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Film / There Will Be Blood

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"What's this? Why don't I own this? Why don't I own this?"
Daniel Plainview

There Will Be Blood is a 2007 period drama film written, directed and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, and loosely based on the first half of the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair.

Taking place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries during the Southern California oil boom, the film focuses on Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis), an oilman who travels the state buying people's land to drill. He is accompanied by his young adopted son and "business partner", H.W.

One day, he gets a tip from a young man named Paul Sunday about undiscovered oil fields on his family's land in Little Boston. As he buys up land in the town and starts drilling, tension builds between Daniel and Paul's twin brother Eli, a young charismatic evangelist who runs the local Church of the Third Revelation. (Dano plays both of the Sunday brothers.)

Unlike most Hollywood films, There Will Be Blood eschews conventional plotting in order to focus almost entirely on exploring its protagonist, making for a considerably more complex and, for some, confusing experience. One might say that in this case, the character is the plot.

Which is not to suggest that not much happens. Plenty happens. And there is blood.

The film was and is regarded as a landmark of not only the year, and the decade, but the century, with similar magnitudes of praise going to Day-Lewis' performance, for which he won most every honor that the 2007 award circuit had available for Best Actor, including his second Academy Award. It further won an Oscar for Best Cinematography (Robert Elswit), but lost its six other nominations (including Best Picture), half of them going to another universally lauded Paramount Vantage/Miramax co-production with a winter 2007 release: No Country for Old Men. Miramax, owned by Disney from 1993-2010, now has a minority stake owned by Paramount, giving it the worldwide rights to No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood as the new distributor of the Miramax library.


  • Absence of Evidence: Henry doesn't laugh with Daniel over an amusing story involving getting girls drunk at the peach-tree dance. This makes Daniel suspicious that Henry wasn't even there and that he is impersonating his long lost brother.
  • Abusive Parents: Daniel himself, as well as the Sunday father, Abel.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: During Daniel and H.W's final argument, Daniel calls his son a "bastard from a basket", decides he likes the sound of it, and screams it at him several more times as he storms out.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: In a flashback, Daniel is shown affectionately tousling young H.W's hair. It's a particularly poignant moment, because it comes right after Daniel has called his son a (literal) bastard and broken with him forever.
  • Age Cut: Late in the movie there's a shot of little Mary Sunday watching H.W. get sign-language lessons, and trying to follow along. This cuts to a shot of Mary Sunday in her wedding dress, signing her vows to H.W. some 15 years later.
  • The Alcoholic: Daniel is constantly shown swigging whiskey. One his the first scenes is him pouring whiskey into a baby bottle and offering it to the infant H.W., having no idea how to parent. Several scenes begin with him being awoken from a drunken stupor.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Eli winds up in this situation when he approaches Daniel years later in Daniel's personal bowling alley out of financial desperation, sticking around despite the increasing signs that Daniel has completely lost his mind over the years. He predictably doesn't leave the room alive.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Itís left relatively vague whether Danielís claim about paying $10,000 to Paul for the oil under Eliís land is just a lie/half-truth to rub it in, or if Daniel really did pay him more than $500 upfront as shown earlier in the movie.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The effeminate Eli Sunday, who at the end praises Bandy's grandson's physical beauty, then breaks down crying about having sinned in ways he'd never thought existed. He may just have been crying about having lost all his money in bad investments, although in the film's original screenplay draft he enters Daniel's mansion with two female companions who were omitted from the final product for unknown reasons that leave room for this interpretation.
  • The Antichrist: Eli is considered a false prophet.
  • Anti-Hero: Daniel Plainview is a Nominal Hero, though some would argue he's almost a Villain Protagonist.
  • Arc Words: Played with; Daniel Plainview's name as an interrogative apostrophe serves the role of Arc Words, but the characters use different variations rather than always the same form ("Mister Plainview?", "Daniel Plainview?", "Daniel?", "Mister Daniel?"Ö)
  • Asshole Victim: As their conflict is a clear cut case of Evil Versus Evil, it's hard to feel sorry for Eli Sunday when Daniel kills him.
  • Badass Boast: Daniel does an epic one while chasing a helpless, panicking Eli in the closing bowling alley scene.
    "Did you think that your song and dance and your superstition would help you, Eli!? I am the third revelation! I am who the Lord has chosen! Because I am smarter than you! I'm older! I am not a false prophet, you snivelling boy! I AM THE THIIIRD REVELATION! I-III AM THE THIRD REVELATION! I TOLD you I would eat you! I TOLD you I would EAT YOU UP!"
