Derek Zoolander (Stiller) is a really, really ridiculously good-looking male model, who also happens to be incredibly shallow and not too bright. He suffers a professional and personal setback when he loses the Male Model of the Year crown to rookie Hansel McDonald ("he's so hot right now") and three of his friends to a freak gasoline fight accident.
His manager Maury Ballstein sends him to a week-long day spa, but it turns out to be a brainwashing center, where Derek becomes a sleeper agent programmed to assassinate the prime minister of Malaysia, who is obstructing the fashion industry's use of cheap Malaysian sweatshop labor. It's up to Derek, his love interest Matilda Jeffries, and his rival-turned-friend Hansel ("he's so hot right now") to foil this plot and help Derek live past thirty.
Generally considered to be the film that started "The Frat Pack", a loosely organized group of popular comedians who starred together in some of the more successful comedy films of the 2000s. Not only did it bring most of the core members together, it also established the unique blend of slapstick comedy, social satire and over-the-top characters that characterized their style of humor. The group had a rotating stable of unofficial members, but Stiller, Wilson, Ferrell and Vince Vaughn (who has an uncredited cameo as Derek's brother) were generally considered to be the essential ones. This was the first film where the four appeared together, but not the last.
A sequel, Zoolander 2, was released in 2016.
This film has examples of:
- 10-Minute Retirement: Derek announces his retirement at his friends’ funeral, but soon after reverses his decision after working for just one day in the coal mines.
- The '80s: Though the movie takes place at the Turn of the Millennium, all of the music montages feature songs from The '80s.
- A cover version of "Call Me" by Blondie plays during the Opening Credits Montage, which introduces all the main characters.
- "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham! plays during the drive to the gas station and while the male models are drenching themselves in gasoline. It abruptly stops when Brint inadvertently blows up the gas station.
- "Working for the Weekend" by Loverboy plays during Derek’s parody Hard-Work Montage in the coal mines.
- "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood plays throughout Derek’s Hypnosis Montage and becomes his Musical Trigger to assassinate the Malaysian Prime Minister.
- "Beat It" by Michael Jackson plays during the Walk Off Montage. There’s also a quick line of David Bowie’s song "Let’s Dance" when Bowie appears to serve as the judge.
- The '70s cameo: A cover version of "Love to Love You Baby" by Donna Summer (performed by No Doubt) plays during the Orgy Montage.
- Adam Westing/As Himself: A number of real-life celebrities make cameo appearances in the film. The one who plays the most on his image is probably Fabio, who appears at the beginning of the film, accepting the "slashie" award for "best actor-slash-model" and "not the other way around". Fabio-esque male models are the main brunt on the film's satire.
- Adaptation Expansion: Justified, in that the original Derek Zoolander skits make up a combined six-and-a-half minutes. The movie takes the character of Derek and puts him in at the center of a political conspiracy theory story.
- Also sprach Zarathustra: Part of a Shout-Out to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Actor Allusion:
- Jon Voight as Derek's father."Damn it, Derek, I'm a coal miner, not a professional film or television actor."
- David Duchovny as a conspiracy theorist, alluding to his famous role of Fox Mulder on The X-Files.
- Actor-slash-model James Marsden plays John Wilkes Booth, the original "model-slash-actor".
- Jon Voight as Derek's father.
- Answer Cut: When Mugatu is told in the opening scene that he needs to find someone dim enough to be brainwashed into the assassination plot:Mugatu: But who?! Where in all of God's green goodness am I gonna find someone that....BEEF-HEADED?!
(cut to Derek Zoolander photoshoot)
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: After giving Derek a Long List of what he's supposed to do as an assassin, Mugatu adds: "Obey my dog!"
- Artistic License – Geography: Played for Laughs with the coal mines of South Jersey - the actual South Jersey is fairly flat and consists primarily of coastal plains and farmland.
