The Big Lebowski — The Coen Brothers’ Funniest Movie

Dan Geddes
6 min readAug 26, 2020

Review by Dan Geddes

Spoiler alert: This review assumes you’ve seen the movie and so contains spoilers.

Why do so many people love The Big Lebowski?

The Big Lebowski is the Coen brothers’ funniest movie, a smart, feel-good comedy. While all the Coen’s movies feature a dry sense of humor, usually the violence or neo-noir elements dominate and prevent the viewer from relaxing enough to enjoy the humor. While Lebowski has its share of action (mainly involving The Dude getting knocked around), the movie always remains fun. Raising Arizona (1987) is probably their next funniest movie, but there the action scenes, almost a live-action cartoon, were the funniest element.

The quotable dialogue is a key reason for Lebowski’s enduring popularity. Granted, since so many lines contain a gratuitous “fuckin,’” lines from Lebowski have not passed into the “parlance of our time” exactly. Yet for Lebowski devotees, the anticipation of favored lines of dialogue is one of the movie’s chief pleasures.

The rapport (and tension) between The Dude (Jeff Bridges) and Walter (John Goodman) provides the situations for much of the funny dialogue. We like the fact that Walter, a Vietnam veteran, and The Dude, a war protester, get along so well, and are bowling buddies. They are even more than that; their banter sounds more like familial bickering where Walter is the father, The Dude the mother, and Donny their child (“Shut the fuck up, Donny!”).

The plot of Lebowski is almost beside the point. The Dude coincidentally shares a name with a Pasadena millionaire, Jeff Lebowski, so some thugs rough up The Dude, seeking repayment for Bunny Lebowski’s debts. They also pee on his rug. After The Dude protests that he’s not married (“Does this place look like I’m fuckin’ married? The toilet seat’s up, man!”), they leave. But Walter talks The Dude into visiting the other Jeff Lebowski, seeking recompense for the soiled rug.

This misunderstanding sends The Dude to Pasadena, where he meets Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who fills in The Dude about the wealth and accomplishments of the millionaire Jeff Lebowski. The contrast between the two Lebowski’s — one a lazy slacker, the other a seemingly accomplished philanthropist —…

Dan Geddes

Editor of The Satirist ( America’s Most Critical Journal; satirist, critic, standup in Amsterdam