The Big Lebowski
|The Big Lebowski|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Coen|
|Produced by||Ethan Coen|
|Music by||Carter Burwell|
|Distributed by||Gramercy Pictures|
|Box office||$46.2 million|
The Big Lebowski is a 1998 American crime comedy film written, produced, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It stars Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, a Los Angeles slacker and avid bowler. He is assaulted as a result of mistaken identity, after which The Dude learns that a millionaire also named Jeffrey Lebowski was the intended victim. The millionaire Lebowski's trophy wife is kidnapped, and he commissions The Dude to deliver the ransom to secure her release; but the plan goes awry when the Dude's friend Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) schemes to keep the ransom money. Julianne Moore and Steve Buscemi also star, with David Huddleston, John Turturro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Elliott, Tara Reid, David Thewlis and Flea appearing in supporting roles.
The film is loosely inspired by the work of Raymond Chandler. Joel Coen stated: "We wanted to do a Chandler kind of story – how it moves episodically, and deals with the characters trying to unravel a mystery, as well as having a hopelessly complex plot that's ultimately unimportant." The original score was composed by Carter Burwell, a longtime collaborator of the Coen brothers.
The Big Lebowski was a disappointment at the U.S. box office and received mixed reviews at the time of its release. Over time, however, reviews have become largely positive, and the film has become a cult favorite, noted for its idiosyncratic characters, dream sequences, unconventional dialogue, and eclectic soundtrack. In 2014, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." A spin-off based on Turturro's character, titled Going Places, is currently filming, with Turturro also acting as writer and director.
In 1991 in Los Angeles, slacker Jeff "the Dude" Lebowski is assaulted in his home by two hired goons who demand money that the wife of a Jeffrey Lebowski owes to a porn magnate and loanshark named Jackie Treehorn. The two soon realize they have attacked the wrong Jeffrey Lebowski and leave, but not before one of them urinates on the Dude's rug.
The Dude meets his bowling friends, the timid Donny and the temperamental Vietnam veteran Walter Sobchak. Encouraged by Walter, the Dude approaches the other Jeffrey Lebowski, the eponymous "Big Lebowski", a cantankerous elderly wheelchair-using millionaire, to seek compensation for his ruined rug. Though his request is promptly refused, The Dude craftily steals one of Lebowski's expensive rugs by telling Brandt, Lebowski's sycophantic assistant, that his boss told him to take any rug in the house. The Dude subsequently meets Bunny, Lebowski's young trophy wife.
Days later, Lebowski contacts the Dude stating that Bunny has been kidnapped. Lebowski wants the Dude to deliver a briefcase containing a million-dollar ransom and see if he can recognize the culprits. Later, a different pair of thugs appear in the Dude's apartment, knock him unconscious, and take Lebowski's rug. When Bunny's kidnappers call to arrange delivery of the ransom, Walter suggests they give the kidnappers a fake ransom instead, namely a briefcase filled with dirty underwear. The kidnappers grab the fake ransom and leave. Later that night, the Dude's car is stolen, with the real ransom money briefcase still inside.
Jeffrey Lebowski's adult daughter Maude contacts the Dude and reveals she took the rug, explaining that Bunny is one of Jackie Treehorn's porn stars. She reckons that Bunny "kidnapped" herself and asks the Dude to recover the ransom which her father illegally withdrew from the family's foundation. Lebowski is angry that the Dude failed to deliver the ransom money and shows him a severed green-painted toe, allegedly belonging to Bunny and delivered by the kidnappers. Later, a gang of German nihilists invade the Dude's apartment and threaten him, identifying themselves as the kidnappers. Maude says the German nihilists are actually Bunny's friends.
The Dude's car is found by the police without the ransom money, and he reclaims it. Later, while cruising around in the car, The Dude finds the homework assignment of a high school student named Larry inside. Taking this to mean that Larry was the one who stole the car, Walter and The Dude go to his house, believing Larry has also stolen the money. When Larry refuses to respond to Walter and the Dude's threats, Walter wrecks a new sports car parked outside which they assume Larry bought with the money. However, a neighbor rushes outside, reveals himself as having just bought the car and angrily wrecks The Dude's car in revenge, thinking it to be Walter's.
