The 100 Funniest Punchlines in Movie Comedy History
It seems like a simple task, picking the best punchlines from movies. You just select the zingers that make you laugh the hardest, right? But while putting together this list of the 100 funniest, I realized not just how subjective comedy is but, also, how personal a reaction to a punchline can be. What makes you ROFL may just make me chuckle, or vice versa. Sometimes, it’s not a movie’s most famous joke that means the most to you — maybe it’s the more obscure gag that sends you into hysterics. With that in mind, it’s impossible to pretend that my list is in any way definitive — honestly, it’s just filled with putdowns, gags and witticisms that get me every time. My hope is that a decent amount of them get to you, too.
I had to implement some ground rules to make this process more manageable. For one thing, the punchlines had to come from comedies: Action movies, thrillers, horror films and dramas all have their share of laughs, but to qualify for this list, you had to principally be a comedy or a satire. Also, stand-up films seemed a little too easy — they’re nothing but setups and punchlines — so I skipped them. And I decided to ignore catchphrases. “Not!” in Wayne’s World is funny, but I’d rather focus on something from a film that’s more of a traditional joke. That reminds me: No movie could have more than one punchline on the list. That allowed for more films, but it made my job infinitely more difficult. Which line from Ghostbusters do you include? Or Anchorman? Or Airplane!? Or Clueless?
This is what I mean by the personal nature of this list: My answer for those particular films might very well be different than yours. Thankfully, ranked lists on the internet never make anyone angry, so I’m sure it’ll all be fine.
As I narrowed my choices down to 100 and then began the maddening ranking process, I noticed a couple things. Perhaps inevitably, there are no non-English-language films on the list. (Also, no silent films.) There’s a decent range across different Hollywood eras, but certain older classics, like The Philadelphia Story, didn’t have that one killer line I just had to include. (Or, embarrassingly, maybe I just forgot what that line would be.) I’m sure a certain recency bias snuck in as well: Social media has a way of amplifying memorable bits from, say, a Will Ferrell flick more than a Peter Sellers classic from decades ago. I tried my best to resist that bias — just like I fought against my natural fondness for childhood favorites that are practically embedded in my DNA at this point. But, flaws and all, here’s my list. If nothing else, it will give you a peek into what I find hilarious.
“I’m about to do to you what Limp Bizkit did to music in the late ‘90s.” — Deadpool
Right, it’s an easy joke. But it’s a funny easy joke.
“No, if it were our plane, it would be crashing.” — Quick Change
This underrated Bill Murray crime comedy is now stained because of Geena Davis’ stories of how terrible he was during production. But this line, spoken in exasperation by Davis’ character as she, Murray and Randy Quaid try to get out of New York after pulling off a bank heist, symbolizes the “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong” dilemma these crooks find themselves in. They just want to catch their plane, and the whole city seems to conspire to keep that from happening.
“From Geneva comes the news that the famous international crook, Gaston Monescu, robbed the peace conference yesterday. He took practically everything except the peace.” — Trouble in Paradise
Essentially, every romantic-comedy thriller involving a dame and a fella who are no-goodniks but must work together draws inspiration from this 1932 Ernst Lubitsch masterpiece. Adapted from the László Aladár play, Trouble in Paradise is full of elegant zingers about stylish con artists falling in love.
“That’s a big chicken.” — Sleeper
In Woody Allen’s Sleeper, his everyman character wakes up in the future after being cryogenically frozen, discovering that the world is terrible and strange. Among the things that have happened, we now have super-huge chickens roaming around. Allen’s low-key response to seeing one of those chickens is so dumb and obvious that it’s delightfully dopey.
“Excuse me, you’re not by any chance related to the Boston Hitlers?” — A New Leaf
Now 91, Elaine May is finally getting her due as a world-class filmmaker, and this dark 1971 gem — in which Walter Matthau’s spoiled, penniless playboy tries wining and dining the rich, naive Henrietta (May) — may be her finest hour.
“As it stands now, Jean Girard is sitting on the pole — which is, of course, a statement of fact and in no way a comment on the driver’s sexual orientation.” — Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Sometimes, it’s not the famous lines from a classic comedy that make you laugh the hardest — it’s the throwaway gags that you feel like you discovered on your own. Talladega Nights has plenty of memorable bits, but this stray comment about Sacha Baron Cohen’s sexually fluid French racecar driver Jean Girard kills me.
“You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?” — Happy Gilmore
Or: How Shooter McGavin Learned That Trying to Trash-Talk Happy Gilmore Can Backfire.
