Jesus loves you more than you will know
Whoa, whoa, whoa
God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
The Graduate is a 1967 romantic dramedy film directed by Mike Nichols, adapted from Charles Webb's 1963 novel of the same name, and starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross. It's famous for being the first "serious" movie specifically targeted at the baby boomer generation, for prominently featuring Simon & Garfunkel music (most memorably an early version of the toe-tapper "Mrs. Robinson"), and for skyrocketing Dustin Hoffman to fame. It also contains many extremely memorable and oft-parodied lines (particularly, "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me") and scenes (such as the climax, which has its own trope).
Disaffected college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman), having no idea of what to do with his life and receiving no guidance from his shallow parents or their shallow friends, passes his days drifting aimlessly. He begins a clandestine affair with the wife (Bancroft) of his father's business partner, who is always "Mrs. Robinson" to him. Meanwhile, Ben's parents have plans to match him up with Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine (Ross). Both Ben and Mrs. Robinson are against this idea, for different reasons, and Ben has every intention of making Elaine hate him as much as possible... until the two unexpectedly hit it off.
Also in the cast are William Daniels and Elizabeth Wilson as Ben's parents and Murray Hamilton as the unsuspecting Mr. Robinson. Richard Dreyfuss briefly appears in one of his first film roles; he has one line.
The novel has a sequel, Home School, published forty years after the release of the movie due to copyright issues.
"Just one word: Tropes."
- Abduction Is Love: Referenced when Ben tells Elaine he'll drag her off when they're at Berkeley together.
- Abusive Parents: A somewhat uncommon take on this trope: Elaine's, and to a lesser extent Ben's, parents basically want to control the lives of their children, despite the latter being adults. This fits into the movie's broader theme of a confused youth exploited and betrayed by a cynical, corrupt older generation.
- Adaptational Ugliness: In the novel, Ben is quite handsome, which makes Mrs. Robinson seem a good deal less desperate. In fact, movie-Ben's awkwardness in general is artistic license by Nichols and Hoffman; Ben's character in the book is a prototypical WASP golden-boy athlete brimming with confidence and charisma (Robert Redford was the original choice to play the role, only to be turned down because he was so successful with ladies, he had no idea what it was like to strike out with a girl). Dustin Hoffman's short stature, darker features, awkward clumsiness and insecurity (of which the affair with Mrs. Robinson is the chief catalyst in ridding him) are not present in the book.
- Adults Are Useless: Ben's parents, specifically. Except for the fact Ben ends up with the girl they'd picked out for him.
- Affably Evil: Mrs. Robinson, who seduces Ben and calls the police on him later, but she retains her high-class cordiality. Though she isn't exactly evil, since the bad deeds she commits are out of depression.
- The Alcoholic: While seducing Ben, Mrs. Robinson tells him she's one of these.
- Alliterative Name: Benjamin Braddock.
- Ambiguous Ending/Bittersweet Ending: The film ends on a rather ambiguous note, leaving the viewer to wonder whether Benjamin and Elaine will live Happily Ever After or are doomed to repeat the mistakes of their parents and get caught in a loveless marriage. The sequel of the book, Home School, shows them as having a difficult but still consistent life with two kids.
- And Then What?: Their face at the ending suggests this is what happens between Ben and Elaine after they rebelled, and then they look down.
- Anti-Hero: Ben is, fundamentally, a Classical Anti-Hero. He sleeps with a married woman, Mrs. Robinson, and then also goes out on a date with her daughter, Elaine, who he then stalks. He's fundamentally a good guy, but he isn't exactly the most selfless guy around, and on his date with Elaine he behaves like a pathetic, self-absorbed dick. Let's say his insecurities often lead him to behave badly.
- Anti-Villain: Mrs. Robinson isn't exactly evil, but her role as the Big Bad is due to her depression and unhappiness due to her Dark and Troubled Past. She is very lonely due to her precocious pregnancy and marriage with a man she doesn't love. However, this doesn't stop her from being very petty and pretending she was sexually assaulted by Ben when telling her daughter about him.
