What was the significance of the origami figure Deckard found at the end of Blade Runner? What could it have symbolized?

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    I believe that here were two (or more) origami figures: the unicorn (noted below), and a second that resembled a man. Which one are you referring to?
    – TGnat
    Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 16:59
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    The man origami was left for the replicant Leon to find. It probably represented some memory implanted in him and they probably want to suggest they're on to him. Commented Jan 31, 2011 at 16:41
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    Why would GAff leave Leon a message to tell him "We're on to you"? I think the origami man left for Leon was simply Gaffs way of pointing out that Leon was "a paper man" i.e. Man made, therefore not a real man.
    – user296
    Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 11:27
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    Something a lot of people miss is that Gaff says to Deckard "You've done a man's job, sir", interesting turn of phrase and adds to the premise Deckard is actually a replicant. Also I like that Bryant says you're not cop you're little people... again maybe some subtle inference he is somehow less than a man.
    – user5983
    Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 20:41
  • To answer your question directly - it doesn't symbolize anything - it's Gaff's way to telling Deckard that he's a replicant, too. Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 16:48

11 Answers 11


The origami unicorn was left for Deckard to find by Gaff.

The symbolism of this varies, depending on which version of the film you're watching. If you're watching the 1992 Director's Cut, it implies that Gaff knew about Deckard's unicorn dream earlier in the film; further implying that Deckard is a replicant, and that Gaff knew about Deckard's dream because it was an implanted memory. This theory is further supported by Gaff's parting line of "It's too bad she won't live. But then again who does?"
In addition to this, the unicorn, together with Gaff's parting line, shows that Gaff found Rachael at Deckard's apartment, but decided to spare her, and allow Deckard to run away with her.

  • 7
    The artistic device was used well in the movie, especially once the director's cut became widely available. The lingering question of Deckard's humanity has, for me at leaset, provided motivation to watch the movie several times over. Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 15:21
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    Ridley Scott confirmed Deckard is a replicant in an interview discussing among other things the unicorn dream and why Gaff knows about it
    – Wudang
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 17:29
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    Just my two cents: Ridley Scott only "confirmed" Deckard as a replicant many years after the fact and when the movie was originally made, Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott had agreed that Deckard was not a replicant. Also, I find the idea of a hardened detective dreaming about unicorns a little out of character. Perhaps Deckard is musing over the childhood dreams of Rachael. Perhaps Gaff has read the same files as well.
    – user1796
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 7:50
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    If Gaff was trying to say he knew both Deckard and Rachel were replicants it doesn't make sense for him to say "too bad she won't live" about Rachel. To me, that line signifies that Rachel is different from Deckard. If he was trying to say they were the same I'd like to think he'd choose his words differently Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 16:37
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    @Nellius: It implies humans and replicants are fundamentally the same. And to me, the fact that Gaff even makes that statement, is a message to Deckard that he is not a replicant. Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 11:53

There's a sequence to them.

In Bryant's office, Gaff made a chicken, which means that he thinks Deckard's refusing to come back to blade running because of cowardice.

Later, while searching Leon's apartment, Gaff makes a matchstick man. A quick Google showed that Gaff gave the matchstick man an erection, saying he knows Deckard is attracted to Rachael. This hadn't occurred to me: I've seen this movie several times and own the director's cut and four-disc re-release with the final cut, and never noticed that aspect of the matchstick man before. I had interpreted it as meaning that Deckard had begun to "man up", or as an insult.

The third is the unicorn, and what it means depends on which version of the movie you're watching. Blade Runner was the first of the movies with a "director's cut", and while it has begun to mean the two minutes of nudity that they couldn't get past the MPAA, with Blade Runner, the differences between the two cuts lead to substantially different narratives.

For the replicant characters, such as Pris, Leon, Rachel and Zhora, you have characters who are primarily known by their first names. For the human characters, like Bryant, Gaff, Tyrell, the characters are mostly known by their last name. Then you have Rick Deckard and Roy Batty. Roy Batty is a replicant, but filled with human emotion and a lust for life. Rick Deckard is human, but detached, unemotional and cold.

There are many things symbolized by the unicorn. One is them relates to emotion, and this could be seen as the end of Deckard's journey. It's a fantastic thing, and it could mean that Gaff thinks that Deckard running off with Rachael means he's living in a fantasy with that, not reality.

