October 10, 2010

Where are today's "Go ahead, make my day" lines?

Since crime rates started falling in the early-mid 1990s, the action and horror movie genres that flourished during the rising-crime times of roughly the '60s through the '80s have fallen off a cliff. I can quantify that in various ways, for example by looking at a bunch of lists of "best horror movies," taking only those that appear on at least two or three or ... all of the lists, and seeing how these are distributed over time. And the basic impression of any action or horror movie fan is backed up.

But what about a quick-and-dirty yet still illuminating way to see this? That would require a lot less work and would be more friendly to people who are allergic to looking at charts. One aspect of a stellar movie is that it has a line or two that is so memorable that it enters the common lexicon. This is certainly true for higher art forms -- compare how many verses from Shakespeare vs. Dryden have "gone viral." Perhaps not every single line, but on the whole they pack more of a punch and so are more likely to stick in our minds and get transmitted over time.

There are basically none from the action and horror movies of the past 15 to 20 years, other than "I see dead people" and "Do you like scary movies?" Again I'm talking lines that everyone would recognize, would use on their own, and re-awaken that scene from the movie inside the listener. Just listing ones that come to me without even thinking hard, here's how skilled writers used to be at crafting these lines. Some of these are probably still in circulation, in addition to having gone viral at the time. Indeed, when googling them to get the wording right, they are popular enough in searches to get their own auto-suggestion. They would all be even more recognizable when spoken aloud with vocal imitation of the character, rather than reading the text below:

Game over, man! Game over!

Yippie kay-ay, motherfucker.

Are you talkin' to me?

Are you feeling lucky, punk?

"Who are you?" -- Your worst nightmare.

I'll be back.

Hasta la vista, baby.

You are one ugly motherfucker.

You send that many, don't forget one thing. "What?" A good supply of body bags.

Don't cross the streams.

I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy.

Heeeeere's Johnny!

Hi, I'm Chucky -- wanna play?

They're coming to get you, Barbara...

Chu chu chu chu chu... ah ah ah ah ah ah....

They're heeeere.

It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again.

The power of Christ compels you!

I hate snakes, Jock! I hate 'em!

She's dead... wrapped in plastic.

...And that's leaving aside about a million from the Star Wars trilogy.

Just about all of these are from the mid-'70s to early-'90s, and that much time has passed since, so it's not as though there simply hasn't been enough time. Rather, the quality is just a lot lower on average, so nothing has stuck. That's even true for tame-times continuations of the above movies. Guess we'll be quoting these for years to come.


  1. get out of the way, hammerhead

  2. Big Lebowski probably had a ton of these. Maybe our culture is just getting so fragmented there aren't as many phrases everyone knows, but there are maybe a lot of quotes people in subcultures would know. In the past people might have quoted Evil Dead or something to their subculture, but most people wouldn't get the references. Now with the internet it's easier to get into subcultures and ignore mass culture, I guess.

  3. There is no spoon.
    I know kung fu.

    Show me the money!

    Are you not entertained!

    Tonight we dine in hell!
    This is Sparta!


    You do not talk about Fight Club!

  4. No "chick flick" references?

    “You had me at hello” in "Jerry Maguire" would likely be #1 but I love "As Good As It Gets"

    Melvin Udall: You make me want to be a better man.
    Carol Connelly: ...That's maybe the best compliment of my life.
    Melvin Udall: Well, maybe I overshot a little, because I was aiming at just enough to keep you from walking out.

  5. Yeah, I'm talking about action and horror. There are probably a greater abundance of catchy lines from sissy-movie genres from the past 15-20 years.

  6. I thought chic flicks were horror movies for men ;-)

  7. anon has a point.

    the matrix, 300 and fight club references are all pretty well known.

    some more recent ones:
    he doesn't want us to cut through our chains. he wants us to cut through our feet!

    why so serious?
    wanna know how i got these scars?

    you mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.
    dreams within dreams is too unstable!

  8. Big Lebowski probably had a ton of these.

    "This will not stand man!"

    "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!"


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