drug-fueled antics, Walter and the Dude have nothing left to do but solemnly mourn a man who spent the entire movie as a punching bag. The movie ends with the two of them in the bowling alley again, quietly contemplating their lives.
  • Mushroom Samba: Thrice. "The man in me will do / Nearly any task..."
    • "I got up so tight/I couldn't unwind/I saw so much/I broke my mind..."
  • Naked on Arrival: We're introduced to Maude Lebowski as she's swinging from a harness completely naked while squirting paint on a canvas.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Asked what he does with his time, the Dude says "Drive around. Bowl. Enjoy the occasional acid flashback."
    "I spent most of my time occupying various administration buildings... smoking a lot of Thai stick... breaking into the ROTC... and bowling."
    • "Smokey's a pacifist!"
  • Name's the Same: In-Universe, Jeff Lebowski "The Dude" and Jeff Lebowski the rich guy. Which starts the chain of troubles for the Dude.
  • Nice Mean And Inbetween:
    • The Dude qualifies for inbetween - snarky, lazy, and will only ever do anything if he's absolutely required to. But The Dude is a generally decent guy, so long as you're willing to move at his pace.
    • Walter is mean - quick to threaten violence against anyone who crosses him and is generally a paranoid wreck.
    • Donny is nice - perpetually affable-but-oblivious compared to his two friends.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Walter was partially based on the director, screenwriter, and gun enthusiast John Milius, who is a good friend of the Coen Brothers.
    • Jackie Treehorn appears to be based, in part, on adult entertainment kingpins Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Big Lebowski of the title is not the Dude, but the other Jeffrey Lebowski.
  • Noodle Incident: In-universe; we know how the Dude got bruised by the Malibu Chief of Police but he never finishes explaining to Maude.
  • Obfuscating Disability: "I've seen a lot of spinals, Dude. And this guy fuckin' walks." It's left somewhat ambiguous, as The Big Lebowski's leg twitches after Walter throws him to the ground, but it might have not been caught by the editors. Alternatively, there are plenty of disabled people who are able to move their legs but not walk on them.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: It's hinted a few times that the Dude isn't that clouded by a constant haze of pot. During the Dude's encounter with Maude and the viewing of 'Logjammin', which features a stereotypical pornographic scenario of a repairman turning up to fix the cable. When Maude remarks that the film's direction is obvious, the Dude blithely asks "He fixes the cable?" Maude promptly calls him out on this.
  • Odd Friendship: The Dude is a laid-back stoner hippy, Walter is a boisterous, obnoxious and tightly wound Vietnam vet with huge anger management issues, and Donnie is an easy-going doormat.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: During the "What makes a man" scene, the Lacrymosa from Mozart's Requiem is playing.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: The Jesus - apparently the only real competition the Dude and friends have - takes Walter getting the Dude and Donny a religiously-mandated break very personally, and promises to kick their asses "any day of the week".
  • Only Sane Man: Massive subversion with Walter, who proves to be the only insane man: "Has the whole world gone CRAZY?! Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?" Right before pulling out a Colt on a bowler who simply rule-argued with him.
    • Of course, Walter proves ultimately correct about the kidnapping and the severed toe and all.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: At the end of the movie, you know that the mood is really low in the wake of Donny's death when Walter actually stops screaming about Vietnam for a minute and tenderly apologizes to The Dude for his behaviour.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Thanks to some Stupid Crooks, The Dude finds himself and Walter caught up in a mess of other people's plots and plans.
  • Phony Veteran: Walter is so insistent and full of himself about his 'Nam experiences that the subtext suggests that it's just another of his shenanigans. Averted in the final cut of the film, but a deleted scene had the Dude revealing that it was all nonsense.
  • Phrase Catcher: The Dude gets this a couple of different times, but the most distinctive is both Lebowski and Walter chastising the Dude for his "Fuck it" philosophy, calling it "[his] answer for everything."