Or, with the director's cut, you see that Gaff has the files for Deckard's memories, as Deckard has the files for Rachael's, and that means he's a replicant. But only in the director's cut.

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    +1 I first watched the theatrical cut as a kid, and the only meaning I got from Gaff and his unicorn was "I was here and decided to spare her". But the other interpretations also make sense.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 21:56
  • There's a theory, that more than Gaff having access to the implanted memories, the implanted memories are Gaffs (gavinrothery.com/my-blog/2011/10/1/…)
    – Dan Kelly
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:06
  • Just a note: Matchstick man was placed in the Leon's apartment, not during interview with Rachel - Gaff never seen Rachel on screen. I always assumed it was a mute insult towards Leon (as "he is a dick")
    – Yasskier
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 20:29
  • Yasskier, as the chicken and the unicorn are both comments about Deckard, we must assume the matchstick man is also pointed at Deckard. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 20:32
  • And, yes, it came during the apartment visit. I recall those happening in that order -- interview w/ Rachel, Leon's apartment -- but it occurred during the apartment scene. Will change. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 20:34

I never bought into the Deckard-is-a-replicant idea, but instead always thought it was that both men saw Rachel as beautiful, impossible, unique and magical, which is well represented well by the symbol of a Unicorn.

In my opinion, Gaff leaving the unicorn for Deckard to find tells Deckard two things.

  1. I have decided to spare her, take her and go.
  2. I understand your fascination with her.

My two cents.

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    This is a perfectly valid explanation for the theatrical cut :) For the Director's Cut, Ridley Scott himself claims it's evidence Deckard is a replicant. You're free to believe otherwise, though -- I believe meaning in art transcends the artist's original intentions anyway.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 21:53

I have an input about the unicorn dream. I am an Art Historian, and I have recently made a research on the Unicorn symbology in the Middle Ages Art. The unicorn is an christological symbol. In the book physiologus (popular book in the middle ages about magical creatures and so on) the unicorn is described as hard to capture. Only a virgin could do this. This unicorn myth has been used as a symbol (incarnation) of Christ, who has been born by the virgin Mary.

Furthermore it was believed that the unicorn had magical powers. The Unicorn could bring dead back to life, and the person who drinks his blood becomes immortal.

So my two cents about the Unicorn in the Movie: Mybe Deckard and Rachael don't have a short lifespan as the other replicants do. Perhaps it could also mean, that Decker and Rachael get the opportunity to run away and start a family. They could get a child together and be the founders of a Replicant Civilization (reference to Mary who gave birth to jesus).


It to some extent answers the question in the title of Dick's novel, 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?', and leads us to wonder, what is it exactly that MAKES us human. One could say, 'I Dream therefore I am', or one could simply think that since real humans need to dream to stay sane (Griffin, Dreaming Reality 2004) , Deckard's dream is simply a necessary by-product of his replicated mind.

Deckard dreams of unicorns yet this is an implanted memory. You might wonder why Tyrrel Corp would take the trouble to implant dreams at all. They will need at least six a night and this is going to add up to thousands altogether. So, why is THIS dream the one that stands out? "To see a unicorn in your dream symbolizes high ideals, hope and insight in a current situation. It also symbolizes power, gentleness, and purity" - Dream Moods. Is this, I wonder, what Deckard's subconscious is fascinated with?


I recently watched the Director's Cut and after reading other posts regarding Deckard being a replicant, I personally don't think he was (even though many signs point to him being one). I think this mainly because everytime he physically came up against a replicant (which was at least 3 times in the movie) he was always inferior to them and lost unless he used his gun. I could be wrong, that's just my opinion.

I like the basic idea that Gaff left the origami to let Deckard know that he saw Rachel and let her live. The reason he made it into a unicorn was to let Deckard know that he should follow his dream, which was to be with Rachel. Then again how did Gaff know about the dream. It's just my two cents.

P.S I loved reading all the different opinions. Some great stuff here!


I think that Ridley Scott added the part of Decker being a replicant so that the movie would have different meanings to everyone and cause great discussion about it. But to me, the unicorn left behind means one thing - that others have already said.

