The Big Lebowski's best characters
Two decades ago this week, the Coen brothers released their crime-comedy The Big Lebowski. To mark the cult classic’s anniversary, we chose and ranked the movie’s 20 best characters.
1. The Dude (Jeff Bridges)
The Chandlerian hero of the Coen brothers’ comic masterpiece is an unemployed stoner and bowling enthusiast with a penchant for White Russians and Bob Dylan (but not the Eagles), who finds himself entangled in the machinations of a kidnapping scheme after his beloved rug is urinated upon. Bridges’ character eschews his real name—Jeffrey Lebowski—in favor of The Dude, or Duder, or El Duderino, if you’re not into that whole brevity thing.
Best quote: “This rug I had, it really tied the room together.”
2. Walter Sobchak (John Goodman)
Short-fused, Vietnam War-obsessed military vet and member of The Dude’s bowling team who attempts to assist Bridge’s character in his quest to first deliver the ransom to the kidnappers and then recover said monies. Partly based on Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn director John Milius.
Best quote: “Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”
3. Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore)
A conceptual artist with a dislike for her stepmother (Tara Reid’s Bunny Lebowski) and a strange interest in the Dude’s health.
Best quote: “It’s a male myth about feminists that we hate sex. It can be a natural, zesty enterprise. But unfortunately there are some people — it is called satyriasis in men, nymphomania in women — who engage in it compulsively and without joy. Yes, Mr. Lebowski, these unfortunate souls cannot love in the true sense of the word. Our mutual acquaintance Bunny is one of these.”
4. Theodore Donald 'Donny' Kerabatsos (Steve Buscemi)
Mild-mannered member of the Dude’s bowling team, where his main role is being told to “shut the f— up” by Walter.
Best quote: “Phone’s ringing, dude.”
5. Jesus Quintana (John Turturro)
Pugnacious, vividly attired bowler, and — according to Walter Sobchak — convicted pederast.
Best quote: “Nobody f—s with the Jesus.”
6. The Stranger (Sam Elliott)
The film’s mysterious, rambling narrator as well as an occasional, lushly mustachioed onscreen presence. Loves sarsaparilla. Dislikes curse words
Best quote: “Now this here story I’m about to unfold took place back in the early ’90s — just about the time of our conflict with Saddam and the Iraqis. I only mention it because sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about the Dude here. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles. And even if he’s a lazy man — and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide. But sometimes there’s a man, sometimes, there’s a man. Aw. I lost my train of thought here. But… aw, hell. I’ve done introduced him enough.
7. The Big Lebowski (David Huddleston)
Korean War veteran, blowhard businessman, and husband of supposedly kidnapped trophy wife, Bunny.
Best quote: [To the Dude] “‘F— it!’ Yes! That’s your answer. That’s your answer for everything! Tattoo it on your forehead! Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski! Condolences! The bums lost! My advice to you is to do what your parents did. Get a job, sir!”
8. Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Impeccably polite manservant of David Huddleston’s Big Lebowski.
Best quote: [After Tara Reid’s Bunny Lebowski tells Jeff Bridges’ The Dude that she will perform a sex act on him for a thousand dollars] “Hahahaha! Wonderful woman. We’re all very fond of her. Very free-spirited.”
9. Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid)
Born Fawn Knutson, Bunny ran away from Minnesota to Los Angeles, where she began making pornographic films, including Logjammin’, before marrying the Big Lebowski.
Best quote: [After embarrassing Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Brandt by telling Jeff Bridge’s The Dude that she will commit a sex act on him for a thousand dollars] “Brandt can’t watch, though, or he has to pay a hundred.”
10, 11, 12. The Nihilists (Peter Stormare, Flea, Torsten Voges)
Musicians-turned-nihilistic goons who claim to have kidnapped Bunny Lebowski and represent a literally emasculating challenge to the Dude. Their number includes Peter Stormare’s Uli Kunkel, A.K.A. porn star “Karl Hungus” who appeared in Logjammin’ alongside the aforementioned Bunny. Also spare a thought for Aimee Mann’s auxiliary nihilist, who sacrifices a toe on the altar of the threesome’s misbegotten criminal scheme.
Best quote via Uli Kunkel: “Tomorrow we come back and we cut off your Johnson.”
13. Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara)
Malibu-dwelling pornographer and loan shark who slips the Dude a Mickey Finn during one of the smut-peddler’s parties.
Best quote: “Interactive erotic software. The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic!”
14, 15. Treehorn Thugs (Philip Moon, Mark Pellegrino)
Woo (Philip Moon) and Blond Treehorn Thug (Mark Pellegrino) are a pair of inept heavies employed by Jackie Treehorn. Over the course of the film, they repeatedly harass the Dude, at first because they mistake him for the much better off Big Lebowski and then later because they mistakenly believe him to have stolen a large sum of money from the Big Lebowski.
Best quote, via Blond Treehorn Thug: [Holding up one of the Dude’s bowling balls] What the f— is this?” (The Dude’s reply? “Obviously, you’re not a golfer.”)
16. Knox Harrington (David Thewlis)
Video artist and snickering buddy of Maude Lebowski. Fun fact: Almost two decades after the release of The Big Lebowski, Thewlis would return to the land of the Coens by playing the villainous V.M. Varga on season 3 of Fargo.
Best quote: [In response to the Dude asking him who he is] “Oh, just a friend of Maudie’s.” (The Dude’s response: “Yeah, a friend with a cleft a—hole?”)
17. Smokey (Jimmie Dale Gilmore)
Bowler who gets Walter into a rage — and gets him to pull out his gun — by allegedly putting a foot “over the line” during a league match.
Best quote: “Mark it 8, Dude.”
18. Da Fino (Jon Polito)
Dude-admiring private eye hired by the Knutsons to track down their daughter Bunny Lebowski (a.k.a. Fawn Knutson).
Best quote: [To the Dude] “I’m a brother shamus!” The Dude’s reply? “Brother Seamus? Like an Irish monk?”
19. Auto Circus Cop (Michael Gomez)
Police officer who responds to the Dude’s question about whether there are any “leads” on who stole his old, crappy car with maximum sarcasm.
Best quote: “Leads, yeah sure. I’ll just check with the boys down at the crime lab. They’ve got four more detectives working on the case. They got us working in shifts!”
20. Larry Sellers (Jesse Flanagan)
High-schooler who remains infuriatingly silent while being interrogated by Walter and the Dude about his alleged theft of the ransom money.
Best quote: Not applicable