The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski (//) is a 1998 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, then 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; the plan goes awry when the Dude's friend Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) schemes to keep the ransom money. Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, John Turturro and Philip Seymour Hoffman also appear, in supporting roles.
|The Big Lebowski|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Coen|
|Produced by||Ethan Coen|
|Music by||Carter Burwell|
|Distributed by||PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (UK)|
Gramercy Pictures (US)
|Box office||$46.7 million|
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 received mixed reviews at the time of its release. Over time, reviews have become largely positive, and the film has become a cult favorite, noted for its eccentric characters, comedic dream sequences, idiosyncratic 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".
In 1991 Los Angeles, Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, a middle-aged bachelor with a penchant for cannabis and bowling, is assaulted by two goons hired by pornographer Jackie Treehorn, demanding money owed by the wife of another Jeffrey Lebowski (the eponymous "Big Lebowski"). Realizing they have the wrong man, they leave after one of them urinates on the Dude's rug.
On the advice of his bowling partners Donny Kerabatsos and Vietnam veteran Walter Sobchak, the Dude seeks compensation from the other Lebowski, a wealthy, disabled philanthropist who refuses his request. Leaving Lebowski's mansion, the Dude takes a valuable rug and meets Bunny, Lebowski's young trophy wife.
Days later, the Dude is told that Bunny has been kidnapped, and Lebowski wants the Dude to deliver the ransom money to find out if the kidnappers are the same people who soiled his rug. The Dude informs Walter and Donny about the kidnapping and suggests that Bunny may have staged her own kidnapping to use the ransom money to pay off her debts; Walter is immediately convinced of this and becomes incredulous at her greed. That night, another pair of thugs knock the Dude unconscious and take his new rug.
The kidnappers arrange a meeting, and Walter accompanies the Dude. Still convinced that Bunny "kidnapped herself", he enacts a plan to give them another briefcase, containing Walter's "dirty undies", so he and the Dude can keep the ransom money. To the Dude's horror, Walter gives the kidnappers the fake briefcase. After another game of bowling, the Dude's car is stolen with the real briefcase inside.
Lebowski's daughter Maude calls the Dude, explaining that she took the rug and inviting him to visit her. She plays him a pornographic video revealing Bunny was one of Treehorn's actresses. Confirming the Dude's theory that Bunny staged her own abduction, Maude asks the Dude to recover the ransom which her father withdrew from the family's personal foundation. Lebowski confronts the Dude, angry that he failed to deliver the ransom, and shows him a severed toe presumed to be Bunny's. Three German nihilists threaten the Dude, identifying themselves as the kidnappers, however Maude says they are friends of Bunny.
The Dude's car is recovered by police, minus the briefcase, but inside the Dude finds the homework of a high school student named Larry Sellers. Walter and the Dude confront Larry at his family's home, and Walter uses a crowbar to wreck a new sports car parked outside which he believes Larry bought with the stolen money. The car's real owner rushes outside and wrecks the Dude's car in revenge, thinking it to be Walter's.
The Dude is forcibly brought to Treehorn, who is seeking Bunny and the money she owes him. Treehorn drugs the Dude's white Russian cocktail, causing him to dream about starring in a Treehorn film about bowling with Maude. Awakening in police custody, the Dude is assaulted by the Malibu police chief. After being kicked out of a cab for hating the Eagles, the Dude is unknowingly passed by Bunny, revealed to still have all of her toes. The Dude returns home to find his bungalow ransacked by Treehorn's goons. He is seduced by Maude, who hopes to conceive a child but wishes him to have no involvement in its upbringing. She explains that her father has no money of his own, as her late mother left everything to the family charity.
Having had an epiphany, the Dude has Walter drive him to the Lebowski estate, where Bunny has returned, and the truth of her disappearance is revealed: When Bunny left town on an unannounced trip, her nihilist friends faked her kidnapping to extort money from her husband; Lebowski, who hated his wife, withdrew the ransom from the foundation but kept it for himself, instead giving the Dude a briefcase containing phone books. Walter and the Dude confront Lebowski, who refuses to admit responsibility, so Walter picks him up and throws him out of his wheelchair, thinking he is also faking his paralysis.
The Dude and his friends return to the bowling alley, where they are confronted by the nihilists. Learning there was never any money, the nihilists try to rob them but Walter violently fends them off. During the scuffle, Donny suffers a fatal heart attack and dies.