“So you’re my Uncle Joey. Better get used to these bars, kid.” — Back to the Future
Marty’s (Michael J. Fox) unexpected trip into the past allows him to gain a greater appreciation for how he came into being — and also see his older family members before they screwed up their lives. Joey’s a jailbird as an adult, and Marty’s line when he sees him as an infant in a crib is nicely cutting.
“It could have been the soft mattress. Or it could have been the midnight rape. Or the nude gay art show that took place in my room. One of those probably added to the lack of sleep.” — Wedding Crashers
Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) is usually down for anything. But after a horrifying night at the Cleary family compound that kept him from getting much sleep, he’s pretty frazzled. How bad was it? Let Jeremy tell you all about it…
“It’s like I have ESPN or something.” — Mean Girls
I dunno, folks: I’m not sure Karen (Amanda Seyfried) really is psychic.
“Look, I’m Woody — howdy, howdy, howdy!” — Toy Story
There are so many great jokes in this Pixar classic. But this is the one that slays me.
“You know, this is the cleanest and nicest police car I’ve ever been in in my life. This thing’s nicer than my apartment.” — Beverly Hills Cop
After this movie, Eddie Murphy was a certified blockbuster star. He’s got plenty of great over-the-top reactions in Beverly Hills Cop, but this far more subdued (but hilarious) response to being in a Beverly Hills cop car is my favorite moment.
“Actually, my job? It’s just beach.” — Barbie
Look, people, Ken (Ryan Gosling) is not a lifeguard — that’s a common misconception. And is it too soon to include a line from the summer’s biggest hit on this list? Maybe, but I have a feeling we’ll be hearing it for years to come.
“Me?! I know who I am: I’m the dude playin’ the dude disguised as another dude!” — Tropic Thunder
The debate around whether Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of self-important, Oscar-winning thespian Kirk Lazarus was brilliant satire or offensive rages on. But I think this line does get to the heart of what’s being mocked: actors who take such pride in “disappearing into their roles” that they come across as pretentious, insensitive fools.
“The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!” — The Jerk
One of the great regrets of my life is that I’ve never been as excited about anything as Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin) is about the arrival of the new edition of the phone book.
“So, you’re telling me there’s a chance.” — Dumb and Dumber
Oh, Lloyd, you’re such a romantic.
“Did Doogie Howser just steal my fucking car?” — Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
Delivering one of the most memorable “Actor playing an exaggerated version of himself in a comedy” performances, Neil Patrick Harris clearly had a blast sending up his image, coming across as a drugged-out creep who, yes, does steal Harold’s (John Cho) car.
“How do you feel about Cleveland?” — Tootsie
The setup is really important for this joke: Doris Belack’s Rita is the producer of the soap opera that Michael (Dustin Hoffman) has infiltrated, pretending to be a woman. Rita asks the cameraman to figure out a way to create some more distance between himself and “Dorothy.” The cameraman’s solution to the problem, posed as a question to “Dorothy,” is the funniest “Cleveland sucks” joke ever.
“There’s something really sexy about Scrooge McDuck.” — The Last Days of Disco
Meek Alice (Chloë Sevigny) has been told by her know-it-all friend Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale) that guys really respond when you throw the word “sexy” into conversation. So she gives it a shot with Tom (Robert Sean Leonard), going over to his place and discovering he collects Scrooge McDuck artwork. (Spoiler Alert: It works.)
“Girl, you can’t get no infection in your booty hole! It’s a booty hole!” — Girls Trip
Girls Trip was how the world first discovered Tiffany Haddish. I’m not sure Dina is technically correct in her assertion that sticking drugs up where “the sun don’t shine” won’t cause any health problems, but I’ll defer to her expertise. And this was before her character showed her friends how to give better oral sex with the help of a grapefruit.
“He went after her like she’s made out of ham.” — Best in Show
Fred Willard: Gone but never forgotten.
“You’ve never heard of (a no-win situation)? Vietnam? This?” — Modern Romance
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Albert Brooks specialized in skewering neurotic, self-important types whose intellect mostly just got them in trouble. Modern Romance follows his character after he and his on-again/off-again girlfriend (Kathryn Harrold) break up, and this line is from the opening scene, where he’s trying to explain that their going-nowhere relationship is a no-win situation. She’s never heard of that expression — he explains the concept in the oddest way imaginable.
“What the hell are you doing in the bathroom day and night?!? Why don’t you get out of there and give someone else a chance?” — Young Frankenstein
Two things really sell this line: Marty Feldman’s totally demented delivery as Igor, who’s remembering his dear old dad’s words of wisdom, and Gene Wilder’s WTF reaction.
