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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: William Somerset and John Doe are different takes on the Only Sane Man, knowing well how bad the world is, but differ on how they deal with it (which essentially makes Doe Somerset's Evil Counterpart). Both believe they live in a Crapsack World, but Doe believes that because he is a completely egotistical bastard who ignores his own rampant hypocrisy, while Somerset tries to approach the situation with empathy and hope that people can be better. Somerset sees the world's flaws and how they can improve it while Doe is Right for the Wrong Reasons (for a really, really cynical interpretation of "right").
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  • Angst Aversion: Mills and Somerset are unable to prevent any of John Doe's murders, or even prevent him from completing his "mission" by goading Mills into gunning him down. This can make it very difficult for some people to get invested, knowing that everything will inevitably go to Hell.
  • Ass Pull: Somerset just happens to know a guy from the FBI that is in his debt for no discernible reason. Thanks to the info they get from him, they are able to rapidly find John Doe's apartment and even John Doe himself when he comes home.
    • Possibly justified since he is nearing retirement and probably has a lot of potential contacts and markers he can call on.
  • Complete Monster: John Doe is a Knight Templar who targeted people whom he deemed to embody one of the Seven Deadly Sins, then horribly murdered them in a way that reflected their vice. After 5 murders, John Doe, feeling envious of Detective David Mills's "normal" life, decapitated his wife—despite her being completely innocent—then arranged for her head to be delivered to Mills outside of the city. Goading Mills with his crime and revealing that she was pregnant, Doe succeeded in getting Mills to murder him in revenge, making Mills the embodiment of wrath and leading to Mills's arrest and the ruination of his life.
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  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Mills and Somerset panicking over the legal implications of the FBI secretly tracking potential criminals via certain books taken from the library, and their use of said evidence to track down John Doe. In an age where the War on Terror and the rise of the Internet has turned that kind of thing Up to Eleven, it all seems rather quaint.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Surprisingly, the movie enjoyed some degree of success in post-revolutionary Iran, where it did well at the box-office (this was prior to the hardline Iranian regime taking control, and effectively outlawing anything pro-Western). Its success in Iran can partly be attributed to the fact that the film's cinematographer, Darius Khondji, hails from that country.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: During John Doe's Motive Rant, he condemns one of his victims for being a pederast. Considering the underage assault allegations that came out against Kevin Spacey in 2017, and his reactions to the charges, this is... awkward.
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  • Heartwarming Moments: The library scene has a surprisingly charming subversion of Men Are Uncultured. Somerset chides the security guards and off-duty policemen for wasting their time playing poker in a library containing "a world of knowledge at your fingertips." The guards take it in stride, laughing and saying, "Hey, we got culture coming outta our asses!" One of the guards says, "How's this for culture?" and turns on the tape player... and it plays Bach's "Air for the G String". The guards may not be connoisseurs of High Art, but they at least have an appreciation for classical music. At the end of the scene, one of the guards tells Somerset that Somerset will miss them after he retires. Somerset has to agree.
  • Ho Yay: Lampshaded a couple of times. When they're waiting for Somerset's FBI contact, Mills asks why they couldn't sit opposite each other because sitting next to each other makes it look like they're dating, and near the end there's a scene where they're both shaving their chests, and Mills jokingly comments that if he keeps coming home late, his wife is going to get suspicious.
    • In a Deleted Scene, Mills tells Somerset, "Just don't jerk me off, okay?" Somerset answers that he'll get Mills up to speed on how the department operates, give him whatever bits of wisdom he can... "...but jerking off is something you'll have to do yourself." Mills can't help laughing.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • People who don't know who plays the villain, or what happens in the dénouement, are pretty hard to come by.
    • The horrifying Jump Scare of the "Sloth" victim has lost a lot of its power due to this.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Sloth (Theodore 'Victor' Allen). While he was a drug-dealing pederast who also robbed and assaulted people, absolutely no one deserves a fate as what happened to him.
  • Love to Hate: John Doe. Sure he is a completely horrible person, but no one can deny that he is one of the most intriguing and interesting serial killers in all of cinema, in part because of the acting he received from Kevin Spacey.