- Armor-Piercing Question: When Ben asks why Mrs. Robinson objects to asking Elaine out on a date:Benjamin: I'm not good enough for her to associate with, am I? I'm not good enough to even talk about her, am I?
Mrs. Robinson: Let's drop it.
Benjamin: We're not dropping it! I'm good enough for you, but I'm not good enough to associate with your daughter. That's it, isn't it? Isn't it?
Mrs. Robinson [after a lengthy pause]: Yes.
- Auto Erotica: Mrs. Robinson tells Ben that Elaine was conceived in a Ford.
- Author Avatar: Charles Webb was very open about Benjamin being one for him when he wrote the novel.
- Awful Wedded Life: The Robinsons appear to have one of these, with Mrs. Robinson getting married after her husband-to-be made out with her in a Ford and she became pregnant with Elaine, in addition to the both of them sleeping in separate bedrooms.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: When Ben arrives in Santa Barbara, he asks to use the phone in the service station, reaching Dr. Smith's answering service. He claims to be Dr. Smith's brother, Reverend Smith, so he can find out at what church Elaine's wedding to Carl is taking place.
- Beneath the Mask: Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, when Benjamin crashes Elaine's wedding. Seeing their snarling, bestial faces during Benjamin's hammering on the window is what tips Elaine over and makes her cry out to Ben.
- Berserk Button: Mrs. Robinson does not like for Ben to joke about Elaine and then ask her out on a date.
- Mr. McCleery has no tolerance for agitators, and when Elaine screams out loud, he wants Ben out of his building, evicting Ben later on when he is confronted by Mr. Robinson.
- Betty and Veronica: An odd but fairly well-done contrast between Mrs. Robinson and her daughter, Elaine. Both are reasonably attractive, but while the mother is The Alcoholic Broken Bird and promiscuous seductress to Ben, Elaine is a kind, quiet and reserved young woman who has pure and genuine feelings for the guy. The Betty wins, of course.
- Between My Legs: One of the most famous shots in cinema history, as Ben Braddock in the background gazes down on Mrs. Robinson's stocking-clad leg in the foreground.
- Big Bad: Mrs. Robinson spends the film trying to keep Benjamin and her daughter Elaine apart, sabotaging their relationship and abusing Elaine.
- Big Heroic Run: The ending involves a lot of running.
- Big "WHAT?!": One happens in the gym:Elaine: I have to see Carl first.
Ben: Carl who?
Elaine: Carl Smith. He's a medical student, we've known him for years.
Ben: Who, that guy at the zoo?
Ben: Why do you have to see him?
Elaine: Well, I said I might marry him.
Ben: You what?
- Big Word Shout: "ELAAAAIIIIIINE!" Matched moments later with her "BEEEEENNNNN!"
- Bikini Bar: Ben's effort to deliberately sabotage the date that he's forced to go on with Elaine has him take her to a strip club. This was 1967, at the point where the nudity taboo in Hollywood was rapidly weakening but hadn't quite evaporated yet, so the stripper on stage wears bikini briefs and pasties.
- Book Ends: Begins and ends with "The Sound of Silence".
- Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Mr. Robinson, when he finds out about Ben's escapades with Mrs. Robinson, turns ballistically hostile towards Ben:Mr. Robinson: All right, now listen to this. I don't know whether I can prosecute, but I think I can. I think I can get you behind bars if you ever look at my daughter again. Now, I've seen Elaine, and I've made damn sure you can't get to her. Stay away from me, Ben! I don't want to mince words with you. As far as Elaine is concerned, you're to get her out of your filthy mind right now! Is that perfectly clear to you? And that's all, Ben. You'll pardon me if I don't shake hands with you. I think you are filth. I think you are scum! You are a degenerate!
