The American Film Institute (AFI) accumulates several “best of” lists, one of which is the 100 Best Movie Quotes. I started a blog thread a while ago in which I offered 25 additional noteworthy lines, followed by a second batch of 13. Today I offer another 12 bringing my contribution to the effort to a nice round 50. That’s it for awhile. What killer piece of dialog did I omit? Comments welcome.
She doesn’t quite chop his head off. She makes a Pez dispenser out of him. (“Sin City”)
The movie version of Frank Miller’s graphic novels is to my way of thinking the best adaptation of a comic book. More visually thrilling than the “Superman” oeuvre, grittier than “Spiderman,” darker than “Batman” (with the possible exception of Tim Burton’s efforts.) “Sin City,” a sadistic black-and-white film shot mostly in front of a green-screen is remarkable for its faithful depiction of Miller’s revenge-obsessed “The Hard Goodbye.” After a heavily made-up Benicio del Toro (playing corrupt detective Jackie Boy Rafferty) gets a bit fresh with some feisty prostitutes, one of them takes a Samurai sword to his throat, leaving Benny the Bull hanging. His decapitated head (can a head be decapitated, or just a body?) continues to carry on conversation, though – it is a comic book, after all.
Leave the gun. Take the cannoli. (“The Godfather”)
Strangely, “The Godfather” franchise boasts but two quotes on AFI’s list. Given that nearly nine hours of action and dialog comprise the trilogy, you might think a couple other lines would appear among the top 100. Most every casual movie-goer is familiar with this juicy line from the first “Godfather” in which fat Clemenza gives instructions following the whacking of a Corleone family turncoat. I’ve seen several cheeky versions of this line posted in more than one Italian bakery. It didn’t make AFI’s list, but I it should have.
What are you thinking? – Of all the people who have been born… and have died… while the trees went on living. (“Vertigo”)
Every ten years, Sight & Sound compiles a list of the best 100 films of all time after polling several hundred film experts, and in 2012 Alfred Hitchcock’s dream-like “Vertigo” pushed aside perennial favorite “Citizen Kane” from the top perch. I don’t agree that “Vertigo” is number one, but I do love the film for its complex character construction, experimental visual techniques, twisty plot and lovely mid-Century San Francisco locations. My favorite exchange comes when Scotty (Jimmy Stewart) and Madeleine (Kim Novak in one of two roles) stroll Muir Woods – a forest of towering Sequoias – in eerie silence. Madeleine’s response to a casual question captures so well her despondency over the seeming insignificance of life, and presages the strange relationship that develops between the two.
Attica! Attica! Attica! (“Dog Day Afternoon”)
Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) starts off as a bumbling bank robber, becomes a working-class hero (and an irritant to clueless law enforcement), and winds up captured by the FBI just steps away from a Boeing jumbo-jet ride out of the country. As you might expect the middle section of the movie is the most compelling. That’s where during his “fifteen minutes of fame” Sonny commands the attention of the rapt denizens of counter-culture cheering him on from behind the blue NYPD barriers. When Sonny struts about the sidewalk outside the bank yelling “Attica! Attica! Attica!” to conflate the police activity facing him to the notorious riots in an upstate prison, you can’t help but to connect with his charisma. Just like the hostages inside the bank. But you know he’s going down in the end.
Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it. (“Unforgiven”)
As a revenge-filled Western with no heroes, no stock characters that traverse through the mandatory “story arc,” “Unforgiven” would seem to have virtually no chance of getting a Hollywood green-light had not Clint Eastwood (10 time Academy Award nominee, 4 wins including for “Unforgiven”), Gene Hackman (5 and 2 including for “Unforgiven”), Morgan Freeman (a win for “Million Dollar Baby”), and Richard Harris (2 time nominee) been attached. And thank God. Who knows how many potentially great films like “Unforgiven” get the stamp of rejection because they refuse to adhere to the formula and have no talent attached? Anyway, this line sneered by William Munny (Eastwood) as he points a 12-gauge into the face of a defeated, supine Bill Daggett (Hackman) sums up the ethos of the movie quite nicely.