- Artistic License – History: Although the film is set in the present day, it provides an alternate timeline for American history—in which every political assassination of the past 200 years was committed by a male fashion model. Just for laughs, it puts two guys behind the grassy knoll when most conspiracy theorists say there was only one.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Katinka Inka Babovinanana's first and last name are Hungarian/Russian and Serbian, while Inka is a Nordic name. Appropriately enough, she has an Eastern European accent.
- Babies Ever After: The ending. Derek's son even adopts his first look: a pout reminiscent of his father's.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The fashion industry has been behind every major assassination for the past 200 years, using male models as assassins, including the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
- Berserk Button: The otherwise docile Derek is furious when Mugatu implies that all of his looks are identical.
- Big Bad: Mugatu is the main antagonist of the film.
- Big Damn Heroes: During the finale of the film, Hansel and Ballstein help snap Zoolander out of his trance to kill the Malaysian Prime Minister and stop Mugatu.
- Big "NO!": Derek yells "No!" in slow-motion when he realizes that Brint lighting a cigarette will destroy the gas station, killing all of his friends.
- Brainless Beauty: Male models (although according to David Duchovny's character, hand models "work differently"). Also, Fabio is apparently too smart for the job that Mugatu brainwashed Derek to do.
- Brick Joke:
- "Derek, you did it!" "I know, I turned left!"
- During his acceptance of the slashie award early on, Fabio thanks the audience for considering him to be the best actor-slash-model, "and not the other way around". Later, J.B. Prewitt refers to John Wilkes Booth as "the original model-slash-actor".
- Buffy Speak: The Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.
- The Cameo: Lots, from the celebrities at the fashion show in the opening part of the film to Billy Zane's memetic role to David Bowie as the walkoff judge, and lots more where that came from. Also includes James Marsden in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot as John Wilkes Booth during the assassination exposition.
- Captain Oblivious: The runway competition.
- Casting Gag: David Duchovny known from The X-Files as a former hand model and Conspiracy Theorist.
- Catapult Nightmare: Derek wakes up from his brainwashing session by smashing his head into the top of his bunk bed, then rolling out onto the floor.
- Cerebus Retcon: In the original skit, Derek claimed that he couldn't turn left because he was left-handed and there were no left-handed runways. Here, he has an actual disability that prevents him from turning to his left.
- Character Catchphrase: Mugatu's variations on Hansel being "so hot right now."
- Character Title: Zoolander is about Derek Zoolander.
- Chekhov's Gag: Derek's initial brainwashing from Mugatu involves cardboard cutouts of "beautiful celebrities," including Lance Bass, Lil' Kim, Fred Durst, and..... Garry Shandling. Sure enough, when it comes time for the assassination attempt, the celebrities lining the stage are all the celebrities from the former sequence. Including Garry Shandling.
- Chekhov's Gun: Magnum, and Hansel's yoyo skills.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Rhymes with "Derek Zoolander".
- Comically Missing the Point: When Mugatu shows Derek a model for the "Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too," Derek thinks the model is the actual school and destroys it in a rage.Derek: What is this? (smashes the model on the floor) A center for ants?!
Derek: How can we expect to teach children to learn how to read if they even fit inside the building?
Mugatu: Derek, it's just a small—
Derek: I don't wanna hear your excuses! The center has to be at least... three times bigger than this.
- Also, this exchange at the film's climax.Matilda: Derek, you did it! That was amazing!
Derek: I know! I turned left!
Matilda: (beat) Yeah, that too, but Derek, you also saved the Prime Minister of Malaysia!
Derek: Oh, right. Cool!
- Also, this exchange at the film's climax.
- Competence Zone: None of the male models lives past thirty (except the precious few who wise up and retire beforehand), something that The Omniscient Council of Vagueness ruthlessly enforces.
- Computer Equals Monitor: When told that files that could incriminate Mugatu are inside a computer, Derek and Hansel take the monitor and smash it open to try and get at the files, accidentally destroying them. In this case, the trope is justified as the computer was an iMac, where the monitor is the computer.
- Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: According to J.P. Prewett, pretty much every assassination in history can be traced back to the international fashion industry.Matilda: Wait a minute, Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't a male model.