- Broken Bird: Mrs. Robinson is a lonely, depressed, alcoholic housewife. Just try not to pity her with her tragic expression when she confesses her own college major was art. She had to give up on her dreams when she got pregnant and married young, and she'd easily be the most sympathetic character in the story if not for the fact she apparently feels that since she had to suffer a Shotgun Wedding because of her daughter, then she should force her daughter to have one, too.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The film's mood gets a bit more serious once Elaine discovers her mother's "relationship" with Ben.
- Character Tics: That little sound Ben makes in the back of his throat when he's nervous.
- Chekhov's Hobby: It's mentioned at his graduation party that Ben was captain of the cross country team and a track star in college. Cue the Big Heroic Run in the ending.
- Coming of Age Story: The film is about Benjamin trying to find himself and escape the suburban ennui that his parents and his girlfriend's parents have found themselves in. While him and Elaine do succeed in getting away from the lives forced upon them by their families, it's ambiguous whether they'll be able to avoid making the same mistakes as their parents.
- Conversation Cut: A couple of sequences. The scene where Ben talks about getting married and Elaine says Carl Smith asked him to marry her is one conversation that cuts from a class hallway to basketball practice to the library to the Berkeley quad.
- Cool Car: The Alfa Romeo Spider, which became so associated with the movie that in later years there was a trim level called "Graduate". Becomes an Alleged Car when it breaks down towards the end of the film, although to be fair it did get driven halfway across California and back by a guy who Drives Like Crazy.
- Creator Cameo: Buck Henry, who co-wrote the film's screenplay, appears as the hotel desk clerk.
- Cringe Comedy: A whole lot of it for Ben.
- Crucified Hero Shot: At the end, when Ben bangs at the church window with his arms raised and outstretched, many reviewers thought he was being portrayed as a Christ-like image.
- This actually turns out to be Faux Symbolism, since the church's minister had threatened to throw everyone out when the scene was rehearsed with Ben pounding at the fragile window, which had been a gift to the church.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Mrs. Robinson, who married her husband when she became pregnant with Elaine, experienced one of these, with the Mr. and Mrs. Robinson sleeping in two separate bedrooms.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mrs. Robinson shows signs of this, especially in the scene where Ben tries to find Elaine at the house but she isn't there. Ben also has his moments with his dad when lounging in the swimming pool as well as when Ben decides to marry Elaine, but he hasn't talked it over with her yet.
- Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Ben whistles the "Mrs. Robinson" song while driving in one scene, and again later when he buys the engagement ring for Elaine.
- Disposable Fiancé: Carl Smith. Elaine was actually already married to him, but he was still pretty disposable in the end.
- Drives Like Crazy:
- Ben does this toward the end, during that Berkeley-to-Pasadena-to-Berkeley-to-Santa Barbara shuttle.note
- Not to mention his first date with Elaine.Elaine: Do you always drive like this?Ben: Yes!
- Dull Surprise: Everyone in the film save Mrs. Robinson. But in this case, it's deliberate.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Deconstructed. Ben and Elaine both fought desperately to be with each other, and once they finally do and make their getaway, they slowly realize And Then What?, pointing out that it may have been All for Nothing.
- Establishing Character Music: Benjamin is introduced making his way through the Los Angeles airport after coming back home from college, to the strains of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence".
- False Rape Accusation: While confronting Ben in Berkeley, Elaine says that her mother told her Ben had raped her. Ben and the audience know it's actually a lie that Mrs. Robinson made up after the fact to turn Elaine against him, and at this point he tells Elaine the truth about the affair.
- Fanservice Extra: The exotic dancer at the strip club Ben takes Elaine to, who does an alluring dance and takes her top off. She wears pasties though.
- First Law of Tragicomedies: The film becomes less comedic after Elaine learns of Ben's affair with her mother.
