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The 8 most quotable movies of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s

Bull Durham

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Blogger’s note: Originally, this was called “The 7 most quotable movies…,” but after it was posted, I went in and added one more, “The Empire Strikes Back.” I left it out because I didn’t want to sound too geeky (shut up), but, dang it, there are so many terrific lines in that movie. I mean, “You must unlearn what you have learned” is really great advice.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress….

The other day, a friend used a quote from “Bull Durham” as her Facebook status:

“You’re gonna have to learn your clichés,” she wrote. “You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: ‘We gotta play it one day at a time….'”

She didn’t say it was “Bull Durham.” She didn’t have to. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the line.

That got me thinking about movies people quote a lot.

I’m not talking about movies with obvious catchphrases, like “Jerry Maguire” (“Show me the money!”) or “Sudden Impact” (“Go ahead … make my day”), and I’m not talking about movies with one or two memorable lines, like “Jaws” (“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”).

I’m talking about movies with seemingly random lines that are so funny, so clever they get etched in your brain and come out without you even thinking about it.

So, here are my nominees for the most quotable movies of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, based on how often I quote them (and listed in chronological order):

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

  • “Go away, or I will taunt you a second time.”
  • “Who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?” (Useful for when you’re talking to someone who’s trying to explain something he or she really doesn’t understand.)
  • “Well, I didn’t vote for you.”
  • “‘Tis but a scratch!”
  • “Well, it was coughing up blood last night.”
  • “The curtains?”

Caddyshack (1980)

  • “Cinderella story, out of nowhere, former greenskeeper, now about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac- it’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!” (Useful for when you’re playing miniature golf, but really annoying when you say it on every hole, so I’m told.)
  • “So, I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”
  • “While we’re young!”
  • “Just be the ball. Be the ball.” 

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

  • “Who’s scruffy looking?”
  • “Never tell me the odds.”
  • “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
  • “Size matters not.”
  • “Laugh it up, fuzz ball.”
  • “Help you, I can.”
  • “Wars not make one great.”
  • “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
  • “I know.”

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

  • “These go to 11.”
  • “I’m the way God made me, sir.” (No one else seems to remember this one. It’s what the desk clerk [Paul Benedict, Mr. Bentley on “The Jeffersons”] says after one of the guys in the band makes fun of how he looks. It’s my favorite line in the whole movie.)
  • “Do me a favor. Kick my ass, OK?”
  • “There’s such a fine live between stupid and, uh … clever.”

Raising Arizona (1987)

  • “OK, then.”
  • “Gov’ment do take a bite, don’t she?”
  • “Turn to the right!”
  • “There’s what’s right, and there’s what’s right, and never the twain shall meet.”
  • “My motto is, ‘Do things my way, or watch your butt!'”
  • “And if a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its ass a-hoppin’.”
  • “Well, naw, unless round is funny.”
  • “Sometimes it’s a hard world for small things.” (Which is itself a paraphrase of a line from the 1955 movie “Night of the Hunter.”)

The Princess Bride (1987)

  • “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”
  • “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
  • “You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is, ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!'” (OK, it’s hard to work this line into conversation, but, boy, it’s a good line.)
  • “As  you wish.”

Bull Durham (1988)

  • “I’m the player to be named later.”
  • “Okay, well, uh… candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she’s registered and maybe a place-setting or maybe a silverware pattern. Okay, let’s get two! Go get ‘em.” (I have a bad habit of trying to quote this line every time we’re at a baseball game and there’s a big discussion on the pitcher’s mound.)
  • “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”

The Big Lebowski (1998)

  • “That rug really tied the room together.”
  • “I’m not Mr. Lebowski. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So, that’s what you call me. That, or His Dudeness… Duder… or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”
  • “This is not Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”
  • “The Dude abides. I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that.”
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52 thoughts on “The 8 most quotable movies of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s

  1. Ryan says:

    I’d add Pulp Fiction and Fight Club.

    “Who’s scruff looking?”

    Someday my wife will understand why I say that.

    • It’s probably a taste thing. If you haven’t seen it, rent “The Princess Bride.” It’s a great movie. The idea is that a grandpa (Peter Falk) is reading his sick grandson (that kid from “The Wonder Years”) a story, and he skips the boring parts. The exposition, the stuff that really bogs down a story, he just skips it. Brilliant. Plus, it’s got Andre the Giant. Really, what’s not to like?

  2. This doesn’t happen often, but I agree with all of your selections. Awesome list! Raising Arizona is my all-time fave. It seems that every line in that movie is quotable. “I donno, they were jammies. They had yoda’s an sh!t on ‘em.” Gah. How I love that movie.
    I would have to add Airplane! (“I speak Jive.”) and Fletch (“Can I borrow your towel? My car just hit a water buffalo.”) and The Blues Brothers (“We play both kinds, Country and Western.)

    • I saw that movie cold in the theater. All I knew was that it was by the same guys who’d made “Blood Simple.” I remember I laughed so hard I cried, and I was stunned that it wasn’t this monster it, that it was just this weird little movie only cool people knew about.

  3. Michelle W. says:

    Also from the Big Lebowski, “Nice ferret,” and “Hey, man, this is a private residence.”

    From Raising Arizona, I believe the quote goes, “Well, ok then.” That’s how I say it anyway. . . Raising Arizona is one of the most brilliant films ever created! I first saw it at the dead mall in Bowling Green, Ky. “That was beautiful” and “her insides was a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase,” are classic.

