- Accidental Aesop
- The delicate balance of the train's life support is referred to constantly as the reason for the abuse heaped upon the tail-sectioners, though critics usually ignore this in favor of condemning the tyranny du jour. This makes most Green Aesops kind of horrifying, as they often boil down to, "The place is more important than happiness, well-being or lives of the people who live there." Especially since the train is destroyed in the ending; if the place demands dehumanizing sacrifices of humans, it should be destroyed!
- Even worse, the film's message could very easily be "a strictly segregated social hierarchy may be oppressive, but any attempt to rise above your station would only bring ruin". As much as the film plays up the "shoe/hat" metaphor as ridiculous and oppressive, the decision by the shoe (Curtis) to overthrow and replace the hat (Wilford) is what directly causes the train to be destroyed, condemning humanity to extinction.
- The real Aesop is listen to science. Observe nature and respond in kind as Nam figures out that the snow has been steadily melting all these years and its possible that a balance will return. In other words, the Engine need not be eternal and it isn't eternal as the parts and components break down anyway.
- Alternative Character Interpretation
- Was Gilliam truly a traitor to the tail-end section or was he so traumatized by the cannabilistic melee from the trains early days that he thought population control was the only way of preventing another outbreak? Also, he urged Curtis to just kill Wilford outright, and not even give Wilford a chance to talk with him. Was Gilliam regretful that he let Wilford manipulate him for all these years and didn't want the same thing to happen to Curtis, or did he just want to keep his collaboration with Wilford a secret?
- Sure, Gilliam worked with Wilford all this time, but in the aftermath of the Yekaterina Tunnel incident, he urged Gray to follow Curtis. This could be seen as a dick move on his part, but he may have figured out that Wilford would be gunning for him, so he wanted to get Gray as far from him as possible. It seems like he was trying to maximize Gray's chances of survival.
- Wilford. Evil SOB who keeps hundreds of people in horrible conditions to maintain the system that keeps him in comfort, while totally indifferent to human suffering? Or a man who unexpectedly finds himself responsible for keeping the entire human race alive, and who is resigned to having to make terrible choices for the greater good.
- Then there's the Front Section Passengers who all swarm Minsoo at the end. Is it the truest example of the rich's disdain of the poor that they all pull themselves together just to stop them from succeeding? Judging by their rather young ages it is likely that they spent most of their life on the train, being conditioned to revere the engine and Wilford as divine, and thus stepped in to stop the threat to their master. Or maybe they're all a bunch of druggies mad that Minsoo took their Kronol.
- Anvilicious: Class differences are bad. The rich exploit the poorer and don't care about them at all, and that's bad. Trying to claim that everyone has a "proper place" in society is really, really bad. Did we mention that class differences are bad?
- Award Snub: Received no Academy-Award nominations or Golden Globes despite it being critically acclaimed and named by some as one of the best films of the year, though Tilda Swinton did receive some recognition for her work as Mason. Somewhat justified though as it was released in Korea in 2013, making it ineligible for the Oscars though it did get a 2014 release in the States.
- Broken Base: Fans of Bong Joon-Ho's previous works are split about whether the movie was great or not.
- Complete Monster: The Snowpiercer's creator, Wilford, is a selfish megalomaniac who wishes to control the remnants of mankind. Combating global warming with a risky procedure that ends up freezing the world over, Wilford takes advantage of the catastrophe to seemingly save mankind with the titular ever-running train. Creating a caste system, Wilford tries to starve the impoverished people at the tail end of the train, resulting in them having to resort to cannibalism to survive. Under his iron-fisted authority, the upper-class of the trains have their children educated to worship him as a godlike figure, and he continues to mistreat the lower-class people of the train's rear-end, feeding them disgusting bars made from cockroaches. To keep the tail-enders under his control, Wilford uses his mole, Gilliam, to occasionally organize riots doomed to fail, ostensibly to let them purge their anger and costing many of them their lives. When Curtis tries to incite his own rebellion against Wilford, Wilford has Gilliam killed for failing to stop him and orders a massacre of the tail-enders, putting the slaughter on speakerphone to mock Curtis. Revealed to run his train with children in the engine, Wilford is a callous man with a god-complex, who only saved humanity at all to create a cult where he could feel adored as a messiah.