“If I’m not back in five minutes… just wait longer.” — Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Jim Carrey is such a king of catchphrases, but of course he’s also the master of the punchline. This one from his breakout hit encapsulates his inspired stupidity as good as any I could name.
“Y’know, for kids.” — The Hudsucker Proxy
Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins) is convinced he knows how to put Hudsucker Industries back on top. Problem is, no one understands his drawing of a circle. What the hell is that? To help explain his invention, Norville falls back on “Y’know, for kids,” which gets funnier each time he says it. (He’ll have the last laugh, of course: Turns out, kids really do like his newfangled contraption, the hula hoop.)
“Oh, yeah, I’m big-time into ‘corns. So magical, right? You know, they’re the most lethal animal on the planet.” — Central Intelligence
Dwayne Johnson has made some bad movies lately. But I forgive him everything because of this incredible line-reading. #Unicorns4eva
“You’re fucked.” — Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Edie McClurg has been in everything from Carrie to Natural Born Killers to The Hogan Family to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Her funniest moment ever? Playing a maniacally cheery car-rental employee who’s about to face the withering scorn of Neal (Steve Martin), who unloads on her with a litany of F-bombs. But she’ll get her revenge on Neal, discovering he no longer has his rental agreement. Her pithy, vulgar response is perfect.
“I don’t want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone’s really hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated-R movie — you know, the guy you’re not sure whether or not you like yet.” — Swingers
When you’re young, having a cocky wingman like Trent (Vince Vaughn) is probably helpful for boosting your confidence. But it’s important to grow out of that stage sooner rather than later.
“What is this? A center for ants?” — Zoolander
I’m starting to think this Derek Zoolander guy may be a bit of an idiot.
“Just a bit outside.” — Major League
Baseball broadcasters still say this in honor of Bob Uecker.
“Wouldn’t this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If ‘needy’ were a turn-on?” — Broadcast News
In two sentences, Albert Brooks’ nerdy, passive character articulates a lament felt by many a nice guy.
“To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people!” — A Fish Called Wanda
It’s never not delightful to watch Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) explain to Kevin Kline’s Otto all the ways that he’s a dummy.
“What a stupid fucking r— toast. You’re delightful.” — Spy
Rose Byrne’s evil, snooty Rayna Boyanov sure knows how to deliver a putdown.
“I thought I had mono once for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored.” — Wayne’s World
Whenever I hear about someone getting mono, this line instantly pops into my head.
“I love my dead gay son!” — Heathers
This late-1980s satire of teen movies became a totem for edgy Gen-X kids. No line from Heathers better encapsulates the homophobia and hypocrisy of Boomer parents who didn’t understand that the world had changed since they were kids.
“Plastics.” — The Graduate
Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin is just out of college and lacking direction. One of his parents’ friends takes him aside, telling the young man, “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.” As a result, “Plastics” became a shorthand for the counterculture for all the bullshit advice grownups give you that they think is so wise. Maybe there was a great future in plastics, but who would want to waste his life finding out?
“How’d the hell you get the beans above the frank?!” — There’s Something About Mary
Maybe the greatest scene of sexual humiliation ever? Put it this way: If there’s one that’s worse, I don’t want to think about it.
“So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.” — Caddyshack
May we all receive total consciousness right before we die.
“I’m very sorry for your loss. Your mother was a terribly attractive woman.” — The Royal Tenenbaums
There was probably a more tactful way of saying that, but would you expect anything different from Gene Hackman’s wonderfully obtuse Royal Tenenbaum?
“This job would be great if it wasn’t for the fucking customers.” — Clerks
The signature line from the 1990s’ signature slacker indie comedy.
“I don’t like my job, and I don’t think I’m gonna go anymore.” — Office Space
And just like that, Ron Livingston’s Peter Gibbons changes his life forever. This isn’t just a funny line, it’s practically a mantra for legions of miserable office drones.
“Is there some reason that my coffee isn’t here? Has she died or something?” — The Devil Wears Prada
Meryl Streep is so damn good in this movie.
“Bingo!” — The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
If you know, you know.
“I’ll fill you so full of lead you’ll be using your dick for a pencil!” — Three Amigos
The first of two…
“Your name wouldn’t be ‘Dick,’ would it?” — Roxanne
…very good Steve Martin dick jokes.
“Oh, that’s ‘cause they’re real.” — L.A. Story
And now Steve Martin with a great breast joke.