- Flat "What": It's practically Ben's Catchphrase.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Mrs. Robinson first informs Ben of her sexual attraction (and availability) to him in Elaine's room after he brings her purse to her and she closes the door, there are very brief flashes of her nude body.
- Freudian Trio: Each prong of the love triangle. Benjamin is the id, a chaotic force who is unbelievably persistent in getting what he wants. Elaine is the superego, as the most apparently conventional of the trio, and the nicest and most understanding. Mrs Robinson is the ego; she indulges what she wants, like Ben, but she also wants to maintain at least the facade of normality like Elaine.
- Generation Xerox: In the final scene, according to Word of God, this is what Ben and Elaine are realizing will eventually happen to them.
- Get Out!:
- Elaine screams this at Ben after realizing that the older woman he had mentioned sleeping with was her mother.
- Also Mr. McCleery, after one too many disturbances caused by Ben.
- Gilligan Cut: One sequence features Ben jumping onto a pool mattress, cutting to Ben lying down with Mrs. Robinson, followed by Mr. Braddock suddenly asking Ben what he's doing.
- "The Graduate" Homage Shot: Yes, Trope Namer for the famous shot in which Ben beats on the glass on the second floor of the church and screams "Elaine" as the wedding is ending. Also one of the most famous scenes in movie history. Interestingly, although this scene is an iconic trope namer, it is very similar to the ending of 1924 Harold Lloyd comedy Girl Shy. The only real difference is that Lloyd descends partway down some stairs rather than beating on a window glass.
- Head Desk: Benjamin does an "I can't believe I'm doing this" variant against a hotel room wall just before he sleeps with Mrs. Robinson for the first time.
- Hope Spot: Ben buys an engagement ring in the hopes that Elaine might marry him, only to enter his apartment and encounter an angry Mr. Robinson, who threatens to prosecute Benjamin if he ever gets close to Elaine.
- I'll Kill You!: Mr. Robinson, during Ben's wedding crash.
- Instant Seduction: Famously averted. Despite her good looks (and him being rather plain and heavily implied to be a virgin) Mrs. Robinson has to practically throw herself at Ben before he gets the idea, and then he runs off all scandalized. When he does agree to get a hotel room with her, he worries what his parents would think if they found out, is generally horribly nervous, and has to be talked into it again.
- Irony: At the beginning of the film, Mr. Robinson is very much rooting for his daughter and Ben to end up together, so much so that some reviewers accuse him of borderline pimping his daughter to Ben. He gets his wish by the end... except by that point in time, he wants his daughter to stay as far away from Ben as possible, courtesy of Mrs. Robinson.
- Jerkass: Invoked by Ben on his first date with Elaine, effectively on Mrs. Robinson's orders. He behaves like a massive dick and humiliates Elaine several times.
- Jump Scare: Ben returns to his darkened Berkely apartment, reaches to switch on the light... and finds Mr. Robinson sitting there waiting for him, which jolts him from his happy mood and causes him to scream mid-whistle.
- Kafka Komedy: The entire plot is a Kafka Komedy since any and all actions Ben makes are against authority figures but he never intends to do anything bad. He begins the movie loved by those around him and by the end of the movie he's despised by almost everyone who once liked him.
- Karma Houdini: Mrs. Robinson, save for getting slapped by Elaine during the wedding crash. On the other hand, her husband does tell Ben that they're going to get a divorce (which, given the era, will most likely make her into a pariah among their social circle). And she's presumably lost her daughter's love and affection forever.
- Kavorka Man: Ben is plain, awkward, unemployed, with no prospects or ambition for getting them. And yet a mother and daughter fight over and both throw their lives away for him. (Even Dustin Hoffman, during his audition, thought it was unlikely.)
- Knight Templar Parent: Mrs. Robinson, after Benjamin attempted a second date with Elaine, tells Elaine that Benjamin got her drunk and took her up to the hotel room and raped her.
