Sign up ×
Movies & TV Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for movie and tv enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Miller's crossing pays a lot of attention to Gabriel Byrne's hat.

Does it symbolize anything in the movie or have any significance to the plot or is this a bit of a red herring?

share|improve this question

8 Answers 8

The hat is a tangible representation of Byrne's dilemma. The point to be noted is that his dilemma has so much prominence that it deserves a character of its own. There are many scenes in the movie when the hat disappears at moments of clarity and magically reappears on the stairs, exactly at the birth of some new confusion.
Choosing a hat was also a very wise decision as it is something very personal to a character, to the extent that it could define a person, just like the confusion in his head.

Just my tuppence worth

share|improve this answer
It also symbolizes gangster films as a visual gimmick –  fabrice d Sep 17 at 13:48

A scene in the movie provides a lovely explanation of the hat:

Verna: What're you chewin' over?

Tom Reagan: Dream I had once. I was walkin' in the woods, I don't know why. Wind came up and blew me hat off.

Verna: And you chased it, right? You ran and ran, finally caught up to it and you picked it up. But it wasn't a hat anymore and it changed into something else, something wonderful.

Tom Reagan: Nah, it stayed a hat and no, I didn't chase it. Nothing more foolish than a man chasin' his hat.

share|improve this answer

I've only seen the movie twice, but this is the impression I got from the hat. It represents composure and control. While Tom would never chase his hat through the woods, he does express a want for his hat every time he loses it. And he seems to lose it every time he loses control of a situation: someone ambushes him, he gets drunk and gambles it away, or he gets socked in the face.

The reason he wouldn't chase his hat is because he's very worried about the impression he gives others. He values dignity and the image of keeping a cool head even when he's in very hot water. If he has his hat, he's composed, and if he's composed, he's still got some control of the situation.

share|improve this answer

To me, the hat symbolizes letting go of everything and being in the moment. In that moment, he doesn't chase the hat. He's out of hope, out of future, head full of static.

share|improve this answer

Tom and Verna kill Leo at the end. There's not another soul alive that thinks this other than me and yet it seems so obvious. The hat at the beginning is Leo's hat. The stretch of woods it is blowing down is the same stretch of woods that Leo is walking down at the end of the movie. Why does Verna take the car at the end? Why does Tom tip his hat and give a sinister look? He tips his hat to firstly show that it's not the same hat as the one in the opening scene and secondly he tips it because he's about to do something: murder Leo. Seems obvious. Or maybe not.........

share|improve this answer
Not just not obvious, actually total bollocks. This clearly isn't what happens in the actual movie and, given what does happen, makes no sense whatsoever. –  matt_black Jun 20 at 20:07

It always seemed to me that Tom (Gabriel Byrne) says 'hat' in a way that sounds a lot like 'heart.' "Nothing more foolish than a man chasing his heart" is a reasonable synopsis of the movie. Leo (Albert Finney's character) chases his heart trying to win Verna, and nearly loses everything for it. Tom spends the movie chasing his heart as well. He may be sincerely attracted to Verna, but he seems to realize that she may be using him. He also has deep loyalty to Leo. He takes risks for both. In the end his friendship with Leo wins out. Tom fixes things for Leo and keeps him safe. Tom is not sentimental about it, though, and sacrifices Bernie, thereby losing Verna. The risks he takes for Leo may be a bit foolish, but Tom is not so governed by chasing his heart that he fails to take more cold-hearted calculations into account.

share|improve this answer

I always took the hat as a metaphor to a lid or cap on Tom's feelings and emotions. Like how much he does care for Verna and Leo, even though he acts like he doesn't. Verna even has his hat once, and Leo's people knock it off a few times with punches.

He is a very closed person, and never wants people to know his true intentions because he plays everyone.

share|improve this answer

It's a symbol of death.

"Ever since Thucydides wrote his history, it has been on record that when the angel of death sounds his trumpet the pretences of civilization are blown from men's heads into the mud like hats in a gust of wind." -- George Bernard Shaw, Heartbreak House

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.