Filmdom’s Ten Best movie lines

by Glen Baity

Bill Murray’s opening speech from Rushmore

Nobody can deliver a monologue like Bill Murray, who for my money is one of the funniest people who ever lived. Some of his best work has come in the latter stages of his career, like the following speech he gives to the largely wealthy students of Rushmore Academy:

‘“You go to one of the best schools in the country: Rushmore. Now, for some of you that doesn’t matter. You were born rich and you’re going to stay rich. But here’s my advice to the rest of you: take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs, and take them down. Just remember: they can buy anything, but they can’t buy backbone. Don’t let them forget it.’”

John Cusack’s opening speech from High Fidelity

If you’ve ever moped around in the dark to the Smiths’ ‘“Asleep’” or the Cure’s ‘“Boys Don’t Cry,’” you have to admit, the opening speech of High Fidelity presents a salient point:

‘“People worry about kids playing with guns or watching violent videos, like some culture of violence will consume them. No one worries about kids listening to thousands ‘— literally, thousands ‘— of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?’”

Randal’s customer-service rant in Clerks

I saw Clerks while I was working my first ‘real’ job in a video store at age 16. It left an indelible mark on me, and I would come to appreciate it more with each bad counter jockey position I worked. Jeff Anderson, I think it’s safe to assume, speaks for everyone who trades a piece of his or her soul for minimum wage:

‘“Everybody that comes in here is way too uptight. This job would be great if it wasn’t for the f**king customers.’”


Corky’s big kiss-off from Waiting for Guffman

Christopher Guest’s least-talked-about film is probably one of his funniest, and Corky, the prima donna theater director, delivers his best lines when he’s under the most stress. Take this chestnut:

‘“No way Corky! You’re not puttin’ up with these people. And I’ll tell you why I can’t put up with you people: because you’re bastard people. That’s what you are, you’re just bastard people and I’m going home and I’m gonna’… I’m gonna bite my pillow is what I’m gonna do!’”

Val Kilmer’s drunkspeak from Tombstone

Every time Doc Holliday opens his mouth in this film, a memorable line stumbles out, stinking of whiskey and spoiling for a fight. My favorite is delivered during a poker game, after an hours-long winning streak over cowboy Ike Clanton (Stephen Lang):

‘“Maybe poker’s just not your game, Ike. I know! Let’s have a spelling contest!’”

Jules and Vincent’s ‘miracle’ conversation from Pulp Fiction

There are a million classic moments in this film, but one of my favorites occurs near the end, when Vincent informs Jules that he’s giving up the gangster life to ‘“walk the earth, like Cain in Kung Fu’”:

Jules: ‘“Let me ask you something: when did you make this decision? When you were sitting there eating that muffin?’”

Vincent: ‘“Well yeah! I was sitting here, eating my muffin, drinking my coffee, replaying the incident in my head, when I had what alcoholics refer to as a ‘moment of clarity.””

Russell Streiner in the graveyard scene from Night of the Living Dead

‘“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.’”

The ominous beginning of one of the best horror films ever made. This 1968 creepshow still gives me the willies, and is the sole reason we have weekly zombie attack drills at my home. Because you never know.

One of the many bar scenes from Kicking and Screaming

‘“I like a bartender who drinks. Otherwise I feel like I’m being poisoned.’”

If you don’t remember Will Ferrell saying it, stop scratching your head. There was another movie called Kicking and Screaming, about a group of down-and-out graduates, released in 1995. As ruminations on post-college malaise go, it’s a cut above the rest, though I may be biased since it’s about a bunch of unemployed English majors, a subject that hits dangerously close to home. Kicking and Screaming isn’t out on DVD, but I know for a fact that Video Review (the best video store in Greensboro), has a few VHS copies for rent.

Milton’s subversive mumbling from Office Space

‘“Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler.’”

My favorite line from one of the most quoted films of the last ten years. Nearly every moment is pure gold. How do you maintain your dignity when every moment of your working day threatens to sap it from you? For one man it all comes down to a sturdy, bright red Swingline stapler.

The Dude’s meeting with the ‘other’ Lebowski from The Big Lebowski

For a lot of people (myself included), this film represents Jeff Bridges’ finest hour. Its absurd, complicated plot starts with a mix-up concerning two characters, both named Jeff Lebowski, a distinction made most artfully by the Dude himself:

‘“Let me explain something to you. I am not ‘Mr. Lebowski.’ You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m ‘the Dude.’ So that’s what you call me. You know, that, or His Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.’”