- Adaptation Displacement: The film is much better-known today than the novel.
- Fair for Its Day: One of the earliest WWII films to depict Japanese characters with any degree of sympathy. Sessue Hayakawa was reportedly very proud of the film for humanizing the Japanese at a time when most Hollywood and British movies still reflected wartime Yellow Peril propaganda. It also has actual Asian actors and actresses playing all the Asian characters in an era when white actors still donned the shoe polish to play minorities.
- Royce and one the Thai lady porters are set up as possibly being romantically interested in one another. While it's not a major element of the story, it's remarkable that this is portrayed in a positive and light-hearted manner when interacial relationships were still frowned upon and illegal in the United States.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Oddly enough, the movie was popular in Japan during its original run, perhaps for the reason stated above.
- Homegrown Hero: Shears (who is the only one to escape and return to destroy the titular bridge) happens to be the only American soldier in the otherwise British-dominated POW camp. Needless to say, he used to be British in the original book.
- Jerkass Woobie: Shears. Yes, life in a prison camp ruled by a despot has hardened him and has made him contemptuous of by-the-book soldiers following orders like Nicholson and Warden, but he turned down a soldier who wanted to come with him and hes opportunist enough to try to worm his way out of any terrible situation however he can.
- "Weird Al" Effect: Kenneth Alford's 1914 tune "Colonel Bogey March" is now best known as the theme tune for this movie. During World War II, the song acquired parody lyrics and became known as "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball".
- What an Idiot!: Yes, the Geneva Convention does permit that enlisted POWs can be compelled to work, but only work in specific industries that do not help the enemy's war effort, otherwise they are exempted. Such exemptions include public works projects that are military in nature, which the bridge definitely fits. Colonel Nicholson should really have realized that. (Of course this could very well be Artistic License.) In fairness, they do mention that the bridge will serve some non-military purposes such as transporting their wounded, but it really should qualify.
- Considering the number of war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army at this time, one might forgive the Colonel for being less willing to refuse the work since he probably had a good idea of the 'punishment' that might fall upon the troops under his command.
YMMV / The Bridge on the River Kwai