25 Years Later, Jeff Bridges Is Still Just The Coolest In The Big Lebowski

"Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there."

Sam Elliot's introduction to the film "The Big Lebowski" also introduces us to Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, a laid-back middle-aged nobody who lives life by his own rules. We first meet him standing in a Los Angeles supermarket, dressed in shorts, a V-neck undershirt, and a bathrobe, as he opens a carton of half-and-half and takes a big sip, the creamy froth staining the tips of his mustache white. The Dude has become a part of pop culture, with his cool countenance, hilarious one-liners, and unusual sense of fashion, but none of it would have worked without the performance of Jeff Bridges. Bridges made The Dude his own, and so thoroughly inhabited the character that for some fans who were introduced to the actor through the film, The Dude and Bridges have become inextricable from one another. 

It's been 25 years since "The Big Lebowski" first premiered and gave us all the teachings of The Dude, a true individualist who wasn't afraid to stick it to the man, as long as he had his White Russians and a good joint to smoke, and he's become even more iconic over the decades. The Dude abides, of course, but he also freaking rules. 

Just take it easy, man

Some people sort of mosey their way through life, unconcerned about much of anything beyond their basic needs in the immediate future. It honestly seems like The Dude's existence is a charmed one, despite living in a filthy bungalow where he's behind on his rent. He doesn't have a job and is a laidback freewheeler but he's also exceptionally low-maintenance. He just floats down the lazy river of life with his White Russians and his Creedence Clearwater Revival tunes and doesn't have a care in the world. Bridges told The Hollywood Reporter about when he was approached by the Coen brothers, who had written the role for him and he was surprised at just how on-point their writing was:

"My first impression was it was a great script and I had never done anything like it. I thought the brothers must have spied on me when I was in high school. [...] I'm so happy to be in that movie. I pretty much dug it all, man. There's an aspect of the Dude I aspired to — he's authentic, isn't he? He's who he is, and that's about it. He's a lovely cat."

About half of The Dude's wardrobe came straight from Bridges' own closet, which is probably why he looks so darn comfy in his oversized sweaters and worn T-shirts. The Dude is part of Bridges writ large, his lazy high-school self turned into a middling middle-aged man who is still completely true to himself. The Dude's earnestness, his authenticity, is what makes him so darn lovable. 

That's just, like, your opinion

The Dudester is possibly the most laid-back individual on the planet. It takes a lot for him to get angry, and even when he's assaulted by random strangers because of a mix-up with last names, he still just sits down and cracks jokes about it. A lot of people would have gotten angry and violent in response to being wrapped up in the insane events of the movie, but The Dude just rolls with it. He stands by his values and refuses to back down when it comes to getting his rug replaced after the invaders pee on it, but he does things at his own pace and with a gentle attitude. 

The only time he really gets really angry and loud in the entire movie is when his best friend Walter (John Goodman) messes up spreading the ashes of their friend Donnie (Steve Buscemi) and the wind blows a whole bunch of Donnie back in his face. He's lost property, been swindled out of money, was drugged, beaten, and nearly killed a few times, but the only thing that really gets him upset is Donnie's death. 

Bridges' comfortable masculinity is a warm hug in a world of cold, angry men, providing an excellent contrast to the nebbish Donnie or blowhard Walter. He's generally pretty kind unless you pee on his rug or put on the Eagles, stumbling around Southern California like a 20th-century Shakespearean fool. His wit and silliness exist in equal measure. After all, he's smart enough to shade over Jackie Treehorn's notes with a pencil to see what he wrote (even if it was just a lewd drawing), but he also nailed planks to the floor in order to wedge a door shut that opened outward. He's not a genius, but he is a scrappy kind of survivor.

The Dude abides, his fans achieve

The Dude's whole ethos can be summed up in three words: "The Dude abides." To abide is to accept and tolerate, to handle whatever comes his way with trademark cool. Those three little words ended up inspiring an entire religion, Dudeism, officially known as The Church of the Latter-Day Dude. The religion was formed in 2005 by Oliver Benjamin, a journalist who really loved the movie and its sweet stoner philosophy. The church has over 600,000 ordained ministers (myself included), and also has Abide University, giving out honorary degrees in subjects like "Leisure Studies" and "Simplicity Theory." (I have a Master's in Memetics from Abide U., because I'm an achiever.) While this is all just a bit of silly fun, the tenets of Dudeism actually have their roots in Buddhism and Daoism, and they promote tolerance and love for one another, along with free thinking, so who can be upset about that? 

In a world where everyone's worth seems to be derived from their ability to work themselves to death, The Dude's way of living seems almost revolutionary. He knows who he is and isn't bothered by what anyone else thinks about him. He's part Bridges, part Coen brothers' writing, but somehow managed to become a legendary man all of his own. The Dude is, well, he's the man.