Brevity is said to be the soul of wit, though in the modern day quoting a famous movie is an acceptable substitute. While the dry and predictable rehashing of classic lines of cinema rarely has humor value in and of itself, it has become standard fair to ignore this fact and treat movie quotes as though they represent novel jokes. (It should be noted that a well-placed quote dropped into a drunken conversation at precisely the right moment to infer an immoral and physically challenging sexual act is a glaring exception to the rule stated above.)
Despite the increasing popularity of randomly presenting movie quotes in lieu of conversation, few have made any real effort to master this art. A properly timed and well-placed movie quote can be the height of wit or the lowest failure of humor. The first step to mastering the art of quoting is to familiarize oneself with a few of Hollywood’s ripest selections for broadly applicable witticisms.
#10) Dazed & Confused
Released in: 1993
Directed By: Richard Linklater
Quoted by: People slightly too old for Kevin Smith movies.
Best Quote: “That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
Where You’ll Hear it Quoted: Amongst alternatively medicated people with sub-clinical glaucoma, college dorms.
This early nineties exploration of the late seventies helped to launch the careers of sub par actors Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck. The film was largely a plotless meandering through all the various clichés of a coming of age movie. Strangely, Linklater’s willingness to abandon the burden of story actually worked, allowing the film to truly evoke the feeling of a random night out with friends.
#9) Animal House
Released in: 1978
Directed by: John Landis
Quoted by: People slightly too old for Dazed & Confused.
Best Quote: “Mom, Dad, this is Larry Kroger, the boy who molested me last month. We have to get married.”
Where You’ll Hear it Quoted: Among people who used to own a Beta-Max, college dorms.
Animal House is a film with charming simplicity that hides the genre-defining skeleton underneath it quite well. There aren’t many scenes in the movie that can be pointed to that demonstrate its unforgettable nature. However, if you take it as a whole the movie captures an audience in a unique way that directors like Linklater and the Farrelly Brothers have made a career out of trying to recapture.
There is a simple majesty about Animal House that almost transcends sheer puerilism, but Landis is careful never to take the movie too seriously. I can’t help but imagine that he was as surprised as anyone when he set out to make a 109 minute fart joke and accidentally made a work of art.
#8) Pulp Fiction
Released in: 1994
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Quoted by: White people who like talking like Samuel L. Jackson.
Best Quote: “I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?”
The echoing effect of Tarantino’s masterpiece can be felt in several genres of film. The movie serves as a tutorial on the creative use of chronology. It teases the viewer hours of unseen back-story every time a new element is introduced. It is peopled with unforgettable characters and unpredictable plot twists.
Despite the forward thinking technical elements of the movie, it is the dialogue that makes Pulp Fiction truly unforgettable. Tarantino imbues his lines with a certain poetic reality that is exemplified by his brilliant eye for casting. The more religious among us might be rightly disturbed by the percentage of the populace whose only real knowledge of the bible comes from Jules Winfield’s recitation of Ezekiel 25:17.
#7) Caddy Shack
Released in: 1980
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Quoted by: People who comprehend just how bad the present cast of Saturday Night Live is.
Best Quote: “You’re a lot of woman, you know that? Hey, you wanna make $14 the hard way?”
Honorable Mention for Best Quote: “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na”
Where You’ll Hear it Quoted: In any barroom where competition is taking place, college dorms.
Lest I allow this blog to become nothing more than a list of the defining moments in sophomoric humor, I submit Caddy Shack as the last movie in that genre that will appear on this inventory. This film is considered by many to be the best thing that ever came of putting a bunch of really funny people together with a loose script.
I’ve already spent too many adjectives trying to make Animal House seem like a cinematic masterpiece so I won’t further abase my credibility by doing the same for Caddy Shack. No movie that contains a turd-in-the-pool joke should be presented as a high water mark. That being said, Caddy Shack is still a movie where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The comic genius of Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray lend the movie a sense of timelessness and ensure that inspired discourse like “Gunga, gunga, lagunga” will live in perpetuity.
Released in: 1975
Directed by: Steven Something-or-Another
Quoted by: People who are going to need a bigger boat.
Best Quote: “Duh-nuh.”
Where You’ll Hear it Quoted: On beaches ad nauseam, college dorms.
Jaws is often called the first summer blockbuster and there is little doubt that it forced Hollywood to question the long held assumptions about what the public wanted from their movies. In many ways it set down a formula that is still in wide use to this day.
While Jaws only offers a few popular quotes, the sheer longevity of the films appeal earns it a high spot on this list. Those of us who grew up with Jaws were largely aware of the quotes long before we saw the film. The memorable nature of the lines is even more impressive when one considers that the script was largely being written as they filmed.