  • Berserk Button: Don't ever tell Daniel to turn away from a business to take care of his family.
    Daniel: One night I'm going to come to you, inside of your house, wherever you're sleeping, and I'm going to cut your throat.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: There aren't many sympathetic characters in this movie. H.W. and Mary Sunday are probably the only ones.
  • Black Comedy: Though not a comedy itself, the film is filled with darkly comic moments and scenes that are simultaneously absurd and horrifying.
  • Bludgeoned to Death: At the end of the film, Daniel beats Eli on his head to death with a bowling pin.
  • Camera Abuse: Occurs in a shot of workers in the shaft of Daniel's oil derrick, where a streak of oil splatters onto the lens, and again when Plainview attacks Eli at the climax and knocks over a bucket of water, some of which gets on the lens.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Daniel acts as a living embodiment of capitalist excesses via his characterization as a Corrupt Corporate Executive who prioritizes profits over human lives. As soon as he gets his oil-drilling business running, he dismisses the death of a worker in an industrial accident and instead claims his orphaned son as a marketing opportunity, he is willing to sacrifice anything and everything to ensure that his company succeeds, and ultimately pettily sabotages and even murders people with way less power than him just to spite them. Tellingly, the story starts in the 19th century, when capitalism reached the extent where working conditions were at their most destructive and exploitative, and ends just after the onset of The Great Depression.
  • Conversation Casualty: Daniel Plainview wakes up the man who claims to be his brother, and forces him at gunpoint to say who he really is. During the man's confession, Daniel puts away the gun. When the man is done explaining himself, however, Daniel unexpectedly draws the gun again and kills him.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Daniel Plainview, of course. Oil robber baron.
  • "Day of the Week" Name: The Sundays.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Daniel's half-brother, Henry, who shows up all of a sudden later turns out to be an impostor. He knew Daniel's real half-brother, who died of tuberculosis, and took his identity so he could get work with Daniel.
  • Death Glare: Being a violent, murderous sociopath, Daniel is pretty good at these. He delivers a particularly frightening one in the whorehouse with Henry, after figuring out that Henry is an impostor.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: When Mr. Plainview buys the Sunday Family land, the women are dismissed from talking business. Surprisingly, Mr. Plainview is actually less dissonant than the rest of the community.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Daniel is the devil in plain view. Get it?
  • Devil in Disguise: Eli is the devil disguised as an angel.
  • Downer Ending: While Daniel succeeds at making a massive fortune and retiring, his life has completely fallen apart. He disowns H.W., descends into alcoholism and is clearly suffering from Sanity Slippage. While he manages to get his revenge against Eli Sunday, in the end Danielís life has become empty and he has little purpose left.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: H.W. and Mary, presumably, and they're the only characters that deserve it.
  • The Edwardian Era: Strictly speaking, the film's setting corresponds most closely to the "Progressive Era" of American history (Theodore Roosevelt's presidency to World War I), though Daniel as a character seems more suited to a decade or two earlier. The finale is set in 1927, with The Great Depression implied to be on the horizon.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: After Daniel is finished rubbing his successful oil pipeline in the faces of a group of rival oil men, he snags a whiskey from their table and downs it, then returns to his seat.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Daniel seems to care about his adoptive son, but the terrible manner they part ways in 1927 makes it a subversion.
  • Evil Gloating: Daniel spends the last scene drunkenly lording his absolute superiority over Eli before savagely murdering him.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Let's see, in the left corner we have an (in the beginning) indifferent to life, determined miner who just wants to earn a living. In span of two hours he cheats folks in California to basically work for him like oxen and give him oil to sell, personally kills a few people, abandons his son because he.. failed him, takes pleasure from dominating everybody and generally perceives the world as much more evil than he is. In the right corner, we have a cowardly, hypocritical preacher who bullies his father and manipulates members of his church. Also, he ultimately sells his soul to Daniel in the end, complete with swift one-way ticket to Hell. Gentlemen, place your bets.
  • Expy:
    • Daniel is Michael because he killed a false priest disguise as a messenger to God.
    • H.W. is Jesus Christ
    • Eli is the Antichrist due to the tactics of abuse during baptism and cruelty to Daniel.
  • Faux Affably Evil: While he can have some genuine moments of humanity, namely with his fake brother and son, Plainview is this, hiding his sociopathic and greedy nature under a civilized demeanor.