Prewett: You're goddamn right he wasn't, but those two lookers who capped Kennedy from the Grassy Knoll sure as shit were!
- Convection, Schmonvection: Derek is completely unharmed by the massive gasoline fire, despite being only a few feet away.
- Cooking Duel: The runway walk-off.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The fashion industry executives.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Derek and Hansel may be male models and dumb as rocks as a result, but Derek's looks can stop flying shurikens in mid-air and Hansel is a skilled breakdance fighter.
- Cymbal-Banging Monkey: In a flashback, Derek is briefly shown dressed up as one, while an off-screen voice commands him to "dance, monkey, dance!"
- Dance Battler: "They're breakdance fighting!", which refers to Hansel's fight with Mugatu's Disc Jockey in the climax.
- Dark Action Girl: Katinka wears black and has black hair and also works for Mugatu as The Dragon. She's also capable of fighting with a gun.
- Deadpan Snarker: J.P. Prewett, which comes with being played by David Duchovny.
- Department of Redundancy Department:Hansel: "And I felt like this guy is really hurting me. And it hurt!"
Derek: Maybe you don't understand that the world doesn't revolve around you and your "Do whatever it takes, ruin as many people's lives, just so long as you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose, or people you leave dead and bloodied along the way, just so long as you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose, or people you leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way?"
- Dirty Old Man: Maury Ballstein, who seems to routinely give inappropriate contact on the women who work at his agency.
- Disney Acid Sequence: The drug-fueled orgy, which involves two dwarfs, a monk, and lots of spinning.
- Dull Surprise: All of Derek's so-called "looks" are nigh-identical. (However, his "Magnum" look stops a shuriken in mid-air. Even Mugatu is wowed: "Dear god, it's beautiful!")
- There is a difference between Magnum and all the rest: he turns left before delivering it. Less mindblowing-ly, his head is also vertical, as opposed to the angle his other looks were at.
- Also the Sequel both Lampshades and Averts it, with a comparison on a computer showing that there are apparently loads of subtle differences in each look despite looking pretty much the same to the apparent untrained eye.
- There is a difference between Magnum and all the rest: he turns left before delivering it. Less mindblowing-ly, his head is also vertical, as opposed to the angle his other looks were at.
- Dumbass Has a Point: Derek and Hansel, probably two of the dimmest bulbs in all of cinema, somehow manage to make truly poignant and insightful observations about what's going on, adding to some of the surprisingly subtle moments of the film's humor.
- Derek catches on rather fast that Mathilda is not only trying to write a hatchet job article on him, but that she initially has it out for fashion models in general.
- Dumb Blonde: A male example with Hansel. He has blonde hair and isn't one of the brightest models in the film.
- Embarrassing Ad Gig: When Derek and some of his family members are in a bar, they see an Aveda commercial that shows Derek as a mermaidnote making double entendres involving being wet. Derek's father disowns him on the spot.
- Everyone Has Standards: Derek may be dumb, but he knows that lighting a cigarette while covered in gasoline at a gas station is a bad idea, as his model friends found out the hard way.
- Falling-in-Love Montage: Parodied in the orgy scene, where Matilda begins by making out with Derek and Hansel, and then the partners get a little... weird.
- Fashion Show: The finale takes place at one (as an assassination is supposed to take place there), and the film has a few others.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Derek and Hansel started as the worst of enemies but when things get ugly they become the best of friends.
- Formerly Fat: Matilda was an overweight child in her youth before she developed bulimia and lost weight.
- Freeze-Frame Introduction: Derek Zoolander, Hansel, and Mugatu all get freeze-frames with their names overlaid, when they arrive at the fashion award show at the beginning of the film. Much later, David Bowie gets a similar treatment for his One-Scene Wonder appearance as the walk-off judge.
- Freudian Excuse: Matilda was ridiculed and laughed at because of her being overweight as a child to the point that she developed bulimia. Since then, she believes models would hurt one's self-esteem.
