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On the hottest day of the year, three men hold up a bank. What should have been a quick in-and-out robbery turned into an hours long stand off that becomes crazier as the crowds - and media attention - grow. Despite the simple plot, this film covers a wide variety of themes, from ideas about gender and personality, to Stockholm and Lima syndrome.
- Affably Evil: Sonny and Sal
- Bank Robbery
- Bittersweet Ending: Would be a Downer Ending if not for Reality Subtext
- CIA Evil, FBI Good: FBI evil, local cops good.
- Dawson Casting: Cazale was in his 30s when he played Sal, who in Real Life was barely out of his teens. Lumet didn't want to cast Cazale at first due to the obvious age discrepancy, but Cazale gave too good a performance.
- Downer Ending: Bank robbers or not, the story ends tragically both in real life and fiction.
- FBI Agent: Agents Sheldon and Murphy.
- Friendly Enemy: Despite still having weapons trained on them, the bank staff spend a lot of time in the film making casual conversation with their captors. At one point, Sonny even lets one teller handle his shotgun. Likewise, despite Sonny distrusting Detective Moretti and Moretti wanting Sonny behind bars, the two are on mostly reasonable terms until an FBI agent is put in charge.
- Heat Wave: When the robbery takes place. Problem was, the film was made during winter, forcing the cast to suck on ice cubes and run about in summer clothes.
- Lima Syndrome
- Mama Bear: Head-teller Sylvia, AKA "The Mouth" is a minor example who does not harm or threaten to harm anyone for intimidating her co-workers, but initially scolds Sonny for using foul language, chastises the police for manhandling an asthmatic hostage, and later willingly remains a hostage so as to keep the other younger bank tellers calm.
- Mistaken for Gay: A newscaster says the crime is being perpetrated by two homosexuals. Sal is not pleased.
- Real Life
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Detective Moretti, who attempts to reason with Sonny and stop the beat cops from turning the situation into another Attica.
- Remember the Alamo!: "Attica!" and possibly also "Out of the closet and into the streets!"
- Sympathetic Criminal: Wortzik.
- Throw It In: Much of the dialogue was ad-libbed or improvised, most notably "ATTICA! ATTICA!" Al Pacino also didn't know that John Cazale was going to say "...Wyoming?" when asked what foreign country he wanted to escape to, and his reaction is genuine.
- Vietnam War: Sonny is a veteran.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong??: The bank robbery was supposed to be easy...
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Stevie, the third bank robber who chickened out about 5 minutes into the robbery. Did he go home and start acting like nothing happened? Did Sonny rat on him? Was he the one who informed the cops in the first place?
- Word Salad Title: "Dog Day Afternoon" doesn't make sense unless you know that "dog days" refers to the hottest days of summer. The film takes place during a heat wave.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: After nearly being ambushed, Sonny decides to stop trusting the cop who was negotiating with him, thinking the higher-ups will be more likely to get him a deal and less likely to try and put him down. This is proven wrong on several levels.