- Mr. Robinson, after his wife files for divorce, threatens to prosecute Ben to the fullest extent of the law if he even gets too close to Elaine, and even threatens to kill Ben in the church where the wedding is being held.
- Lady Drunk: Mrs. Robinson, who is alcoholic and depressed, again.
- Last-Name Basis:
- Mrs. Robinson's first name is never revealed. Fridge Brilliance when you realize that she really is nothing more than Mr. Robinson's wife.
- For that matter, we never learn Mr. Robinson's first name, or those of Ben's parents.
- Leave the Camera Running: How long are they sitting on that bus, slowly realizing they have no idea what they will do next, having burned all their bridges behind them? Nichols literally left the camera running without warning the actors.
- Leg Focus: Mrs. Robinson, rather famously. In the scene from which the famous poster image shown at the top of this page was taken, Ben was actually starting to leave - then Mrs. Robinson decided to put her stockings back on... (Incidentally, those actually aren't Anne Bancroft's legs on the poster. Linda Gray, aka Sue Ellen Ewing, was the leg double.) Not to mention the initial seduction scene with a Between My Legs shot.
- Like a Son to Me: Early in the film, Mr. Robinson has a heart-to-heart with Ben where he calls him this, and then offers him the fatherly advice to "sow a few wild oats, have a good time with the girls, and so forth". This, minutes after his wife has (unbeknownst to him) offered herself to Ben. As you might expect, this changes drastically after Mrs. Robinson tells her family of Ben's affairs with her, presenting her side of the story as a rape victim.
- Love at First Sight: Ben and Elaine: one date which gets off to a very rocky start, then they share burgers and life stories in a drive-in restaurant, then some uncomfortable truths are aired, and months later he's still willing to drive up to Berkeley to chase after her. Hardly a day after they have an argument, they're talking about marriage, and their passion seems to go strong for the rest of the movie — not counting the last seven seconds. Granted Ben and Elaine fall for each other very quickly but it's still not at first sight. Especially since it's implied in an earlier scene that they knew each other before their date. It also helps that they both realize during their date that their life situations are very similar and that they're the only ones who can truly understand each other and what they're going through.
- Mama Bear: When Ben breaks his promise to never ask Elaine out on a date (at the Braddocks' insistence that Ben should call her up for a date), Mrs. Robinson makes good on her threat to tell Elaine about Ben's affairs, and even Mr. Robinson goes up to Berkeley and threatens to take severe legal actions against Ben when he chews him out in front of the landlord if he ever dares show himself around Elaine.
- A Man Is Always Eager: Averted. Ben is quite shy and scandalized by the idea, and has to be talked into it. The woman in question was the wife of his father's business partner...
- Manipulative Bitch: Mrs. Robinson. Once The Reveal is made and Ben tries to win back Elaine, he stumbles across Mrs. Robinson first, who explains that a) Elaine is arranged to be married, b) the ceremony is in a matter of days, and c) she's called the cops on him for breaking and entering. Gee, y'think maybe she doesn't want the two kids to get together?
- Match Cut:
- A Time Passes Montage uses a series of match cuts to demonstrate Mrs. Robinson's and Ben's affair. There's a cut from Ben in a hotel room bed looking at the door to Ben getting up and shutting the door—which is now the door to his room at home. Right after that, a shot of Ben leaping out of the pool at his house is matched with Ben leaping on top of Mrs. Robinson.
- From Ben opening and passing out of the jewelry store door to Ben opening and entering through the door of the boarding house.
- Maybe Ever After: So, what happens to Ben and Elaine?
- Mood Whiplash: The film is a satirical comedy up until the scene where Elaine discovers the truth about her mother and Ben. Things get considerably heavier then.
- Ben goes up to his Berkeley apartment, hoping to pop the question to Elaine, only for it to turn into an Oh, Crap! moment when an angry Mr. Robinson warns Ben to stay the hell away from Elaine, calling Ben filth, scum and a degenerate.
