The Big Lebowski is my favorite comedy of all time. I’ve watched it an uncountable number of times and I’m still sent into hysterics by every plot twist and eccentric character. I can play back the entire movie in my head and I’ll still laugh at every joke. But the truth is that I’m just one in a million.
When The Big Lebowski was first released back on this date in 1998 it was actually a total box office dud. Despite being the Coen brothers’ follow up to the hit, Oscar winning Fargo, nobody really cared about the adventures of The Dude when the movie was in theaters. Since its release, however, the film has cultivated a cult following and is a bona fide phenomenon, spurring fans to actually create an annual festival.Books have been written about its philosophy (opens in new tab). And yes, there’s even a religion based on it called Dudeism.
If you haven’t already done the math, today is the fifteenth anniversary of The Big Lebowski’s release in theaters, and we couldn’t let the day go by without doing a little bit of celebrating. We’ve searched around to collect our 15 favorite scenes from the legendary comedy, celebrating the greatest hits of The Dude, Walter, Donnie, Jesus, Bunny, Maude, Brent, Uli, Jackie and the rest of the amazing cast of characters. Read on below and head to the comments after to tell us your favorite Lebowski moments!
As a part of the film noir tradition The Big Lebowski needed voice-over narration to guide the story, and if that has to happen why not get the best voice you possibly can? And not only do you have the greatness of Sam Elliot, you have the ominous date written on the check along with footage from the Gulf War. Spooky!
The Rug Incident
Within the first five minutes of the movie our protagonist gets his head shoved in a toilet and his favorite rug peed on. It’s both sad and hilarious at the same time, mostly because of the way all of the negativity and scariness of the situation just bounces off The Dude.
I’m The Dude
“Or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.” Need I say more?
Blow On Them
This scene would be hilarious if it were just The Dude and Bunny, but what bumps it up to being one of the best in the film is the spectacularly awkward reaction shot of Brent after Bunny’s special offer. It’s also just great to have two Oscar winners doing a scene with Tara Reid.
Over The Line
John Goodman is an awesome actor, particularly when working with the Coens, but there’s a very good reason why The Big Lebowski is his most memorable work. Nobody could have played Walter other than him and you need look no further than this scene for proof.
John Turturro’s part in the movie is short, but his impact is infinite. I still can’t be sure what would motivate somebody to lick a bowling ball, but perhaps I’m the strange one. And how great is it to introduce the antagonist to a Spanish version of a song originally sung by a band that the protagonist hates, as established later in the movie? Is that too nerdy an observation?
Making The Drop
Some horrible, horrible things happen to The Dude’s car throughout The Big Lebowski and this is the very beginning. Walter proves to be an even bigger nutjob than once thought, but at the same time we never want to see these two characters apart ever again.
Maude Flies In
There are a ton of weird characters in The Big Lebowski, but it’s hard to argue that Maude isn’t in the top tier. Perfectly personifying the odd modern artist of Los Angeles, her language practically comes from another world and it’s amazing to hear it repeated by The Dude later in the film.
Forget About The Toe
Someday I want to see the Coens direct a short film that chronicles how exactly Walter would go about finding a toe with nail polish. Say what you will about the character, but when he says he could get The Dude a toe I actually believe him.
On a personal level, this is my favorite scene in the movie. The Dude’s freakout in the tub is legendary, the Nilihists bizarre costumes are perfect, and the choice of cricket bat over baseball bat matches the entire tone of the film.
This Is What Happens Larry
Those who have only watched the television cut of The Big Lebowski know this as the scene where Walter yells, “This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps,” but I much prefer the uncensored cut. Once again The Dude’s car is subjected to undeserved punishment and we just sit back and laugh.
I’m Jackie Treehorn
The Coen brothers made this film as a tribute to the stories of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and you can’t have a story like that without your wealthy playboys and palatial mansions. The weird factor is once again taken to 11, The Dude gets a legitimate opportunity to play detective, and the end of the scene delivers a direct tribute to The Maltese Falcon. Brilliant.
I know a few people that didn’t really get The Big Lebowski on their first viewing and blame odd scenes like this one for that, but after multiple rewatches it’s clearly one of the best in the movie. It’s the entire movie boiled down into one freaky fantasy music video for Kenny Roger’s “Just Dropped In.”
The Police Chief of Malibu
Yes, I realize that between this one and the last two clips you’ve actually watched a good solid segment of the entire film, but how could we not include the fascist Police Chief of Malibu? As seen previously in the movie, The Dude isn’t great with authority figures, and this is really where that becomes a problem.
The Battle Against The Nihilists
As the Narrator says at the end of the film you hate to see Donny go, but this scene has it all. The ultimate death of The Dude’s car, Walter being a total madman, Peter Stormare getting an ear ripped off and Flea taking a bowling ball to the groin. Anyone else wonder what happened to Walter’s undies?
Those are my favorites, but did I miss yours? Let us know in the comments below!
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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