'The Big Lebowski' Turns 20! How the Cult Classic Created Its Own Religion and More Weird Facts

Two decades after its release, the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski seems to have taken on a life of its own.  

Photo: Mondadori Portfolio via Getty

Two decades after its release, the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski seems to have taken on a life of its own — in other words, “The dude abides.”

The 1998 cult classic boasted a cast of Hollywood A-listers, including Jeff Bridges as “The Dude,” John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, and more. Since its debut, the whip-smart take on detective classics has amassed a legion of die-hard fans across the globe. Its iconic quotes, hilarious wardrobe, laissez-faire attitude and deep bowling appreciation has even been enough to create a new religion.

In 2014, The Big Lebowski was inaugurated into the list of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” films preserved for future generations through the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. In honor of its 20th anniversary, here are some oddball facts about the movie.

It inspired a new religion

In 2005, the faith known as “Dudeism” (or “The Church of the Latter-Day Dude”) was founded by Oliver Benjamin, a former journalist. It’s based on the ethos of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, which aims “to form a more perfect groovin’, establish just taking it easy, and promote inner tranquility,” according to its creator. The religion slowly grew into a worldwide phenomenon, ordaining over 450,000 priests via its website as of May 2017.

In 2011, the “Dudeist” Bible, The Abide Guide, co-authored by Benjamin and Dwayne Eutsey, was published as the first ever collection of all the religion’s Taoist tenets, including concepts from the founder’s previous book, The Dude De Ching (2010) and the church’s lifestyle periodical, The Dudespaper.

The church, which has its own band called “The Doodles,” recently released an album of Lebowski-inspired tunes Songs in the Key of Lebowski (Volume I) available to stream on its website.

The Big LebowskiCredit: Polygram/Working Title
Polygram/Working Title

It has its own festival

An annual festival that began in 2002, “Lebowski Fest” first arose in Louisville, Kentucky, before quickly expanding to cities like, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and even London.

Co-founded by the authors of I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski, (2018) the event’s attendees show up dressed in their favorite characters’ clothes, watch a screening of the film, enjoy live music, vendor booths, games, and head over to a bowling alley for a prolonged party.

In 2005, Bridges first showed up to its Los Angeles location, performing “The Man in Me” by Bob Dylan, which is featured in the movie. Six years later, Bridges returned alongside Moore, Goodman, Buscemi, John Turturro for its New York gathering.

In 2009, Eddie Chung’s documentary The Achievers, a common term used for self-identifying Lebowski fans, detailed the subculture and fervent fandom behind the festival.

It’s been cited in some weird places

In 2006, The Big Lebowski proved its “achievers” reside in all corners of the world, as two species of African spiders, “Anelosimus biglebowski” and “Anelosimus dude” were both given official classifications, alongside an extinct conifer genus based on 270-million-year-old plant fossils called “Lebowskia grandifolia.”

Another bizarre place The Big Lebowski has appeared? A Texas Supreme Court. In 2014, Justice Debra Lehrmann cited the film in her decision of a freedom of speech appeals case, “Kinney v. Barnes,” stating “The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is similarly suspicious of prior restraints.” In Lehrmann’s footnote referencing popular culture, she included none other than Walter Sobchack’s movie quote:

“For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint!” he says in the movie, before continuing: “This affects all of us, man! Our basic freedoms!”

It has its own store in New York City

What began as a children’s bookstore in 2007 quickly turned into a galore of Lebowski fan paraphernalia in 2010, when Jeff Bridges’ Crazy Heart Oscar win called attention to his earlier roles. Soon enough, Roy Preston’s “The Little Lebowski” boutique in Greenwich Village was lauded as the one-stop shop to all things Lebowski.

Though Preston officially closed up in 2015, its five-year run saw a number of the cult-classic’s fans from all over the world come through its doors. Including life-size cardboard cutouts of characters, a small TV playing the film on loop, and a miniature bowling alley, the Lebowski emporium’s best feature was perhaps the “Dude”-impersonating owner furtively serving White Russians to customers.

It has its own charity fund

“The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers Fund” is one of the coolest charities you’ve never heard of. The small project, created by the Church of The Latter Day Dude priests, consists posing a Lebowski figurine in front of exotic or compelling backdrops—essentially, taking “the Dude” on adventures.

The fund’s website offers a variety of products—from tiny character sets to film-related merchandise—all the money of which goes to help “those without the necessary means for the necessary means,” according to its website. Among its beneficiaries, all featured on a page of the site, are a 63-year-old Colombian farmer who received beer to start his own bar, and an Armenian student who was awarded tuition money to complete her degree in Biology.

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