Fans of The Big Lebowski are torn between which of the two central characters – Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski and Walter Sobchak – is funnier. But they shouldn’t have to choose, because the movie needs both of them working in tandem.
The Dude is a laid-back slacker who spends his days smoking pot and knocking back White Russians; he couldn’t care less about anything. Walter is an angry, passionate Vietnam veteran who will pursue any cause, no matter how frivolous, because he’s a man of principle. John Goodman gives one of his finest all-time performances in the role of Walter. So, here are some of the most brilliantly absurd lines he delivered in the movie.
10 “Say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”
Walter has some curious philosophies. One of those philosophies is that Nazis are more noble than nihilists, because at least Nazis believe in something, whereas nihilists, by definition, believe in nothing. Due to Walter’s principles, he’s more inclined to respect someone who believes in National Socialism than someone who believes in nihilism, because he doesn’t judge people by their political beliefs.
The nihilists end up being among the main antagonists of the movie, since they’re the ones who indirectly kill Donny in the parking lot after the Bunny plot is all wrapped up.
9 “This is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”
It has been suggested that the character of Walter Sobchak was based on John Milius, the screenwriter behind such intense, testosterone-fueled Vietnam-era movies as Apocalypse Now and Big Wednesday. Milius didn’t serve in Vietnam himself, unlike Walter (who mentions his stint in ‘Nam a few times), but he did want to serve and tried to sign up.
Due to his “chronic” and “sometimes disabling” case of asthma, he was turned down by the Marine Corps. But his persona is known for being just as aggressive as Walter, so it would be unsurprising if the Coen brothers based the character on Milius.
8 “You want a toe? I can get you a toe.”
Things get ratcheted up a notch in The Big Lebowski when Bunny’s supposed kidnappers send a severed toe with her nail polish on it to the Dude. He brings it to Walter, who immediately believes it to be a fake. In fact, he doesn’t think it’s difficult to get a hold of a toe.
“Hell, I can get you a toe by three o’clock this afternoon, with nail polish. These f**king amateurs!” he laughs. “They send us a toe, we’re supposed to s**t ourselves with fear? Jesus Christ!” A nice touch in John Goodman’s performance in this scene is that he checks his watch to determine the “three o’clock this afternoon” time frame.
7 “Goodnight, sweet prince.”
Walter’s whole eulogy for Donny as he scatters his ashes is quite sweet: “Donny was a good bowler, and a good man. He was one of us. He was a man who loved the outdoors...and bowling. And as a surfer, he explored the beaches of Southern California, from La Jolla to Leo Carrillo and...up to...Pismo. He died, like so many young men of his generation. He died before his time. In your wisdom, Lord, you took him, as you took so many bright, flowering, young men at Khe Sanh, at Langdok, at Hill 364."
"These young men gave their lives," he continues, in a surprisingly touching speech for such a chaotic character (and movie), "and so would Donny. Donny, who loved bowling. And so, Theodore Donald Karabotsos, in accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean, which you loved so well. Goodnight, sweet prince.”
6 “F**k it, Dude. Let’s go bowling.”
When Walter and the Dude first try to make the drop with the briefcase full of money – except Walter has swapped out the money for his “dirty undies” – they end up crashing the car and botching the drop. Then Walter decides that, well, they tried, and there’s nothing more they can do than that, so he simply says, “f**k it, Dude. Let’s go bowling.”
Going bowling is these guys’ answer to everything. In fact, in many ways, The Big Lebowski is a sports movie. It’s a stoner movie, a crime movie, a mystery movie, and a comedy movie – but it’s also a sports movie.
5 “Forget it, Donny, you’re out of your element!”
On a number of occasions throughout the film, Walter gets very angry about whether or not Donny is in his element. At one point, Walter and the Dude have started a conversation about the political ideologies of Lenin while Donny was taking his turn in the bowling game.
When he returns to sit with them, Walter doesn’t feel like catching him up on the conversation, so they just continue. Donny tries to jump in with a quote by John Lennon, without realizing the difference between Lennon and Lenin, and that gets Walter mad, so he tells him he’s out of his element.
4 “Just because we’re bereaved, that doesn’t make us saps!”
The prices at funeral parlors – for both funeral services and coffins – are extortionate. That’s why many old people have to set up a savings fund towards the end of their lives, just so their family can afford a funeral service after they pass away.
When Donny dies in The Big Lebowski, Walter and the Dude head over to a funeral parlor to look at some package deals for his send-off. However, feeling ripped off by the funeral parlor’s prices, Walter makes a scene, telling the clerk that just because they lost their friend, it doesn’t mean they can be taken advantage of.
3 “Nobody is going to cut your d**k off. Not if I have anything to say about it.”
Walter and the Dude have virtually nothing in common apart from their shared love of bowling. They have different religions, different world views, different temperaments – but somehow, that works. That makes them best friends.
When the Dude is worried that violence is going to come knocking at his door, Walter assures him that he’s going to keep him safe. When the Dude worries that the nihilist gangsters on his trail want to sever his member, Walter assures him that he would never let that happen, and the Dude says that makes him “feel very secure” and “very warm inside.”
2 “Smokey, my friend, you are entering a world of pain.”
During a league bowling game, when Walter sees Smokey’s foot go over the line while he’s taking a shot, he demands that he mark it down. Everyone else says that a foot possibly creeping over the line isn’t a big deal, but Walter insists that it is, because the game counts towards the upcoming tournament and there are specified rules in the game of bowling that the players have to follow.
When Smokey refuses to mark down the shot, Walter takes a gun out of his bowling bag to threaten him, telling him that he is “entering a world of pain.”
1 “This is what happens when you f**k a stranger in the ***, Larry!”
Apparently, the Coen brothers based the storyline in which a teenager’s homework is found in the Dude’s impounded car on something that happened to a real-life friend of theirs.
When the kid, Larry, refuses to explain how his homework ended up in the Dude’s car, Walter goes out and smashes the sports car that he thinks belongs to Larry and yells, “This is what happens, Larry! See what happens, Larry?! Do you see what happens when you f**k a stranger in the ass?! This is what happens! See what happens, Larry?! You see what happens, Larry?! This is what happens, Larry!”