5 Great Movies With Mind-Blowing Symbolism You Didn't Notice

#2. No Country for Old Men is About Retirement

Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage

No Country for Old Men is a film about drug deals, sawed-off shotguns, and bad haircuts. So, why is it called that instead of something more appropriate, like, say, Anton Chigurh Kills Everyone? Because, despite being a little too violent for your grandma to watch, this is actually a movie about retirement.

Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage
"This pension plan is bullshit."

For starters, freaking everyone in this film is retired or on their way to retirement. There's Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a "retired" welder and Vietnam veteran who spends his leisure moments hunting. There's Llewelyn's wife, Carla Jean (Kelly Macdoland), who works at Wal-Mart ... until Llewelyn comes home one day with a satchel full of money and tells her she's now "retired." There's Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson), a "retired Army colonel" hired to locate the aforementioned satchel full of money.

Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage
Also retired: his hairline.

The primary antagonist of the film, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), isn't retired, but his "prime activity consists in 'retiring' or 'killing' other living beings." You know, like a Blade Runner, except one after retirees instead of Replicants. That's the reason why Chigurh cannot be stopped, never rests, and is seemingly unkillable. His job is only over once there are no retired people left in the country.

Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage
All this time, he was just working for AARP.

Finally there's Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), the one law enforcement officer in the history of movies to announce to everyone that he's retiring soon and survive the film. Even then, Sheriff Bell isn't much help -- he's too slow to keep up at Chigurh's modern pace and never catches him.

As for the title of the movie, it's taken from the opening line of Sailing to Byzantium by William Butler Yeats, a poem that describes an aging man as "a dying animal" and "a tattered coat upon a stick." It's Yeats' personal ode to the end of things: old age, futility, and death. Keeping that in mind helps clear up a couple of scenes that probably made you wonder what the fuck they were about -- like the one where Sheriff Bell visits his old uncle (another retiree), who lives alone, surrounded by cats and drinking stale coffee.

Uncle Ellis is one of two potential futures for Sheriff Bell at that point, the other being "getting air-gunned through the forehead." In the end he decides to retire anyway, and in the last scene of the movie Bell asks his wife Loretta if she'd care to join him for a horseback ride. Her reply? "Lord, no, I'm not retired."

Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage
"Fine, I'll 'go riding' alone then. Can I borrow your hand cream?"

And while we're talking about the Coen Brothers slipping stuff by you ...

#1. The Big Lebowski is About (Metaphorical) Castration

Focus Features

The Big Lebowski is the Citizen Kane of movies, and a good lot of you could probably recite the entire screenplay from memory. In that case, you've probably noticed that the word "man" appears more times in this movie than the N-word in a Tarantino film -- and there's a reason for that. According to Rob Ager's film analysis, this Coen Brothers caper about White Russians and bowling also dabbles heavily in "the decline of the masculine male" ... or, you know, "castration." Say, remember the giant scissors in the Dude's trippy dream?

Focus Features
The scene also doubles as a recurring nightmare for lefties.

And the ones in Maude Lebowski's studio?

Focus Features

That's such a recurrent image because all the male characters in this movie have been castrated, in a way. Walter (John Goodman), for example, despite his zeal for firearms and militarism, is still a servant to an ex-wife who has clearly moved on from their failed marriage all the way to Honolulu. Not only is Walter wholeheartedly dedicated to this pathetic role, but any evidence of the contrary -- i.e., his Catholicism -- terrifies him.

Focus Features
That's why he treats his ex's dog better than anyone treats Donny.

The "Big" Lebowski, meanwhile, who clearly likes to present himself as the most powerful man in the movie, is literally powerless from the waist down. He's married to a trophy wife he can't control, is living off an allowance provided by his daughter Maude, and even his prior wife appears to have been the true wealth and power behind the Lebowski fortune. In the original screenplay, his last words after Walter drops him on the floor are "You bullies! You and these women! You won't leave a man his fucking balls!"

Focus Features
Another deleted line had him complimenting Walter's surprisingly shapely legs.

The rest of the men in the film helplessly squabble among themselves, trying to outdo each other's masculinity by urinating on each other's property, brandishing swords and pistols ... or literally threatening each other with castration. Meanwhile, others are so weak that they can prey only on the young and the helpless, be they teenage brats or 8-year-olds. Hell, even the legendary Arthur Digby Sellers would probably be dead without the care of his housekeeper Pilar.

Focus Features
If you ever wondered why this guy is in the movie, there's your answer.

In contrast, the women in this film are so powerful that they control the entire story. Bunny's "kidnapping" sets motion to the entire plot, and Maude is the one who helps the Dude solve it. Whether they like it or not. In short, the women in The Big Lebowski are veritable goddesses ...

Focus Features
For once, a Julianne Moore character that doesn't cry.

... and the men are losers who can only be measured by how intact their nuts are.

Focus Features
Which makes this the second most complex movie dick joke, next to The Sound of Music.



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For more film meanings you may have missed, check out 6 Famous Movies With Mind-Blowing Hidden Meanings and 5 Cryptic Movie Tattoos (They Didn't Think We'd Translate).

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Harmless Creatures That Are Now Terrorizing Humans.

And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why Han Solo is actually Jesus Christ.

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