    • Toward the end, the Dude finally gets to say what everyone else has said to him at some point:
    "Where's the fuckin' money, Lebowski?"
  • Pinball Protagonist: Throughout the movie, The Dude bounces from one situation to another, typically dragged along by Walter's insistence more than any drive of his own.
  • Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Watching Logjammin'
    Maude: You can imagine where it goes from here.
    Dude: He fixes the cable?
  • Poisonous Friend: Walter Sobchak is technically responsible for everything that happens to the Dude after the initial rug-soiling incident because it is he who kickstarts the plot by convincing the Dude to seek out the Big Lebowski for recompense over the rug instead of dropping the whole matter.
  • Police Are Useless: It's implied that the LAPD show up only after an (at least half-an-hour) tournament after Walter nearly shoots a fellow bowler in the face.
    • The cop who gives The Dude back his wrecked car, who suddenly turns into a condescending snarker when the Dude asks if they have any leads on who stole his car:
    "Leads, yeah, sure. I'll just check with the boys down at the crime lab, they've got four more detectives working on the case. They got us working in shifts! [Cop laughing]
  • Police Brutality: The Malibu Sheriff, who throws his mug at The Dude and begins kicking the shit out of him.
    "Stay out of Malibu, dead-beat!!"
  • Principles Zealot: Walter Sobchak. He is so thoroughly principled that he converted to Judaism for his wife and refuses to abandon it even after their divorce.
    Walter: Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means that I don't work, I don't drive a car, I don't fucking ride in a car, I don't handle money, I don't turn on the oven, and I sure as shit DON'T FUCKING ROLL!!!
  • Random Events Plot: It's kind of a consequence when your protagonist is a bored stoner. All you can do is hope it's all going to add up in the end... and then it doesn't.
  • Ransacked Room: The Dude's eternal curse - thugs breaking into his room and messing it up, or ruining something. Comes to a head when either Jackie Treehorn's thugs or the Nihilists finally smash up the Dude's house for good.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Used to play up the contrast between the "regular people" and the "film characters". Characters who are obviously played as characters don't stutter, and engage in dialogue - Maude, in particular, speaks like she's just stepped out of an old movie. Characters played as regular people thrust into a movie plot - like the Dude - have conversations, with all the attendant "ums" and misunderstandings. Best demonstrated by this exchange between the Dude and the Big Lebowski:
    Dude: And, you know, has it ever occurred to you, that, instead of, uh, you know, running around, uh, uh, blaming me, you know, given the nature of all this new shit, you know, I-I-I-I... this could be a-a-a-a lot more, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, complex, I mean, it's not just, it might not be just such a simple... uh, you know?
    Lebowski: What in God's holy name are you blathering about?
    • It was like that in the script - everything but "you human paraquat" was scripted. The Coens are known for being pretty insistent that lines be delivered exactly as written.
    • Maude's line "Little Lebowski Urban Achievers, and proud we are of all of them" is delivered in trochaic and then iambic tetrameter, both to hammer home how alien she is to the Dude and to catch the audience's ear, so we'll notice that she's about to reveal the plot twist.
  • Really Gets Around: Bunny.
    The Dude (to Maude): "I'm sorry your stepmother is a nympho..."
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Real dudes drink White Russians.
  • Red Herring: Da Fino, the guy following The Dude around in the VW, turns out to have nothing to do with the conspiracy - he's actually following it around.
    • Not to mention the toe.
    • Also, Jackie Treehorn's hastily-scribbled note.
    • The essay in The Dude's car.
    • In fact, virtually every single lead The Dude and Walt follow turns out to be a red herring.
  • The Reveal: There was no kidnapping plot and no ransom money. Bunny was just off visiting friends, and Lebowski pretended to have a million dollars given to the Nihilists, giving him a reason to withdraw money out of one of his 'charities' and get rid of two loose ends bothering him.
  • Royal "We": When The Dude is told to Come Alone, he's forced to bring Walter with him. He then blows Walter's cover by using the pronoun "we". He tries to explain that he was using "the Royal "We"."