- Mouthing the Profanity: When the wedding is crashed in the climax, Elaine's mother, father and almost-husband are clearly seen mouthing profanities.
- Mrs. Robinson: The Trope Namer. Middle-aged Mrs. Robinson lusts for and seduces a young college graduate who's the same age as her daughter.
- My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Robinson becomes a rather twisted version of this vis-à-vis Elaine.
- Nice Girl: Elaine is easily the nicest character in the series, being a kind young woman with no rough edge.
- Nipple and Dimed: During the scene when Ben brings Mrs. Robinson's purse into Elaine's room, she closes the door, and brief glimpses of her bare bosom can be briefly seen in split-second moments.
- Now What?: At the end of the movie, after Benjamin rescues Elaine from her wedding and they flee on a bus, the camera holds on them for an uncomfortably long time, as their initial expressions of elation gives way to ones of awkward uncertainty, emphasizing the "now what?" nature of the ending. A play and a (separate) movie attempt to tell what happened right after the end and a generation later, respectively.
- Of Course I'm Not a Virgin: Attempted and failed:Mrs. Robinson: Benjamin, is this your first time?
Ben: Is this— What?
Mrs. Robinson: It is, isn't it? It is your first time.
Ben: That's a laugh, Mrs. Robinson. That's really a laugh. Ha ha.
Mrs. Robinson: You can admit that, can't you?
Ben: Are you kidding?
Mrs. Robinson: It's nothing to be ashamed of -, etc.
- Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The famous Thousand-Yard Stares of Ben and Elaine at the end are actually the next-to-last shot; the last shot is the bus trundling off into the distance as the camera fades to black.
- Perpetual Expression: Ben in the below mentioned montage. His expression changes maybe once.
- Please Dump Me: Benjamin, under orders from Mrs. Robinson, tries to get her daughter Elaine to lose interest in him by taking her to a strip club on a date.
- Plot-Powered Stamina: Ben spends the last portion of the movie running like hell to stop his beloved's wedding, basically power-jogging nonstop for ages with only a pause to make a phone call. Nicely led up to throughout the film with repeated mentions of Ben's status as a 'track star' as well as his position in college as captain of the cross country team.
- Pop-Star Composer: Featuring songs by Simon & Garfunkel.
- P.O.V. Cam: Used in the scuba-gear scene, along with Vader Breath.
- Precision F-Strike:
- When Mr. Braddock confronts Ben about his failure to apply for graduate school:Mr. Braddock: Look, I think it's a very good thing that a young man, after he's done some very good work, should have a chance to relax and enjoy himself, lie around and drink beer and so on. But after a few weeks, I'd believe that person would want to take some stock in himself and his situation and start to think about getting off his ass!
- When Mrs. Robinson tells Benjamin that he's not good enough for her, but good enough to sleep with her, Benjamin tells her off:Benjamin: You go to hell! You go straight to hell, Mrs. Robinson!
- Last but not least, Mrs. Robinson gets one of the first F-bombs (unheard, but easily read on her lips) in mainstream cinema during the climactic wedding scene when Benjamin shows up at the church and interrupts the wedding ceremony.Mrs. Robinson: What the fuck are you doing?!
- When Mr. Braddock confronts Ben about his failure to apply for graduate school:
- Prelap: When Benjamin is in the bottom of a pool, but you hear him having a phone conversation with Mrs. Robinson in the following scene.
- Race for Your Love: Ben, on his way to the wedding.
- The Reveal: When Elaine finds out just who that older woman was. Awkward.
- Rule of Symbolism: Ben racing down the street to the church is shot with an ultra-wide lens, making him appear to be running in place.
- Runaway Bride: Elaine escapes the church with Ben while still wearing her wedding dress, leaving her lawful groom jilted at the altar. Man, those people on that bus with Ben and Elaine must have been so confused.