“Please get out of my Van Halen T-shirt before you jinx the band and they break up.” — The Wedding Singer
I’ve got bad news for you, Robbie Hart.
“I don’t have to see it, Dottie. I lived it.” — Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
Rest in peace, Paul Reubens.
“I’m a god. I’m not the God … I don’t think.” — Groundhog Day
This movie is just unimaginable without Bill Murray, despite the headaches that happened on set.
“Now, you listen here: He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy! Now, go away!” — Life of Brian
“Either he’s dead or my watch has stopped.” — A Day at the Races
“Madam, before I get through with you, you will have a clear case for divorce — and so will my wife.” — Monkey Business
“Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.” — Duck Soup
“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know.” — Animal Crackers
More than 45 years after his death, Groucho Marx continues to cast a shadow over modern comedy. Everyone from Bob Dylan to Jerry Seinfeld to Judd Apatow has been influenced by the vaudevillian-turned-movie star: He and his brothers’ films were master classes in sustained silliness, their characters always letting fly with a smart-ass quip or irreverent facial expression. The Marx brothers owned the 1930s, and their penchant for snide, witty, innuendo-laced one-liners remains the gold standard for joke writers today.
“Did we just become best friends?!?” — Step Brothers
Trivia time: What are the three quiz questions that Brennan (Will Ferrell) and Dale (John C. Reilly) answer the same that makes them realize they’re so closely bonded? (Answer: What’s your favorite dinosaur? What’s your favorite non-pornographic magazine to masturbate to? And what man would you have sex with if you were a woman?)
“Give him a moment, son. Dewey Cox has to think about his entire life before he plays.” — Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
This is a great line from the start of a great satire of music biopics. But here’s the funny thing: Actual musicians will post a picture of themselves on social media of their pre-show preparation and reference this line. Sadly, Walk Hard didn’t do well at the box office, but it clearly is a hit among those who understand what’s being skewered.
“What he did to Shakespeare we are doing now to Poland.” — To Be or Not to Be
In the 1980s, Mel Brooks remade this Ernst Lubitsch dark comedy about a group of performers trying to stay alive in Warsaw during World War II. But stick with the original.
“You sit on a throne of lies!” — Elf
All these years later, this is still among Will Ferrell’s biggest hits. And considering how often Elf plays during the holidays, it might be the movie of his that most people have seen.
“You are a real boring fuck! Sorry, sorry, I know you disapprove of swearing, so I’ll sort that: You are a boring F-star-star-cunt.” — In the Loop
Malcolm Tucker is a magnificent swearer.
“Is this your homework, Larry?” — The Big Lebowski
And just think: This moment was inspired by a true story.
“I’ve killed the boss. You think they’re not gonna fire me for a thing like that?” — 9 to 5
Released in 1980, this workplace comedy was ahead of its time, anticipating the #MeToo movement by a couple decades. That said, it’s still probably not a good idea to kill your boss.
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” — The Princess Bride
It can be a drag when a funny line gets co-opted by the culture, reduced to a lazy rhetorical flourish on social media ad nauseam. Such is the case with Inigo Montoya’s (Mandy Patinkin) infamous rejoinder to Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), who uses “inconceivable” incorrectly. Now, sadly, it’s just a way to dunk on dolts on Twitter.
“Are you telling me the man who try to put a rubber fist in my anus was a homosexual?” — Borat
If Republican homophobe Alan Keyes isn’t going to tell him, who will?
“Son, you got a panty on your head.” — Raising Arizona
I mean, to be fair, Nicolas Cage does — that driver’s just pointing it out.
“Turn left at Greenland.” — A Hard Day’s Night
They weren’t just the biggest and best band in the world — the Beatles were also really funny. In their film debut, the Fab Four trade quips when they’re not playing songs. My favorite might be John Lennon’s response to a reporter, who asks him, “How did you find America?”
“Matt Damon!” — Team America: World Police
“I didn’t know they gave out rings at the Holocaust.” — The Hangover
Look, it was an honest mistake on Alan’s (Zach Galifianakis) part: Stu (Ed Helms) did say, “She’s got my grandmother's Holocaust ring!”
“Snap out of it!” — Moonstruck
Slap! Slap! Professions of love rarely go as badly in the movies as it does for poor Ronny (Nicolas Cage).
“Bye, Felicia!” — Friday
Ice Cube still can’t get over how his most famous line in Friday has taken off in the culture. “It is such a throwaway line in the movie,” he said five years ago. “But I guess it’s, like, the most dismissive way to get rid of somebody. … Everybody love it, except people named Felicia.”