Well, ma’am, if I see him, I’ll sure give him the message. (“Blood Simple”)
Director Joel Coen’s first movie, “Blood Simple” is an under-seen gem of modern noir (his brother Ethan was producer). It’s a twisty tale of lies, deceit, revenge, and mistaken identity – just my cup of tea. A hired hit-man named Visser (Emmet Walsh) does some double-crossing and winds up shot through a wall by a woman who mistakenly thinks she just popped her vindictive husband Marty. Unable to see her victim, she calls out “I’m not afraid of you, Marty,” to which the bleeding hit-man Visser chuckles this funny line before buying the farm.
Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. (“Cool Hand Luke”)
“Cool Hand Luke” opens with a scene in which an inebriated Luke Jackson (Paul Newman) severs parking meters from their steel posts – nothing more than rank vandalism – and ends with his death following a daring escape from a prison in the sultry deep South where he once served his sentence on a chain-gang cutting down weeds with a scythe and shoveling gravel onto hot, fresh tar. Once acquainted with the other miscreants in prison, you begin to feel that Luke really doesn’t belong there. And neither does Luke, for he makes a couple escape attempts which cost him penalty time in “the box” – a tiny dog-house enclosure brought to hellish conditions in the sweltering, mid-day sun. In one of the many scenes inside the prison barracks, after Luke has bluffed a fellow prisoner out of a big poker pot with nothing but shit cards, he makes this pithy observation. And he takes on the nickname for which the movie got its title.
A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti (“Silence of the Lambs”)
How do you respond to that? You’re carefully interviewing a dangerous, sociopathic disbarred psychiatrist inside a dank prison, and this is what he lays on you? Hannibal Lechter (Anthony Hopkins) delivers the line with delicious intensity, following up with a sinister flutter of the tongue that is seriously creepy – so over the top that it has been immortalized in numerous parodies, including “Dumb and Dumber.”
Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here! (“The Big Lebowski”)
The Dude (Jeff Bridges) becomes a tad indignant when a couple guys strong-arm him into a waiting vehicle for some benign interrogation – not so much because of the denial of his civil rights and the whole due-process thing, but because he’s holding a freshly-mixed, vulnerable White Russian, his signature drink, and under no circumstances is it cool to spill the beverage of The Dude.
I got brown sandwiches and green sandwiches. – What’s the green? – It’s either very new cheese or very old meat. (“The Odd Couple”)
At a poker game with his middle-aged divorced friends, and those on the cusp of divorce, slovenly Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) offers his guests some hastily arranged sandwiches, some brown and some green. Just to describe the sandwiches that way says something about the manner in which Oscar lives as an aging, single sports-writer in New York. It’s humorous to watch the decades-old movie now and compare the main characters to the Metrosexuals of Manhattan today. You just know Oscar and his buddies don’t do Pilates, or have their backs waxed, or eat vegan, or subscribe to Esquire. They’re just regular guys who sometimes throw spaghetti against the wall.
A man’s got to know his limitations. (“Magnum Force”)
Sound advice offered often by Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) to just about everybody he encounters in this film about vigilante cops hunted to extinction by the patron saint of vigilante cops, none other than Harry Callahan. The final utterance of this instructional line is delivered to Lt. Briggs (Hal Holbrook) posthumously after the corrupt police official is blown to smithereens by a bomb surreptitiously dropped into the back seat of the lieutenant’s squad car – by the Dirt-man himself. Fade to whatever resembles the color of burning flesh and smoldering mid-70′s automotive upholstery.
I am married to an American agent. (“Notorious”)
Bad news for Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) who is a member of a cabal of post-WW II Nazi fanatics seeking a path back to glory by cornering the market for enriched uranium. Things are moving along well until Claude screws up and falls for fake female adoration heaped upon him by Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), a Teutonic beauty half his age. She’s also an operative of a U.S. spy agency under the supervision of Mr. Devlin (Cary Grant). When Claude figures out the ruse, and utters these words of resigned doom, his deliciously devious mother (Leopoldine Konstantin) conjures up the slow demise of Alicia the gold-digger – or should I say, uranium-digger?
OK – One more makes 51
Mother, they’re still not sure it is a baby! (“Eraserhead”)
A strange line that more than piques the curiosity of the audience, and one that sets everyone in the theater on edge. By now, anyone who watches “Earserhead” has either seen it 100 times, or is a newbie who’s heard all about the cult classic and is waiting nervously for the visual assault. For the latter group – yes, the baby is shocking, and disgusting, and sometimes risible, but contrary to various claims bears no resemblance to E.T.