I always get in trouble for this category, in part because the movie quotes that tend to be rewarded over time aren’t strictly the best ones so much as the ones that catch on in public the most. Often I’ll get attached to some line or other that only I have really been recognizing and isn’t getting widely quoted. Meanwhile, some other line that I think is kind of middling will get widely quoted and I’ll get criticized for not including it. Whatever. Here are my nominations.
- “Popular? Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige, my friend” – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Birdman is largely about the conflict between popular entertainment and high art within the creative community and Edward Norton’s character is meant to represent some of what’s noble and a lot of what’s insufferable about the “high art” side of the equation. This snide little quotation is said off-hand during a conversation with Keaton’s character and is meant to sting in part because it’s something that Keaton’s character pretty clearly seems to believe given his most recent endeavor.
- “What happened, my dear Zero, is I beat the living shit out of a sniveling little runt called Pinky Bandinski, because if we’ve learned one thing from Penny Dreadfuls, it’s that you can’t be a candy ass; you’ve got to earn their respect. You should take a long look at his ugly mug this morning.” – The Grand Budapest Hotel: Lots of people talk about how visually distinctive Wes Anderson’s movies are, but his highly stylized dialogue is often put on the back burner in discussions of his work. His characters often break the usual decorum that you expect from the candy colored worlds they inhabit to throw out well-structured vulgarities. This line, delivered by Gustav while he’s being visited, is the snappiest example of that in this film and definitely elicits a pretty big laugh.
- “He says that he’s an ‘a-hole.’ But he’s not, and I’m quoting him here, ‘one hundred percent a dick.’” – Guardians of the Galaxy: Within populist filmmaking the most popular characters aren’t really the most heroic ones and they aren’t necessarily the truly nasty antiheroes either. Instead the heroes audiences are the most likely to gravitate towards heroes who are, well, the quote kind of says it all. I also love the way they relay this Starlord line through the John C. Reilly character as he reads this rather informal note to an authority figure.
- “And I’m definitely not like you. That empathy you claim is a lie because all you are is society’s morality police whose duty is to erase my obscenity from the surface of the earth so that the Bourgeoisie won’t feel sick. I’m not like you. I am a nymphomaniac and I love myself for being one, but above all, I love my cunt and my filthy, dirty lust.” –Nymphomaniac: Yeah, this line comes from a scene late in Nymphomaniac where our protagonist finds herself in a sex addiction support group and finally gets fed up with it, both because they refuse to use her preferred nomenclature of “nymphomaniac” (they prefer “sex addict”) and also because she doesn’t really believe being a nymphomaniac is something that needs to be corrected. What’s really interesting about the speech (aside from its general badassery) is that it could just as easily be directed at Lars Von Trier’s own critics.
- “[the song is] called ‘Hang God.’ It’s about hanging God because he’s a fascist. But it is a Christian song. If you want to hang God, he has to exist or you couldn’t hang him.” – We Are the Best!: This line comes from a scene in We Are the Best! when one of the girls is playing a punk song from their new Christian friend. I quite like the casual way that the girl seems to think she needs to explain this rather direct song and the way she says God is a facist without a hint of irony. Of course what’s really charming about the line is how it rather perfectly captures the somewhat naïve way that kids of a certain age will try to shock people only to find them relatively un-phased by the provocation.