9

So, we learn through the course of the movie that

The briefcase The Dude was given was a fake, The Dude kept The Big Lebowski's case in his car, his car got stolen by Larry, Larry abandons the car, and a vagrant sleeps in the car.

All well and good, but:

There's no indication of what happened to the briefcase at the end of the film. It went missing at some point but neither Larry nor the vagrant would have had any real inclination to steal a locked briefcase, let alone one filled with phone books.

So my question is: is there any indication of where the case actually ended up? It seems odd that a Coen Bros. film would just stop caring about a locked briefcase, regardless of its contents.

3

I believe the German gang stole the Dude's car and eventually found the briefcase and opened it, realizing no money was actually in it. Jeffrey Lebowski gave the Dude the case saying it had a million dollars but the thought is it didn't have anything at all, and he had withdrawn the money from the foundation and kept it for himself.

The Germans were Bunny's (Jeffrey Lebowski's wife) friends and used her going on an unannounced trip as an opportunity to extort Jeffrey Lebowski for money. Once they ransacked the Dude's car and found no money, they confronted him in the bowling alley parking lot after setting the car on fire.

Here's an excerpt from the plot summary that may sum things up:

The Dude later tells Walter that he now understands the whole story: when Lebowski—who apparently hated his wife—heard that Bunny was kidnapped, he withdrew money from the foundation, kept it for himself, and gave the Dude a briefcase without any money in it, saying that it contained a million dollar ransom. The kidnapping was also a ruse: when Bunny took an unannounced trip, her friends—the nihilists—purported a kidnapping to be able to extort money from Lebowski.

TL;DR - German gang stole the car/briefcase. No money inside.

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