“You see how picky I am about my shoes — and they only go on my feet.” — Clueless
I wonder in the last 30 years how many virgins have used this perfect retort to explain why they haven’t rushed into having sex.
“Because I just went gay all of a sudden!” — Bringing Up Baby
Throughout his storied career, Cary Grant was the epitome of debonair cool. But he also dealt with rumors that he was gay or bisexual, with future historians looking back on his films in the hopes of finding hints into his sexuality. Who cares: He wasn’t just suave but also incredibly funny, like in this classic Bringing Up Baby moment.
“I need him like the ax needs the turkey.” — The Lady Eve
Barbara Stanwyck is wonderful in Preston Sturges’ best comedy, in which she plays a con artist looking to seduce a rich, naive Henry Fonda. She can spot a mark a mile away, and this classic line epitomizes her wit and killer instinct.
“What’s wrong with the way I talk? What’s the big idea? Am I dumb or something?” — Singin’ in the Rain
Has there ever been a better dimbulb actress than Lina Lamont, played with such comic relish by Jean Hagen? She got this acclaimed musical’s only acting nomination at the Oscars, and she’s an absolute hoot with her helium voice and ego-centric temper tantrums. Lina may not be bright, but you had no doubt that Hagen was sharp as a tack.
“It’s coming out of me like lava!” — Bridesmaids
Poor Megan. Poor all of them.
“I’m in a glass case of emotion!” — Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
I’ve never looked at a telephone booth the same way since.
“I thought you might be worried… about the security… of your shit.” — Burn After Reading
Brad Pitt had wanted to work with the Coen brothers for a while before getting his wish with this slept-on satire of spy films. He’s Chad, a total idiot who thinks he’s so damn smart, much to his peril. “The leading man role is usually the guy who’s got the answers, figures things out and defuses the bomb within seconds and is always experienced,” Pitt said at the time. “And all of that’s pretty good for the ego sometimes. But it’s more fun playing guys who make the wrong choices, have limited experience and make presumptions.”
“We’re on a mission from God.” — The Blues Brothers
Decades later, this easily remains Saturday Night Live’s best movie.
“McLovin? What kind of a stupid name is that, Fogell? What are you trying to be: an Irish R&B singer?” — Superbad
We salute you, Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” — A Christmas Story
That’s cold, Santa.
“We’re all gonna have so much fuckin’ fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes!” — National Lampoon’s Vacation
Chevy Chase losing his shit is funny.
“Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!” — National Lampoon’s Animal House
There are so many stirring speeches in the history of cinema. This is not one of them.
“By the way, I would have voted for Barack Obama for a third term if I could.” — Get Out
Bradley Whitford, who said that indelible line in Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning horror-comedy, admitted later that he didn’t realize it was a takedown of a certain type of privileged, clueless white liberal. “I worked on his campaigns. I love Obama,” the actor said. “I didn’t even know that was a joke. I don’t know, but I probably said it to Jordan, without realizing that it’s the whitest thing a person could say.”
“We’re finished talking.” — Lost in America
Garry Marshall’s greatest moment ever? I think so.
“I have nipples, Greg. Could you milk me?” — Meet the Parents
The actor who terrified us in Taxi Driver and broke our hearts in Raging Bull segued into comedies later in his career. Robert De Niro asking Ben Stiller this question may be as haunting as his “You talkin’ to me?” monologue.
“That’s what I love about these high school girls, man: I get older, they stay the same age.” — Dazed and Confused
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Matthew McConaughey.
“I’m wet! I’m wet! I’m hysterical and I’m wet!” — The Producers
Just one of the indelible lines that won Mel Brooks a screenplay Oscar for his feature directorial debut. Gene Wilder really is incredible in this film.
“Shut up and deal.” — The Apartment
Billy Wilder had a knack for great last lines. And The Apartment doesn’t even contain his best. (Hint: That one’s still coming up in this list.)
“Oh no, he died!” — Game Night
Rachel McAdams’ infamous line reading became a viral sensation, although she had no idea when IndieWire told her about the phenomenon last year. Did she remember the circumstances that led to that moment? “We were on a tarmac in the middle of Georgia and it was probably about four in the morning, so that may have added to the feeling,” she said.
“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” — Sunset Blvd.
