'The Big Lebowski' Celebrates 25th Anniversary

One of the greatest stoner movies of all time, Joel and Ethan Coen's The Big Lebowski turns 25 on Mar. 6. Though it was considered a flop at the box office ($18 million) in 1998, it's developed a cult following with Lebowski Fests and a general love of all things "Dude."

Jeff Bridges plays Jeff Lebowski (a.k.a. The Dude), a '60s throwback pot-smoking rebel. He likes to walk around in his bathrobe and drink White Russians. In a case of mistaken identity, he's beaten up by three nihilists working for Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara). The other Jeff Lebowski owes Treehorn money.

The Dude is determined to figure out what's going on. He enlists his bowling buddies, Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi), to solve the crime. Many scenes take place in the bowling alley where they compete with Jesus (John Turturro) and his friends. 

The Dude character is based on the life of Jeff Dowd, a campus radical who was one of the Seattle Seven anti-war protesters arrested in 1970 and has long lived in Los Angeles.

“I thought it was going to be a big hit,” Bridges tells THR. “I was surprised when it didn’t get much recognition. People didn’t get it, or something.”

In addition to Goodman, Buscemi and Gazzara, the terrific supporting cast includes Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tara Reid, David Huddleston, David Thewlis, Peter Stormare, Flea and Sam Elliott as "The Stranger."

There are four scenes during which The Dude smokes pot. In the driving scene above, The Dude hits a roach as Creedance Clearwater Revival's "Looking Out My Back Door" plays on the radio. Convinced that he's being followed, The Dude tries to throw the roach out the window, but it's closed and caroms onto his crotch. He douses it with beer, then crashes the car.

El Duderino: "I’m adhering to a pretty strict drug regimen to keep my mind limber."

During his first meeting with the other Jeffrey Lebowski (Huddleston), The Dude asks, "Do you mind if I do a jay?" The two other times, he smokes roaches – in the bathtub and in bed with Maude (Moore) – using the classic medical hemostat as a roach clip.

Some of The Dude's better lines are: To Maude, "I'm adhering to  a pretty strict drug regimen to keep my mind limber." To Lebowski, "You human paraquat!" (This refers to a defoliant sprayed on marijuana in Mexico in the '70s. Bridges says he improvised the line: "It might have just popped out of my mouth.")  And, finally, to The Stranger, "The Dude abides."

Bridges went on to win an Oscar in 2010 for his leading role in Crazy Heart. A Coen Brothers regular, Goodman, who's hilarious as the The Dude's sidekick, also appeared in Raising Arizona (1987), Barton Fink (1991) and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). Moore earned an Oscar in 2014 for her leading role in Still Alice. Buscemi nabbed a Golden Globe in 2013 for his leading role on HBO's Boardwalk Empire. Hoffman, who won an Oscar in 2006 for his leading role in Capote, died from a drug overdose in 2014.

The Coen Brothers received Best Picture and Direction Oscars for No Country for Old Men in 2007.

While they never bothered to make a Big Lebowski sequel, Tuturro's spin-off, The Jesus Rolls, about his Jesus Quintara character, came out in 2019.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.