The Dude is forcibly brought before Treehorn, who asks about the whereabouts of Bunny and says he wants the money she owes him. He drugs the Dude's White Russian cocktail, causing The Dude to have a dream sequence involving Maude and bowling. The Dude awakens in police custody, where he is verbally and physically assaulted by the Malibu police chief. During the cab ride home, the Dude gets thrown out after he asks the cab driver to simply change the radio station. A red sports car zooms past and the viewer sees that Bunny is driving, with all her toes intact.
The Dude finds his bungalow completely trashed and is greeted by Maude, who seduces him. He figures that Treehorn drugged him so that his goons could look for the ransom money at the Dude's home. After Maude has sex with him, she says she hopes to conceive a child; the Dude is about to protest the idea of being a father but Maude tells him that he doesn't have to have a hand in the child's upbringing. Maude also explains that her father has no money: her mother was the wealthy one and she left her money exclusively to the family charity. The Dude later tells Walter that he now understands the whole story: when Lebowski—who apparently hated his wife—heard that Bunny was kidnapped, he withdrew money from the foundation, kept it for himself, and gave the Dude a briefcase without any money in it, saying that it contained a million dollar ransom. The kidnapping was also a ruse: when Bunny took an unannounced trip, her friends (the nihilists) faked a kidnapping to be able to extort money from Lebowski. Walter and the Dude confront the Big Lebowski, who refuses to admit responsibility, but is thrown out of his wheelchair by Walter, who believes that he's faking his paralysis.
The affair apparently over, the Dude and his bowling teammates return to the bowling alley. When they leave, they are confronted in the parking lot by the nihilists who have set the Dude's car on fire. They, once again, demand the ransom money. After hearing what the Dude and Walter know, the nihilists try to rob them anyway. Walter violently overcomes all three, biting the ear off one of them. However, in the excitement, Donny suffers a fatal heart attack.
Walter and the Dude go to the beach to scatter Donny's ashes. Walter turns an informal eulogy into a tribute to the Vietnam War. After accidentally covering the Dude with Donny's ashes, and after a brief argument, Walter hugs him and says, "Come on, Dude. Fuck it, man. Let's go bowling." At the bowling alley, the story's cowboy narrator tells the viewer that Maude is pregnant with a "little Lebowski" and expresses his hope that the Dude and Walter will win the bowling tournament.
- Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski. Bridges had heard or was told by the Coen brothers that they had written a screenplay for him.:27
- John Goodman as Walter Sobchak. Walter was based, in part, on screenwriter and director John Milius.:189
- Steve Buscemi as Theodore Donald "Donny" Kerabatsos. Walter's repeated response, "Shut the fuck up, Donny!" is a reference to Fargo, in which Buscemi's character was constantly talking.
- David Huddleston as The Big Lebowski (also known as Jeffrey)
- Julianne Moore as Maude Lebowski
- Tara Reid as Bunny Lebowski. According to Reid, Charlize Theron tried out for the role.:72
- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Brandt
- Sam Elliott as The Stranger
- Ben Gazzara as Jackie Treehorn
- Peter Stormare, Torsten Voges, and Flea as Uli Kunkel, Franz, and Kieffer, a group of nihilist German musicians. The character of Uli originated on the set of Fargo between Ethan Coen and Stormare, who often spoke in a mock German accent.:57
- John Turturro as Jesus Quintana. The Coen brothers let Turturro come up with a lot of his own ideas for the character, like shining the bowling ball and the scene where he dances backwards, which he says was inspired by Muhammad Ali.:44
The Dude is mostly inspired by Jeff Dowd, an American film producer and political activist the Coen brothers met while they were trying to find distribution for their first feature, Blood Simple.:90 Dowd had been a member of the Seattle Seven, liked to drink White Russians, and was known as "The Dude".:91–92 The Dude was also partly based on a friend of the Coen brothers, Peter Exline (now a member of the faculty at USC's School of Cinematic Arts), a Vietnam War veteran who reportedly lived in a dump of an apartment and was proud of a little rug that "tied the room together".:188 Exline knew Barry Sonnenfeld from New York University and Sonnenfeld introduced Exline to the Coen brothers while they were trying to raise money for Blood Simple.:97–98 Exline became friends with the Coens and in 1989, told them all kinds of stories from his own life, including ones about his actor-writer friend Lewis Abernathy (one of the inspirations for Walter), a fellow Vietnam vet who later became a private investigator and helped him track down and confront a high school kid who stole his car.:99 As in the film, Exline's car was impounded by the Los Angeles Police Department and Abernathy found an 8th grader's homework under the passenger seat.:100 Exline also belonged to an amateur softball league but the Coens changed it to bowling in the film, because "it's a very social sport where you can sit around and drink and smoke while engaging in inane conversation".:195 The Coens met filmmaker John Milius, when they were in Los Angeles making Barton Fink and incorporated his love of guns and the military into the character of Walter.:189 John Milius introduced the Coen Brothers to one of his best friends, Jim Ganzer, who would have been another source of inferences to create Jeff Bridges' character. Also known as the Dude, Ganzer and his gang, typical Malibu surfers, served as inspiration as well for Milius's film The Big Wednesday.
