Some movies have a way of infiltrating our everyday conversations. “Clueless,” for example, influenced the way an entire generation of kids talked. In the mid-1990s, suddenly every teen was dishing out a blase “whatever” when they weren’t totally buggin’ or Audi.
It’s not the only comedy with pithy, repeatable dialogue that weaseled its way into our vernacular so completely that we started to forget about the source. A lot of others had us mimicking characters without even thinking about it, to the point that it became second nature to not just say “great success,” but to say it in a faux-Kazakh accent, just the way Borat does.
Looking back at the past 40 years, we picked 40 movies that changed the way we talk, and selected some of the most-repeated quotes. Some comedies, such as “Clueless,” have copious lines to choose from. Others grabbed our attention with a single snippet of dialogue.
You’ll notice there aren’t a lot of examples from recent years. For one thing, Hollywood doesn’t make many comedies anymore, and when it does, the movies don’t necessarily get an audience big enough to shift our collective habits. The most likely contender for a future list would be last year’s “Girls Trip,” but it’s still too soon to tell whether “grapefruit” will become a verb or not.
Animal House 1978
Food fight! Toga! Toga! Double-secret probation
The cult classic invented neither the food fight nor the toga party, but it did supply the calls to action — best conveyed in John Belushi’s caveman yell — for frat boys the world over.
I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley. Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
Leslie Nielsen didn’t just create a viral phrase with his deadpan response to “Surely you can’t be serious,” but the previously dramatic actor also laid the groundwork for his future as a great comedic star, mainly in the “Naked Gun” franchise.
A Christmas Story 1983
You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.
The holiday favorite gifted us with an excellent rebuttal for any child who wishes for a potentially hazardous present.
This is Spinal Tap 1984
These go to 11.
When Christopher Guest uttered this line in the mockumentary about a British rock band, he was referring to custom amps that don’t max out at a measly 10. Now, turning something up to 11 can mean any type of excessiveness, and references have popped up continuously since then, including in “Doctor Who” and the volume control on the Tesla Model S.
Who ya gonna call?Don’t cross the streams.
Ray Parker, Jr.’s theme song for the action comedy sounds more like an ad slogan than a typical soundtrack staple, which is probably why it’s become such a useful response for just about anyone in need of anything. Oh, you have a termite problem? Well, who you gonna call?
The Breakfast Club 1985
Did I stutter? Eat my shorts.
Long before Bart Simpson used “Eat my shorts” as an insult and “Did I Stutter?” became an episode of “The Office,” Judd Nelson immortalized both phrases as the bad boy Bender in the John Hughes classic.
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure 1985
I’m a loner, Dottie, a rebel. Be sure and tell ’em Large Marge sent ya.
In truth, no phrase really captures the infectious nature of Paul Reubens’s title character the way his froggy voice and honking laugh do. Kids couldn’t help mimicking Pee-wee’s signature sounds, especially as the character’s empire spread to sequels and a Saturday-morning TV series.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 1986
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Bueller . . . Bueller . . . Bueller
Here’s another taste of John Hughes’s mastery of meme-able dialogue. With “life moves pretty fast,” he inspired countless high school seniors with the perfect yearbook quote. Meanwhile, Ferris’s last name has become increasingly useful in our phone-obsessed times; a quick succession of Buellers is a good way to telegraph that you’re tired of being ignored.
The Princess Bride 1987
Inconceivable! Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethah today. As you wish
Rob Reiner’s delightful adventure has a useful phrase for just about every occasion, whether you’re attending a wedding, settling an old score or in a perpetual state of shock, the way Wallace Shawn’s Vizzini was every time he declared a situation “inconceivable!”
Coming to America 1988
That boy’s good. Sexual Chocolate What is that, velvet?
The Eddie Murphy comedy makes narrowing down the best snippets an arduous task, but there’s no question that one line has an especially enduring legacy. “That boy good” memes and GIFs — inspired by an elderly man’s (Clint Smith) exaggerated compliments for Sexual Chocolate lead singer Randy Watson — continue to be an Internet staple three decades after the movie came out.
How veryWhat is your damage?
Before “Clueless” and “Mean Girls,” the Winona Ryder-starring dark comedy gave teenagers a blueprint for how to talk, though one of the most famous retorts, which involves a chain saw, can’t be printed in a family newspaper.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure 1989
Bogus Greetings, my excellent friends. Party on, dudes. Whoa!
The slacker comedy that launched Keanu Reeves’s career gave us characters who felt like an extension of Sean Penn’s Spicoli from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” They made an impression as much for what they said as how they said it, with their imitation-ready Valley-speak-adjacent inflection.
