- And You Thought It Would Fail: On paper, Moonlight is about as niche and indie as you can get - a microbudget ($1.5 million) coming-of-age art film about a gay black man growing up in poverty, featuring an all-black cast with no big name actors (at least at the time). But the sheer positive word of mouth the film generated throughout its release propelled it into mainstream success (including a Best Picture Oscar Win!)
- Catharsis Factor: After all the shit Terrel puts Chiron through, Chiron finally cracking a chair over him is a sight to behold. There are reports of audience members cheering at the scene.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: Juan. An incredibly charming and warm performance from Mahershala Ali combined with an offscreen death one third into the movie have made him the movie's most memorable character for many moviegoers. This resulted in Ali winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
- Esoteric Happy Ending: Chiron reconciles with his mother and with Kevin, starting a relationship with the latter. Sounds great? Except Chiron is still a drug dealer with a criminal record, and even if he tries to go straight, it's going to be one uphill battle.
- Fandom Rivalry: A big one between Moonlight and La La Land
- In the lead-up to the Oscars both films were considered the frontrunners for winning Best Picture, with many feeling the award would go to La La Land. Given their subject matter (Low budget indie about a young gay black man growing up in poverty vs glitzy musical about Hollywood with a predominantly white cast) a narrative quickly sprung up presenting the contest as a statement on Hollywood's complex relationship with inclusivity and diversity.
- Tensions between fans skyrocketed when an envelope mix-up at the Oscars resulted in the La La Land crew almost taking home Moonlight's Best Picture trophy.note
- Not helping were several news articles accused of focusing more on La La Land losing the award with only a token mention of how Moonlight actually won.
- Ironically, the creators of the two films are on excellent terms with each other and have repeatedly praised each other's films.
- LGBT Fanbase: Unsurprising considering the movie is in some ways Coming-Out Story, but Moonlight's success was viewed by many Black and LGBTQ people as an enormously validating moment, showing that stories about those communities could break into the mainstream and win the film world's highest honor. The fact that it did so after the widespread protests about the Oscars' lack of diversity the previous year makes its victory particularly powerful.
- Memetic Mutation: The Internet had an absolute field day with the botched Best Picture presentation for Moonlight. Highlights include:
- This image of La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz holding up the announcement envelope to prove that yes, Moonlight really did win, with different movies and artists, usually ones that are (in)famous cases of Award Snub (e.g writing The Social Network over The King's Speech), filled in.
- Invoking Steve Harvey's infamous Miss Universe mixup from last year, where he also announced the wrong winner. (Even Jimmy Kimmel, that year's Oscar host, drew the comparison shortly after The Reveal.)
- Various reaction shots of the audience realizing what happened.
- Signature Scene: Juan teaching Chiron to swim as a child.
- The Woobie: The protagonist himself. His mother is an abusive drug addict who takes her own frustrations out on him. As a child, Chiron was mercilessly bullied for "the way he walked", causing him to feel ashamed and repress his homosexuality through his adolescence. When he finally snaps and assaults his bully, Chiron is subdued and sent to a juvenile hall. By the end of the film, Chiron is reduced to an emotionally broken drug dealer, who tearfully confesses he's never felt loved by anyone.
YMMV / Moonlight (2016)