Unreconstructed hippy Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski is attacked by ruffians who have mistaken him for another Jeff Lebowski, whose young wife Bunny apparently owes "Mr Treehorn" a lot of money. After beating him up, they pee all over his rug. Understandably miffed by this, Dude sets out to track down his namesake and see if he can wrangle some sort of explanation, and compensation, out of him. The other Jeff Lebowsky turns out to be a cranky paraplegic millionaire, who gives Dude short shrift; however, later, he relents somewhat in his hostility and hires Dude as go-between to deliver the ransom demanded for the kidnapped Bunny. Unfortunately, the hand-over goes haywire, mainly thanks to Dude's bungling best friend, ex-Viet vet Walter. Somehow, Dude is left with the ransom money, though that soon goes astray when his car is stolen. From Lebowsky's daughter Maude, Dude learns Bunny once appeared in a blue movie with a German anarchist, Uli, produced by Jackie Treehorn. Maude thinks Bunny has staged her own abduction to wrangle loot out of her husband, and she wants Dude to get the ransom back. Then Lebowsky shows up with a toe, allegedly, it was once attached to Bunny. After being attacked by Uli, Dude confronts Treehorn, who turns out to still be searching for Bunny and his money. It starts to dawn on Dude that he's the unwitting pawn in a very elaborate game of double - maybe even triple - cross.
The Coen Brothers turn ever more Chandleresque with a plot of such complexity to rival the classic 'The Big Sleep'; don't bother trying to work out what it all means or where it's going to lead, just sit back an enjoy some terrific performances, particularly from Jeff Bridges and John Goodman, stylishly served up and garnished with plenty of in-jokes and guffaws.