  • Memetic Mutation: "WHAT'S IN THE BOX?!"
  • Misaimed Marketing: David Fincher mentions in a commentary track that for reasons he cannot fathom, the people who went out looking for test audiences for the movie used Driving Miss Daisy and Legends of the Fall as examples of movies that Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, respectively, have been in. So naturally, most of the people in the audience were the kind of people who would watch films like Driving Miss Daisy and Legends of the Fall, and not films like, well, Se7en. Fincher said that after the movie got out, he was standing outside the theater, and three middle-aged women walked past him. As they did so, one said "Whoever made this movie should be shot."
  • Moral Event Horizon: While most would consider John Doe to have crossed this with his very first murder, torturing and killing someone for merely being gluttonous, in his view his victims were not innocent which makes one particular case stand out since Tracy was completely innocent of everything, so even his own twisted standards couldn't have excused his last killing.
  • Narm: Brad Pitt's delivery of "What's in the boooox?" made for ripe meme material due to it coming off to some like a kid whining that he wants a cookie.
  • Narm Charm: In-between his bleating, Brad Pitt makes a convincing expression of pain and hurt, so the drama's not totally lost.
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize: Ingeniously averted. The name of the guy you recognize doesn't appear on the poster or in the opening credits, and you don't get a clear shot of his face until the third act.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • John C. McGinley's appears here before his more famous role on Scrubs.
    • While the actor playing the murderer was certainly famous when the movie was being made, he is MUCH more recognizable and iconic as an actor in the following years and decades. Watching the movie today, even if you don't know who he is at first, hearing John Doe's voice especially in the phone call scene might tip the viewer to who Doe might be based on the actor's now-infamous voice.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Modern viewers might find the notion of a serial killer who implements cruel and elaborate tortures to deliver Karmic Death to his victims to be cliche, but in 1995 it was genuinely horrifying and new. That most of the films inspired by Se7en have focused more on the Gorn and pure shock value aspects of the film rather than its meticulously-crafted atmosphere and cerebral tone certainly hasn't helped matters.
  • Signature Scene:
  • Special Effects Failure: The Sloth victim's actual arm is so clearly visible on the bed right beneath the prosthetic arm that it makes one wonder why they didn't bother to cut a hole in the mattress so that the actor could hide it, or even just cover it up with a part of his shirt.
  • Tough Act to Follow: For screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker. No screenplay he has penned since this one has achieved anything like the kind of critical acclaim and commercial success heaped on Seven (the screenplay that immediately followed it, 8mm, was a rather obvious attempt to recapture the mood and tone of it).
  • The Woobie:
    • Poor Tracy. Moves to a city she can't stand to support her husband's career, winds up unexpectedly pregnant, and debates whether or not to bring a child into a Crapsack World. To say nothing of the ending...
    • The poor guy whom John Doe forced to kill the Lust victim. He's visibly shaking so hard he can barely breathe.
    • Most of the victims can fall under this, because even without much character development they die horrifically for completely undeserved reasons (undeserved for people who aren't John Doe of course). Gluttony, just for being obese, is forced to eat until he passes out, and is then kicked to rupture his stomach; Lust is raped to death with a blade for being a sex worker, and Pride gets her face gruesomely mutilated for being a little vain. It's such Disproportionate Retribution for unbelievably minor "crimes" it's hard not to feel bad for them. The only exceptions are Sloth and maybe Greed (who, in the graphic novel, is revealed to have been an Amoral Attorney who defended rapists and mob bosses).
      • The victims' backstories are more elaborated on in the graphic novel. Gluttony was the biggest woobie of the lot. Both his mother and father died, and he's been trying so hard to stop eating all the time. John Doe doesn't give him much of a chance. Pride, aka Rachel Shade — while definitely a jerkass to everyone around her — was not that deserving of what Doe did to her. Even Doe himself is portrayed as something of a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, at least before his Despair Event Horizon.
    • Mills. While he can certainly be a Jerkass, Mills was honestly well meaning and truly does love his wife. Whom he finds out was murdered, and then finds out she was pregnant. Who can really blame him for killing John Doe?

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