If someone who doesn’t know what “cult classic” means when referring to a movie asks what one is, tell them The Big Lebowski, because that’s a perfect example. It’s a quirky little stoner comedy written and directed by the Coen brothers, inspired by the mystery stories of Raymond Chandler.
There’s no other movie quite like it: it’s a unique blend of literary intrigue and mindless banter. Picture a film noir where instead of Philip Marlowe, the lead character is Cheech. Jeff Bridges plays the lead role of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, giving us an iconic cinematic character that ranks alongside the likes of Travis Bickle and Darth Vader.
The reason it’s a cult classic is that when it first came out, audiences didn’t quite get it, so it didn’t really make a splash at the box office. However, over the years, the movie has managed to garner legions of fans and even has a whole religion based on it called Dudeism.
The Coen sharp, hilarious screenplay paired with terrific performances has made The Big Lebowski one of the most quotable movies of all time. Narrowing it down to the 15 best was nearly impossible, but here they are.
15. “Say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”
There are many different groups of antagonists in The Big Lebowski, but the strangest of them all is the group of nihilists who are after The Dude and his cohorts. This really bothers the politically outspoken Walter Sobchak, who will never let you forget that he fought in ‘Nam.
When The Dude mentions the nihilists who are after him, Walter says, “Nihilists! F*** me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.” He’s basically saying Nazis are better than nihilists because at least they believe in something. It’s not a great ideology, but at least it is an ideology.
Pretty much all of the best quotes in The Big Lebowski are spoken by either John Goodman or Jeff Bridges. They have a good supporting cast behind them, but they make the movie.
14. “Obviously you’re not a golfer.”
The Coen brother’s excellent and truly original screenplay for The Big Lebowski is full of absurdist dialogues and random non-sequiturs, but no one line is more random or absurdist than The Dude’s response to one of Jackie Treehorn’s thugs holding up his bowling ball and asking, “What the f*** is this?” The Dude responds, “Obviously you’re not a golfer.”
The “golfer” thing just adds one little extra layer of comedy to really make you laugh out loud. “Obviously you’re not a bowler,” would’ve worked just fine. It would get the point across that The Dude is laidback and doesn’t care and cracks jokes even when he’s being threatened, but it’s the random “golfer” part that really sells it.
The Coens don’t settle for the most obvious line – you have to admire them for that.
13. “Will you come off it, Walter? You’re not even f***ing Jewish, man.”
Throughout the whole movie, Walter talks about being Jewish and what he is and is not allowed to do on the Sabbath.
Finally, in the third act of the movie, when things have escalated enough, as Walter is telling The Dude, “Here we are, it’s Shabbos, the Sabbath, which I’m allowed to break only if it’s a matter of life or death,” The Dude reveals that Walter isn’t even a Jew. He says, “Will you come off it, Walter? You’re not even f***ing Jewish, man.”
It turns out that Walter was born Polish Catholic and he only converted to Judaism a few years before the events of the film for his wife, and she’s not even with him anymore. But Walter counters, “What are you saying? When you get divorced, you turn in your library card? You get a new license? You stop being Jewish?”
12. “Or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”
When The Dude first visits the other Jeffrey Lebowski, there’s a definite culture clash.
The “big” Lebowski is a wealthy, well-dressed, successful man with a big house and a well-adjusted (well, seemingly well-adjusted) life, whereas the “little” Lebowski, The Dude, is unemployed, never knows what day it is, lounges around in loose-fitting shorts and a dirty cardigan, drinks White Russians at any time of day, and doesn’t seem to care about anything.
But there are two things he cares about – his rug that really tied the room together, and his name. “Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not ‘Mr. Lebowski.’ You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m The Dude. So, that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”
11. “Nobody f***s with the Jesus!”
John Turturro’s character of Jesus Quintana is a small role, but he is also a memorable one. It’s like that old saying: there are no small parts, only small actors. And John Turturro is not a small actor – he took the bit part of Jesus Quintana and he made him larger than life.
He somehow managed to make a pervert who is on the sex offender registery and spent six months in prison in California for exposing himself to an eight-year-old child a watchable and enjoyable character. There aren’t many actors who could make a pedophile entertaining, but Turturro pulls it off.
Easily Jesus’ most iconic quote from The Big Lebowski is, “Nobody f***s with the Jesus!” He always refers to himself in the third person as “the Jesus,” using the English pronunciation of the Christian Messiah and not the Spanish pronunciation of the actual male name.
10. “Life does not stop and start at your convenience, you miserable piece of s***.”
The Dude ranks alongside Indiana Jones, Rocky Balboa, and John McClane as a cinematic icon, but people often forget Walter Sobchak, the volatile Vietnam veteran played by John Goodman. He’s an equally great and equally iconic character, and boy, does he hate Steve Buscemi’s character, Donny.
When Donny tries to join a conversation that he’s missed a lot of because he was bowling, Walter tells him, “Life does not stop and start at your convenience, you miserable piece of s***.” This is a quote that can be applied in real life when you’re with your friends and someone tries to butt in or join and they’re too late.
Donny’s response to this is great, too, as he simply turns to The Dude and asks, “What’s wrong with Walter, Dude?”
9. “This aggression will not stand, man.”
This is another Dude quote that can easily by applied in everyday situations. If someone’s getting in your face or starting to get irritated with you, just say, “This aggression will not stand, man.” It’s the chilliest way to get angry at someone.
It comes when the other Jeffrey Lebowski, who truly hates The Dude and everything he stands for, asks him, “Are you employed, sir?” Confused, The Dude replies, “Employed?” So, the other Lebowski elaborates: “You don’t go out looking for a job dressed like that? On a weekday?” Confused even more, The Dude asks, “Is this a…what day is this?”