  • Riddle for the Ages: Why did Jackie Treehorn draw...THAT?
    • Was Smokey really over the line? We never see it for ourselves.
  • Running Gag:
    • Walter mentioning 'Nam whenever it pertains to the given situation. Or when it has completely nothing to do with it at all.
    • Donny trying to join in on Walter and The Dude's conversations (regardless of whether he actually knows what they're talking about), only for Walter to shut him up.
    • The various acts of violence done to The Dude's car, culminating in the nihilists setting it on fire at the end.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: The Dude.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Jackie Treehorn, according to the police chief. "Mr Treehorn draws a lot of water in this town. You don't draw shit, Lebowski."
    • Also how the Big Lebowski gets away with embezzling the million dollars and blaming it on the Dude, "...someone the square community won't give a shit about".
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Dude does this a few times throughout the film. The Big Lebowski even lampshades it:
    "Oh, ‘fuck it!’ Yes, that’s your answer. That’s your answer for everything. Tattoo it on your forehead."
    • A few scenes later, Walter chastises the Dude for the same reason.
    "That's your answer to everything."
  • Script Fic: Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, written in the style of Shakespeare.
  • Serious Business:
    • Bowling, to everyone involved. Especially Walter.
    Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.
    • Walter, Donny and The Dude play in a league so hardcore, sticking a pistol in an opponent's face over a rules violation not only won't get you disqualified, but the foul will be upheld.
    • The whole story is kickstarted by a petty feud over a soiled rug that really tied the room together.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Despite all that happens, the money and kidnappings that start the movie both turn out to be MacGuffins that never even existed. The Dude loses his rug, his car, and a bowling partner in the process of getting nothing.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Walter's emphasis on the simplicity of his plan is likely a shoutout to the film A Simple Plan, given that its director, Sam Raimi, is friends with the Coens.
    • Walter is constantly telling Donny to shut up, which is a reference to Fargo, another Coen Brothers film in which Steve Buscemi's character would not shut up.
    • Da Fino drives a VW Beetle, like fellow private eye Loren Visser from the Coens' 1984 thriller Blood Simple. Da Fino's car looks better than Visser's though, reflecting their respective morality: while Visser is a double-crossing Psycho for Hire and the main antagonist, Da Fino does nothing worse than tailing the Dude in the hope that he'll lead him to Bunny, so he can talk her into going home to her parents.
    • Uli Kunkel's band Autobahn is a huge nod to Kraftwerk, not just because of the lookalike cover, but also "Autobahn" is the title of one of Kraftwerk's best-known songs.
    • After Da Fino shows The Dude a picture of Bunny, The Dude says, "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Karl Hungus?", a reference to the song, "How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?"
      • The farm in question is in Moorhead, Minnesota, which is the twin city of Fargo, North Dakota.
    • "I'm as Jewish as fuckin' Tevye!"
    • Shout-Out to Shakespeare:
    • Comes full circle with the Script Fic mentioned above.
  • Shrine to Self: The eponymous "Big" Lebowski has one. The Dude is given a guided tour.
  • Signature Line: "The Dude Abides" is only said twice, but it quickly caught on with fans of the film.
  • Significant Name Overlap: The film's plot hinges around two lead characters both named Jeff Lebowski—one a slacker, one a millionaire. In-story, they are differentiated by the washed-out protagonist being called "the Dude", while the millionaire he is mistaken for is the titular "big Lebowski".
  • A Simple Plan: "The best part of my plan is... its simplicity."
    Walter: No, we can't do that Dude. That fucks up our plan.
    The Dude: Well, why don't you call them up and explain that, Walter? Your plan is that fucking simple I'm sure they'd understand.
  • Single-Issue Wonk: Walter tries to tie everything back to Vietnam. The Dude finally gets sick of it when he pulls it during Donny's eulogy.
    What the fuck does anything have to do with Vietnam?
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Both The Dude and Walter.
    The Stranger: Do ya have to use so many cuss words?
