Roommates Zack Brown (Rogen) and Miri Linky (Banks) decide to make a pornographic movie in order to pay their bills. However, during the filming of the movie Zack and Miri seem to deal with their Unresolved Sexual Tension, although the path of love does not run smoothly.
Originally Smith's second film after Jersey Girl to be set outside of The View Askewniverse, its exclusion therefrom was eventually retconned when the character of Brandon (Justin Long) was written into Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno provides examples of the following tropes:
- All the Good Men Are Gay: Miri's high school crush returns to their small town for a high school reunion. Well... he brought his boyfriend.
- Bad "Bad Acting": During the shooting of the eponymous porno.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: Mewes' full-frontal scene. In the words of Ben Affleck, "That's not him on the way up, that's him on the way back down!"
- Book Ends: Zack and Miri's conversation about the bathroom door happens twice, once near the start, and once near the end, almost word for word.Zack: Close the door when you're taking a shit!!
Miri: It WAS closed!
Zack: It was closed OVER, it was not closed—
Miri: JUST CLOSE THE FUCKING DOOR, ZACK!
- Call-Back: Combined with Actor Allusion. In Dogma, Jay asks if "girls fart when you blast them in the ass". Well, he did just that, and this girl more than farted.
- Catchphrase: "Let us fuck!"
- Censored Title:
- Many posters listed the movie as Zack and Miri, while others looked like the page image without the title at the bottom, carrying the tagline "Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks made a movie so outrageous that we can't even tell you the title."
- Most of the DVD covers also have the title as just Zack and Miri. Presumably, places such as Walmart would not have stocked the movie under its full name.
- Not just posters, but also TV ads. Kevin Smith once complained about the NFL banning trailers of his films during games, saying they were inappropriate, but allowing commercials for beer and ED prescriptions.
- Chekhov's Gun: The boss's video camera.
- Class Reunion: Zack and Miri attend their high school class reunion, which coincides with the water to their apartment shutting off. Seeing how many of their former classmates are successful, they realize they've become an incredible pair of losers.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Well, it's a Kevin Smith movie.
- Cool Loser: The main characters.
- Department of Redundancy Department: This scene:
- The Ditz: Stacey and Lester.
- Embarrassing Nickname: During her high school days, Miri's surname gave her the nickname "Stinky Linky".
- Ethical Slut: The porn actresses are almost implausibly sweet and well-adjusted in this movie; the neurotic suburbanites are the ones who have problems.
- Everyone Can See It: Everyone sees there was more than just porn sex going on between Zack and Miri when their scene comes up (they see it too, but won't admit it).
- Everything Is Racist: Delaney takes offense at his boss asking him to work on Black Friday. Played with in that Delaney is only doing it so he can do some Black Friday shopping of his own.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: No points for guessing what the plot is.
- Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: The duo are struggling to pay the bills, so Star Whores is made as a last-ditch effort to make money.
- Foreshadowing: When Stacey tells Zack that she's been constipated which is why she looks forward to her anal scene with Lester, who solves that problem.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: "I'm gonna fuck you with my penis!"
- Henpecked Husband: Delaney, put into sharp focus when we eventually meet his wife near the end.
- Her Roommate's Hockey Jersey: The opening scene shows Miri waking up wearing nothing but a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey owned by roommate Zack.
- High-School Rejects: Zack and Miri are faced with the harsh reality that their lives have gone down the toilet since high school when their Class Reunion shows them that the majority of their classmates lead much better lives than they do.
- I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: But they do, and they love it.
- I'll Take Two Beers TooZack: Yeah, I'll have two beers. (turns to Miri) You want one?
- Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: Miri in her "granny panties", the video of which gets 200,000 views in just three hours.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: Rumor has it the movie was green-lit on this alone. Although a second guess might have made the studio heads realize that marketing a film with such a title would be near-impossible.
