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  • Awesome Music: Fiction Plane's "If Only" takes one of the many, many plot points that made the book so memorable and turns it into a gorgeous alternative rock ballad.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • The movie has an early Foreshadowing scene where Stanley sees the ghosts of Sam and Mary Lou while his bus passes through the desert. Stanley never even learns who they are and this event is never mentioned again.
      • One could argue the point was less 'to go somewhere' and more to convey that the consequences of Sam's fate still loom over Green Lake and the characters in the present. Though he doesn't have many scenes, the presence of Sam permeates Stanley's and Zero's story: his boat and onion field are how the boys survive the brutal desert, and the aridification of Green Lake is heavily implied to be some kind of divine consequence of his murder—a kind of curse in and of itself, by which his presence lingers after death. By finding Kate's loot and finally having the Walker family brought to some kind of justice, Stanley and Zero bring all these to a close.
      • Also, it helps that this isn't the only time Sam appears in ambiguous ghost form: he appears twice more around the boat he died in, once to Kate just before her death and once more after Stanley runs away from Camp Green Lake. The nature of all three appearances is played as something between mirage and hallucination, but all three remind the viewer just how much of the story continues to be affected by Sam's death.
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    • Right after Stanley turns down Zero's request to teach him how to read, Armpit swaggers out of the Wreck Room and starts dancing. The music even sounds like it's going to lead into a sudden all-camp coordinated dance, but it ends abruptly soon after Armpit raises his, well, armpits.
  • Catharsis Factor: Let's face it, this book as multiple of them, but the best ones have to be when Zero slams Mr. Pensanski in the face with a shovel after one insults too many, Stanley denying the Warden a chance to see what's in the suitcase (chest in the movie) that she had been looking for years, but most well known, the fact Stanley is able to break the curse Madame Zeroni put on his family without realizing it.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal: Mr. Sir isn't using his real name. Given how ridiculous the name "Mr. Sir" is, that's hardly a surprise.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Whether you like the book or not, everyone remembers Katherine and Sam, and they're nearly universally-beloved in the fandom. Katherine even still has fans after she becomes Kissin' Kate Barlow (some people loved her even more after that). It also helps that the film gives her Adaptational Heroism, only killing people who were part of the lynch mob.
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  • Genius Bonus: Mr. Sir creates a tough, cowboy persona in order to get over the embarrassment of his real name: Marion. This is very similar to Marion Robert Morrison, better known as John Wayne.
  • Ho Yay: A slight bit between Stanley and Hector/Zero.
    Mr. Pendanski: No one cares about Hector Zeroni.
    Stanley: I do!
  • It Was His Sled: The fact that the Warden is female is a surprise to both Stanley and the reader, but nowadays, most people know about it going in — thanks in no small part to Sigourney Weaver's killer performance in the movie. Most discussions of the story don't even try to hide her gender anymore.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • The Warden. Her racist, greed-obsessed grandfather forced her to spend her entire youth taking part in a wild goose chase for a treasure. Even into her adulthood, it rules her life, and Sigourney Weaver gives her a terrific moment of anguish when she's denied of the treasure her family has been looking for a hundred years and hauled off to jail. Still, y'know... child abuse.
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    • Kissin' Kate went on a murder spree and robbed Stanley Yelnats I, leaving him to die in the desert, but she wouldn't have become an outlaw if her lover hadn't been murdered out of racist hatred.
    • Squid. In the book, Stanley wakes up one night to find him crying due to "allergies", and warns Stanley that he will break Stanley's jaw if he says a word about it. This is Adapted Out of the film, but at the end of the book, he asks Stanley to call his mother and apologizes on Squid's behalf (in the film, however, it's Armpit, not Squid, who asks this favor). In the film, we expand on this a bit and discover his mother is The Alcoholic and his father left them.
  • Love to Hate: All the camp counselors to some degree, but especially Mr. Pendanski. It helps that there are multiple parts where they get comeuppance for their misdeeds, rather than just one specific scene, so it isn't like they're not suffering for their selfish acts.
  • Magnificent Bitch: Katherine Barlow was once a school teacher driven to rage and heartbreak at the racist killing of her African-American lover, Sam. Murdering her town's sheriff for failing to intervene, she becomes the infamous bandit known as "Kissin' Kate", robbing countless men to accumulate a vast amount of wealth. Even at gunpoint, Kate refuses to give up her treasure and as she dies from a poisonous lizard's bite, spitefully tells her interrogator to "Start digging".
  • Memetic Mutation
    • There's a post going around Tumblr and subsequently Facebook which includes a GIF of Madame Zeroni, and it says if you forget to reblog her, "You and your family will be cursed for always and eternity."
    • A piece of fanart depicting the movie as part of Kingdom Hearts III has been making the rounds on Tumblr as well, leading to fans wishing for Holes to be included in the game.
    • This scene has become a meme on tiktok.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • When Stanley and Zero come back to camp Green Lake, The Warden, Mr. Pendanski, and Mr. Sir show a complete lack of concern when the boys are covered with yellow-spotted lizards. What makes this a tragic example for the Warden? See Jerkass Woobie for how she became the uncaring jerk she is in the present day.
    • Mr. Pendanski arguably has two moments worthy of this. Not only does he show an appalling lack of concern when he sees the lizards, he then has the nerve to taunt Stanley and say his lawyer proved him innocent, and gloat "too bad you weren't there for it!" That's right, he has absolutely no remorse over the fact that he just put a completely innocent child who didn't deserve any form of punishment through all that torment, and all the blood, sweat, and tears involved with it. Granted it isn't terribly out of character, but still.
    • Trout killing Sam. Since that day, it never rained at Green Lake until the Warden and her cronies were put behind bars.
  • Narm Charm: "Dig It." In any other case, a movie based on a book like Holes with a rap number over the credits would be reek of being Totally Radical, but the boys are musically inclined enough to make it work.
  • Periphery Demographic: The book and film are aimed at kids, but thanks to the damned fine storytelling, memorable cast of characters, and (especially in the book) political commentary, there's a lot for older audiences to enjoy, too. A lot of people who first read the book or seen the movie in school have revisited it in later years, and been pleasantly surprised at how well it still holds up.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Nowadays, Shia LaBeouf's better known as Sam Witwicky in the first three live-action Transformers movies.
  • Special Effects Failure: You can really tell when the film switches between CGI yellow-spotted lizards and real lizards with yellow spots carefully painted on.

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