Why don’t great comedies get the same respect as great dramas, sci-fi, action, etc.?
One could argue making a great comedy is just as difficult, maybe even more so, than other genres as not only requires a great script, but also actors with impeccable comic timing and delivery which is very difficult. You could also have the benefit of ab-libs or one-liners which are even better than what was written.
Even the American Film Institute’s “AFI’S 100 GREATEST MOVIE QUOTES OF ALL TIME” list only contains 3 of the quotes in total of the more than 200 on my list. Either my list isn’t very good (which is certainly possible) or the AFI doesn’t have the same reverence for comedies.
There are other comedy lines listed, but other genres definitely dominate the list.
For the purposes of this list, comedies were chosen based on the amount of memorable lines from the film focusing on movies where there were many to choose from. In some cases, the complete screenplay could have been listed as a classic quote as they were just that good.
Unfortunately for female readers, your author is male so female comedies like “Mean Girls”, “Clueless”, “Pitch Perfect” or “Legally Blonde” for example don’t hold the same quotable factor for me so they were not included.
Also, it seems great comedies get better with age so the newest film on the list is “Anchorman” from 2004. Just like a great song, you may not know how great it is for some time to see if it stands the test of time.
For example, it’s hard to believe now that “Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment” did more box office than both “Fletch” and “The Breakfast Club” in 1985, or that “The Big Lebowski” only did $17.4 million in total box office in 1998.
Hopefully, reading through these memories will provoke you to pull these classics out from your movie collections and give them another try.
Author’s note: The movies themselves are ranked in order; however, the quotes themselves are not.
20. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Mike Myers has to be one of the best at creating memorable characters. Some of his SNL alter egos will never be forgotten like “Wayne”, “Dieter” and “Simon” among others.
Why not bring another memorable character to the big screen along with a cast of supporting characters which lets Myers shine.
The first “Austin Powers” film, “International Man of Mystery” had moderate success at the box office, but really found a home on video and emerging DVD. The 2nd film did four times the box office of the first, a rare feat indeed.
“Spy Who Shagged Me” was selected for this list because of the addition of “Fat Bastard”. Like a cross between Sean Connery and “Shrek”, everything he says and does throughout the film leave you in stitches including when he wants to eat “Mini Me”.
It’s too bad Myers also made the abysmal “The Love Guru” effectively killing his career.
It’s all right, Mike! Please come back.
1. “Why make trillions when we could make… billions?”
2. “You know what’s remarkable? Is how much England looks in no way like Southern California.”
3. “I can’t believe Vanessa, my bride, my one true love, the woman who taught me the beauty of monogamy, was a fembot all along. Wait a tick, that means I’m single again! Oh behave!”
4. “Of course I’m not happy! Look at me, I’m a big fat slob. I’ve got bigger titties than you do. I’ve got more chins than a Chinese phonebook. I’ve not seen my willie in two years, which is long enough to declare it legally dead.”
5. “I want my baby back baby back baby back baby back baby back ribs. I want my baby back baby back baby back baby back baby back ribs.”
6. “Mini Me, stop humping the “laser”. Honest to God! Why don’t you and the giant “laser” get a fricken room for God’s sakes?”
7. “Are you kidding, baby? I put the “grrrr” in swinger, baby! Yeah!”
8. “The 70s and the 80s? You’re not missing anything, believe me. I’ve looked into it. There’s a gas shortage and A Flock of Seagulls. That’s about it.”
9. “Which is it, baby, Spitz or Swallows?”
10. “Jesus Christ, he’s tiny! I’ve had bigger chunks of corn in my crap.”
19. A Christmas Story
Can you believe this 1983 holiday classic did under $17 million in total box office and when it was released? The reviews at the time of release weren’t even that good.
How far has it come over the years? Nowadays, certain television networks take to playing the film in a continuous 24-hour loop at Christmas time where you could literally watch it over-and-over again.
It is now considered to be a true holiday classic along with “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “White Christmas” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”.
Another odd bit of trivia is the film was directed by Bob Clark, who had just finished directing the first 2 “Porky’s” films right before helming this one.
Talk about different audiences!
1. “Ohhhh fuuudge!”
2. “I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!”
3. “Deck the harrs with boughs of horry, fa ra ra ra ra, ra ra ra ra.”
4. “Aaah! “Fra-GEE-leh!” It must be Italian!”
5. “Oh my god, I shot my eye out!”
6. “I can’t put my arms down!”
7. “Some men are Baptists, others Catholics; my father was an Oldsmobile man.”
8. “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine. Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!”
9. “My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master.”
10. “My little brother had not eaten voluntarily in over three years.”
18. The Breakfast Club
John Hughes was taken from us too early dying at only age 59 in 2009. Similar to Mel Brooks, he only directed 8 movies in total even though it seems like a lot more.
Some of his other films like “Sixteen Candles”, “Weird Science” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” could have all found their way on to this list.
This film found a common thread amongst five teenagers in high school spending time in detention as they got to know each other for the first time.
The frankness and gradual melting of the character’s defenses against stereotypes is what made the movie work along with a signature Hughes script of poignant, witty words.
There was actually an idea of revisiting these characters every 10 years or so with follow up films, but this idea never came to fruition. It may have been fun to see these people as adults and how their lives would have progressed.
Guess we’ll never know.
1. “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
2. “Do you think I’d speak for you? I don’t even know your language.”
3. “Are you gonna be, like, a shopping bag lady? You know, like, sit in alleyways and, like, talk to buildings and wear men’s shoes and that kinda thing?”
4. “When you grow up, your heart dies.”
5. “Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”
6. “Well, if you say you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you say you have you’re a slut. It’s a trap. You want to but you can’t, and when you do you wish you didn’t, right?”
7. “You ought to spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself and a little less time trying to impress people.”
