The Big Lebowski (/ləˈbaʊski/) is a 1998 black comedy crime film written, produced, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It stars Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, a Los Angeles slacker and avid bowler. He is assaulted as a result of mistaken identity, then learns that a millionaire also named Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston) was the intended victim. The millionaire Lebowski's trophy wife is kidnapped, and he commissions The Dude to deliver the ransom to secure her release; the plan goes awry when the Dude's friend Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) schemes to keep the ransom money. Sam Elliott, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tara Reid, David Thewlis, Peter Stormare, and Ben Gazzara also appear, in supporting roles.
The film is loosely inspired by the work of Raymond Chandler. Joel Coen stated, "We wanted to do a Chandler kind of story – how it moves episodically, and deals with the characters trying to unravel a mystery, as well as having a hopelessly complex plot that's ultimately unimportant." The original score was composed by Carter Burwell, a longtime collaborator of the Coen brothers.
The Big Lebowski received mixed reviews at the time of its release. Over time, reviews have become largely positive, and the film has become a cult favorite, noted for its eccentric characters, comedic dream sequences, idiosyncratic dialogue, and eclectic soundtrack. In 2014, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". A spin-off, titled The Jesus Rolls, was released in 2020, with Turturro reprising his role and also serving as writer and director.
In the early 1990s, Los Angeles slacker Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski is assaulted in his home by two enforcers for porn kingpin Jackie Treehorn, who is owed money by the wife of a different Jeffrey Lebowski. One of the goons urinates on the Dude's favorite rug before they realize they have the wrong man and leave.
Advised by his bowling partners, Vietnam veteran Walter Sobchak and Donny Kerabatsos, the Dude visits wealthy philanthropist Jeffrey ("Big") Lebowski, demanding compensation for the rug. Big refuses, but the Dude tricks Big's assistant Brandt into letting him take a similar rug from the mansion. Outside he meets Bunny, Big's trophy wife, and her German nihilist friend Uli. Soon after this, Bunny is apparently kidnapped and Big hires The Dude to deliver the requested ransom money, one million dollars. That night, a different pair of thugs accost the Dude, taking his replacement rug on behalf of Big's daughter Maude, who has a sentimental attachment to it.
The kidnappers arrange to collect the ransom. Convinced that Bunny "kidnapped herself", Walter concocts a scheme to keep the ransom money by substituting it with a briefcase full of his dirty laundry. Although things do not go entirely according to Walter's plan, the kidnappers leave with Walter's laundry, and Walter and The Dude return to the bowling alley, leaving the ransom money in the trunk of his car. While the bowlers bowl, the car is stolen from the parking lot.
Revealing Bunny is one of Treehorn's actresses and lovers, Maude agrees that Bunny staged her own abduction and asks for the Dude's help to recover the money, which her father illegally withdrew from the family's foundation. Later, the Dude is separately confronted for his failure to deliver the ransom by both Big and a trio of German nihilists who identify themselves as the kidnappers. Maude is able to confirm that the Germans are Bunny's friends.
The Dude's car, minus the briefcase, is recovered by police. Driving home after a meeting with Maude, the Dude finds homework stuffed down in the seat, signed "Larry Sellers." Walter and the Dude confront Larry at his father's home, interrogating him about the missing briefcase. When he is unresponsive, Walter bashes a new sports car parked outside, thinking the teen had used the money to buy it. The car's actual owner, a neighbor, appears and retaliates by bashing the Dude's car, mistaking it for Walter's.
The Dude returns home, where he finds Maude wearing only a robe. They have sex, and Maude tells the Dude that her father has no money of his own; the family fortune belonged to her late mother who left him none, the final piece of information which The Dude needs to work out the entire scheme: after Bunny left town, her nihilist friends faked her kidnapping to extort money from her husband. Big withdrew the ransom from the family trust but kept it for himself, not caring what happened to his wife, giving the Dude a briefcase containing phone books instead.
In a final confrontation outside of the bowling alley, the nihilists set the Dude's car on fire, and demand the ransom money. Walter violently fends them off, but during the scuffle, Donny dies from a heart attack. Before scattering Donny's ashes from a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Walter delivers a eulogy that turns into a diatribe about the Vietnam War. He scatters the ashes, which an updraft blows back over himself and the Dude. The Dude chastises Walter for the eulogy and Walter apologizes; the two go bowling.