According to Julianne Moore, the character of Maude was based on artist Carolee Schneemann "who worked naked from a swing" and on Yoko Ono.:156 The character of Jesus Quintana was inspired, in part, by a performance the Coens had seen John Turturro give in 1988, at the Public Theater in a play called Mi Puta Vida in which he played a pederast-type character, "so we thought, let's make Turturro a pederast. It'll be something he can really run with," Joel said in an interview.:195
The film's overall structure was influenced by the detective fiction of Raymond Chandler. Ethan said, "We wanted something that would generate a certain narrative feeling – like a modern Raymond Chandler story, and that's why it had to be set in Los Angeles ... We wanted to have a narrative flow, a story that moves like a Chandler book through different parts of town and different social classes". The use of the Stranger's voice-over also came from Chandler as Joel remarked, "He is a little bit of an audience substitute. In the movie adaptation of Chandler it's the main character that speaks off-screen, but we didn't want to reproduce that though it obviously has echoes. It's as if someone was commenting on the plot from an all-seeing point of view. And at the same time rediscovering the old earthiness of a Mark Twain.":169
The significance of the bowling culture was, according to Joel, "important in reflecting that period at the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties. That suited the retro side of the movie, slightly anachronistic, which sent us back to a not-so-far-away era, but one that was well and truly gone nevertheless.":170
The Big Lebowski was written around the same time as Barton Fink. When the Coen brothers wanted to make it, John Goodman was filming episodes for the Roseanne television program and Jeff Bridges was making the Walter Hill film Wild Bill. The Coens decided to make Fargo in the meantime.:189 According to Ethan, "the movie was conceived as pivoting around that relationship between the Dude and Walter", which sprang from the scenes between Barton Fink and Charlie Meadows in Barton Fink.:169 They also came up with the idea of setting the film in contemporary L.A., because the people who inspired the story lived in the area.:41 When Pete Exline told them about the homework in a baggie incident, the Coens thought that that was very Raymond Chandler and decided to integrate elements of the author's fiction into their script. Joel Coen cites Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye as a primary influence on their film, in the sense that The Big Lebowski "is just kind of informed by Chandler around the edges".:43 When they started writing the script, the Coens wrote only 40 pages and then let it sit for a while before finishing it. This is a normal writing process for them, because they often "encounter a problem at a certain stage, we pass to another project, then we come back to the first script. That way we've already accumulated pieces for several future movies.":171 In order to liven up a scene that they thought was too heavy on exposition, they added an "effete art-world hanger-on", known as Knox Harrington, late in the screenwriting process. In the original script, the Dude's car was a Chrysler LeBaron, as Dowd had once owned, but that car was not big enough to fit John Goodman so the Coens changed it to a Ford Torino.:93
PolyGram and Working Title Films, who had funded Fargo, backed The Big Lebowski with a budget of $15 million. In casting the film, Joel remarked, "we tend to write both for people we know and have worked with, and some parts without knowing who's going to play the role. In The Big Lebowski we did write for John [Goodman] and Steve [Buscemi], but we didn't know who was getting the Jeff Bridges role." In preparation for his role, Bridges met Dowd but actually "drew on myself a lot from back in the Sixties and Seventies. I lived in a little place like that and did drugs, although I think I was a little more creative than the Dude.":188 The actor went into his own closet with the film's wardrobe person and picked out clothes that he had thought the Dude might wear.:27 He wore his character's clothes home because most of them were his own. The actor also adopted the same physicality as Dowd, including the slouching and his ample belly.:93 Originally, Goodman wanted a different kind of beard for Walter but the Coen brothers insisted on the "Gladiator" or what they called the "Chin Strap" and he thought it would go well with his flattop haircut.:32