8. “Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.”
9. “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?”
10. “Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.”
17. Back to the Future
Can you imagine if director Robert Zemeckis had decided not to shut down production for his time travel classic after a few weeks of shooting were completed believing the lead role of Eric Stoltz should be recast?
Who is to say if the final product would have ended up the same or would have now been long forgotten?
More recently, Zemeckis seems to be sticking to his guns on not wanting to “reboot” or “reimagine” more films saying he feels the completed trilogy told the story he wanted to tell and doesn’t feel the need for more with Doc and Marty.
Let’s hope his mind never changes.
1. “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit.”
2. “Great Scott!”
3. “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
4. “There’s that word again. “Heavy.” Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?”
5. “Hey, you! Get your damn hands off her!”
6. “Last night, Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn’t take Lorraine out, that he’d melt my brain.”
7. “1.21 gigawatts! 1.21 gigawatts.”
8. “Well, you’re safe and sound now, back in good old 1955.”
9. “You want a Pepsi, pal, you’re gonna pay for it.”
10. “Of course. From a group of Libyan nationalists. They wanted me to build them a bomb, so I took their plutonium and, in turn, gave them a shoddy bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts.”
11. “So, why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here?”
12. “I’m from the future. I came here in a Time Machine that you invented. Now I need your help to get back to the year 1985.”
13. “Hey, Biff, get a load of this guy’s life preserver. Dork thinks he’s gonna drown.”
14. “Hello? Hello? Anybody home? Huh? Think, McFly. Think! I gotta have time to get them retyped. Do you realize what would happen if I hand in my reports in your handwriting? I’ll get fired. You wouldn’t want that to happen, would ya? Would ya?”
15. “Hey, Dad! George! Hey, you on the bike!”
16. Beverly Hills Cop
After coming to the forefront of big screen comedy in “48 Hours”, Paramount Studios was anxious to put Eddie Murphy in his own comedy film.
Originally planned as an action film with Sylvester Stallone in the leading role, “Beverly Hills Cop” was reworked as an action comedy when Murphy became attached to star. As a result of the success of the film, he began a long, successful relationship with the studio on the “Cop” films as well as many others including “The Golden Child” and “Coming to America”.
Another “fish out of water” comedy, the foul, raw Detroit detective journeying to southern California when a friend is murdered and having to navigate the polished, polite Beverly Hills Police Department made for many funny moments.
Another veteran of Saturday Night Live, Murphy was known for his comic delivery and timing and made a career for himself as a result.
1. “Disturbing the peace? I got thrown out of a window! What’s the fuckin’ charge for getting pushed out of a moving car, huh? Jaywalking?”
2. “This is the cleanest and nicest police car I’ve ever been in in my life. This thing’s nicer than my apartment.”
3. “Don’t you think I realize what’s going on here, miss? Who do you think I am, huh? Don’t you think I know that if I was some hotshot from out of town that pulled inside here and you guys made a reservation mistake, I’d be the first one to get a room and I’d be upstairs relaxing right now. But I’m not some hotshot from out of town, I’m a small reporter from “Rolling Stone” magazine that’s in town to do an exclusive interview with Michael Jackson that’s gonna be picked up by every major magazine in the country. I was gonna call the article “Michael Jackson Is Sitting On Top of the World,” but now I think I might as well just call it “Michael Jackson Can Sit On Top of the World Just As Long As He Doesn’t Sit in the Beverly Palm Hotel ‘Cause There’s No Niggers Allowed in There!”
4. “You know, it says here that by the time the average American is fifty, he’s got five pounds of undigested red meat in his bowels.”
5. “I never been in no cell that had a phone in it. Can I stay for a while, ’cause I ordered some pizza.”
6. “A heh-heh-heh-heh.”
7. “You’re not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe?”
8. “Same crappy blue Chevy Nova.”
9. “Billy, you know, you don’t have to be embarrassed if your dick gets hard. Your dick is supposed to get hard. See? That’s the whole object of this. Taggart’s dick is hard, but he won’t let you know ’cause he’s the boss. Boss’ dick got to stay limp, right? See, I ain’t on duty so my dick can be hard.”
10. “You like espresso? I make it back there myself with a little lemon twist, it’s good.”
15. The Blues Brothers
John Landis was in the right place at the right time in the late 1970s and early 1980s when he was blessed with directing all the great talent coming out of Saturday Night Live at the time.
Dan Aykroyd also helped Landis write this script which, on paper, is a rather odd plot involving an ex-convict and his brother getting their rhythm and blues band back together to assist a Catholic orphanage matriarch with the money to keep the school from closing. Throw in lots of great music and the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and James Brown as well as hundreds of police cars and you have the makings of a classic.
1. “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.”
2. “We’re on a mission from God.”
3. “Four fried chickens and a Coke.”
4. “Oh, we got both kinds. We got country *and* western.”
5. “We’re so glad to see so many of you lovely people here tonight. And we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois’s law enforcement community that have chosen to join us here in the Palace Hotel Ballroom at this time. We certainly hope you all enjoy the show. And remember, people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there’re still some things that makes us all the same. You. Me. Them. Everybody. Everybody.”
6. “We’re putting the band back together.”
7. “I offered to help you… You refused to take our money. Then I said: I guess you’re really up Shit Creek!”
8. “Oh, yeah, $200, and you boys drank $300 worth of beer.”
9. “2000 bucks and it’s yours. You can take it home with you. As a matter of fact, I’ll throw in the black keys for free.”
10. “Don’t you “Don’t get riled, sugar” me! You ain’t goin’ back on the road no more, and you ain’t playin’ them ol’ two-bit sleazy dives. You’re livin’ with me now, and you not gonna go slidin’ around witcho ol’ white hoodlum friends.”