- Genius Ditz: Derek (and most everyone associated with the fashion industry) is a complete moron, but when it comes to fashion, make-up and just improving one's physical appearance he is a genius.
- On a more tragic note, even he isn't dumb enough to not know what happens when you light a cigarette in the middle of a gasoline fight.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: Mugatu's toy poodle; during the brainwashing sequence, its eyes flash bright green.
- Greater-Scope Villain: The conglomerate of fashion moguls Mugatu answers to.
- Hard-Work Montage: Derek’s time in the coal mine is a parody, as Derek acts as though he expects the work to operate like a montage. He dresses accordingly.
- Heroic BSoD: Derek when Hansel wins the Male Model of the Year and when his friends are killed in a freak gasoline fight accident.
- Hidden Depths: Derek can speak Malay.
- Historical Rap Sheet: Brainwashed male models set in motion by an evil council of fashion designers have had a hand in every major assassination attempt, beginning with Lincoln and on up through JFK. It Makes Sense in Context. Kind of.
- Hypocritical Humor: J.P. Prewitt talks about how stupid other male models are compared to hand models, but makes several attempts to pick up a dropped flashlight with a hand encased in a hyperbaric chamber.
- I Resemble That Remark!: Prewett explains to Derek that male models are the perfect targets for brainwashing because they're stupid and gullible enough to accept anything:Derek: That is not true!
J.P. Prewett: Yes, it is, Derek.
- Idiot Ball: Played for Laughs of course. Seriously, Derek and Hansel in particular are dumber than a bag of hammers. Though Hansel seems to have a few more IQ points than Derek, he's still as much of a ditz because he is way more spaced-out than Derek.
- Idiot Hero: Derek Zoolander, as outlined everywhere else on this page, is not the sharpest tool in the shed, frequently mispronouncing words, Comically Missing the Point on multiple occasions, and generally getting some basic facts plain wrong.
- Idiot Savant: Derek knows everything about the modeling world and is an expert in many modeling-related skills. He recognizes J.P. Prewitt's hand from a specific catalog in the 70s even though hand modeling isn't Derek's specialty.
- Informed Attractiveness: Ben Stiller as a model? Owen Wilson?! Chalk it up to Rule of Funny.
- Intimate Healing: Parodied when Matilda mentions she's upset and hasn't had sex in years. She, Zoolander, and Hansel drink some drug laced tea and she has a drugged up gang bang with them and the others.
- Insistent Terminology: “My son is a mermaid!” “Merman, dad! MER-MAN!”
- Innocently Insensitive: When Matilda tells Derek and Hansel about how she was bulimic, they react with excitement instead of horror. They even state, with complete sincerity, that it must be the reason she's so hot. Also, they do it too. Though they are completely understanding, they don't understand the problem.
- Intrepid Reporter: Matilda, who has a special hatred for models.
- It's All About Me: At the start of the film, Derek is a self-absorbed but friendly model.
- Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Hansel and Derek disguise themselves as janitors to find Mugatu's files on his computer.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Derek is incredibly self-absorbed, but he's also generally friendly with everyone he meets, and his jerk-ish moments come more from him being genuinely ignorant than actually malicious.
- Joisey: At one point, Derek goes to work with his family in the coal mines of South Jersey. The real South Jersey is a coastal plain.
- Lame Comeback: Derek to Hansel leading up to the walk-off challenge.Derek: You think that you're too cool for school, but I have a newsflash for you Walter Cronkite... you aren't.
- Lampshade Hanging: see Only Sane Man below.
- Laser-Guided Tyke-Bomb: Derek gets brainwashed into becoming a Manchurian Agent for Mugatu's plan to assassinate the Malaysian Prime Minister.
- Literal-Minded: When Hansel confronts Mugatu at the end of the film, he throws down the iMac which contains his files.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Zoolander is a rare male example: he's rather shallow, self-absorbed, and, above all, vain, but is still a good person.
- Love Epiphany: Parodied.Derek: There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched between the two Finnish dwarfs and the Maori tribesmen, where I thought, "Wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman."