  • The Film of the Book: Anderson adapted only the opening chapters of Sinclair's novel. The book Oil! actually is about the life of H.W.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Daniel Plainview starts out as a dirtied gold-seeker just trying to find some rare minerals without blowing himself up with his own TNT. By the end of the story he has stepped on anyone he has needed to in order to advance his own goals, exploited just about anyone with a speaking role, note  and killed anyone who betrayed him.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The deaths of H.W.'s biological father and Eli, but averted with the death of a worker down Daniel's wells.
  • Greed: Daniel's defining trait. He will stop at absolutely nothing if it means getting more oil and more money. His talk with Henry implies it's compulsive, and he only wants it if it means no one else can have it.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Pretty much any exchange between Daniel and Eli.
  • Happy Flashback: A couple of quick, heartbreakingly affectionate moments between Daniel and young H.W., right after Daniel casts adult H.W. out of the house.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Daniel is not at all religious and shows nothing but scorn towards Eli and his church. Right before he humiliates and kills Eli in the film's climax, Daniel forces Eli to denounce God as a superstition.
  • I Have No Son!: In the second-to-last scene, Daniel reveals to H.W that he was an orphan and claims to have adopted him just because Daniel needed a pretty face to help making business deals.
  • Injured Self-Drag: The movie begins with Daniel Plainview discovering silver in his mine, and after using Dynamite to reveal the vein, he starts climbing down the shaft when a ladder step breaks. He falls down and is paralyzed from his legs, but manages to pull himself out and then drag himself to a nearby blacksmith.
  • Insult Backfire: When Daniel tells H. W. he's "a bastard in a basket", H. W. thanks God that he has nothing of Daniel in him.
  • Irony: For all the wealth Daniel gained by the end of the movie, the last scene finds him sleeping in the gutterÖ of his private bowling alley.
  • Jar of the Bizarre: Discussed. Daniel tells Eli that, compared to his more successful twin brother, he is "just the afterbirth" and "should have been kept in a glass jar on the mantle".
  • Jerkass: Daniel is a greedy and opportunistic oil baron more concerned for his business than for the well being of other humans. As the film continues, he only gets worse and worse, eventually murdering the similarly corrupt Eli purely out of spite.
  • Karma Houdini: Paul sells out his own family's fortunes for $500, skips town, and is never seen again.
  • Large Ham:
    • Daniel, in spite of being very stiff and reserved much of the time, occasionally breaks into mania. Memorable scenes include Daniel murdering his impostor half-brother, yelling with a napkin over his head in a posh restaurant, killing Eli, "disowning" his son and taunting him for being a "bastard from a basket!" and of course the "I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!!" lines, along with the visual acting out of the analogy. (*slurrrrp!*)
    • Eli Sunday is a pretty Large Ham himself, first seen when he appears to exorcise a woman with arthritis at the start, and again when he puts Plainview though his embarrassing 'baptism' experience.
  • Laughing Mad: Daniel laughs for a few seconds after the burning wooden oil rig collapses.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The last line of the movie is Daniel saying "I'm finished."
  • Leave the Camera Running: There are a lot of long, uninterrupted shots in the film, especially during the opening sequence.
  • Licked by the Dog: After Daniel's gruelling baptism, Mary leans over from her pew to hug him.
  • Lonely at the Top: During the final chapters of the film, Daniel, having amassed a massive fortune through his oil business, lives in a stately mansion with only an elderly servant to meet his needs. Though he has achieved his goal of shutting out the world, it's clear that's he still not happy. Once he cuts H.W. out of his life, there is no one left in the world that he cares about. He's entirely alone and still miserable.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Both Daniel & Eli.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Daniel Plainview. Just in case you don't quite get it, it's referring to the saying "Devil in plain view." He also has a very Plain View of life: no God; eliminate obstacles; get more money, period.
    • Daniel only ever refers to his son as H.W. Using initials in place of one's first name is an old-timey custom used primarily by adult professionals (and is still popular with authors). Daniel uses his son as the face of his brand, referring to him as his "partner." Therefore, H.W.'s identity is founded on his value to Daniel's business.
    • The entire Sunday family:
      • Sunday is a religiously-significant day of the week in Christianity, and the Sunday family also happen to be the most religious family in Little Boston. It also Shouts Out to real-life preacher Billy Sunday.
      • Paul Sunday is named after Paul the Apostle. The biblical Paul received a revelation of Jesus and then spread the gospel. Similarly, Paul Sunday receives oil money from Plainview and then uses that to spread out into new oil fields. Also, Paul the Apostle claimed a distinct separation from the church in Jerusalem, just as Paul Sunday is separate from the rest of his family.