For the film's look, the Coens wanted to avoid the usual retro 1960s clichés like lava lamps, Day-Glo posters, and Grateful Dead music:95 and for it to be "consistent with the whole bowling thing, we wanted to keep the movie pretty bright and poppy", Joel said in an interview.:191 For example, the star motif featured predominantly throughout the film, started with the film's production designer Richard Heinrichs' design for the bowling alley. According to Joel, he "came up with the idea of just laying free-form neon stars on top of it and doing a similar free-form star thing on the interior". This carried over to the film's dream sequences. "Both dream sequences involve star patterns and are about lines radiating to a point. In the first dream sequence, the Dude gets knocked out and you see stars and they all coalesce into the overhead nightscape of L.A. The second dream sequence is an astral environment with a backdrop of stars", remembers Heinrichs.:191 For Jackie Treehorn's Malibu beach house, he was inspired by late 1950s and early 1960s bachelor pad furniture. The Coen brothers told Heinrichs that they wanted Treehorn's beach party to be Inca-themed, with a "very Hollywood-looking party in which young, oiled-down, fairly aggressive men walk around with appetizers and drinks. So there's a very sacrificial quality to it.":91
Cinematographer Roger Deakins discussed the look of the film with the Coens during pre-production. They told him that they wanted some parts of the film to have a real and contemporary feeling and other parts, like the dream sequences, to have a very stylized look.:77 Bill and Jacqui Landrum did all of the choreography for the film. For his dance sequence, Jack Kehler went through three three-hour rehearsals.:27 The Coen brothers offered him three to four choices of classical music for him to pick from and he chose Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. At each rehearsal, he went through each phase of the piece.:64
Actual filming took place over an eleven-week period with location shooting in and around Los Angeles, including all of the bowling sequences at the Hollywood Star Lanes (for three weeks) and the Dude's Busby Berkeley dream sequences in a converted airplane hangar. According to Joel, the only time they ever directed Bridges "was when he would come over at the beginning of each scene and ask, 'Do you think the Dude burned one on the way over?' I'd reply 'Yes' usually, so Jeff would go over in the corner and start rubbing his eyes to get them bloodshot.":195 Julianne Moore was sent the script while working on The Lost World: Jurassic Park. She worked only two weeks on the film, early and late during the production that went from January to April 1997 while Sam Elliott was only on set for two days and did many takes of his final speech.:46
Deakins described the look of the fantasy scenes as being very crisp, monochromatic, and highly lit in order to afford greater depth of focus. However, with the Dude's apartment, Deakins said, "it's kind of seedy and the light's pretty nasty" with a grittier look. The visual bridge between these two different looks was how he photographed the night scenes. Instead of adopting the usual blue moonlight or blue street lamp look, he used an orange sodium-light effect.:79 The Coen brothers shot a lot of the film with wide-angle lens because, according to Joel, it made it easier to hold focus for a greater depth and it made camera movements more dynamic.:82
To achieve the point-of-view of a rolling bowling ball the Coen brothers mounted a camera "on something like a barbecue spit", according to Ethan, and then dollied it along the lane. The challenge for them was figuring out the relative speeds of the forward motion and the rotating motion. CGI was used to create the vantage point of the thumb hole in the bowling ball.
|The Big Lebowski: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Released||February 24, 1998|
|Genre||Rock, classical, jazz, country, folk, pop|
|Producer||T-Bone Burnett, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen|
|Coen Brothers film soundtracks chronology|
The original score was composed by Carter Burwell, a veteran of all the Coen Brothers' films. While the Coens were writing the screenplay they had Kenny Rogers' "Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was in)", the Gipsy Kings' cover of "Hotel California", and several Creedence Clearwater Revival songs in mind. They asked T-Bone Burnett (who would later work with the Coens on O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Inside Llewyn Davis) to pick songs for the soundtrack of the film. They knew that they wanted different genres of music from different times but, as Joel remembers, "T-Bone even came up with some far-out Henry Mancini and Yma Sumac." Burnett was able to secure songs by Kenny Rogers and the Gipsy Kings and also added tracks by Captain Beefheart, Moondog and Bob Dylan's "The Man in Me" (from New Morning). However, he had a tough time securing the rights to Townes Van Zandt's cover of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers", which plays over the film's closing credits. Former Stones manager Allen Klein owned the rights to the song and wanted $150,000 for it. Burnett convinced Klein to watch an early cut of the film and remembers, "It got to the part where the Dude says, 'I hate the fuckin' Eagles, man!' Klein stands up and says, 'That's it, you can have the song!' That was beautiful." Burnett was going to be credited on the film as "Music Supervisor", but asked his credit to be "Music Archivist" because he "hated the notion of being a supervisor; I wouldn't want anyone to think of me as management".