- Mad Artist: A more fame-obsessed if still dangerously bonkers example with Mugatu.
- Malaproper: Derek, of course.Derek: Or are you here to tell me what a bad eugoogolizer I am?
Matilda: A what?
Derek: A eugoogolizer... one who speaks at funerals. [after a confused look from Matilda] Or did you think I was too stupid to know what a eugoogoly was?
- Manchurian Agent: After Derek undergoes Mugatu's brainwashing, the song "Relax" automatically causes him to follow his plans.
- The Man in the Mirror Talks Back:Derek: Who am I?
Derek's Reflection: I don't know.
- Manipulative Bastard: Mugatu. He offered Derek the chance to participate in a runway show, brainwashing him to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia so they can maintain child labor in that country. In short, he attempts to make Derek's life miserable.
- Man on Fire: Brint lights up a cigarette at a gas station causing the exposed gasoline to destroy the station and immolate Derek's model friends.
- The Masochism Tango: In the foamy latte scene, it goes by as a quick series of glances exchanged between them, but Mugatu and Todd seem to have this going on.
- Missing Mom: Derek's mom died long before the beginning of the film.
- Misspelling Out Loud: Used by Derek to explain to Mathilda why he couldn't have been missing for a week:Derek: Uh, earth to Mathilda! I was at a day spa. Day. D-A-I-Y-E. Ok?
- Modeling Poses: Derek has two poses as his signature moves (even though they are the same).
- Mood Whiplash: Derek's model friends are having fun at the gas station to help cheer him up. Unfortunately for them, the mood shifts when they and the station are blown up by Brint's cigarette.
- Mr. Exposition: J.P., the former hand model turned conspiracy theorist, who explains how the fashion industry is behind every political assassination in history.
- Musicalis Interruptus: At the end of the film, Hansel gets knocked down by Mugatu's disc jockey during their breakdance fight, but he unplugs the turntable playing "Relax" to stop the music.
- Musical Trigger: The song "Relax" causes Derek's brainwashing to kick in, transforming him into a mindless assassin. This is due to the fact that Big Bad Mugatu was The Pete Best of Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Matilda has one when she realizes that she was partially responsible for driving Derek into retirement.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Derek's grasp of Malay leaves much to be desired. Though being "dumb as a stump," the fact that he speaks Malay at all is pretty impressive.
- Nice Guy: Derek, in a subversion of the typical bitchy-superstar stereotype, is actually sweet-natured and generous (if dimwitted).
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: While all of the celebrities cameos play themselves, Derek's surname is an amalgam of Calvin Klein models Mark Vanderloo and the Johnny Zander (it was originally "Zanderloo," but Stein and the other writers found it too obvious).
- Noodle Incident: How J.P. escaped from his brainwashing is not explained, outside of him claiming that hand models “work differently”.
- Not So Above It All:
- Matilda is the Only Sane Man in the main cast, until she participates in an orgy. Even more so when she goes on a long description of her clothing while holding Katinka at gunpoint in retaliation for her insulting her fashion sense earlier.
- Hell, even Mugatu, the only person who recognizes that Derek has exactly one look, follows up his Motive Rant by screaming about his piano key necktie as if it's some kind of grand accomplishment. Even he is completely blown away by Magnum, even though it also is Derek making the same face but turning left.
- Obsessed with Perfect Attendance: Derek Zoolander has never, ever missed a modelling gig, which is how Mugatu manages to bait him into attending the Derelicte opening where he has been programmed to assassinate the Malaysian Prime Minister.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Derek has a moment of horror when he realizes that his friends are about to get killed at the gas station.
- The Malaysian Prime Minister reacts in shock when Derek is going to kill him.
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The round table running the fashion industry.
- The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: "It's that damned Hansel! He's so hot right now!"
- Only Sane Man: Part of Mugatu's Motive Rant, a rare case of this applying to the villain."Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigre? They're the same face! Doesn't anyone notice this!? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"
- Matilda also plays this role for the protagonists.