  • Skewed Priorities: When Maude Lebowski's limo driver is forcefully pulling The Dude to The Big Lebowski's limo (after the drop-off), Dude warns the guy, "Careful, man! There's a beverage here!"
  • The Slacker: There is a man in whom casualness runs deep.
    Stranger: The Dude, from Los Angeles. And even if he's a lazy man - and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in all of Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin' for laziest worldwide.
  • Slice of Life: Aside from the fact that we see nothing of anyone's background, and have no idea what happens to them afterwards, there is very little compelling about the story in and of itself, aside from a brief period of interesting times happening to the characters as they otherwise go about their unchanging lives. Furthermore, we are repeatedly introduced to non-sequiturs such as The Jesus, Da Fino, Knox Harrington, Uli Kunkel, the landlord, etc. etc., who have little to no bearing on anything. It's simply a straightforward slice of the Dude's life, albeit one uniquely splattered with an interesting incident.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Jackie Treehorn does this to the Dude.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • In the "family restaurant", during the Dude and Walter's profanity-laced dialogue about kidnapping and toes cut off, Debbie Reynolds' cutesy song, "Tammy" plays in the background.
    • Also Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lookin' Out My Back Door" when the Dude drops a lit joint in his car, causing him to crash. It was, however, Suspiciously Apropos Music for the Beetle following him.
      • And, of course, a song about a "back door" was playing immediately after the Dude had had a prostate exam...
      • And the "doo doo doo" lyrics could easily be misheard as "Dude Dude Dude".
  • Spanner in the Works: Nobody really anticipated The Dude and Walter's involvement in, well, anything. Not that it ends up mattering.
  • Spirit Advisor: The Dude questions the Stranger about this:
    "Is that some kind of Eastern thing?"
    "Far from it, Dude."
  • Spit Take: After they have sex, the Dude watches Maude hugging her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth.
    Dude: What is that, yoga?
    Maude: It increases the chances of conception.
    (Spit Take by The Dude)
    Dude: (coughing) Increases?!
  • Stoner Flick: There is some debate over whether the film is funnier when you're stoned or not.
  • Strawman Political: Both Walter and The Dude are different types of Strawman Political stereotypes, the right-wing gun nut and the liberal hippie respectively. However, part of the humour of their characters comes just as much when they subvert these stereotypes as when they play off of them.
  • Straw Nihilist: The nihilists. "Ve beliefe in NUSTHING!!!"
    • "Ahh, that must be exhausting."
    • And then they get chewed out for not being real nihilists at the end:
    "Is not fair!"
    "Fair?! Who's the fucking nihilists around here, you bunch of fucking crybabies?!"
    • Notably, Walter's closer to the ideal of Übermensch, even if he's so blatantly incompetent that it's hard to see — at least he genuinely doesn't care what others think of him, and does what he thinks is correct at any moment. And isn't a wannabe nihilist.
  • Stupid Crooks: The story begins with two thugs breaking into The Dude's house and pissing on his rug after they manage to mistake him for a multi-millionaire - they don't even leave until they finally notice the Dude's living in a crappy house for a millionaire. Later, we get what is possibly the opposite of a lampshading when they finally get things sorted out and are summoned to collect the 'deadbeat' Lebowski:
    First Goon: You're not dealin' with morons here.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: A couple of instances:
    The Dude: Hey man, nothing is fucked here...
    The Big Lebowski: Nothing is FUCKED?
    The Dude: No...
    • And this one:
    Walter: (drawing a pistol) Mark it zero, Smokey or you're in a world of pain.
    Smokey: (starts stammering)
    Walter: A world of pain.
    Smokey: Dude; - he's your partner -
    Walter: (stands up brandishing the pistol threateningly) Has the whole world gone CRAZY? AM I THE ONLY ONE AROUND HERE WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THE RULES? MARK IT ZERO!