For Joel, "the original music, as with other elements of the movie, had to echo the retro sounds of the Sixties and early Seventies".:156 Music defines each character. For example, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" by Bob Nolan was chosen for the Stranger at the time the Coens wrote the screenplay, as was "Lujon" by Henry Mancini for Jackie Treehorn. "The German nihilists are accompanied by techno-pop and Jeff Bridges by Creedence. So there's a musical signature for each of them", remarked Ethan in an interview.:156 The character Uli Kunkel was in the German electronic band Autobahn, a homage to the band Kraftwerk. The album cover of their record Nagelbett (bed of nails) is a parody of the Kraftwerk album cover for The Man-Machine and the group name Autobahn shares the name of a Kraftwerk song and album. In the lyrics the phrase "We believe in nothing" is repeated with electronic distortion. This is a reference to Autobahn's nihilism in the film.
|1.||"The Man in Me"||Bob Dylan||Dylan|
|2.||"Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles"||Captain Beefheart||Beefheart|
|3.||"My Mood Swings"||Elvis Costello and Cait O'Riordan||Costello|
|4.||"Ataypura"||Moises Vivanco||Yma Sumac|
|5.||"Traffic Boom"||Piero Piccioni||Piccioni|
|6.||"I Got It Bad & That Ain't Good"||Duke Ellington and Paul Francis Webster||Nina Simone|
|7.||"Stamping Ground" (The track actually includes two songs, starting with "Theme", which then leads to "Stamping Ground")||Moondog||Moondog|
|8.||"Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)"||Mickey Newbury||Kenny Rogers & The First Edition|
|9.||"Walking Song"||Meredith Monk||Monk|
|10.||"Glück das mir verblieb" (from Die tote Stadt )||Erich Wolfgang Korngold||Ilona Steingruber, Anton Dermota and the Austrian State Radio Orchestra|
|12.||"Hotel California"||Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Don Felder||The Gipsy Kings|
|13.||"Technopop" (Wie Glauben)||Carter Burwell||Burwell|
|14.||"Dead Flowers"||Mick Jagger and Keith Richards||Townes van Zandt|
|Other music used (not on soundtrack album)|
|1.||"Tumbling Tumbleweeds"||Bob Nolan||Sons of the Pioneers|
|2.||"Mucha Muchacha"||Juan García Esquivel||Esquivel|
|3.||"I Hate You"||Gary Burger, David Havlicek, Roger Johnston, Thomas E. Shaw and Larry Spangler||The Monks|
|4.||"Requiem in D Minor: Introitus and Lacrimosa"||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir|
|5.||"Run Through the Jungle"||John Fogerty||Creedence Clearwater Revival|
|6.||"Behave Yourself"||Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Al Jackson, Jr. and Lewie Steinberg||Booker T. & the MG's|
|7.||"Standing on the Corner"||Frank Loesser||Dean Martin|
|8.||"Tammy"||Jay Livingston and Ray Evans||Debbie Reynolds|
|9.||"We Venerate Thy Cross"||traditional||The Rustavi Choir|
|10.||"Lookin' Out My Back Door"||John Fogerty||Creedence Clearwater Revival|
|11.||"Gnomus" (from Pictures at an Exhibition)||Modest Mussorgsky, arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel.|
|12.||"Oye Como Va"||Tito Puente||Santana|
|13.||"Piacere Sequence"||Teo Usuelli||Usuelli|
|14.||"Branded Theme Song"||Alan Alch and Dominic Frontiere|
|15.||"Peaceful Easy Feeling"||Jack Tempchin||Eagles|
|16.||"Viva Las Vegas"||Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman||ZZ Top (with Bunny Lebowski); and Shawn Colvin (closing credits).|
|17.||"Dick on a Case"||Carter Burwell||Burwell|
The Big Lebowski received its world premiere at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 1998 at the 1,300-capacity Eccles Theater. It was also screened at the 48th Berlin International Film Festival before opening in North America on March 6, 1998 in 1,207 theaters. It grossed USD $5.5 million on its opening weekend, grossing US$17 million in the United States, just above its US$15 million budget. The film's worldwide gross outside of the US was $28 million, bringing its worldwide gross to $46,189,568.