      • Eli Sunday is named after Eli, which is both the Hebrew name of God as well as a Biblical Israeli judge. There is irony in the divine interpretation of the name, because although Eli Sunday starts his own church to preach his own gospel (as if he were God) he is shown to be instead incredibly immoral and powerless, unable to heal H.W. and easily physically subdued. The Biblical judge Eli dies suddenly after learning that his power has suddenly been stripped from him, a close parallel to Eli Sunday's powerless desperation in the face of the oncoming Great Depression.
      • Abel Sunday is named after Abel, a son of Adam and Eve who was murdered by his brother Cain. Both Abels are shepherds. Abel is regarded as the first victim of evil in the Bible, and the cinematic Abel is the first one to sell his land to Plainview.
      • Mary Sunday is a reference to the Virgin Mary. Or Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus saved from stoning, just as Daniel saved Mary Sunday from further beatings.
  • Mind Rape: Daniel lays a truly savage one on Eli in the climax, reducing the man to tears. For bonus points, we only have Daniel's word on Paul's success and the drainage of Eli's land, but his delivery is strong enough that the victim doesn't question it, and then he bashes Eli's brains out with a wooden bowling pin.
    • While he could be telling the truth, he did lie to Eli to twist him up with brother/jealousy issues. He said he gave Paul $10,000 dollars for the information, when really he only gave him $500. Eli has spent much of the film trying to get paid $5000 for selling his land, while Daniel has made a disgustingly large fortune off of it.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Daniel does not like people.
    Daniel: Are you an angry man, Henry?
    Henry: About what?
    Daniel: Are you envious? Do you get envious?
    Henry: I don't think so, no.
    Daniel: I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.
    Henry: That part of me is gone. Working and not succeeding, all my years, failure has left me... I just don't care.
    Daniel: Well, if it's in me, it's in you. There are times where I... I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money so I can get away from everyone.
  • Mood Dissonance: For some people, the final scene goes from hilarious to utterly horrifying when Daniel murders Eli. Yes, the narm actually makes the film better.
  • Morality Chain: It doesn't stop him from murdering his fake brother Henry, but his relationship with H.W. seems to be the only tenuous link keeping Daniel attached to the rest of the human race.
    • And before he found out that he was a fake, Henry, too; as he mentioned that the man's arrival gave him "a second breath of life."
  • Mugging the Monster: The baptism scene. One can argue that Eli knew damn well what he was doing, especially considering how he emphasizes the child abandonment, but slapping and humiliating a man like that in front of god and company was not the wisest decision Eli Sunday ever made.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Justified by the era. There were few, if any, industrial safety regulations or even standard procedures around the turn of the 20th century. A lot of people get maimed or killed by preventable accidents.
  • Older Than They Look: Despite the 16 year Time Skip, no makeup is used to make Paul Dano look any older in the final scene.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Mostly avoided, but when Daniel is blustering to Bandy about "My sin of drilling?" he slips into an English accent on the last word.
  • Oscar Bait: Downplayed, as it's set during the oil boom in Southern California during the early 20th century, but that's where the specific qualities end - the main character is a ruthless and sociopathic oilman who descends further into madness, greed, and cruelty the more successful he gets, and eventually drives away all of his loved ones, with his main rival being a weaselly False Prophet.
  • Pet the Dog: The film is peppered with these moments, but Daniel's motives are ambiguous, the film often offering darker explanations.
    • Daniel is kind to the youngest Sunday daughter and ensures that she is no longer beaten by her father Abel for not praying. However, his motive is unclear. He could be purely altruistic to the daughter, or it could be a favor to his son (who brought it up to him), or it could be to dominate the father.
    • Daniel shows genuine affection and concern for his son at a number of points in the film. The first is when he smiles while the infant H.W. plays with his mustache. He's frantic with concern when H.W. is injured, running to rescue him and then carrying him to safety. Even when he abandons him, Daniel is wracked with remorse and guilt. Most poignant is the quick flashback at the end, after Daniel has disowned H.W., when we see affectionate moments between father and son, followed by Daniel drinking heavily. He may not care about H.W anymore, but this certainly suggests he used to and is upset to the point of (further) madness that he doesn't any longer.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Jonny Greenwood composed the score, but also used classical cues and some of his own previous score from the documentary Bodysong.
