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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Walt is not a racist. He doesn't say anything to the Hmong that he wouldn't say to his best friend, or expect his best friend to say to him.
    • Is Walt A Mighty Whitey savior rescuing Thao and Sue, and the Hmong’s from a dangerous gang or are Thao and Sue saving Walt from dying alone and bitter? It's not like it's a one-sided relationship, as both Walt and Thao help each other out in odd ways that neither of them would have expected before they met.
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  • Award Snub: Gran Torino received critical acclaim when the American Film Institute named it as one of the ten best films of 2008 and made it onto the top 250 films list on the Internet Movie Database. Number of Academy Award nominations? Zero.
  • Awesome Music: Over the credits, Clint Eastwood sings about the movie's events. A song written by him no less!
  • Complete Monster: Spider is a Hmong gangster who, along with his gang, terrorizes his own neighborhood. He starts off by pressuring his cousin Thao to steal his neighbor Walt Kowalski's vintage Gran Torino. When he fails at this, Spider and his gang beat up Thao and continually harass his family. Walt initially scares him off, but he continues to harass Thao afterwards and lets his subordinate put out a cigarette in his face. In retaliation for Walt beating up one of his gang members, Spider performs a drive-by shooting on Thao's family and kidnaps his cousin Sue to subject her to a violent gang rape, leaving her bloodied and traumatized. When Walt finally confronts them in the climax, he and his gang riddle him with bullets when they think he might have a gun.note 
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
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    • Walt is so damn racist that it's hilarious. Especially when he starts teaching Thao to talk like him and gets Thao to learn the first lesson about talking like that is to know the guy involved or risk getting a shotgun pointed at you.
    • Thao's second attempt at talking like Walt, while not ending with a shotgun pointed at him, was equally ridiculous. You get the impression the kid was probably doing it just to mess with him.
      Thao: Boy does my ass hurt from all the guys on my construction job.
  • Designated Villain: Subverted with Walt's kids and grandkids. Walt indicates regret when confessing to the Priest that he was never closer to his sons, but does not state that it's his own fault. On his final day he doesn't bother to call anyone in his family despite tying up other loose ends. His grandkids clearly couldn't care less about him, but that's also likely because they see him as nothing other than a mean judgmental old man who doesn't take any interest in their lives and thus feel no sense of obligation in return. On top of it all his sons are clearly close to their own children. On the other hand, Walt's wife was said to be loved by the community but at her funeral her grandchildren are apathetic and disrespectful. His son isn't much better, as he only calls him to ask if Walt can still get him tickets to a sporting event. Later on when Walt calls him to talk to him he gets blown off. And when they try to put him in a nursing home it seems like genuine concern but odds are there was mostly an interest in gaining possession of the house. And when Walt dies and leaves the house to the church they are shown to be very irritated, despite it being what his late wife would have wanted (his son's wife even rolls her eyes when that part is read aloud).
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  • Iron Woobie: Walt. See Jerkass Woobie below for more information.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Again, Walt, who's maybe a Racist Grandpa, but is haunted by memories of his Korean War experience, recently lost his wife and is hated by the rest of his own family led by his two sons.
    • Walt's family count. Consider what Walt said about how he regrets he was never closer to his sons, and how that almost implies Parental Neglect on his part. His family clearly couldn't care less about him any more, and the feeling is mutual, but his sons probably just wanted a father figure they never got, and the same for his grandkids, so it can be hard not to feel sorry for them too.
  • Misaimed Fandom: While undoubtedly cool, Walt's threats and violence towards the local gang in the context of the film are shown as short-sighted and futile, as they don't discourage future attacks at all; that's only solved when the police get involved. Similarly, Walt himself spends much of the movie traumatized for his past violent deeds in the Korean War and aggressively yells down Thao when the boy expresses a desire to be like him. The film is ultimately a Deconstruction of the Action Hero that Eastwood embodies. Doesn't stop fans of the film from quoting Walt's Badass Boasts verbatim, though.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Spider and his pals, who perform a drive by on Thao's house and rape Thao's sister, his own cousin.
    • In a more personal example, Walt has never forgiven himself for the horrible things he did at the war. Specifically after a young North Korean soldier surrendered to him and dropped his weapon, Walt shot him in cold blood.
  • Narm:
    • Clint Eastwood singing came off as this to many people.
    • The pose Walt makes when he gets shot to death, with some obvious Jesus symbolism that might be a bit too on the nose.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Spider and his gang are this all by themselves which is especially shocking since they terrorize their own relatives of all people. See Complete Monster and Moral Event Horizon for more.
  • Signature Scene: The "get off my lawn" scene is by far the most frequently quoted and remembered part of the movie.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The following conversation between Walt and Thao.
    Thao: How many men did you kill in Korea?
    Walt: Thirteen, maybe more.
    Thao: What was it like to kill a man?
    Walt: You don't want to know. Now close it up. (locks Thao inside the basement)
    Thao: Walt! Walt! What're you doing? What're you doing, huh?
    Walt: Relax, you can't get out of there.
    Thao: You let me out right now. You fucking let me out or I'll fucking kill you!
    Walt: Shut the fuck up! You want to know what it's like to kill a man? Well it's goddamn awful, that's what it is. The only thing worse is getting a medal of valor for killing some poor kid that wanted to 'just give up, that's all.' Yeah, some scared little gook just like you. I shot him right in the face with that rifle you were holding in there a while ago. There's not a day goes by that I don't think about it. You don't want that on your soul. But I got blood on my hands. I'm soiled.

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