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Generally a street of wealthy people in Bethesda, Maryland, about five miles from Washington, D.C. Equivalent to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Also a thriller movie, where a George Washington University professor suspects his new neighbors to plan a terrorist attack.

The movie stars Jeff Bridges as a university professor who is an expert on domestic terrorism, and whose wife died in a failed FBI mission some years earlier. He has a young son, a girlfriend, played by Hope Davis, and keeps in touch with his wife's former FBI partner, played by Robert Gossett. One day he begins to suspect his next-door neighbors, played by Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, to be terrorists, based on a number of incidents that have occurred around them, including their son being hospitalized after an accident involving a firecracker. Nobody will believe him though, finding his ideas crazy and paranoid, pointing the finger at his being unable to recover from the trauma he experienced when his wife died in the manner she did.

During the movie, the professor is eventually convinced that he was mistaken, only to suddenly find out that it's still all true. Then he tries to foil the terrorist's plot, but is eventually tricked into being the fall guy in their bombing of the FBI Headquarters.

Tropes used in Arlington Road include:


  • Batman Gambit: The Big Bad knew Jeff Bridges would try his best to stop him, not realizing he was making himself look suspicious to other people. After the bombing, it was easy for people to believe Jeff Bridges acted alone, based on his own actions trying to save everyone.
  • Big Bad: Tim Robbins could be seen as one since he seems to be the leader of his terrorist cell. It is also implied that he is also subservient to a Bigger Bad, however not directly referenced or mentioned on screen at the end when they are packing up they are conversing "I hope this time they send us somewhere nice", implying they are waiting for orders from the higher ups in their organization
  • Cassandra Truth: to be fair it is a rather wild accusation and the professor didn't really have any solid evidence.
  • Chase Scene
  • Chessmaster: the villains, particularly Tim Robbins' character as he clearly knows enough about the protagonist to subtly influence his moves.
  • Creepy Child: The terrorist's son to a small is extent this, saying "I'm sorry that's classified information" in a rather militaristic manner, also building a 'soldier's compound' rather then simply a fort, all of which makes the professor suspicious (for good reason) and makes him think there's something wrong.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?, the terrorist bombing that the professor is lecturing about to his class suspiciously resembles the real life Oklahoma City bombing.
  • Downer Beginning: the terrorist's son has burned his hand off a few minutes before the opening sequence with a fire-cracker and is nearly run over by the professor, walking down the road in a daze with a shredded hand
  • Downer Ending: and how.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: The villains could be seen as this, explicitly stated by the main villain (Tim Robbins) "Do you think we'd leave anything to chance?".
  • Freudian Excuse: the death of the professor's wife during a failed FBI mission is implied to be this in the montage at the end subverted because it was a fabrication (the part about the death being a Freudian excuse, not the death itself)- the professor was framed
  • The Bad Guy Wins (not only does the bad guy succeed in his plans, the good guy takes the fall.)
  • Hostage Situation, the professor's son is kidnapped to force the professor into compliance.
  • Karma Houdini: well yeah, the bad guy won, and is implied to have been pulling off such operations since well before the story begins
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: The professor's new love interest finds out too much. Just before having a convenient fatal car accident, she had left a message on his answering machine regarding her revelation before dying, but this is also erased by the bad guys.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The professor's new love interest is killed off in a convenient car 'accident' after discovering too much.
  • Missing Mom, the Professor's wife was revealed to be a former FBI agent killed in the line of duty which gives the Big Bad the forged motive at the end
  • Really Dead Montage, sort of, the news reports afterword painting the professor as the bad guy
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic
  • Scout Out: the Big Bad convinces the professor to enroll his kid into a Scout-like organization that his son is part of. It is later revealed that the father of a supposed terrorist mentioned earlier in the professor's class was also a member of this scouting organization. The common thread? The same scoutmaster. Later the professor's kid is kidnapped by the terrorists while on a camping trip with said scouting organization
  • Stepford Smiler:Joan Cusack's character in this is a Type C, played to much creepiness.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer pretty much gives the entire film away, even the ending. Both director Mark Pellington and lead Jeff Bridges have mentioned it several times in their commentary for the film. The DVD cover is also a bit of a give away too.
  • Too Soon: Was due to come out in the Spring of 1999 but then the Columbine shootings happened and the movie was pushed back.
    • This also led to a distribution change. Initially, Polygram was to have released the film and even had trailers and posters out. After being delayed, Polygram was reorganized (eventually being merged with October Films and later becoming Focus Features) and the film was sold to Screen Gems (who made it their second release ever).
  • Twist Ending
  • Western Terrorists
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