Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The 10 Most Overused Movie Quotes

Maybe it's your best friend. Maybe it's your boss. Maybe it's someone you should seriously consider hiding from on Facebook. Whoever it is, there's someone in your life who feels the need to speak in the most dated and obvious movie quotes available. It's not that there's anything wrong with peppering conversation with pop culture touchstones. The problem is when you use the hackiest, most overused quotes possible. They're not even jokes any more, just signs that the speaker hasn't kept up with the times. The quotes below can only really be deployed ironically, and even then it takes practice and skill. Next time someone drops one of these on you, don't be afraid to roll your eyes and let the line die. And if you find yourself tempted to use one: Just say no. (That's an original one, right?)

  1. "'PC Load Letter'? What the f**k does that mean?"

    We've all seen Office Space. We've all laughed through the tears as we realize how sharply our own cubicle-based lives are being skewered. The movie's a bona fide late-blooming hit, the kind of flick nobody saw in the theaters (domestic earnings topped out shy of $11 million) but that everyone can quote all day long. It's a great comedy, too, and a fantastic look at working life in the late 1990s and today. But Michael Bolton's angry tirade against his printer has been done to death. Recommended replacement: "What am I gonna do with 40 subscriptions to Vibe?" You get the same lamenting tone, but a less frequently used punch line. (Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox.)

  2. "Say hello to my little friend!"

    If you're a huge Scarface fan, you're either pledging a totally sweet frat or related to Brian De Palma. The coked-out tribute to gangland excess has been hanging around since its 1983 release, earning plenty of followers and acclaim but never quite landing in the arena of legitimate crime thriller. Chalk it up to Al Pacino's insane personification of Tony Montana, who is sweaty or firing a gun in every scene. (Probably.) Granted, Pacino looks restrained compared with his later work, but that's still no excuse for trotting out "Say hello to my little friend!" It's just tired. Recommended replacement: Tony talks about how his town is like, well, an organ primed for the sexual act. It's a pretty rancid quote, actually, but you can get comic mileage out of it by singing it as an excerpt from Lonely Island's "Jack Sparrow." Just don't do it at work.

  3. "I know kung fu."

    The Matrix is great, really. It's got a good story, smart action, and enough vague philosophy to keep late-night dorm debates raging for years. The screenplay has plenty of fun quotes, too, but Neo's "I know kung fu" is easily the most overused. It's a cute transitional moment that bridges his training sessions and first fight with Morpheus, but it's become a shorthand for "I just learned something that might not be relevant but I don't know what to do about it." Recommended replacement: "Never send a human to do a machine's job." Useful in almost every situation, especially when dealing with computer issues.

  4. "Houston, we have a problem."

    Ron Howard's Apollo 13 is a solid historical drama that's worth watching even when you know the ending. However, the film's tagline — "Houston, we have a problem" — got so much play in the ads and awards packaging that it lost all meaning. When Jim Lovell actually says it in the film, it doesn't feel natural at all, but like he's checking it off a list. Recommended replacement: You can't go with "Failure is not an option," which was just as saturated in the culture after the film's release. Better bet: "We've got to find a way to make this … fit into the hole for this … using nothing but that." Bonus points for a deep cut and spirit of ingenuity.

  5. "Say 'what' again!"

    Pulp Fiction has some amazing dialogue, no doubt about it. It's Quentin Tarantino's best script (though Roger Avary shares story credit), and it's packed with lines that feel good in any number of situations. But Jules' "Say 'what again!" — actually, most of his entire tirade against Brett — has been overplayed. Such is the power of Samuel L. Jackson's performance. (He does tend to yell a lot.) Recommended replacement: "Oh, I'm sorry, did I break your concentration?" Just as threatening, in its own way, and still pretty cool, but less popular. Make it yours.

  6. "You had me at 'Hello.'"

    Blame it on Cameron Crowe's romantic side or Renee Zellweger's sniffly delivery, but this line from 1996's Jerry Maguire was a punch line before the film had even left theaters. It's just a bit too precious, and it's such a great reference that it's been used in dozens of parodies since. It's a cutesy shorthand for "Stop talking, you won, I will consider Scientology," but it's just plain overused. Recommended replacement: The problem is that most of the film's biggest lines are equally as tired by now. In awkward moments, though, it's hard to beat "Have you ever gotten the feeling that you aren't completely embarrassed yet, but you glimpse tomorrow's embarrassment?"

  7. "Is nice!"

    If Borat didn't exist, the lame guy from your office would invent it just so he could continue making off-color jokes without bothering to understand the implications of satire or culture. Put another way: Borat is a great comedy, but one that loses all its punch when its quotes get recycled as happy hour references. Borat's "Is nice!" and other exclamations became the innuendos of the hour when the film was released in 2006, but it's time to let them go. Recommended replacement: "I will look on your treasures, gypsy. Is this understood?"

  8. "You can't handle the truth!"

    The final courtroom confrontation in A Few Good Men is a modern classic, but that doesn't mean it's good for all seasons. You can't just go trotting out "You can't handle the truth!" everyone time someone contradicts you. For starters, you'll get a reputation at the office as that person who shouts at people whenever they ask about spreadsheets or meeting times. But more importantly, you'll be running dated material into the ground. Recommended replacement: Aaron Sorkin's screenplay has plenty of memorable quotes. "You gotta ask me nicely" is a good one, and workable in most situations.

  9. "It's just a flesh wound."

    The men of Monty Python created some of the freshest and most influential sketch comedy of the 20th century, but their legacy is usually overshadowed by the pop culture profile of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which has become a touchstone for nerds since its 1975 release and is now almost exclusively the domain of, well, the societally less fortunate. Shouting "Ni!" or complaining about a flesh wound is the quickest way to brand yourself a greatest-hits-only kind of fan. Recommended replacement: "Strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony." Infinitely more witty and entertaining, though it's a trick just to pull off without stumbling.

  10. "Run, Forrest, run!"

    Robert Zemeckis' love letter to Baby Boomers has plenty to offer, but the film will live in infamy thanks to the hokey slow-motion "Run, Forrest, run!" that the young Jenny shouts to Forrest as he sprints away from childhood bullies. The line became part of the cultural lexicon so fast that it's almost impossible to remember a time when behind-the-curve people didn't shout it at you when you ran or even walked quickly across a room. A lot of the film's lines had similar lives, notably the ubiquitous "Life is like a box of chocolates" routine. Recommended replacement: "She tasted like cigarettes." Admittedly offbeat, but hilarious and random. If you want something a little more palatable (ha), go with "That's all I have to say about that.

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