Just about everything out of Norma Desmond’s mouth in this caustic Hollywood satire is hilarious. As played by Gloria Swanson, this has-been silent-movie star became synonymous with any past-their-prime actor who hadn’t accepted that their celebrity is now in the rearview mirror. Desmond is somewhat of a tragic figure, but Swanson also made her bitingly funny: You genuinely believe she is still big, at least in her own mind.
“Yes, it’s true. This man has no dick.” — Ghostbusters
Only the real die-hard Ghostbusters fans know this one.
“There’s no crying in baseball!” — A League of Their Own
Possibly the most famous line from any sports film. And most likely the funniest, considering “If you build it, he will come” ain’t exactly a laugh riot.
“Yes! Yes! Fuck you, too!” — Coming to America
Eddie Murphy is very funny when he swears, but he’s especially funny cursing as the friendly, joyful, utterly innocent Prince Akeem.
“Excuse me while I whip this out.” — Blazing Saddles
Mel Brooks’ envelope-pushing Western spoof takes aim at, among other things, racism, with Cleavon Little’s Sheriff Bart facing off against an intolerant community. Every Black stereotype is carted out and skewered, never more succinctly than during this fantastic moment.
“It’s just a flesh wound!” — Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Among the reasons I love this Holy Grail line, spoken by John Cleese’s Black Knight after having both his arms sliced off by King Arthur (Graham Chapman), is the endearing optimism behind it. Of course the Black Knight is foolish to keep fighting but, darn it, he’s not gonna give up on himself. We laugh at how deluded the guy is, but there’s also something weirdly inspiring about his insistence that he’s fine. It’s the comedy equivalent of those “Hang in there!” motivational posters.
“Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.” — Annie Hall
Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer lost most arguments with his girlfriend Annie (Diane Keaton), but at least he had some good one-liners.
“These go to 11.” — This Is Spinal Tap
The lovable idiocy of the men who comprise Spinal Tap powers this mockumentary classic. You could list 500 great lines from the 1984 film, but there’s something about the simplicity of Nigel Tufnel’s (Christopher Guest) stupidity that gives this moment a slight nod above so many other favorite bits. Bands still joke about cranking up their amps to 11 in his honor.
“I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” — Airplane!
David and Jerry Zucker, two of Airplane!’s three directors, recalled in 2020 that they’d reached out to a few actors to play Dr. Rumack, including Vincent Price. But the part finally went to dramatic actor Leslie Nielsen. “It eventually came down to this guy who wasn’t a famous name but you’d seen him in lots of things,” they said, later adding, “We told the actors to pretend that they didn’t know they were in a comedy. Leslie loved goofy things and his timing was impeccable. He was born to do comedy but was trapped in serious roles for years.” After Airplane!, Nielsen didn’t have to worry about that anymore.
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here — this is the War Room!” — Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
How do you encapsulate a brilliant satire’s bleak commentary on the madness of nuclear war in one line? Here you go.
“Well, nobody’s perfect!” — Some Like It Hot
Joe E. Brown was a beloved comedian and character actor. He never received an Oscar nomination, although he does have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His most lasting contribution to cinema was uttering the last line in Some Like It Hot, starring as Osgood Fielding III, who falls in love with Jack Lemmon’s bassist, who’s disguised as a woman. Osgood’s pithy response to learning that Lemmon is really a man was hatched by Billy Wilder’s co-writer, I.A.L. Diamond. They never really loved the line, but the audience did: “When we screened the movie, that line got one of the biggest laughs I’ve ever heard in the theater,” Wilder said. “But we just hadn’t trusted it when we wrote it; we just didn’t see it.” It was later put on Wilder’s tombstone.
“I’ll have what she’s having.” — When Harry Met Sally…
Before Seinfeld’s Elaine dropped a bombshell on Jerry that she faked orgasms when they were dating, When Harry Met Sally… blew the lid off this closely guarded secret of women’s, leading to one of the funniest of all cinematic moments — and then the perfect deadpan reaction to it.
“In the rehearsal, Meg (Ryan) said, ‘I should fake one. I should fake it in a public place,’” co-star Billy Crystal recalled. “And I said, ‘Yeah, like a restaurant with a lot of people,’ And she said, ‘I’ll give a huge one.’ And I said, ‘And then there should be an older woman who says, ‘Waiter, I’ll have what she’s having.’”
Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you know that line. It’s an indication of just how ubiquitous it’s become in the culture. The scene never gets old: As hysterical as Ryan’s performance in the scene is, it’s the zinger at the end that really puts it over the top. By the way: The woman who delivered the deathless line? It was Estelle Reiner, mother of When Harry Met Sally… director Rob Reiner.