When Harry Met Sally 1989
I’ll have what she’s having. When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
Director Rob Reiner’s mom delivered the immortal quip “I’ll have what she’s having,” which was the cherry on top of the infamous scene in Katz’s Deli where Meg Ryan simulates an orgasm. People have latched onto the line — and it’s shown up in “Muppets Tonight,” shampoo commercials and much more — though they’re less likely to copy what Ryan did, at least in public.
Home Alone 1990
Keep the change, ya filthy animal. I made my family disappear. Ahhhhhh! (preferably with hands on cheeks)
The most-copied moment from this holiday staple is actually a scream, after Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister slaps aftershave on his face. The image is still parodied today, recently in an ad featuring soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.
A League of Their Own 1992
There’s no crying in baseball.
Tom Hanks administered this remarkably versatile reprimand, which has been endlessly repurposed to suit just about every profession.
Wayne’s World 1992
Schwing Not Exsqueeze me? We’re not worthy.
The next set of characters on the Spicoli/Bill and Ted continuum were Wayne and Garth (Mike Myers and Dana Carvey), whose catchphrases were as irresistible as their cadence. While the SNL mainstays employed Bill and Ted’s “bogus” and “dude,” they also came up with plenty of original material. Who could have guessed that “schwing” — complete with suggestive pelvic thrust — would become a thing?
The Sandlot 1993
You’re killin’ me, Smalls. For-e-ver
The Smalls in question was Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry), a kid who got scolded after admitting he didn’t know what a s’more was. But these days, Smalls can be just about anyone who’s been a disappointment in some way.
Dazed and Confused 1993
It’d be a lot cooler if you did. All right, all right, all right. Air raid!
Matthew McConaughey nearly cornered the market on memorable dialogue in Richard Linklater’s snapshot of 1976 teenagers. His lines were accompanied by his singular drawl — which is how the quotes are best replicated. Even he has copied his character, signing off his 2014 Oscar acceptance speech with “All right, all right, all right.”
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective 1994
Do NOT go in there. LOOO-HOOO-ZUH-HER All righty then.
The antithesis of the ultra-cool “all right, all right, all right” was the aggressively dorky “all righty then,” delivered by Jim Carrey’s moronic private investigator, and yet Ace’s go-to comeback turned out to be even more imitated.
Dumb and Dumber 1994
So you’re telling me there’s a chance.
While Carrey’s “Ace Ventura” sayings captured the zeitgeist at the time, this line from “Dumb and Dumber” turned out to be more enduring, still cropping up in modern conversations. It is, after all, a superb response for any Hail Mary situation.
Ice Cube dismissed the freeloading Felisha with a kiss-off so perfect that people still haven’t found a replacement — though these days, the popular Twitter put-down is spelled “Felicia.” As recently as last year, “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts directed a “Bye, Felicia” at Trump administration flunkee Omarosa Manigault Newman after she was fired.
Tommy Boy 1995
That was awesome! What’d you do?! Fat guy in a little cooooooat.
Chris Farley’s lines weren’t inherently funny without his lovable delivery and inappropriate timing. Suddenly “That was awesome!” was the ideal response for any mildly horrifying incident and “What’d you do?!” was a tremendous way to deflect blame by piling it on someone else.
I totally paused. As if. I’m Audi. Buggin’ Whatever A full-on Monet
The list could go on and on, but these are some of the standouts that Alicia Silverstone’s Cher had on rotation. Writer-director Amy Heckerling has said she created a dictionary for the movie, drawing inspiration from the gay community, Yiddish and swing-era slang, among other places.
Billy Madison 1995
I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. O’Doyle rules! Soooo hot. Want to touch the hiney. Stop looking at me, swan!
Adam Sandler is a punchline these days, but there was a time when he could solidly deliver his own. Just after his stint on “Saturday Night Live,” he was a reliable box office draw whose hit movie lines were often mimicked, typically in his bizarre screamy way.
Jerry Maguire 1996
Show me the money. You complete me. You had me at hello.
In the late 1990s, there was no escaping the phrase “Show me the money,” which was amusing — at first. The actor who said it, Cuba Gooding Jr., won an Oscar for his role, but writer-director Cameron Crowe deserves some demerits for unleashing that scourge on everyday life.
You’re so money, and you don’t even know it. Vegas, baby. Vegas.
Vince Vaughn’s breakout role was the first time we saw him play his go-to persona: the fast talker unleashing a bottomless pit of one-liners. If he were a less charismatic actor, straightforward lines such as “Vegas, baby. Vegas” probably wouldn’t have caught on like they did.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery 1997
Oh, behave.Yeah, baby, yeah. Shh!One. Million. Dollars.