  • Tech Marches On: Nowadays, bowling alleys have automated scoring, and fouls would register automatically, so Walter's tirade would not happen... in the same way; Walter being the kind of guy who argues even against machines, would contest it somehow: I saw what I saw. Faulty sensor. Edit the score to zero.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: MARK IT ZERO!
    • Walter does it again when the Nihilists show up in person to rob them. He crushes one Nihilist's lung and bites off the ear of another.
  • Toilet Seat Divorce: Alluded to when one of Jackie Treehorn's thugs mentions Bunny to the Dude.
    Do you see a ring on my finger? Does this place look like I'm fuckin' married? The toilet seat's up!
  • Third-Person Person:
    • The Dude prefers referring to His Dudeness as... the Dude.
      "The Dude MINDS, man!"
    • The Jesus does this as well.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!:
    The Jesus: "Let me tell you something, pendejo!"
  • Those Two Guys: "You're not dealin' with morons here." Yes, we are.
  • Title Drop: Towards the end, The Dude refers to the other man as "The Big Lebowski"
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Walter, natch.
  • Trademark Favorite Drink: For The Dude, a White Russian.
  • Tranquil Fury:
    • After spending most of the movie exploding in bombastic rage at any slight real or imagined, it's when the nihilists demand the money that the Dude, Walter and Donny have on them in lieu of the ransom that Walter gets quietly, chillingly livid. This precedes his Let's Get Dangerous! moment.
      Fuck you. What's mine is mine.
    • When Walter rants about the Vietnam War during his eulogy for Donny and follows up by scattering the ashes into Dude's face, Dude has a stone-faced response for a few seconds that is clearly brimming with fury.
  • Trash Talk: The Jesus.
    The Jesus: I see you rolled your way into the semis. Dios Mio, man. Liam and me, we gonna fuck you up!
    Dude: Yeah, well, you know, that's just like... uh... your opinion man.
  • Trophy Room: The wall where the titular Big Lebowski displays awards won both by himself and by his "Little Lebowski Urban Achievers".
  • Trophy Wife: Bunny. In the parlance of our times.
  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The movie takes a period film approach to the events of the early nineties, with the Persian Gulf War building in the background, but was released just seven years after them.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: "Father's weakness is vanity, hence the slut."
    • Ironically echoed a few moments later when it turns out Maude humped the Dude for a child.
  • Understatement: "He has health problems."
  • The Unreveal: Did Walter and The Dude make it to the Finals? The movie ends right before their game starts, so we never find out.
    • Notably, it's unclear whether Smokey really was over the line.
    • Is the Big Lebowski really disabled, or is he just highly committed to faking it?
  • Unusual Euphemism: Ties in with Goshdang It To Heck in edited-for-TV/aircraft versions, but improves upon it with: "This is what happens, Larry! This is what happens when you feed a stoner scrambled eggs!" (Alternatively "...when you find a stranger in the Alps!")
  • Unwanted Assistance: Walter, "helping" with the ransom, much to the Dude's complete and utter annoyance. invoked
  • The Vamp: Bunny. "I'll suck your cock for a thousand dollars."
    • Uh, I'm just gonna go find a cash machine ...
  • Vandalism Backfire: Double whammy. Walter suspects a kid of stealing a million-dollar ransom from The Dude's car. When they arrive at his house, there's a new Corvette sitting out front, which more or less confirms their suspicions. After a brief interrogation, Walter decides that more severe measures are necessary and begins to smash the Corvette with a crowbar. Turns out it wasn't the kid's car, as the neighbour runs out screaming about his new Corvette. He decides to destroy Walter's car, which of course actually belongs to The Dude.
  • Vanity License Plate: Bunny's says LAPIN.
  • Verbal Tic: Fuckin' everybody.
    • Some editions of the BluRay include the "Mark It Dude" feature, which notes every instance of "Lebowski", "Dude", "Man", and "Fuck". The Dude says "Man" 147 times, that's like a lot, man.
    • Walter's "Shut the fuck up, Donny!":
      Donny: They posted the next round for the tournament.
