Jeff Bridges Reflects On F-Bombs And Critical Reception To The Big Lebowski 25 Years Later: ‘People Didn’t Get It’

Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski
(Image credit: Universal)

Today it seems like the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski is one of the most culturally ubiquitous films ever made. It’s a movie that millions of people can quote, including  some who have never actually seen it. It makes it hard to believe that 25 years ago when the film was released, it actually wasn’t that well received. And star Jeff Bridges says people didn’t understand it.

Upon its release, The Big Lebowski movie got mediocre reviews and didn’t set the box office on fire. This was something of a shock to Jeff Bridges at the time. He told THR that he had fully expected The Big Lebowski to be a big hit, but it largely went by unnoticed. Bridges said…

I thought it was going to be a big hit. I was surprised when it didn’t get much recognition. People didn’t get it, or something.

Maybe it shouldn't be surprising that people didn’t “get” The Big Lebowski at first. The movie is undeniably weird. Bridges’ The Dude isn’t just your average movie slacker protagonist, he is their king. Every character is exaggerated to an incredible degree, and while that’s par for the course for the Coen Brothers, Lebowski was such a departure from the Coens' previous film (Oscar winner Fargo) that maybe people just didn’t know how to look at it.

One of the reasons that The Big Lebowski may have thrown people for a loop was the way the dialogue was delivered. While Coen Brothers’ language is always carefully crafted, this movie’s dialogue was a symphony of profanity. Co-star John Goodman has said the language made him nervous filming some scenes. Bridges says he and Goodman were very careful with how it was all handled, sharing:

I remember John and I being concerned about where each ‘man’ was, where each ‘fuck’ was — there was a music to it, and we wanted to make sure we hit all the notes.

Perhaps it was the “music” of the f-bombs that attracted the cult audience that eventually discovered The Big Lebowski, and made it the hit that it became. While many may have skipped it in theaters, they eventually found it on home video, or theory flipped it on when it was on cable TV. Moviegoers discovered the film and gave it a chance, and now its popularity is hard to understate.

It’s difficult to even call it a cult classic now. It’s just a movie that a lot of people love and watch so often they can recite it back and forth to each other. I suppose if nothing else that means Jeff Bridges and the rest of the Big Lebowski cast did a good job hitting all the right notes. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.