Nightcrawler | Themes and Meaning

In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Nightcrawler, we talk about themes that help us understand the film. 


  • Jake Gyllenhaal – Louis “Lou” Bloom
  • Rene Russo – Nina Romina
  • Riz Ahmed – Rick
  • Bill Paxton – Joe Loder
  • Kevin Rahm – Frank Kruse
  • Michael Hyatt – Detective Frontieri
  • Ann Cusack – Linda
  • Dan Gilroy – Writer and director

The themes and meaning of Nightcrawler

The American Dream

The American Dream is a central theme in Nightcrawler and is depicted in a dark and unsettling way. The character of Lou Bloom embodies the darker side of the American Dream, where success is defined by wealth and power, and one’s own needs and desires take precedence over everything else.

Lou is a character who is driven by ambition and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals, even if it means breaking the law or exploiting others. He is a self-made man who sees himself as a pioneer, an entrepreneur, and an innovator. He is not content with living an ordinary life and is constantly seeking ways to gain power and control over his environment.

Throughout the film, Lou’s character becomes increasingly ruthless in his hunt for success. He manipulates crime scenes, stages crimes, and intervenes in emergencies, all in the pursuit of capturing the most sensational footage. He uses his camera to control the situations he films, often at the expense of others.

However, the film also portrays the American Dream as an illusion that is unattainable for many people. Lou’s success is built on the exploitation of others, including his assistant and the victims of crimes that he films. The movie suggests that the American Dream is a myth that is perpetuated by those who benefit from it and that it is ultimately destructive.

Nightcrawler challenges the traditional notion of the American Dream, where success is achieved through hard work and determination. Instead, the film presents a darker, more complex view of the American Dream, where success is achieved through manipulation, exploitation, and a willingness to break the law. Lou’s character represents the darker side of the American Dream, where ambition and success come at a great cost to oneself and others.

The role of media

The role of media is a significant theme in Nightcrawler. The movie portrays the media industry as one that is driven by excess and profit, where the pursuit of ratings and viewership takes precedence over ethics and responsibility.

The film’s protagonist, Lou Bloom, is a freelance crime journalist who sells footage to local news channels. Lou’s footage is graphic and often involves crimes that have just occurred, which makes it incredibly valuable to news outlets seeking to attract high ratings. However, Lou’s quest for the most dramatic footage leads him to cross ethical and legal boundaries repeatedly.

The movie highlights the potential danger of media aggrandizement when it is not balanced with responsibility. In one scene, Lou stages a crime scene to make it more dramatic, and the footage is later aired on a local news channel without question. The movie shows how the media can perpetuate violence and reinforce negative stereotypes by portraying crime in a sensationalized way.

Furthermore, Nightcrawler depicts the media as complicit in Lou’s unethical and illegal behavior. While some reporters are uncomfortable with Lou’s tactics, they continue to purchase and air his footage because it generates high ratings and profits. This depiction raises questions about the responsibility of the media to report the news ethically and accurately, and whether the media is contributing to the problem of crime rather than reporting on it.

The movie also shows how the media can affect public perception and opinion. Lou’s footage is often shown in a way that reinforces negative stereotypes and prejudices about certain communities, particularly those that are economically disadvantaged. The film raises questions about the media’s role in shaping public perception and whether the media has a responsibility to be more balanced in its reporting.

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