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A little known fact exists about children of the late seventies and eighties. A secret language was developed, based entirely around movie quotes. Decades later, many of us continue to speak this language of movie quotes to further our half-assed attempts at social connections, belabor a political point made over a campfire without sounding too pretentious, and to establish order on the totem pole — if you can’t immediately name the movie your friend just quoted, slide yourself down one spirit animal.
The following is my top 10 most quotable cult classics of all time. I’ve skipped the well-known quotable classics like Ghostbusters, Forrest Gump, Indiana Jones and Braveheart, which, if you are reading this article, you should be already adept at reciting the entire script to the crowd’s delight. These are some deep tracks, and if you can quote ‘em, you and I would get along just fine.
Directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling, InnerSpace), this exploration into neighborly stalking boasts some of the greatest one-liners and physical comedy Bruce Dern has ever graced us with. Tom Hanks is the pretty standard early 90’s Tom Hanks, but don’t let that dissuade you from accepting him as a master. Simply standing over the turkey and bellowing out, “Smells like they’re cooking a goddamned cat over there,” will wow your mother or father-in-law into submission this Thanksgiving.
9. UHF (1989)
The English language does not provide words to describe the genius that is Weird Al Yankovic. I promise, you’ll watch this more than enough times to finally realize you just saw the career launch of Michael Richards. That’s a man that came to be known as Seinfeld’s Cosmo Kramer. “You get to drink from the fire hose!”
This gem is a wonderful mix of Bill Pullman and Oliver Platt bantering with wits and a giant prehistoric crocodile. Betty White lets us know she’s still relevant in a perfect cameo as the croc’s keeper. I’ll circle back to the snobbish Platt and his general pompous disregard for feelings with a quote you can use the next time someone questions your knowledge in any subject. “Well, they conceal that information in books.” That’s how you can shut down any argument in a hurry.
7. Supertroopers (2001)
I ranked this one lower simply because it’s the most recognizable of the lot, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this movie can go unwatched. [The opening 10 minutes alone contains more choice quotes than a bucketful of other movies. -BS] If you can’t pile into a car and shout, “You boys like Mexico?!” then you have not lived in the Broken Lizard orbit. You get over here right meow and watch.
Written by Skip Woods, this dandy of a film revels in the extreme violence and hilarious characterizations. Episodic and quick moving, Thursday explores the life of a drug kingpin who hung the spurs up for a normal married middle class life. He probably should’ve hidden his tracks better. Spoiler alert: they find him. All of them. And they kill each other. A lot. If Tarantino and old-school Guy Ritchie got tossed in a blender on puree, the resulting smoothie would be Thursday. Unfortunately, all of the lines I would quote for you involve the f-word, of which I will not mutter to the civilized audiences of MovieNooz.
The pinnacle of Ralph Bakshi’s (Wizards, Fire and Ice, Lord of the Rings, Cool World) career was a quiet little number called American Pop. Relatively unknown in most of Bakshi’s circle of Dungeons and Dragons LOTR crowd, this movie is rife with one-liners and situational quotes that are sure to amaze even the staunchest of tightwads. War quotes? Sure. Dishwashing quotes? Full of ’em. Kansas cornfields? You know it, baby. Virtually any place in the contiguous forty-eight states has a little material buried within this journey of music as told through the eyes of four generations of Russian immigrants. If you can find a copy of this one (not an easy task), I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
I would make the argument here that any list of movies worth two shakes of a lamb’s tail should have at least one Quentin Tarantino in the top 5. Chock full of whip-smart dialogue and classy statements like, “All right, ramblers, let’s get rambling,” this violent jaunt down memory lane is sure to keep your mouth running to the delight of your book club. Let’s not forget the first time we heard Tarantino himself explain all about Madonna’s number one hit…
Purists might take issue with L.A. getting the nod over New York, but in terms of quotable goodness, John Carpenter’s second installment is far superior. Snake Plisskin, played by Kurt Russell, basically spews one-liners the entire movie. I honestly can’t remember a single scene where he strings together more than one sentence at a time. It’s gold, all of it, mostly involving threats or casual observations on the state of hopelessness, Russell’s dialogue is all set for you to memorize and repeat with impunity
What? Doubling up on Kurt Russell in the top 3? In answer to your query, I have a statue of Kurt in my front yard. His mere ceramic presence protects my birdbath from vandals and riff-raff. Big Trouble in Little China is a no-holds-barred account of Chinese gangs or Tongs, kidnapping, rescue missions, and ancient magic. However, we’re not here to discuss plot, no matter how ludicrous it appears on the surface. BTILC comes right out of the gate with an Oscar-worthy Kurt Russell monologue “to whoever is listenin” into a truck’s CB mike. You’ll be hooked in thirty seconds.
In perhaps the greatest conspiracy of all time, Army of Darkness did not win Best Picture 1992, Bruce Campbell did not win Best Actor, and Sam Raimi did not win Best Director. Some flick called Silence of the Lambs won all of those instead. Moving past this travesty, we can examine the best dialogue and delivery ever recorded by Hollywood cameras. Bruce Campbell effortlessly nails outrageous lines like: “This sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” “Wait a minute, spinach chin,” and, “Good. Bad. (Shrugs) I’m the guy with the gun.” Gratuitous violence and killer montages of science and technology fill in the gaps between Bruce speaking. This movie should be canonized in American Culture. Don’t rent it: buy it!