    From the movie 9 to 5, “You’re a sexist,egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” And I love when Lily Tomlin puts her folder over Frank Hart’s name on the door to make it read F. Hart. (a fart).

    “It’s just a flesh wound,” is another Monty Python favorite. And the movie Being There with Peter Sellers is loaded with fun quotes.

    Can’t remember where I heard, “Would you like for me to do that for you or do you want to f*** it up yourself.”

    Another wonderful post!!

    • PAROLE BOARD CHAIRMAN: You’re not just tellin’ us what we want to hear?
      H.I.: No, sir. No way.
      PAROLE BOARD MEMBER: ‘Cause we just want to hear the truth.
      H.I.: Well, then, I guess I am tellin’ you want you want to hear.
      PAROLE BOARD CHAIRMAN: Boy, didn’t we just tell you not to do that?
      H.I.: Yes, sir.
      PAROLE BOARD CHAIRMAN: OK, then.

  4. Michelle W. says:

    OMGosh, how could I have forgotten, “Son, where is my automobile?” “Automobile?” and “Hey sexy girlfrieeeeend” from 16 Candles!!

  5. Kim Pugliano says:

    On my first date with my husband we went to dinner and then saw “Music and Lyrics,” which Joe quoted on the way home. I looked at him like he was crazy and said, ‘Huh?” I simply do not remember quotes. He, on the other hand, I will be reading your blog to later this afternoon and I bet he scores at least an 80%.

      • Kim Pugliano says:

        He knew “Caddyshack,” “Princess Bride,” “Empire Strikes Back,” and “The Big Lebowski.” That’s only 50%. But he’s only 36 (that’s my excuse for him). He asked if you know this one:

        “You know a whole bunch of little bottles equals a big bottle.”

  6. I love movie lines! But I have to admit I haven’t seen Spinal Tap. *adds to queue* My all time favorite movie to quote is Steel Magnolias but I wouldn’t expect a gentleman like yourself to refer to reindeer’s up butts.

  7. Fun post. My favorites are tough to put into everyday conversations, and others are so subtle that only a real pro like you would recognize them. But don’t forget, “Runaway, runaway!” which I use in variety of situations.

    • Probably no coincidence that the Coen Brothers have 2 movies on the list or that Trey Wilson was in 2 of these movies. He was Nathan Arizona in raising Raising Arizona and Skip in Bull Durham.

  8. Jenna says:

    These are GREAT! But I can’t believe my two favorites from Raising Arizona weren’t mentioned “We released ourselves on our own recognizance.” and “I’ll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash ya got.”

    And my favorite CHEESY movie line (but one I seemed to have quoted before) is from Some Kind of Wonderful “I would rather be alone for the right reason than with someone for the wrong.” matter of fact…pretty much all John Hughes films are quotable for me.

  9. My favourite from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.” Of course, I can never remember it accurately…

    Wendy

  10. I am super excited to find out there are other people in the world who love Raising Arizona. That is my favorite movie! I can’t tell you how many times “Gov’ment do take a bite, don’t she?” has crossed my mind. Nearly every time I’ve picked up my pay stub, for one. But NOBODY knows what I’m talking about if I quote it. So sad for them. Lifeintheboomerlane is right – practically every line in that movie is memorable.

    I have no cable, no satellite, so I watch a lot of movies (over and over). But really it’s been most of my life that I have quoted movies in my head. Situations remind me of what happened in this movie or that movie – I guess I’m just really impressionable :). So this has been a fun post for me to read, including the comments. Thanks for that!

    PS: From another great movie, The Amateurs:
    “I don’t do, okay, I try.”
    “You know, people who do, they have extra time…not us trying people. We’re busy trying all the time. Nothing takes up more time than trying.”

    • I was in Phoenix a few years and tracked down the hayseed bank. It’s the Reata Pass Steakhouse in Scottsdale. It looked the same, but that beautiful desert all around it had been turned into subdivisions. Speaking of which:

      “Well, which’ll it be? If’n I freeze, I can’t get down on the floor, and if I get down on the floor, I’ll be in motion.”

      • That movie is so terrific! One that pops in my head too often, for no really good reason, is “Mind his little fontanel.” I think it may be because I didn’t know what that word meant – I just knew it referred to the baby’s head (now I know it’s the soft spot).

        One thing I love about that movie is that Hi is just a guy, a petty criminal and fairly unsuccessful in life. Mostly he’s just muddling through, reacting to the people and situations around him. So much of his life seems to be happening to him. And then at the end, he seems to be gaining control. “But me and Ed, we can be good too.” I get the feeling that things will be different for Hi and Ed, after the credits. At least I hope so.

  11. What? No Die Hard?

    I like the kiss quote from The Princess Bride, but it is kind of mushy. I also frequently say, “Anybody wanna peanut?” but rarely does anyone get it.

    Office Space has so many good quotes, it’s a language unto itself.

  12. Michelle says:

    “Take that diaper off your head and put it back on your sister!”

    “Yes I’m serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”

    “A hospital! What is it? It’s a big building with sick people in it.”

    “There’s a sale at Penney’s!”

  13. Ron Gardner says:

    You’ve some good ones here, no doubt; but, fyi, when you need to explain why other lines are on the list, or qualify them as lines that ‘ no one else seems to remember’, that should be a hint that you’re not talking about a great quote. There’s a big difference between great lines, and quotable lines. If people can’t quote them verbatim, or don’t even recognize them, then by definition they’re not quotable.

    “I know.”? You regard this as a memorable quote, recognizable as being from a specific movie? Really?

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