- Sad-Times Montage: Set to Simon and Garfunkel, of course. Features mostly clips of Ben floating around in a pool and jumping into bed repeatedly with MILF Mrs. Robinson, one might think that this should be a Good-Times Montage. However, the music is sad, Ben's facial expression almost never changes from one of lost boredom, and the general idea conveyed is that he's just drifting with no idea what to do with himself or his life, lost in a sea of easy-on-the-ears folk rock angst. (Another, even sadder one comes after Elaine discovers Ben's affair with her mother and leaves for Berkeley.)
- Satellite Love Interest: Elaine. Sure, she's gorgeous — she's played by Katharine Ross, after all — but we never really learn much of anything about her; indeed, her status as Forbidden Fruit per Mrs. Robinson's orders seems to be the primary source of Ben's attraction to her.
- Say My Name:
- "ELAINE!... ELAINE!... ELAINE!... ELAINE!... ELAINE!... ELAINE!..."
- Shotgun Wedding: Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were pressured into getting married after he got her pregnant out of wedlock.
- Shout-Out: When Benjamin is visiting the Robinsons and asks Elaine out on a date for the first time, The Newlywed Game can be heard and seen in the background on the Robinson's TV set.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Elaine decides to be a Runaway Bride, her mother reminds her that she is already married. The answer has to be the shortest and hence most powerful kind of Shut Up, Hannibal!:Mrs. Robinson: Elaine, it's too late!Elaine: Not for me!
- Sleeping Single: At one point Mrs. Robinson reveals to Ben that she and her husband have separate rooms.
- Smug Snake: Mrs. Robinson.
- So What Do We Do Now?: The last seven seconds of the movie. Their faces say it all.
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: He's a bit late, but hey, what's too late? "It's too late!" "Not for me!"
- Stacy's Mom: Mrs. Robinson is easily a candidate for this one, given the memetic line that sprang forth from it.
- Stalking Is Love: Ben watches Elaine leave for Berkeley behind the bushes, then goes to Berkley to be near her, then chases a bus to bug her as she's on her way to a date with another guy, despite the fact that this entire time she kind of hates him. Eventually he succeeds in convincing her to like him again.
- Star-Crossed Lovers:
- Ben and Elaine. Heck, the kid had an affair with her mother, was accused of rape, and her parents forced her into marrying another guy to keep them apart. Thanksgiving's going to be awkward.
- Except for the fact Elaine is the girl his parents picked out for him in the first place.
- And the ending suggests they may not actually love each other.
- Stepford Suburbia: The elder Braddocks and Robinsons live in a version of this.
- Stocking Filler: That scene, where they're getting dressed, and she's putting on her stocking... yeah.
- Symbolic Serene Submersion:
- Several shots in the early part of the film feature Ben simply floating in his family's pool (lying either on an inflatable or simply in the water), symbolising his uncertainty about his future and feeling of simply being adrift at life.
- In another sequence when, at yet another party thrown by his parents, Ben is forced to display the scuba gear he recently received, despite his overall unwillingness to be there. The scene is shot from Ben's perspective inside the suit, making the voices and sight of the guests distorted and distant until Ben finally gets to the pool and is able to submerge himself, when it all goes silent, symbolising the disconnect he feels from his parents social environment and lifestyle, and his subtle wish to escape it all.
- Television Geography:
- Everyone in Northern California knows this movie shows Ben driving the wrong way over the Bay Bridge when he goes to Berkeley.
- What they fail to wonder is why he's on the Bay Bridge in the first place, since most of the major routes from the south run along the Berkeley/Oakland side rather than the SF side.note
- Token Good Teammate: Mr. Robinson is the only adult in the film who treats Ben like a person and actually cares about his well-being, encouraging him not to burden himself with chasing success at the moment and to enjoy his life while he can. This goes out the window once he finds out the truth about Ben and his wife.
