The "cool medal" the kids find in Walt's basement is the Silver Star, the U.S. military's third highest award for valor in combat. Despite its predominately gold color, it gets its name from the smaller silver star (based on the small silver World War I Citation Star) set inside the large gold star.
According to Bee Vang, the Hmong actors were isolated from the rest of the cast and crew. According to Vang, efforts by the Hmong actors to correct the portrayal of Hmong traditions were ignored. Vang has also refuted claims that the Hmong actors were encouraged to improvise. According to Vang, when he tried to improvise Clint Eastwood told him to "stick to the script". Vang also stated that the cast and crew had a baseball game but the Hmong actors were not invited. It was assumed that the Hmong actors were immigrants and did not know about baseball. But Vang states that the majority of the Hmong actors were US natives. Vang later participated in a parody of the film, "Thao Does Walt", in which Vang played an elderly Hmong man to a teenage Caucasian boy, highlighting perceived racial stereotyping in the original scene.
When Walt is at the Hmong's party, he pats the head of a young Hmong girl passing through, causing the family members to audibly gasp. In Hmong culture, the human head is believed to house the soul, and any touching of the head is believed to jeopardize this, and is thus considered very disrespectful.
Walt Kowalski's gun collection seems to consists of weapons he used in the military. His rifle is an American M1 Garand, a 9.5lb .30-06 gas-operated rifle. It was first issued during WWII, then re-issued in Korea before being phased out by the M14 selective fire .308 rifle. His pistol is an M1911A1, a .45 ACP semi-automatic handgun also issued during the Korean war.
In the original screenplay, Gran Torino is set over winter and spring. When Walt notices Hmong cutting the chicken's head off he spits in the snow. Tao is also pushed of a bike into the snow by the Latinos. It cuts forward 3 months to spring after this.
The film could had been the 6th "Dirty Harry" film. If so, the film would had taken place 20 years after "The Dead Pool" and would had seen Detective Harry Callahan, now retired from the San Francisco police department and is now living in a Michigan neighborhood, whom is forced to reload his .44. magnum handgun and takes on a street gang that harasses the family living next-door to him.
Walt's death scene near the end of the film was supposed to signify the acting retirement of Clint Eastwood, since this is the only movie in which his character dies on screen. This held true for only 4 years, when the filmmakers of Trouble With The Curve (2012) convinced him to come out of retirement and star in the movie.
On Walt's birthday, before his family arrives, he reads his horoscope to his dog, Daisy. "Your birthday today...this year you have to make a choice between two life paths. Second chances come your way. Extraordinary events culminate in what might seem to be an anti-climax." This could pretty much sum up the events of the film: Walt chooses between doing nothing or helping Thao when he's being harassed by his cousin's gang; the "second chances" could refer to leaving behind his racist attitudes (to some degree, at least) and spending time with Thao, Sue, and their family and friends; and, of course, the ending, where Thao and perhaps the audience may expect Walt to go out in a blaze of glory instead of his self-sacrifice to have the gang members jailed for his murder.