Then the other Lebowski says, “Well, I do work sir, so if you don’t mind…” And that’s when The Dude has his moment: “I do mind. The Dude minds. This will not stand, ya know? This aggression will not stand, man.”
8. “You’re out of your element, Donny!”
Walter really hates Steve Buscemi’s character Donny. It’s a surprise that he even still hangs out with him. Every word that comes out of Donny’s mouth seems to rub Walter the wrong way and infuriate him. For example, when Donny returns from bowling to the middle of a conversation he has no idea about, Walter is angry that he thinks he can just join in.
“You have no frame of reference here, Donny. You’re like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie.” The conviction with which Walter keeps telling Donny, “You’re out of your element, Donny,” throughout the entire conversation that Donny never backs down from, despite all the hate – it gets you every time, even though he says it like nine times throughout the scene.
7. “You want a toe? I can get you a toe.”
When The Dude receives a toe in the mail, he freaks out. He believes that this disproves a theory he has held with Walter that Bunny has not been kidnapped, but Walter doesn’t fall for it. He thinks they’ve simply put Bunny’s nail polish on someone else’s toe and sent that toe to them.
The Dude is puzzled as to where a toe will come from. Then Walter nonchalantly says what is quite possibly the most insane thing he says in the whole movie (and that’s saying a lot):
“You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don’t wanna know about it, believe me. Hell, I can get you a toe by three o’clock this afternoon. With nail polish. These f***ing amateurs…”
One brilliant little nuance that John Goodman brings to this scene is that before promising The Dude that he can get him a toe by three o’clock in the afternoon, he checks his watch to make sure he has time. He’s just fantastic.
6. “Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”
One of the heaviest drinkers in all of film, Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski is partial to a White Russian. It’s his favorite cocktail.
Every time he’s over at someone’s house or office and they offer him a drink, that’s what he asks for. In fact, when we first meet him in the movie, he’s in the supermarket picking out cartons of milk with which to make his beloved drink.
The White Russian he got in Maude’s studio comes home in the car with him, but as he steps out of the car, he’s jumped and forced into a limousine. Of course, The Dude’s main concern is not his own safety, but the safety of his drink. He tells the goon who’s grabbed him, “Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”
5. “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
John Turturro’s character from The Big Lebowski, Jesus Quintana, is finally getting his own spin-off coming out soon. It’ll be directed by Turturro himself, who finally managed to get permission to use the character from the Coen brothers, who will not be involved with the movie at all. Jesus is The Dude, Walter, and Donny’s closest rival in the bowling tournament.
He comes up to them in the bowling alley during practice to taunt them, saying, “You ready to be f***ed, man? I see you rolled your way into the semis. Dios mio, man. Liam and me, we’re gonna f*** you up.” It’s a serious dig that cuts deep, but then The Dude fires back with what is possibly the greatest and most usable comebacks of all time: “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” It’s a comeback that can be applied to any everyday situation, and it puts an end to any taunting. Go ahead and use it!
4. “Smokey, my friend, you are entering a world of pain.”
A lot of Walter’s lines would be terrifying and unsettling in the hands of a lesser actor than John Goodman, but Goodman manages to present them in a way that is hysterical. It can really be explained how.
One example is when he believes Smokey’s foot went over the line while bowling in a league game, which determines which teams make the championship, and Smokey maintains that his foot didn’t go over the line and persists in marking the bowl as an eight. So, naturally, Walter takes out a gun, points it at Smokey, and tells him that he’s “entering a world of pain.”
When the other bowlers tell Walter that he’s the one in the wrong, he cries out, “Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a s*** about the rules? Mark it zero!” Later, the cops arrive, but by then, Walter is long gone and busy committing worse crimes.
3. “That rug really tied the room together.”
If you ask anyone who’s seen the movie a few times what the most memorable line in The Big Lebowski is, they’ll likely say, “That rug really tied the room together.” This is easily the most repeated line in the movie, and it’s also the crux of the entire story. If that rug hadn’t tied the room together, there wouldn’t have been a problem.
The Dude would have never gone to visit the other Jeffrey Lebowski to get him to compensate him for the rug that got peed on and he wouldn’t have gotten himself swept up in the whole plot. So, thanks to that rug being so dear to The Dude and so integral to his living room, the whole rest of the movie happens.
2. “You see what happens, Larry?!”
When John Goodman is in character as Walter Sobchak, he is the king of rage comedy. There are few actors who can successfully pull off an angry outburst ridden with expletives and violence that is also gut-bustingly hilarious, but Goodman does it every five minutes as trigger happy Vietnam vet Walter.
His crowning outburst is when he explodes at Larry, the kid who he and The Dude mistakenly think has stolen their briefcase of money.
Walter goes out on the front lawn with a crowbar and smashes up what he mistakenly thinks is the sports car Larry has bought with the money. “Here you go, Larry. You see what happens? You see what happens, Larry?! This is what happens when you f*** a stranger in the ass, Larry! This is what happens, Larry! You see what happens, Larry?! You see what happens when you f*** a stranger in the ass?!”
The scene becomes even funnier when Walter realizes it’s not Larry’s car, and then even funnier yet when the rightful owner smashes up what he thinks is Walter’s car but is really The Dude’s.
1. “The Dude abides.”
This is the final line spoken by The Dude in the movie, at the end of his conversation at the bar with The Stranger, our mysterious narrator. The Stranger says, “Take it easy, Dude. I know that you will.” Then The Dude replies, “Yeah, well, The Dude abides,” and then he’s gone from our screens forever.
The Stranger explains to the camera, “‘The Dude abides.’ I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ her easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals.” This is possibly the moment that the Taosim-inspired religion Dudeism was born, painting The Dude as a godlike figure we should all look up to.