- Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
- Producers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
- Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
- Genres: Comedy, Crime
- Actors: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman
The film begins with a short voiceover introduction by an unnamed narrator (by Sam Elliott) introducing the character of Jeffrey Lebowski as he is buying half and half from a grocery store in 1991. The voiceover explains that Lebowski calls himself “the Dude”.
After returning to his apartment in Venice, California, two thugs break in and rough up The Dude. They are attempting to collect a debt Lebowski’s supposed wife owes to a man named Jackie Treehorn. After realizing they were looking for a different person with the same name, they leave, but only after one of the thugs urinates on the Dude’s rug. At the instigation of his friend and bowling teammate Walter Sobchak (Goodman), the Dude decides to seek compensation for his urine-soaked rug from the other Jeffrey Lebowski. The next day, the titular “Big” Lebowski, a wheelchair-bound millionaire, gruffly refuses the Dude’s request. After craftily stealing one of the Big Lebowski’s rugs, the Dude meets Bunny Lebowski, the Big Lebowski’s nymphomaniacal trophy wife on his way off the property.
Days later, the Big Lebowski contacts the Dude, revealing that Bunny has been kidnapped. He asks him to act as a courier for the million-dollar ransom because the Dude will be able to confirm or deny their suspicion that the kidnappers are the rug-soiling thugs. Back at his apartment, the Dude naps on his new, stolen rug, only to have a new set of criminals burgle his apartment. The criminals knock him unconscious. Following a musical dream sequence, the Dude wakes up on his bare wooden floor, his new rug missing. Soon after, when Bunny’s kidnappers call to arrange the ransom exchange, Walter tries to convince the Dude to keep the money and give the kidnappers a “ringer” suitcase filled with dirty underwear. The Dude rejects this plan, but cannot stop Walter. The kidnappers escape with the ringer, and the Dude and Walter are left with the million-dollar ransom. Walter seems unperturbed by this turn of events, and takes the Dude bowling. Later that night, the Dude’s car is stolen, along with the briefcase filled with money. The Dude receives a message from the Big Lebowski’s daughter, Maude. She admits to stealing back the Dude’s new, stolen rug, as it had sentimental value to her. At her art studio, she explains that Bunny is a porn starlet working under producer Jackie Treehorn and confirms the Dude’s suspicion that Bunny probably kidnapped herself. She asks the Dude to recover the ransom, as it was illegally withdrawn by her father from a family-run charitable foundation for orphans. She offers him a finder’s fee in exchange for his services.
After a disagreement with the funeral home director over the cost of an urn for Donny, Walter and the Dude go to a cliff overlooking a beach to scatter Donny’s ashes from a large Folgers coffee can. Before opening the can’s lid and haphazardly shaking out Donny’s remains into the wind, Walter remembers what little he knew about Donnie, including that he loved to surf and bowl, then quotes a line from Hamlet: “Goodnight, sweet prince.” After an emotional exchange, Walter suggests, “Fuck it, man. Let’s go bowling.” The movie ends with the Dude in the bowling alley and meeting the narrator at the bar. The narrator tells the Dude to take it easy and the Dude responds by stating, “the Dude abides”. The narrator briefly comments on the film to the audience, saying that although he “didn’t like to see Donny go”, he hints that there’s a “little Lebowski on the way.” The film transitions to the closing credits as Townes Van Zandt’s version of “Dead Flowers” plays.