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  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Did the Cynical Atheist bully the alleged porn star in order to get people to vote for her and save his own life? Or was he stricken with guilt for causing the death of a younger woman in just the previous round, and was deliberately making himself so unlikable so that everyone would vote for him and he would die?
    • Did the College Student really try to buy everyone more time to find a way out, or was he simply trying to get people to use age as the primary criterion when selecting who dies next, so as to maximize his own chances of survival (he is one of the youngest people in the circle, after all).
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    • The Quiet Man is shrouded in mystery, since he never says a single word or even emotes anything. He could either be mentally challenged, or he just decided not to participate in the elimination at all for reasons he would prefer to keep to himself.
    • Did Eric plan to kill the pregnant woman and the child from the get-go or did he really want to save them at first, only to waver a bit as it got closer to just him and the two of them.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Nearly all of the characters appear to be random ordinary people, yet a shocking number of them quickly adjust to the horrific nature of their situation and show almost no emotion about what they have to do. While many in the circle react as might be expected, several of the more prominent characters are completely blasé, whether they are being forced to watch the people around them die or being the one who kills and advocates for the death of others. The College Guy, The Bearded Guy, the Lawyer, the Rich Banker and especially Eric all come to mind; at times, it seems like these characters are having fun with the life or death game they're trapped in.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
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    • The character of Eric. Some people like him for being intelligent enough to maneuver his way into surviving the circle and don't begrudge him for wanting to survive. Others consider him to be a manipulative, sociopathic, Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who only cares about himself.
    • The Pragmatic College Student. Half of the audience consider him to be a Necessary Evil and one of the most logical members of the group, while the other half consider him to be a smug Jerkass.
    • Bearded Guy was the first person to suggest getting rid of the Little Girl and the Young Pregnant Woman in order to gave everyone in the circle a better chance of survival. Many don't blame him for wanting to survive, and he gets points for not being a complete jerkass about it, unlike the Rich Banker. However, he is also despised for causing the deaths of fan-favorite characters like the One-Armed Man, the Cancer Survivor Lady, and the Soldier, and for being ruthlessly manipulative toward the others in order to get them on his side, playing on their desires to see their loved ones again.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
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    • Shaun, the teenage boy who volunteered to sacrifice himself so that he wouldn't be forced into killing anyone.
    • The Illegal Mexican who sacrificed his own life when he ended up tied with the Little Girl.
    • Bruce and Suzanne who decided to die together instead of one of them living without the other. Their love was one of the most heartwarming moments of the movie.
    • The Quiet Man who managed to survive to the final four without killing anyone else or even saying a word. Many people thought that he deserved to be the one to live for not participating at all.
    • The black guy in the grey suit who is fairly quiet throughout most of the film (IMDB credits him as The Pilot), but is the first to sacrifice himself. So that Shaun doesn't have to, he steps off his circle to give them more time, dying in the most elegant, regal way possible.
    • The Soldier has his fans for being one of the more level-headed and sympathetic leader-figures, protecting the little girl and pregnant woman despite his desire to see his own family again.
    • The Translator is another decently liked member of the group protecting the pregnant woman and little girl (although not to the same extent as the other characters here), and having some good Nice Girl moments.
  • He's Just Hiding!: For some fans, the whole cast, actually as there's some ambiguity about whether the shocks are fatal (one man is seen bleeding from his orifices but could just have a cracked skull from the fall) and the eliminated people are being kept alive.
  • Iron Woobie:
    • The Soldier just returned home from duty and hasn't even seen his family yet, including a child he's never met. Despite his determination to stay alive, he's also leading the group invested in protecting the Little Girl and Young Pregnant Woman and encouraging others to do the right thing.
    • The One-Armed Man. He is rational, shows very little fear and maintains his morality for the sake of "dying with some dignity." Eventually the Bearded Guy gets him voted out by playing on his disability.
  • Jerkass Woobie: A few of the more moral people in the beginning are later persuaded to join the pragmatists group who are for voting against the Little Girl and Young Pregnant Woman. This includes the Lesbian, one of the more rational and coolheaded individuals, the Wife, who had a daughter she wants to return to and at first was unable to vote against the Little Girl, and the Beautiful Blonde, who had previously urged diplomacy. When nearly everyone in the circle is dead, the Bearded Guy persuades all three to choose self-preservation over morality. It does none of them any good.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Everybody vote for the black guy!note 
    • Aliens want me to die, because I'm gay?note 
  • Moral Event Horizon: Anyone who tries to survive in the circle is forced to cross it in order to survive.
    • Some feel like the College Student crossed it when he started convincing others to kill off people simply because they were too "old."
    • Eric definitely crossed it when he convinced the Little Girl to kill herself, and then killed the Pregnant Woman and her child.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: While the ending does work, there are various other combinations for the which could have also provided entertainment, for instance if the Quiet Man had managed to deduce what Eric was up to, stop him, and then save the little girl or the pregnant woman. or if one of the pragmatists had made it to the final two with the pregnant woman and the little girl, but been unable to kill her in the end, and allowed himself to die.
  • The Woobie: Although many in the circle end up showing their true colors, most are just scared, painfully human people who really don't deserve what's happening to them.
    • The Little Girl and the Young Pregnant Woman. Throughout the film, they are frequently in danger as the pragmatists in the circle want to kill them off to give the rest a better chance at survival. It reaches its apex when the terrified little girl tearfully chooses to commit suicide to save the pregnant woman and her baby, only for Eric to kill mother and child immediately after her sacrifice.
    • Beth. This poor person was the first to formerly introduce herself and talk about her life, and the mere revelation that she's a kind, ordinary woman with no family and not much going on in her life was enough to get the circle to vote against her.
    • Shaun. A scared teenager who, nevertheless, would rather die than be forced to kill anyone.
    • The Minister, who has his faith mocked at one point, seems to have the deaths he witnesses weigh on him and prays for forgiveness as he sacrifices his own life when the pragmatist bloc is pressuring him to vote against the Little Girl and the Pregnant Woman.
    • The elderly in the circle. It's almost unanimously decided early on that the very old people in the circle should be voted against since they're "going to die soon anyway." They get picked off one by one. Somewhat fortunately, the College Guy who advocated for their deaths is voted against not longer after for attempting to keep lowering the age bar.
    • The woman who is killed in a tie with the Cynical Atheist. She hadn't said much of anything at all and yet finds herself a target, possibly because the Atheist suggested she (or the people in her general vicinity) shared his point of view. She breaks down in terror, not knowing why she's suddenly being targeted.
    • The Illegal Mexican. When attention falls on him he tries to show everyone a family photo he keeps in his hat, but the circle quickly get into a debate about whether or not he should die for being an illegal alien who can't speak English. Later, he is tied with the Little Girl and gracefully chooses to kill himself rather than let her die.
    • The Silent Man. Either because he was somehow disabled and never understood what was happening, or because he assessed the situation and quietly chose not to play the twisted game everyone in the circle was forced to play.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: There are a surprising amount of people that relate to Eric's actions at the end of the movie following him convincing the child to commit suicide before killing the pregnant woman and then her child. Behind this feeling, they say he was just doing what he needed to to survive in a desperate situation and that objectively speaking, the life of the child and pregnant woman were no more valuable than anyone else that died in the room, despite what human created morality would tell you. While there is some truth to that sentiment, the movie is vague on whether or not it's supportive of that message or whether it even matters in the end considering the world is still being taken over by the end of it.
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