Many critics and audiences have likened the film to a modern Western, while many others dispute this, or liken it to a crime novel that revolves around mistaken identity plot devices. Peter Howell, in his review for the Toronto Star, wrote: "It's hard to believe that this is the work of a team that won an Oscar last year for the original screenplay of Fargo. There's a large amount of profanity in the movie, which seems a weak attempt to paper over dialogue gaps." Howell revised his opinion in a later review, and more recently stated that "it may just be my favourite Coen Bros. film."
Todd McCarthy in Variety magazine wrote: "One of the film's indisputable triumphs is its soundtrack, which mixes Carter Burwell's original score with classic pop tunes and some fabulous covers." USA Today gave the film three out of four stars and felt that the Dude was "too passive a hero to sustain interest", but that there was "enough startling brilliance here to suggest that, just like the Dude, those smarty-pants Coens will abide".
In his review for the Washington Post, Desson Howe praised the Coens and "their inspired, absurdist taste for weird, peculiar Americana – but a sort of neo-Americana that is entirely invented – the Coens have defined and mastered their own bizarre subgenre. No one does it like them and, it almost goes without saying, no one does it better."
Janet Maslin praised Bridges' performance in her review for The New York Times: "Mr. Bridges finds a role so right for him that he seems never to have been anywhere else. Watch this performance to see shambling executed with nonchalant grace and a seemingly out-to-lunch character played with fine comic flair." Andrew Sarris, in his review for the New York Observer, wrote: "The result is a lot of laughs and a feeling of awe toward the craftsmanship involved. I doubt that there'll be anything else like it the rest of this year." In a five star review for Empire Magazine, Ian Nathan wrote: "For those who delight in the Coens' divinely abstract take on reality, this is pure nirvana" and "In a perfect world all movies would be made by the Coen brothers." Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, describing it as "weirdly engaging". In a 2010 review, Ebert gave The Big Lebowski four stars out of four and added the film to his "Great Movies" list.
However, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote in the Chicago Reader: "To be sure, The Big Lebowski is packed with show-offy filmmaking and as a result is pretty entertaining. But insofar as it represents a moral position–and the Coens' relative styling of their figures invariably does–it's an elitist one, elevating salt-of-the-earth types like Bridges and Goodman ... over everyone else in the movie." Dave Kehr, in his review for the Daily News, criticized the film's premise as a "tired idea, and it produces an episodic, unstrung film". The Guardian criticized the film as "a bunch of ideas shoveled into a bag and allowed to spill out at random. The film is infuriating, and will win no prizes. But it does have some terrific jokes."
The Big Lebowski currently holds an approval rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 88 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Typically stunning visuals and sharp dialogue from the Coen Brothers, brought to life with strong performances from Goodman and Bridges."
Since its original release, The Big Lebowski has become a cult classic. Ardent fans of the film call themselves "achievers". Steve Palopoli wrote about the film's emerging cult status in July 2002. He first realized that the film had a cult following when he attended a midnight screening in 2000 at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles and witnessed people quoting dialogue from the film to each other.:129 Soon after the article appeared, the programmer for a local midnight film series in Santa Cruz decided to screen The Big Lebowski and on the first weekend they had to turn away several hundred people. The theater held the film over for six weeks, which had never happened before.:130
An annual festival, Lebowski Fest, began in Louisville, Kentucky, United States in 2002 with 150 fans showing up, and has since expanded to several other cities. The festival's main event each year is a night of unlimited bowling with various contests including costume, trivia, hardest- and farthest-traveled contests. Held over a weekend, events typically include a pre-fest party with bands the night before the bowling event as well as a day-long outdoor party with bands, vendor booths and games. Various celebrities from the film have even attended some of the events, including Jeff Bridges who attended the Los Angeles event. The British equivalent, inspired by Lebowski Fest, is known as The Dude Abides and is held in London.