- J.P. Prewett is the only model in the film who has basic intelligence, and is clearly exasperated by Derek's stupidity. (This apparently has to do with the fact that Prewett is a hand model.)Derek: (after J.P. explains the entire conspiracy with lengthy exposition) But why male models?
J.P.: ...you serious? ...I just...I just told you that, a moment ago.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: Moisture is the essence of wetness, indeed.Dad: You're dead to me. More dead than your dead mother. I just thank the Lord she didn't live to see her son as a mermaid!
Derek: Mer-MAN! (cough) MER-MAN!
- Overly-Long Gag: The participants during the orgy scene.
- In a deleted scene, Derek enters the club where Hansel is having an afterparty, passing something like six or seven groups of people just to throw a lame one-liner back at Hansel for an earlier insult. (Part of this scene ends up in the Imagine Spot when the hand model discusses why male models make the perfect assassins.)
- Outdated Outfit: Mugatu's "Little Cletus" disguise is of what a child in the early 1900s would probably wear. Ironic, considering Mugatu should be keeping up with the latest fashions. Then again, he does seem to be the world's premiere fashion designer. If he can sell trash as fashion then he can get away with Little Cletus.
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: Derek is not an ambiturner. He can't turn left.
- The Pete Best: Mugatu is this in-universe for Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
- Phrase Catcher: Hansel. "He's so hot right now." In particular from Mugatu.
- Pretentious Pronunciation: Mugatu's new campaign, "Derelicte".
- Proud Beauty: Zoolander can't seem to go five minutes without mentioning how great he looks.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: When introducing Derek as a nominee for Model of the Year, the announcer guy enunciates each syllable separately (see page quote). Each syllable also comes from a different speaker. Derek silently counts along to make sure that his name is indeed five syllables.
- Put on a Prison Bus: At the end of the film, Mugatu is last seen being tackled and arrested by the security guards.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Maury Ballstein is competent at his job as a modeling agent and is willing to help expose Mugatu's schemes.
- Red Right Hand: Mugatu's disc jockey henchman has a scar over his blind eye.
- Refuge in Audacity: Mugatu's new line that does a high fashion spin on what homeless people wear. Amusingly, it has been done for real by John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood, but the style was intended to be shocking.
- Repeated for Emphasis: Billy Zane: "It's a walk-off! It's a walk-off."
- Right-Hand Cat: Mugatu's right-hand poodle, which looks almost as ridiculous as he does.
- Running Gag: Every time someone mentions Hansel, Mugatu immediately adds some variation of "He's so hot right now."
- Say My Name:
- Derek yells "Brint!" when he lights up his cigarette and causes the gas station to explode.
- Hansel shouts Derek's name when he pulls his Big Damn Heroes moment to stop Mugatu's plan.
- Scale Model Destruction: Mugatu shows off a model of a school he's planning to build in Derek Zoolander's honor. Derek gets ticked and destroys it, because he doesn't understand the concept of a model.Derek Zoolander: What is this, a center for ants? How can the children learn anything if they can't fit in the building?!.
- Serious Business: The fashion industry, to the point of involving an international conspiracy like The Illuminati, and political assassination.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story:Hansel: So I'm rappelling down Mount Vesuvius when suddenly I slip, and I start to fall. I mean, I'm about to die. Just falling, "Ahhh! Ahhh!" I'll never forget the terror. When suddenly I remember, "Holy shit, Hansel, haven't you been smoking Peyote for six straight days, and couldn't some of this maybe be in your mind?"
Hansel: ...it was. I was totally fine. I've never even been to Mount Vesuvius.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Matilda, again.
- "Beat It" plays over the walk-off between Derek and Hansel
- During the walk off, Hansel asks to "cut me" so he can see like Rocky did in Rocky but instead of his skin, it's cutting his hair.