#5) The Princess Bride
Released in: 1987
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Quoted by: People engaged in anything resembling swordplay.
Best Quote: “Hello, my name Is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Where You’ll Hear it Quoted: Renaissance fairs, college dorms.
This fairy tale classic has a tendency to sneak into a high position on just about every “best of” list I assemble for films. Perhaps the only thing that wasn’t monumental or unforgettable about this movie is the soundtrack, though interestingly the soundtrack was the only element that caught the attention of the academy come Oscar time.
The script is an almost nonstop list of clever conversations and unforgettable utterances. From Westley and Inigo’s swordplay banter to Fezzik’s impromptu rhymes to any of a half-dozen spectacular cameos, the Princess Bride is all but the definition of a quotable movie.
#4) Wizard of Oz
Released in: 1939 if you can believe that.
Directed by: Victor Fleming, et al.
Quoted by: Fans of Wizard of Oz.
Best Quote: “I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”
Where You’ll Hear it Quoted: Where you least expect it, college dorms.
The Wizard of Oz is arguably the most enduring work of art ever captured on celluloid. The continuing popularity it finds in television rebroadcasts and the persistent urban legends about it lining up with various rock albums are a real testament to the visceral appeal of Baum’s allegorical masterwork.
Wizard of Oz earns its place on this list through the force of sheer ubiquity. It is one of the few works that can be quoted in virtually any English speaking audience without losing anyone. One can reasonably assume that a person who responds to “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” with a blank stare is at least partially lobotomized.
#3) The Big Lebowski
Released in: 1998
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Quoted by: Those of the utmost taste and sophistication
Best Quote: “The Dude abides.”
Honorable Mention for Best Quote: Every other line in the movie
Where You’ll Hear it Quoted: Wherever recognition of truly transcendent art is appreciated.
The Big Lebowski may be the current king of the cult following. There are annual conventions all over the country where fans get together and spend entire weekends quoting excerpts from this film-noir classic.
The product of a pair of writer/directors who churn out works of genius more regularly than I change my oil, The Big Lebowski could almost get lost among their impressive filmography. As good as the Coen brothers are at writing and directing, perhaps their most impressive skill is in casting and this is never clearer in any of their works than it is in The Big Lebowski.
The force of character present in even the bit roles in this film makes every minute memorable. John Turturro’s Jesus, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Brandt, Buscemi’s seldom heard Donnie and David Huddleston’s Big Lebowski form the base of a pyramid atop which John Goodman sits in his career defining role.
Released in: 1942
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Quoted by: People who have never seen Casablanca.
Best Quote: “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”
Where You’ll Hear it Quoted: Among people too snobbish to quote the other movies on my list, college dorms.
While this list is certainly guilty of ignoring the vast swath of filmmaking from the dawn of the art form to my birth, no such list could claim credibility if it excluded Casablanca. Some might think me guilty of trying to force-fit some refinement into a list of otherwise juvenile cinema and I suppose I’m not prepared to deny that entirely.
There is a solid case to be made for Casablanca’s inclusion as the second or even first movie on my list. Timeless lines like “We’ll always have Paris”, “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world…”, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”, “Kiss me as if it were the last time”, “Round up the usual suspects” and “Play it again, Sam” (which is never actually uttered in the movie) are so omnipresent that even people who could not identify their source could probably recite them.
#1) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Released in: 1975
Directed by: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
Quoted by: Virtually everyone who saw it.
Best Quote: Click Here
Where You’ll Hear it Quoted: Anywhere they allow geeks, college dorms.
No other movie could justifiably sit above this one in the pantheon of quotability. A single well placed Holy Grail quote can easily cascade into hours of teary-eyed laughter as every scene in the movie is slowly revisited. In preparation for this blog I presented the question of history’s most quotable movie on a number of Q&A sites and in every instance the consensus eventually swung to the Monty Python team’s magnum opus.
There are no lines in this movie that can’t be quoted for a laugh. It is almost impossible to recall a single scene without quotes from a half dozen other scenes sneaking into the conversation. Those unfortunate souls who neglected to watch this movie might find themselves lost among a sea of “I’m invincible!”, “At least let me go back and spank the peril”, “She turned me into a newt”, “Are you suggesting that coconuts migrate?” , “I feel happy!” and “Message for you, sir”.
Bolstering the unrivaled comic irreverence captured by this legendary ensemble is the fact that things are just funnier in British accents. If you doubt that I urge you to reread this blog in your best Cockney.
PS You almost forgot to post this blog on your Facebook page and share it with all your friends! Good thing I reminded you.