- Award Snub: In this case, a snub of a snub. Thanks to a Tony Awards technicality, William Daniels wound up nominated in the supporting actor category, along with One-Scene Wonder Ron Holgate (Richard Henry Lee). Daniels promptly refused the nomination. Holgate won.
- Awesome Music: "Is Anybody There?" again.
- Designated Villain: John Dickinson, the other Pennsylvania delegate (sorry, Judge Wilson), and Edward Rutledge, the South Carolina delegate and de facto speaker for the Deep South. Neither of them are true villains (the real Rutledge didn't even care all that much for slavery), but just happen to have different ideas about what is best for America and their own colonies/states.
- Dickinson ended up getting a bad rep from the movie -- in reality, he was not as hidebound as he appeared in 1776. He co-wrote On The Necessity of Taking Up Arms with Jefferson (the passage quoted by John Adams in "But, Mr. Adams" was actually penned by Dickinson), and supported the war. He merely hoped that it would end in rapproachment with England, once England learned that the colonies couldn't be pushed around and bullied. He did, as shown in the movie, resign from the Congress and join the Continental Army as he in good conscience could not sign the Declaration, still hoping for a reconciliation with England. And eleven years later, he helped draft the Constitution.
- Draco in Leather Pants: Dickinson. Over half the fanbase is more in love with Dickinson than they are with Adams. Although how much of a Draco he actually was is up for debate; see Designated Villain above.
- Ear Worm: Sit down, John! Sit down, John! For God's sake, John, sit down!
- Here a Lee, there a Lee... everywhere a Lee, a Lee!
- Estrogen Brigade: Adams. Dickinson. Jefferson. Rutledge. Pick any character with so much as one line, and there's probably a group of fans out there with the hots for him.
- Foe Yay: Adams and Dickinson.
- Funny Aneurysm Moment: If you pay attention in history class: Robert E. Lee, the top general of the Confederate Army in the American Civil War, was related to Richard Henry Lee, the man who brought in Virginia's resolution on independence. The bit of the song where Richard Henry Lee is listing all of the famous Lees of Old Virginia? "Light Horse Harry" Lee was Robert E. Lee's father. Also, all of South Carolina's posturing about claiming to speak for the Deep South and threatening not to deliver on unanimity? Guess which state was the first to secede from the Union.
- Also, Martha Jefferson's lines in the last verse of "He Plays The Violin":
When Heaven calls to me
Sing me no sad elegy
Say I died loving bride
Loving wife, loving life.
- Considering that she died only six years after the period portrayed in the film, it's disturbingly prophetic.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: "Wake up, Franklin! We're going to New Jersey!" Well, it was funny a few years ago, anyway.
- "Like hell I am, what for?" "The whoreing and the drinking!" remember a tiny show called Jersey Shore?
- Historical Hero Downgrade/History Marches On: James Wilson, portrayed in the film and musical as a non-entity who voted for independence because he didn't want the notoriety of being the one who voted it down, was in fact a committed independence man who delayed his vote until after he checked with his constituents to make sure they agreed with him -- and to do so, was partially responsible for the postponement that the film shows as engineered by Adams and Franklin. However, to be fair to the playwrights, this historical data was not easy to find at the time the play was written (the late 1960s), mainly because Wilson was considered a relatively inconsequential figure. (Indeed, even Adams' role in the process had frequently been trivialized by historians well into the twentieth century.) This led the playwrights to believe his apparent change of heart was unexplained.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Mostly averted. Rutledge and Read do come around, and while Dickinson does not sign the Declaration, he still joins the American army and is given a standing ovation when he leaves Congress. Not to mention that he would become one of the architects of the Constitution eleven years later.
- If approached from the real Adams' point of view, this Rutledge is definitely upgraded. Adams thought Rutledge was a waste of political space ("jejune, inane, and puerile," among other things); likewise, he thought Dickinson was "very modest, delicate, and timid" -- quite a difference from the political steamroller in the play/movie. He was much more impressed by Richard Henry Lee (whom the stage/movie version of Adams apparently considers an idiotic blowhard).
- Ho Yay: Dickinson and Wilson; Adams and Jefferson.
- Magnificent Bastard: Rutledge, Dickinson
- Ben Franklin playing James Wilson like a harp at the last minute also qualifies him for the description.
- Tear Jerker: "Mama, Look Sharp"
- Watch It for the Meme: The film has had a very small revival amongst William & Mary students who first learn about it by seeing a clip of Jefferson's and Adams' argument over "inaleinable," in which their school is treated as superior to Harvard.