      Walter: Shut the fu— when're we playing?
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Many examples. One prominent one is the joke about Saddam Hussein handing out bowling shoes in the dream sequence. Understanding the joke requires some knowledge of the first Gulf War, Arabic, and President Bush's well-known tendency for mispronouncing words.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The Dude and Walter are, to an outside observer, completely incompatible people who, true to form, spend most of their time loudly arguing with each other. However, they're practically inseparable. Same with Walter and Donny; Walter spends a lot of time browbeating and yelling at Donny yet is clearly cut up when Donny dies from a heart attack.
  • The Walrus Was Paul: Some suspect the film was intentionally designed to make a fool of anyone who attempts to analyze it, particularly after the Coens' previous movie Fargo had become a darling among highbrow critics.
    • In the first scene with the Jesus, the Dude and Walter are talking about Lenin. Donny, getting the wrong end of the stick, keeps saying "I am the Walrus."
  • The Watson: Subverted with Donny, who is Locked Out of the Loop. "You have no frame of reference. You're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie, and wants to know..."
  • Where Do You Think You Are?: Walter's obnoxious habit of loudly getting on his high horse leads to people saying this. "This is a family restaurant." "This is a mortuary. Not a rental house."
    • "Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules."
  • Wimp Fight:
    • The nihilists talk a good game but are ultimately revealed to be this since Walter ends up handing them their asses more or less single-handedly over the course of about a minute.
    • When the Dude confronts Da Fino, the actual Private Detective, things look they're going to get physical for a moment. And by 'physical', this means they don't actually make contact with each other but sort of flinch.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Bunny still owes Jackie Treehorn a pile of cash, but that's now a problem for her and the Big Lebowski to deal with.
    • Unless The Dude told Maude about what really happened to the money, those kids at the charity never got it back.
    • After Larry gets introduced, his family's maid just vanishes from the movie. She does not appear again even when Walter starts yelling and cussing at Larry, and then goes to wreck the car.
      • Larry himself disappears from the movie after that scene, though the Dude mentions him later to Jackie.
  • With Friends Like These...: The Dude and Walter have a deep friendship, but it's sometimes hard to tell with all that bickering. Even dropped by The Dude at one point.
    The Dude: With friends like these, huh, Gary?
  • Word Salad Title: Par for the course for a Coen Brothers film. The title only makes sense if you know that there are two characters in the movie named "Lebowski", and that one of them is an enormously wealthy businessman with a huge ego.
  • Worthy Opponent: Walter calls the Viet Cong this while talking about Vietnam, as opposed to his rather racist dismissal of Saddam Hussein's forces in Iraq. He also doesn't extend the same respect to the nihilists in the scene immediately after.
  • Writing Indentation Clue: The Dude uses this trick to see what Treehorn wrote while taking a phone call, but it turns out to be just a doodle of a man with... implausible anatomy.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy:
    • The Dude thinks all the various threads he uncovers must figure into the big mystery at the centre of the plot. They don't.
    • The narrator thinks the film is a Western. It isn't.
  • Wrongfully Attributed: Lenin and Lennon quotes are out of your element, Donny.
  • Yes-Man: Brandt, who laughs and compliments everything that comes out of The Big Lebowski's mouth, even if it's not a joke.
  • You Can Keep Her: How Lebowski really feels about his wife getting kidnapped, and the reason why he feels no qualms pocketing the ransom money and setting the Dude up to take the fall.

Far out, man.

Video Example(s):


Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski

Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski is introduced shopping in an empty grocery store for half-and-half in a robe, tasting it in the store, then paying for it by writing a (postdated) check for 69 cents, all set to "Tumbling Tumbleweed" by Sons of the Pioneers. This establishes The Dude as a man who cares more about simple, personal comfort over decorum and societal expectations in a manner that is somewhat odd, but otherwise harmless.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / EstablishingCharacterMoment

Media sources:

Main / EstablishingCharacterMoment