- Derek's brainwashing sequence channels A Clockwork Orange
- Derek and Hansel imitate the "Dawn of Man" sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, complete with the soundtrack playing Also sprach Zarathustra
- The confrontation between Derek and his manager before he walks for Mugatu refers to The Godfather Part II.
- Jon Voight seems to have based his performance as Derek's father on Christopher Walken.
- "I hate Hansel! Everywhere I look, Hansel! Hansel! Hansel!"
- Smart Ball: Derek is smart enough to realize that fire and gasoline are a dangerous combination.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: A minor case when Derek and his roommates try to forget their troubles, as "Wake Me up before You Go-Go" plays (it contains a reference to a yo-yo, which is rival Hansel's thing).
- Spit Take: Hilariously overdone by Mugatu, who doesn't spit what he has in his mouth at Todd so much as turn and thrust forward to dump the entire hot latte on him."Todd! Were you not aware that I get farty and bloated with a foamy latte?!"
- Status Cell Phone: Exaggerated. The second wave of status phones in the 2000's were trending towards increasingly compact and portable flip-cases, so Derek's cell is an absurdly tiny, impractical little thing, smaller than a cigarette lighter, with an LCD display more suited to a beeper.
- Stupid Good: Putting it lightly, Derek isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. As shown how he thought a small model was the actual building for the "Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good". That being said, he isn't maliciously stupid and genuinely wants to help the illiterate and educate kids on how to develop the skills to be a model.
- Sudden Soundtrack Stop: About ten minutes into the film, Derek's best friends are trying to cheer him up with a trip to the gas station for drinks. The scene itself is very cheerful and Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" only makes the scene seem happier. The mood ends quickly and dramatically when the song fades out in a distorted fashion and all four of his friends die in a "freak gasoline fight accident."
- This Is Gonna Suck: Matilda dryly says "Oh, no" when Hansel inadvertently destroys Maury's iMac which contains his files.
- This Is What the Building Will Look Like: Even if they can't fit inside the building.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Only a male model has the skills to make a perfect assassin, and only Derek's "Magnum" look (or is it "Blue Steel"?) can stop them!
- Too Dumb to Live: Derek's model friends who at a gas station start spraying gasoline at each other and then, Brint lights up a cigarette. Even Derek recognizes this as a very stupid decision and tries to stop them, but is too late.
- Too Kinky to Torture: Katinka only looks excited when pistol-whipped by Matilda.
- Training Montage: Derek's training to be an assassin.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Despite the movie hyping up David Bowie's appearance, Derek shrugs it off like he's no big deal.
- Villainous Breakdown: Mugatu gets a pretty spectacular one at the end, during which he ends up pointing out that contrary to what everyone thinks, Derek's repertoire is somewhat limited:"SHUT UP! Enough already, Ballstein! Who cares about Derek Zoolander anyway? The man has only one look for Christ's sake! Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigre? They're the same face! Doesn't anyone notice this?! I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! I invented the piano key necktie! I invented it! What have you done, Derek?! Nothing! You've got nothing! NOTHING! And I will be a monkey's uncle if I have you ruin this for me! Because if you can't get the job done, then I will!"
- Wannabe Line: A deleted scene features a long sequence in which the titular character elbows his way through multiple lines and into progressively smaller and more exclusive VIP sections before finally reaching rival Hansel to deliver a zinger.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Derek can't turn left (until the climax).
- Wedgie: Derek Zoolander accidentally gives himself one.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Derek temporarily retires from modeling and tries to join his father and brothers in the mining trade. It doesn't go over well. When Derek reveals Magnum at the end of the film, however, his father is genuinely amazed and announces to the whole bar "That's my son!"
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- What happened to the shadowy evil council who have been killing world leaders for decades? All that's shown is Mugatu, so the fate of the others is unclear.
- We never get to see what J.P. Prewett's fate was, either (in a deleted scene he became a teacher at Derek's school).
- Who Shot JFK?: According to the hand model, it's two male models on the grassy knoll.
- Whole-Plot Reference: The movie is largely inspired by The Manchurian Candidate.
- World of Ham: The world of male modeling is not for the subtle.