  1. Gaff knows she's a replicant and knows that Decker is in love with her, and decides to spare her.

  2. When Gaff says "It's to bad she won't live, but then again who does" means she only has four years of life and that Decker is becoming too infatuated with her. But then again, she dies, and no matter who he ends up with will eventually die too.

That's just me though. I also kind of hate the idea that he is a replicant. The movie to me is about man's ability to survive even against powerful things like replicants. I think director's cuts do this too much. It goes back to Star Wars. Who shot first, Han or Greedo... Harrison Ford's characters just need to be left alone, lol.


My two cents

Deckard, in being a a Bladerunner, could be associating with replicants. This is common in people who has power over "subjects". Gaff, knowing this, could be playing Deckard a trick, saying: I know you feel insecure about what you are, so I'll stick this to you. How does Gaff know that Decard has the unicorn dream? The dream could be a reoccurring dream that is common for Bladerunners. As a prison officer, i know that the most common, and talked about dream, is about being imprisoned.

For me the essence of the movie, is that Deckard chooses life, love and opportunity, regardless of the origin of Rachel (and himself). Remember Roy's dying words "All those moments, will be lost in time" Meaning: You have only the life you are living NOW, so, enjoy it NOW. This is equal for humans and replicants.

The movie, for me, is also a comment on racism and religious struggle. "We are all equal"


I think the unicorn can only mean that Gaff knew what was in Decker's dream, therefore meaning that he was a replicant. The fact that it has the voice-over of Gaff saying 'she won't live, but then who does' accompanying it reinforces that.

In addition you had Rachael asking Decker earlier in the movie if he had ever done the eye test on himself, and enquiring about his memories which would suggest she suspected also.

Bryant didn't know about Rachael, and I don't think he knew about Decker either. I don't believe there was anything telling in that respect in his 'little people' remark, merely that he would make life hard for him if he didn't help out.

I think there was a lot more to Gaff than met the eye, and knew more of what was going on than anyone. He knew both Decker and Rachael were replicants from the start, and had deduced that they were in love. He knew where Rachael was but let her live, to be with Decker. The unicorn was both telling Decker he was a replicant and signalling that he had his blessing to escape with Rachael.

The only thing which doesn't make sense is if Decker was a replicant, why didn't he have their physical attributes? He couldn't make the jump from one building to another and spent half the time getting his arse kicked. Also, if the Nexus are meant to be so pefect, why was Leon so damned ugly??

  • Under certain interpretations, Deckard does have some of their physical attributes: how else could he hang from a building using just the tip of his fingers? And Leon wasn't built for physical attractiveness (or intelligence).
    – Andres F.
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 23:59
  • In regards to Deckard (not Decker!) not having super-human powers like the other Replicants: neither did Rachel. This new type of Replicant was built to more closely resemble Humans. This included implanted memories and more human levels of performance. "The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long"; the Nexus 6's were literally burning themselves out. Perhaps these "Nexus 7's" will outlive the 4 year span. In the movie version with the final voice-over, Deckard postulates this possibility. To be clear, Roy Batty and pals did not have implanted memories. Tyrell explains to Roy that
    – user20019
    Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 23:28
  • If you give a replicant super human physical attributes, they would figure out what they are. That's why they had to limit Deckard and Rachael. Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 16:32

I think, that the main idea of the movie was that almost everyone left on Earth were Replicants. That explains why all replicants return to Earth. They were programmed to do so. When they are back they're being retired (one way or another). There is no life left and everything is artificial. All real humans went to offworlds. Some left to made new replicants. It s like big factory. The ones that wander around just test that Earth still inhabital. And so some of them realized that they are replicants and live with it. Some doesn't know that yet. So the main questions are: what makes us so human? What do we have what artificial inteligence doesn't?


Since the unicorn wasn't in the original film, I saw it as an aspect of Gaff's heritage, small art pieces he left about. Whether he had intended Decker to find it or not I didn't consider, only that Gaff had decided not to destroy Rachel.

Ridley Scott has been interviewed saying the unicorn in the dream is something that Gaff knew about-apparently implanted, and that the origami unicorn was a message to Deckard revealing his origin as a replicant.

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    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 21:58

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