Dudeism, a religion devoted largely to spreading the philosophy and lifestyle of the film's main character, was founded in 2005. Also known as The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, the organization has ordained over 220,000 "Dudeist Priests" all over the world via its website.
Two species of African spider are named after the film and main character: Anelosimus biglebowski and Anelosimus dude, both described in 2006. Additionally, an extinct Permian conifer genus is named after the film in honor of its creators. The first species described within this genus in 2007 is based on 270-million-year-old plant fossils from Texas, and is called Lebowskia grandifolia.
Entertainment Weekly ranked it 8th on their Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years list. The film was also ranked No. 34 on their list of "The Top 50 Cult Films" and ranked No. 15 on the magazine's "The Cult 25: The Essential Left-Field Movie Hits Since '83" list. In addition, the magazine also ranked The Dude No. 14 in their "The 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years" poll. The film was also nominated for the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association. The Big Lebowski was voted as the 10th best film set in Los Angeles in the last 25 years by a group of Los Angeles Times writers and editors with two criteria: "The movie had to communicate some inherent truth about the L.A. experience, and only one film per director was allowed on the list." Empire magazine ranked Walter Sobchak No. 49 and the Dude No. 7 in their "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters" poll. Roger Ebert added The Big Lebowski to his list of "Great Movies" in March 2010.
John Turturro has suggested a number of times that he would be interested in doing a spin-off film using his character Jesus Quintana. If the project got off the ground, the Coens would not direct it but may have a part in writing it.
The film has been used as a tool for analysis on a number of issues. In September 2008, Slate published an article that interpreted The Big Lebowski as a political critique. The center piece of this viewpoint was that Walter Sobchak is "a neocon", citing the film's references to then President George H. W. Bush and the first Gulf War.
In "That Rug Really Tied the Room Together", first published in 2001, Joseph Natoli argues that The Dude represents a counter narrative to the post-Reaganomic entrepreneurial rush for “return on investment” on display in such films as Jerry Maguire and Forrest Gump.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment released a "Collector's Edition" DVD on October 18, 2005 with extra features that included an "introduction by Mortimer Young", "Jeff Bridges' Photography", "Making of The Big Lebowski", and "Production Notes". In addition, a limited-edition "Achiever's Edition Gift Set" also included The Big Lebowski Bowling Shammy Towel, four Collectible Coasters that included photographs and quotable lines from the film, and eight Exclusive Photo Cards from Jeff Bridges' personal collection.
A "10th Anniversary Edition" was released on September 9, 2008 and features all of the extras from the "Collector's Edition" and "The Dude's Life: Strikes and Gutters ... Ups and Downs ... The Dude Abides" theatrical trailer (from the first DVD release), "The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever's Story", "Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of the Dude", "Interactive Map", "Jeff Bridges Photo Book", and a "Photo Gallery". There are both a standard release and a Limited Edition which features "Bowling Ball Packaging" and is individually numbered.
On August 16, 2011, Universal Pictures released The Big Lebowski on Blu-ray. The limited-edition package includes a Jeff Bridges photo book, a ten-years-on retrospective, and an in-depth look at the annual Lebowski Fest. The film is also available in the Blu-ray Coen Brothers box set released in the UK, however this version is region free and will work in any Blu-ray player.
The Coen brothers have stated publicly that they will never make a sequel to The Big Lebowski. Nevertheless, John Turturro expressed keen interest in reprising his role as Jesus Quintana, and announced in 2014 that he had requested permission to use the character. In August 2016, it was reported that Turturro is reprising his role as Jesus Quintana in Going Places, a spin-off of The Big Lebowski, based on the 1974 French film Going Places, with Turturro starring, writing, and directing; it is currently filming. The Coen brothers, although having granted Turturro the right to use the character, will not be involved, and no other character from The Big Lebowski will be featured.
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- Decade of The Dude: Rolling Stone's 2008 Feature on "The Big Lebowski" in Rolling Stone magazine
- "Is The Big Lebowski a cultural milestone?", BBC, October 10, 2008
- "Dissertations on His Dudeness", Dwight Garner, The New York Times, December 29, 2009
- Comentale, Edward P. and Aaron Jaffe, eds. The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies. Bloomington: 2009.
- "Deception and detection: The Trickster Archetype in the film, The Big Lebowski, and its cult following" in Trickster's Way