- True Beauty Is on the Inside: Oddly not mentioned, although the beautiful Mrs. Robinson is a depressed alcoholic who cheats on her husband and tries to force her daughter into an unhappy marriage, and Ben (who rescues the daughter) is played by Dustin Hoffman. Then again, Dustin Hoffman was cast at the last minute.
- Two Words: Added Emphasis: The trope may have originated with one word: "Plastics."
- Unbuilt Trope:
- The film popularised the Runaway Bride trope — and the sequence of Benjamin convincing his love interest to run out on her wedding is iconic. But its numerous imitators forget to include the part that happens next; once they're on the bus and the thrill wears off, the two share a look that says, "Did we really do the right thing?"... and the film ends ambiguously.
- The film was the Trope Namer for Mrs. Robinson. However, it isn't portrayed just for fanservice, but also for drama. Mrs. Robinson was forced into a Shotgun Wedding after having a child out of wedlock, and she wants to have an affair with Ben out of dissatisfaction with a marriage she didn't want. It also portrays the consequences of a young man having an affair with a married woman: when Ben falls for Elaine, Mrs. Robinson lies and tells Elaine and Mr. Robinson that he took advantage of her. The latter threatens to sue him if he ever comes near his family again, and Elaine wants nothing to do with him until he gets a chance to convince her of the truth.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Ben, while not really a jerk, lacks some typical sympathetic traits. He isn't particularly handsome and is not exactly heroic, since due to his insecurities he engages in bad behavior.
- Vanilla Edition: MGM's Blu-ray of the film has fewer bonus features than any of the DVDs, although they (sort of) make up for it by including commentaries and interviews on the bonus DVD copy. Nicely averted with The Criterion Collection's Blu-Ray, as you might expect.
- Virgin-Shaming: It could be interpreted that Ben is a virgin before he sleeps with Mrs. Robinson. At the very least, he sleeps with Mrs Robinson because she challenges him on his inexperience. He acts so horribly awkward she outright asks him, and he unsuccessfully tries to deny it, so she basically dares him to prove himself. "Just because you happen to be inadequate in one way..." To his... credit?... Dustin Hoffman, 30 years old at the time, does a great job of playing a nervous, shy virgin.
- Wall Bang Her: Ben does this during his first hotel tryst with Mrs. Robinson, when he grabs her breast and she's too busy trying to rub a stain from her blouse even to notice. This was actually improvisation on the part of Hoffman, who thought he had botched the scene and returned to the other end of the room to start it over. Director Mike Nichols kept rolling, however, and the result is classic.
- Wedding Deadline:
- The last half hour or so is built around Ben trying to beat this. He fails, but it winds up not mattering much.
- In the book, he actually does make it, but director Mike Nichols felt that it was too corny.
- Wedding Finale: Played With. The film builds towards a wedding of the hero's love interest with some other guy. At the end, the bride runs away from the altar with the hero.
- "What Now?" Ending: The film ends with Ben and Elaine, having just fled Elaine's wedding, sitting next to each other on the back seat of a bus as the adrenaline rush of the escape wears off, leaving them with expressions that can be summed up as, "So what do we do now?"
- Woman Scorned: When Ben breaks off the affair between him and Mrs. Robinson, she warns him to stay away from Elaine, making him promise that he will never go out with her. When Ben's parents urge him to give Elaine a call for a date, and Ben breaks his promise in the process, she blows the whistle on Ben, and Mr. Robinson has some hostile words for Ben if he even thinks about seeing Elaine again.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Discussed, lampshaded and defied when Ben breaks off the affair and plans to leave:Mrs. Robinson: If that's how you feel about me, then I'm a sick and disgusting person.
Benjamin: Now don't start this!
Mrs. Robinson: What?
Benjamin: Don't start acting hurt.
Mrs. Robinson: Don't you expect me to be a little hurt?
Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, you lie there and tell me I'm not good enough for your daughter.
Mrs. Robinson: Did I say that?
Benjamin: In so many words.
- Zip Me Up: Mrs. Robinson actually asks to be un-zipped.