- Alternative Character Interpretation:
- Are we meant to feel a bit sorry for the Duke? This may be hinted at by the camera lingering on his face for a few seconds after he is killed, and the fact that he's unceremoniously gunned down by the President, who is shown to be a selfish, cowardly asshole (though this could be seen as a triumphant moment for the President if you see him as a Jerkass Woobie). Also, there is no word on exactly why the Duke is in prison. He could have been put there for being a political dissident. He also demands amnesty for all prisoners on Manhattan Island in exchange for the President, and not just himself and his cronies.
- Did Snake really have explosives implanted in him? In Escape from L.A., Plutoxin was non-lethal, and in the original script the explosives were revealed to be a bluff.
- Awesome Music: The opening theme, also an ear worm and (typically for Carpenter) a "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: Romero. He only has about five minutes of screen time but absolutely owns every scene hes in. Its even very disappointing when Brain kills him and he isnt in the final show down.
- Harsher in Hindsight: The plot is kicked off by terrorists hijacking a jet airliner and then suicidally crashing it into a New York skyscraper in order to protest U.S. foreign policies. Ouch. The part when the plane flies over the harbor and the guard watches it go by is eerily reminiscent of the only known video of Flight 11 hitting the North Tower.
- Worthy of note that this is Air Force One being crashed into New York. In 2009, an unannounced aerial photo op of Air Force One was carried out over New York City with the plane trailed by an F-16 fighter jet at a low altitude, causing a public panic that another 9/11-style attack was imminent.
- Jerkass Woobie: The President. He's far from admirable, but it's hard not to feel bad for him when he's being tortured and brutalized by the Duke and his thugs, and it's hard not to cheer for him when he finally gets his revenge on the Duke at the end.
- Magnificent Bastard: Snake Plissken is a special forces soldier with a dark past, sent in to rescue the President from Manhattan after its conversion to a violent maximum security prison. Performing his mission, Snake is so disgusted at the President's ambivalence towards those who died saving him that he sets him up to be humiliated on the world stage and destroys the tape he would have used at a peace summit. Recruited in the sequel, Escape from L.A. to retrieve a Doomsday Device's key, Snake again performs his mission and prepares for betrayal by fooling the corrupt President's men, using a hologram to disguise his true location and shutting down the world to cripple the President and the revolutionaries. Though extreme, Snake's action gives humanity a chance to start over while he himself plans to simply disappear.
- Memetic Badass: Snake Plissken. In the original Snake was more of an opportunistic Anti-Hero with hints of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold; dangerous and resourceful, but not so ridiculously badass as the sequel made him. That said, everybody inside New York has heard of him and heard rumours of his death. Considering that nobody ever comes out of there and that the only news updates that anybody would get is from new prisoners, Snake must have been involved in something major (possibly the Noodle Incident in Kansas City where Brain abandoned him) to have people know who he is.
- Memetic Mutation:
- "Snake Plissken? Heard you were dead."
- "You are the Duke of New York, you are A-number-1!"
- Nightmare Fuel:
- The fate of the girl in the Chock Full O'Nuts coffee shop - it's implied that the Crazies eat her after catching and dragging her down to her doom out of camera range. And even more horrific when you realize that when she was pulled under, she grabbed Snake's gun to keep from being pulled under, and Snake pulled her hand off the gun to keep it from being dragged under with her.
- The exact nature of Snake's Explosive Leash, as described in Lee Van Cleef's typical menacing glee."Not a large explosion, about the size of a pinhead. Just big enough to open up both your arteries. I'd say you'd be dead in ten to fifteen seconds."
- Retroactive Recognition: Behind the scenes example: The Visual Effects Supervisor was a young James Cameron.
- "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: With Kurt Russell's success in reinventing himself as a genuine badass action hero, it's hard to remember that at the time, casting a former Disney child star as a post-apocalyptic anti-hero was supposed to be something of a joke, and a sign that people shouldn't take the film very seriously.
- Vindicated by History: It made a respectable splash in the cult sense when it was first released in 1981, but wasn't considered a classic by any stretch of the imagination. It has gained much more recognition over the years, mainly due, no doubt, to its influence on other media, with Metal Gear Solid, ReBoot, and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy being only a few examples.
- Visual Effects of Awesome: The visual effects hold up, even though it's a 1981 film. It's hard not to get chills when a dark, nearly lightless Manhattan is revealed. (Even more impressive, the skyline shots of New York are all matte paintings done by James Cameron). Particularly notable is the computer image of New York, which is actually a practical effect. What you're seeing is a model of the city with a grid pattern of reflective tape.
- Even more awesome due to the documentary Sense of Scale, which revealed that the model miniatures of the buildings in the city in the exterior shots as Snake's glider enters into New York were actually pieces of wood with enlarged photocopies of pictures taken of actual buildings that were then colored in color pencils and detailed with small model parts to give the illusion that the models were more detailed than they actually were.
- The Woobie: Snake. Not as apparent in the movie, but very true the Novelization.
- Jerkass Woobie: Even in the movie, Snake is not really someone who you would call a Knight in Sour Armor. But let's take a look to his background: he gets betrayed by the same governments he believed in during the "Leningrad Ruse" (where he lost the use of his left eye) and then all his country is turned into a totalitarian police state, with his parents being murdered by the police in the process. Wouldn't you be a bit sociopathic after that? He does, however, hold a loose code of honor and humanity and he can also occasionally step in the Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory.
- WTH, Casting Agency?: Pretty much everyone's reaction when Kurt Russell was cast as Snake, due to his prior work with Disney. Fortunately, Russell managed to prove them all wrong - to the point that this kind of role came to be perceived as standard for him.
YMMV / Escape from New York