- Death of the Author: It's been argued that Bong Joon-Ho wasn't making a film about class warfare, but about tyranny itself; maintaining the train - both its life support and its rigid caste system - demands that everyone aboard make inherently dehumanizing sacrifices. The tailenders obviously get the worst of it (living in squalor and eating gel bars made from ground-up cockroaches), but the frontenders also have no freedom as the system permits no growth or change and when the population climbs too high, they are sacrificed just as callously as the tailenders in Wilford and Gilliam's revolution. Wilford cannot risk interacting with the population, as they have come to see him as a divine figure - breaking the illusion risks the system breaking down. The frontenders are as dependent on the tailenders for survival as the tailenders are on the frontenders - and the architects of the revolution are the least free of all. Unless everyone is free, no-one is....whether or not the human race survives is irrelevant. What is relevant is that they are free and that their survival depends on their own independent minds. This is the movie's final message: the importance of freedom; damn the odds.
- Ending Fatigue: The film seems as if it's about to end during a tense scene near the exit of the train... And then Wilford's door opens.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: Grey has gotten a great amount of love for The Voiceless.
- Esoteric Happy Ending: The shackles of tyranny have been cast off, and life is returning to Earth, but, humanity might be effectively wiped out, and that beautiful polar bear sure seems awfully interested in our two remaining heroes Terminus, however, confirms that our two remaining heroes have not only survived, but made it to a safe spot.
- Genre-Busting: The film has qualities of science fiction, Western, action adventure, even at times feels (fantastically) like an RPG video game, yet none of these titles would fit perfectly.
- Harsher in Hindsight: In The Host, Song's character Gang-du lives, while Ko's character Hyun-seo dies. In Snowpiercer, Song and Ko once again play father and daughter, only Song's character dies while Ko's lives (longer).
- Hilarious in Hindsight: During the classroom scene, when they get to the part of the propaganda video on Wilford's backstory where his childhood self talks about how he wants to live on a train forever, the children all scream out "forever!" and perform a gesture that looks an awful lot like dabbing. While that gesture has its roots in anime and Super Sentai, it only caught on in the West in 2014, the year after this film was released.
- Ho Yay: Setting aside Grey and Gilliam's confirmed MayDecember Romance, the devotion Edgar exhibits toward Curtis and the look of heartbreak on his face when he realizes Curtis isn't going to save him from the executioners could be interpreted this way.
- He Really Can Act: Most of the cast got this reaction but especially Chris Evans and Song Kang-ho.
- MST3K Mantra: Viewers rolling their eyes at the class struggle and (frankly) ridiculous concept need to remember it's a movie, and has more in common with Brazil in its tone. Once you get that, the movie is fine.
- Memetic Mutation: It's been a thing for watchers of the movie to recommend others to bring "yanggaeng", a type of jelly sold in Korea, to eat during the movie, because of its similarity to the protein blocks within the movie. In the same vein, other foods recommended are sushi, eggs, steak, and Coca-Cola.
Mason: No! Don't look at me! Look... THEEEEEEEEEEEAH!
- When Andrew is punished by getting his hand frozen outside of the train car for seven minutes, Mason places a giant clock on a gold chain around his neck to count the time: This detail can seem kind of silly if you happen to associate it with Flavor Flav's Iconic Item.
- Curtis slipping on a fish in the middle of an intense fight, with a pretty ridiculous expression on his face.
- During the Ax Gang fight, one of the gang members turns to look at Mason.
- "I know that babies taste best."
- The sight of the children performing the functions of train parts is... Odd to say the least.
- Spiritual Licensee: The film shares a lot amount of similarities to the first BioShock game. The class division, a protagonist with a shadowy past, Wilford's egocentric propaganda, children being brainwashed to serve the society - it's all there. Some fans even go on calling this film "BioShock as directed by Terry Gilliam".
- It even serves as a better example of its Objectivist themes than Bioshock - especially as Wilford and Gilliam are working together to maintain the train; Wilford is a fascistic tyrant who preaches that salvation comes from serving him, Gilliam is a socialist tyrant who preaches that salvation comes from serving each other - at his command.
YMMV / Snowpiercer