- Alas, Poor Scrappy: Freddy Lounds is a (intentionally) completely unlikable character, but he certainly didn't deserve to be set on fire by Dolarhyde, especially since it was revenge for writing lies that GRAHAM told him.
- The recording of Lounds forced to deliver Dollarhyde's message is the point where the investigators realize that they've been underestimating their unsub. Tooth Fairy? Who's that?Lounds: I have had a great privilege. I have seen with... wonder and awe the strength of the Great Red Dragon. He has helped me to understand his splendor... and now I want to serve him. He knows you made me lie, Will Graham. Because I was forced to lie... he will be more merciful to me than to you.
- Ralph Mandy, too. He was annoying for pestering Reba, but his end was horrible. Averted in the book, where he did absolutely nothing to earn his death.
- The recording of Lounds forced to deliver Dollarhyde's message is the point where the investigators realize that they've been underestimating their unsub. Tooth Fairy? Who's that?
- Broken Base: Manhunter (1986) vs Red Dragon (2002); which is better? While critical consensus leans sharply in favor of Manhunter (featuring a 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes compared to Red Dragon's 68%), the audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes and viewer ratings on IMDb for both films are essentially equal (7.2/10, though Red Dragon has nearly four times as many votes), so it's definitely a case where it's a matter of opinion varying from person to person.
- Crowning Moment of Awesome: Will using his empathetic insight backed up by detective analysis to gain the crucial brain-wave: the Red Dragon prepared for his murders by watching the same home films Will is currently watching.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: Hannibal Lecter. He's so popular that the Red Dragon film widely expanded his role.
- Mind Game Ship: Will and Hannibal, of course.
- Narm: Lounds' murder is incredibly over the top to the point where it's equal parts terrifying, disgusting, and hilarious, particularly when Dolarhyde bites out Lounds' tongue with an action that, if not for the screaming, would look like a deep kiss.
- Narm Charm: "Ride with me. For my pleasure." Helped by Ralph Fiennes' accent. Strays into Fridge Brilliance, as the line is deliberately clumsy to illustrate just how socially crippled Dolarhyde is.
- Nightmare Fuel: Was there really any doubt? The descriptions of how Dolarhyde entered his victims' houses and killed them one by one is chilling.
- Retroactive Recognition: In the 2002 film, the doctor at the zoo is played by an uncredited James "Dr. Richard Webber of Grey's Anatomy" Pickens Jr.
- "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Some modern readers have decried Dolarhyde, a vicious psychopath who does the most horrible things possible to the most undeserving people possible but has a traumatic childhood that makes him sympathetic, as a cliche. Clearly they're unaware of how groundbreaking this was at the time. Graham even sums it up succinctly: "As a child, I weep for him. As a man, he's irredeemable." What happened to Dolarhyde was tragic, but right now he's a maniac who needs to be stopped.
- Spoiled by the Format: When Dolarhyde apparently commits suicide, there's still a good chunk of pages left, and unlike the sequel there's no danger of Lecter's escape. Also doubles as a Hope Spot.
- Squick: What Dolarhyde does with his victims.
- And later on when Reba has sex with him and fellates him. One must hope he is a thorough washer after he "changes" people, for Reba's sake.
- In the book there's Dolarhyde's introduction in which he enjoys a home movie of one of his killings just a little too much.
- Related to the two above posts, Dolarhyde is watching a video of the next family he intends to murder. Reba sidles up to him and is quite pleased to find that he has an erection. Is it from her ministrations—or the thought of killing these people?!
- Surprisingly Improved Sequel: The 2002 film fared better with critics and audiences than Hannibal; the fact that the source book was already well-regarded and already had another cult favorite adaptation nearly 20 years earlier likely helped.
- The Woobie: Reba McClane, particularly as played by Emily Watson.
- Also Francis Dolarhyde as a little boy, who was mercilessly abused by his grandmother. Graham even makes a note of how much his heart goes out for the boy Francis once was, but that the same cannot be said of the man he grew up to be, who's a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds at best.
YMMV / Red Dragon