Some time later, after delivering an informal eulogy to Donny at the beach, Walter accidentally scatters Donny's ashes onto the Dude. They go bowling, and the Dude encounters the film's cowboy narrator, who tells the audience that Maude is pregnant with a "little Lebowski" and hopes that the Dude and Walter will win their upcoming 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; a Vietnam veteran and bowling partner and friend of "The Dude." Walter was based, in part, on screenwriter and director John Milius.:189
- Julianne Moore as Maude Lebowski; Jeffrey "The Big" Lebowski's daughter, a feminist and an avant-garde artist.
- Steve Buscemi as Theodore Donald "Donny" Kerabatsos; a bowling partner and friend of "The Dude." Walter's repeated response, "Shut the fuck up, Donny!" is a reference to Fargo, in which Buscemi's character was constantly talking and interrupting conversations when he is not paying attention to the story.
- David Huddleston as Jeffrey "The Big" Lebowski; a millionaire philanthropist for whom "The Dude" is mistaken.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Brandt; Jeffrey "The Big" Lebowski's executive assistant
- Tara Reid as Bunny Lebowski; Jeffrey "The Big" Lebowski's blonde 20s-something trophy wife and former porn video performer (“Log Jammin’”) for Jackie Treehorn Productions. According to Reid, Charlize Theron also tried out for the role.:72
- Philip Moon as Woo; a Jackie Treehorn thug
- Mark Pellegrino as the Blond Treehorn thug
- Peter Stormare, Torsten Voges, and Flea as Uli Kunkel/Karl Hungus, Franz, and Kieffer, the German nihilists; Uli originated on the set of Fargo between Ethan Coen and Stormare, who often spoke in a mock German accent.:57
- Jimmie Dale Gilmore as Smokey; a hippie bowler in the league whom Walter threatens at gunpoint over an attempt to mark his frame an eight despite letting his foot move over the alley line
- Jack Kehler as Marty; The Dude's landlord, who is also a performance artist
- John Turturro as Jesus Quintana. The Coen brothers let Turturro come up with many of his own ideas for the character, like towel-shining the bowling ball and the scene where he dances backward from his bowling alley line, which he says was inspired by Muhammad Ali.:44
- David Thewlis as Knox Harrington, an avant-garde videographer-friend of Maude Lebowski
- Sam Elliott as The Stranger, a smooth-talking urban cowboy who also serves as the narrator of the film
- Ben Gazzara as big-time porn video producer Jackie Treehorn, to whom Bunny Lebowski owes money
- Jon Polito as Da Fino, a private dick who mistakes the Dude for a "brother shamus", hired by Bunny's family to return her to them
- Leon Russom as the Malibu police chief
- Aimee Mann as Nihilist Woman/Franz's Girlfriend who donates her amputated green nail-polished little toe (proof of Bunny Lebowski's kidnapping)
- Lu Elrod as a coffee shop waitress
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 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 Coen Brothers wrote The Big Lebowski 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 much 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 |
|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". 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, an 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|
|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 $5.5 million on its opening weekend, finishing up with a gross of $18 million in the United States, just above its US$15 million budget. The film's worldwide gross outside of the US was $28.7 million, bringing its worldwide gross to $46.7 million.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 82% based on 101 reviews, with an average score of 7.39/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Typically stunning visuals and sharp dialogue from the Coen Brothers, brought to life with strong performances from Goodman and Bridges." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 71 out of 100 based on 23 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
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 in 2011 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."
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.
A spin-off based on John Turturro's character, titled The Jesus Rolls, was released in 2019, with Turturro also acting as writer and director.
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 that they will never make a sequel to The Big Lebowski. Nevertheless, John Turturro expressed interest in reprising his role as Jesus Quintana, and in 2014, he announced that he had requested permission to use the character. In August 2016, it was reported that Turturro would reprise his role as Jesus Quintana in The Jesus Rolls, a spin-off of The Big Lebowski, based on the 1974 French film Going Places, with Turturro starring, writing, and directing. It was released in 2020. The Coen brothers, although having granted Turturro the right to use the character, were not involved, and no other character from The Big Lebowski was featured in the film.
On January 24, 2019, Jeff Bridges posted a 5-second clip on Twitter with the statement: "Can't be living in the past, man. Stay tuned" and showing Bridges as the Dude, walking through a room as a tumbleweed rolls by. The clip was a teaser trailer for an ad during Super Bowl LIII which featured Bridges reprising the role of The Dude for a Stella Artois commercial.
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At the end of the clip, the date "2.3.19" appears. "A sequel! And it's coming out in like 10 days!" I immediately thought. But then I remembered the American liturgical calendar: Feb. 3 is the Super Bowl. This couldn't be as good as it seemed.
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- The Big Lebowski essay by J.M. Tyree & Ben Walters at National Film Registry 
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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