  • "Psycho" Strings: That's pretty much the whole soundtrack, with the occasional Drone of Dread to enforce the point.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I! DRINK! YOUR! MILKSHAKE!"
  • Put on a Bus: Daniel abandons his son on a train to a boarding school, and he doesn't appear again until the last few scenes.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Daniel states that his goal is to make enough money to build a giant house and live away from everybody. This is exactly what he does, but he doesn't enjoy his isolation, having become alienated (at best) from everyone we've seen him care about.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The milkshake speech is this, combined with some general Evil Gloating. "Stop crying, you sniveling ass! Stop your nonsense! [...] You're just the afterbirth that slithered out on your mother's filth! They should have put you in a glass jar on the mantlepiece. Where were you when Paul was suckling at his mother's teat? Who was nursing you, poor Eli? One of Bandy's sows?"
  • Reveal Shot:
    • After the first well is built on the Sunday ranch, Daniel speaks to little Mary Sunday. Daniel, who has been made aware that Mary's father Abel beats her, says that now that he's here her father will never beat her again. Mary nods and walks away, and the film cuts to a different camera angle, revealing that Abel Sunday is sitting right across the table from Daniel and heard this whole exchange.
    • A shot of the Sunday table shows Abel and the daughters eating dinner. Cut to the next shot, which shows Eli sitting at the other end, still covered in oil and filth from the previous scene in which Daniel dunked him in a sludge pond. Cue an enraged Eli attacking his father for selling the land cheap.
  • Sadist Show: All characters were mean towards each other.
  • Scenery Porn: There's a reason it won an Oscar for cinematography.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Eli.
  • Self-Made Man: Daniel is a miner who almost literally pulls himself up by his bootstraps in the beginning after he falls into a pit hole and breaks his leg. He escapes death and becomes a succesful entrepreneur.
  • Shout-Out: There is something elusive and very Kubrickian about the film that didn't go unnoticed.
    • The wordless opening is very reminiscent of "The Dawn of Man" in 2001: A Space Odyssey, with (black) oil marking the advance to a complex, new and destructive era, just like the (black) monolith.
    • Lines such as "You're just the afterbirth that slithered out on your mother's filth! They should have put you in a glass jar on the mantelpiece" sounds almost verbatim like an insult out of Sgt. Hartman's mouth.
    • The Soundtrack Dissonance in which classical allegro music follows primal violence is similar to the ending of A Clockwork Orange, and the Drone of Dread that reoccurs throughout the film invokes both 2001 and The Shining.
    • The final shot shares the exact convergent perspective and symmetry with the elevator scene from The Shining, with the blood also coming from the left half of the screen.
    • Daniel's conclusive sentence "I'm finished" evokes Alex's "I was cured, alright" at the end of A Clockwork Orange.
    • Analysts have even compared the plot of TWBB to that of The Shining, as both revolve around a character descending into insanity and eventually becoming murderously unstable, though while The Shining focuses on supernatural evil bringing this out, Daniel Plainview's insanity is instead revealed through the dark side of human nature.
    • Part of Eli's sermon when he "exorcises" the arthritis from a member of his congregation ("And as long as I have teeth, I will bite you! And if I have no teeth, I will gum you! And as long as I have fists, I will bash you!") is taken from the 1960 film adaptation of Sinclair Lewis's novel Elmer Gantry, which, fittingly enough, is about a hypocritical con man who preaches in a travelling tent revival.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • In interviews P.T. Anderson said the "I drink your milkshake" line was quoted verbatim from the Senate testimony of Interior Secretary Albert Fall, who went to jail in the 1920s in the Teapot Dome scandal. That does not appear to be true (go here, search for "milkshake"), but the phrase was used on other occasions, like a 2003 Senate debate over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
    • That opulent mansion at the end, with the sweet private bowling alley? Built by Edward Doheny, as a present for his son.
  • Silence is Golden: The entire opening sequence. It starts with Daniel in 1898 prospecting for silver, alone somewhere in a desert, as a Drone of Dread plays on the soundtrack. The following scenes show Daniel finding some silver, moving on to oil prospecting, building a well some place, and taking in baby H.W. after H.W.'s father is killed at the bottom of Daniel's well. Several minutes have passed before a Time Skip of ten years or so takes us to the main setting of the story and the first lines of dialogue are heard.
  • Sinister Minister: Eli Sunday is obsessed with his church, and is probably just as power-hungry as Daniel. Although he is greedy, very unforgiving, a mooch, extremely over-the-top, and clearly a wackjob, his followers are drawn to his bombastic sermons.