Mike Myers was back at it five years after “Wayne’s World,” giving movie fans a whole new set of conversational flourishes. Playing both the title character and his nemesis, Dr. Evil, he also provided a couple of new accents worth impersonating — retro British and what can only be described as constipated.
Rush Hour 1998
Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth!?
The genesis of Chris Tucker’s line wasn’t entirely PC: After meeting his new partner, played by Jackie Chan, he was trying to discern whether the man spoke English. But the quote turned out to be highly adaptable, usable on any clueless dimwit who just doesn’t seem to get it.
The Big Lebowski 1998
Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, your opinion, man. The dude abides.
Nearly a decade after “Bill & Ted,” the Coen brothers dreamed up a different, chiller kind of dude. Jeff Bridges played El Duderino himself, whose vow “The dude abides” was the kind of catchphrase destined to end up on T-shirts and bumper stickers.
Office Space 1999
I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob. Whaaaaat’s happening? Sounds like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays. I have people skills!
Mike Judge’s nightmarish workplace comedy struck a chord with 9-to-5ers who immediately recognized the horrors of faulty printers and TPS reports. It didn’t hurt that the dialogue was so spot-on, especially the sayings from the more insufferable cubicle dwellers, such as world’s worst boss Bill “Whaaaaat’s happening?” Lumbergh.
American Pie 1999
MILF This one time, at band camp . . .
The coming-of-age comedy didn’t invent the acronym MILF — which translates roughly to mom I’d like to, um, bed — but it did push both the phrase and the phenomenon mainstream, leading to a pop-culture moment for cougars.
They’re in the computer!? Really, really ridiculously good-looking. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. So hot right now.
So begins the Will Ferrell era. Although Ben Stiller was the star of this movie, it was Ferrell who stole the show as the crazy-haired Mugatu, dishing out such unforgettable lines as “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.”
You sit on a throne of lies. You smell like beef and cheese.
As Buddy the earnest, oversize elf, Ferrell gave the kind of sweet performance that ensured this comedy would get heavy rotation during the holiday season. But he wasn’t always sugary sweet, especially when he stumbled upon a Santa impersonator.
Old School 2003
We’re going streaking! You’re my boy, Blue. Earmuffs Once it hits your lips, it’s so good.
Oh, hey there: Ferrell once again is responsible for almost all the best lines, with the exception of Vince Vaughn’s instant-classic “earmuffs,” which has become a useful directive for young children when an adult needs to unleash a tirade of profanities.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy 2004
That escalated quickly.I’m kind of a big deal. I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books, and my apartment smells of rich mahogany. It’s so damn hot! Milk was a bad choice. I love lamp.
And that’s it for the Ferrell streak, but he had a good run, especially considering how many people still say “I’m kind of a big deal” in Ron Burgundy’s vaguely Canadian accent.
Mean Girls 2004
Stop trying to make fetch happen. You can’t sit with us. I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom.
Tina Fey wrote some impeccable dialogue for this dark comedy about high school life. The gift — or curse — that keeps on giving is the inescapable “I know, right?” which existed before the comedy came out but really caught on after Rachel McAdams’s queen bee Regina says it with just the right amount of upspeak.
Napoleon Dynamite 2004
Freakin’ idiot Whatever I feel like I wanna do, gosh. Dang it!
Though they weren’t quite as popular as Vote for Pedro T-shirts, these lines from the offbeat comedy led to a resurgence of quaintly PG-rated expletives. If only for a moment, “earmuffs” became superfluous.
Wedding Crashers 2005
Just the tip I got a Stage 5 clinger.
This was peak Vince Vaughn, motormouthing his way through his scenes while supplying us with a descriptive term for a stalker you can’t seem to shake.
Very nice.Great success! My wife
Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance as a Kazakh journalist with a Pamela Anderson obsession didn’t exactly delight the people of Kazakhstan, but the movie’s fans were all too happy to repeat lines like “Very niiice!” in his inauthentic, sing-songy accent.
Help me, I’m poor. Look away! It’s happening. It’s happening. It happened. I’m ready to partyyyyyyy!
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo earned an Oscar nomination for this snappy screenplay that left a lasting impression, especially the dialogue from the infamous food poisoning debacle and the airplane fiasco. During the latter scene, Wiig’s drugged and drunk character tried to infiltrate the first-class cabin. She wasn’t successful, but she did finally give us — so many decades later — the female rejoinder to “Animal House’s” “toga, toga”: “I’m ready to partyyyyyyy!”