- Intimate Artistry: Zack and Miri both realize that making the porno will likely affect their friendship, so they both promise each other that they will not let the movie change their emotions. To the surprise of none of the characters, them filming together does cause both of them to realize their feelings for one another.
- Just Friends: Zack and Miri, to the extent they are Platonic Life-Partners before the porno comes along.
- Leave the Camera Running:
- Avoided in the main film, but the Deleted Scene... well, there are two of them. One for Justin Long and one for Seth Rogen where they just sit there and ad-lib.
- Kevin Smith openly dislikes people ad-libbing on his material and often requires actors to follow the script exactly, but acknowledged that when the lead actor of your movie is one of the most noted ad-lib comedians of his day, you'd be an idiot not to make use of it.
- Male Frontal Nudity: Which leads to the following...
- Mood Whiplash: Zack and Miri are having a touching moment... oh, hello, Jason Mewes' penis!
- Moral Guardians: They didn't take too kindly to the film, the poster or even the title. This is probably why the movie was released on DVD in many places as simply Zack and Miri. Apparently, the marketing people feared the possibility of children asking their parents what a porno was if they saw the title, to which Smith, himself a father and who didn't believe the title was vulgar, angrily replied "God forbid parents talk to their children."
- Nobody Poops: Viciously averted as Deacon finds out the hard way.
- "No. Just… No" Reaction: Zack after Delaney pitches his "Revenge of the Shit" idea.
- Parallel Porn Titles: Zack and Miri initially set out to make Star Whores. They eventually get around to it.
- Political Overcorrectness: At the beginning of the movie, Delaney (a Black man) accuses his boss of racism because he wants him to work on Black Friday. In reality, it's only an act so that Delaney wouldn't miss out on Black Friday shopping.
- Poor Communication Kills: Of course, if Zack and Miri could actually talk to each other like two mature adults, the last third of the movie wouldn't happen.
- Porn Names: Played with.Zack: What's your name?
Lester: Lester... Lester the Molester Cockenschtuff.
Zack: Wow. That's a great porn name.
Lester: I get to pick a porn name?... Then I want to be called... Pete Jones.
- Made even funnier later on when we see the DVD cover for the movie and he's billed as "Pete Jonze."
- Sassy Black Woman: Delaney's wife.
- Secret Test of Character: Miri sets one of these for Zack, telling him it's okay to sleep with one of the actresses (for the movie) and, essentially, punishing him when (she believes) he has. Zack calls her out for her newly-found Manipulative Bitch tendencies, moves out, and abandons the production.
- Sex Equals Love: Played absolutely straight.
- Shout-Out: The Monroeville Zombies hockey team refer to Dawn of the Dead (1978), and some scenes are shot in the same mall as the original film. To add to that, one of the porn titles Zack suggests is "Dawn of the Dick", and the sketchy man they rent the storage space from is played by none other than Tom Savini.
- The Slacker: Zack.
- The Stinger: Interrupts the credits.
- Straight Gay: Brandon and his boyfriend, letting the two's sexuality be a surprise.
- Token Wholesome: Miri, both in and out of universe.
- Uncool Undies: A couple of punks video Miri changing outfits while wearing "granny panties" and post it online. She is horrified when, at the high school reunion she was dressing for, Brandon reveals how many hits the clip has gotten in just a few hours.
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: Both protagonists.
- Women Are Wiser: Subverted. Neither Zack nor Miri is intelligent, talented, skillful, or able to manage his or her money whatsoever, but Miri seems to display fewer screw-ups than Zack...that is, until the last act of the film when Miri, in a truly, infuriatingly perplexing and bizarre move, purposely rejects Zack and acts like she's going to go through with her sex scene with Lester even after Zack spills his guts to her, tells her he loves her, and heavily implies that he didn't even sleep with Stacey. She still acts indignant and allows him to walk out on her and the film's production, ruining everything until Delaney convinces Zack to try talking to Miri again sometime later.
- Work Info Title: Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
- Worst. Whatever. Ever!: "Worst. Porno. Ever."