  • Sissy Villain: Eli Sunday is a cowardly, physically unimpressive Smug Snake who Screams Like a Little Girl when seriously threatened. Daniel has little trouble gaining the upper hand in their conflicts.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Paul Sunday shows up only briefly, gets paid $500 upfront for information that turns out to be absolutely correct and is never seen again afterwards. Yet if not for him, much of the movie, as well as Danielís and his own brother's ultimate fate, would never have happened.
  • Smug Snake: Eli Sunday is a great example of this trope. He can be charming and charismatic but when faced with a bigger bully than himself he breaks down screaming and crying. He has no trouble beating up his dad but when Daniel drags him through a pool of mud he barely tries to defend himself.
  • Society Is to Blame: Arguably one of the major points of the movie, although there is some question as to whether this is a man with questionable morals being forced down the path to becoming a villain by his peers, who never seem to prove him wrong in his belief that all humans are horrible people that should be shunned or profited from, or whether he was evil to begin with, and society is to blame because it allows him to prosper so much.
  • The Sociopath: Daniel seems like a sociopath in the way he manipulates people and seeks domination over them, but he's actually misanthropic. He hates most people and only allows himself to care for a select few. The film tracks how these few human relationships end in tragedy.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Daniel Plainview.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • In the end, the movie lives up to its title. Civilized men return to their animal selves, brutality reigns, blood is had— blackout to credits with a rollicking performance of a Brahms Violin Concerto so you can dance your way out of the theater.
    • Done earlier in the film for the opposite effect— seemingly mundane scenes are accompanied by a relentlessly foreboding soundtrack.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted with H.W. He is at ground zero for a massive natural gas explosion and slams his head against a building, with the potential brain damage exacerbating the hearing loss from the explosion. He remains completely deaf for the rest of the film.
  • Stepford Smiler: Daniel Plainview spends much of the movie in his public persona, trying to charm people into selling him the right to drill for oil on their land. He even uses his own son as an appealing "face" for the company and his image as a "family man".
  • Tragedy: The tragic story of a silver miner turned oilman who embarks on a ruthless quest for wealth and power during the early 20th century oil boom.
  • Tragic Mistake: It could be argued that sending H.W. off to boarding school was the real tipping point for Daniel. The reason he does it is simply because H.W. is in the way and Daniel doesn't have the patience to properly care for him while working. He doesn't even give him a proper goodbye, he simply leaves him on a train and sneaks away as it departs. H.W. seems to be the only person Daniel may actually like, so carelessly sending him away effectively strips him of his last shred of humanity.
  • Trash the Set: In that impressive, dramatic scene where the oil derrick burns, how do you think they made it look so real? They burned the derrick.
  • Trophy Child: Plainview seems to have adopted H.W. for the sole purpose of bolstering his image among the people he seeks to exploit.
  • Time Skip: The last half-hour jumps to 1927.
  • Twilight of the Old West: Most of the film takes place in this setting. The Wild West is dying, and the oil men are coming, representing the second encroachment of industrialization after the arrival of the railroad men.
  • Villain Protagonist: Daniel Plainview.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Eli's last words are used to beg for forgiveness right before Daniel savagely beats him to death with a wooden bowling pin.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never know what happens to Plainview's number two Fletcher Hamilton after the final time skip.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • The second half of the movie is essentially a very long breakdown for Daniel, as he becomes more and more unstable as time goes on. He has a few moments which definitely count by themselves, though, in particular, him slapping the hell out of Eli because Eli couldn't cure H.W. of his deafness, his telling H.W. that he's not his son, and finally, his "The Reason You Suck" Speech given to Eli at the end of the film, culminating in him brutally murdering Eli.
    • Eli also seems to be trapped in a perpetual villainous breakdown. Even when he's "winning", he comes across as desperately strung-out.
  • Wham Line: The ending scene contains one. Daniel tells Eli, "Those areas have been drilled." In short, he made a fool of Eli and left him with nothing.
  • Whispered Threat: Overlaps with Riddle for the Ages. Daniel Plainview (who throughout the movie has no issue with threatening someone plainly to their face) is publicly humiliated by Eli during his baptism into Eli's church. While shaking hands after, Daniel leans in close and whispers something to Eli; we never hear it, but Eli looks discomfited. The only possible hint the audience gets is when Daniel is chasing Eli at the climax and screaming:
    Daniel Plainview: I told you, Eli! I told you I would eeeeeeeat you!

"...I'm finished."