Let’s be clear: this is not a list Shakespeare in Love belongs on. And there ain’t gonna be no Schindler’s List, either. That’s not how this list is meant to go. Instead of being about the best movies of the 1990s, this list is going to take a look at the decade that gave us some of the most eminently quotable movies of all time. It’s a list designed to chronicle those unique gems of brilliance that people assimilate into conversation in order to find friends in a crowded room.
Before I begin, let me start by saying that this is by no means a complete list. Many classic references ended up on the cutting room floor. In fact, I removed a few Coen Brothers references from this list because I didn’t want them to dominate. I’ll give you a hint: “You know, for kids.”
It’s also by no means a strictly good list. A couple of these are so monumentally bad that they couldn’t help but make it into common parlance as legendary. You’ll be able to pick them out.
Now, without further ado, I present to you my top 10 references from the 1990s.
10. “You can’t handle the truth!” –A Few Good Men. Hey, everyone — here’s a recipe for quotability: mix together an increasingly tense situation, someone in a position of authority, an absolute sense of right or wrong and someone’s livelihood on the line. This one followed that recipe to the letter.
9. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah” –Home Alone. With hands on his face, Macaulay Culkin screamed his way into our hearts and our social vocabulary all in one moment. Whoever didn’t want to booby-trap their entire house after seeing this movie doesn’t have a soul. Honorable Mention: “I made my family disappear.”
8. “And like that, he’s gone.” –The Usual Suspects. The movie has, really, one of the best endings ever, and Kevin Spacey’s performance really clinches it. At the end, we are so blown away by what just happened, we still don’t know what to trust. Honorable Mention: “Give me the keys, you fucking cocksucker.”
7. “It’s not a tumor.” –Kindergarten Cop. This is one of those “monumentally bad” movies I was talking about. Someone said, “Sure, make Ahhnuld a kindergarten teacher and an undercover cop. That sounds fantastic.” That said, this movie just might fall into the “so bad, it’s good” category. Honorable Mention: “I’m not a policeman. I’m a princess.”
6. “I’m not even supposed to be here today.” –Clerks. The acting is absolutely abominable. In fact, it’s rumored that Jeff Anderson (Randal) had his lines written in the newspaper he was reading. Still, this is the beginning of the Jay and Silent Bob franchise, which gave rise to so many smartass, tasteless laughs over an entire decade. After this flick, we’ll forgive Jersey Girl. Honorable Mention: “Salsa Shark,” and “You know, there’s a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don’t all bring you lasagna at work. Most of ‘em just cheat on you.”
5. “I see dead people.” -The Sixth Sense. Thank you, Haley Joel Osment, for the delivery of this line. This movie was M. Night Shyamalan’s first big break – and his best movie. And this line is one of those that sticks out as, well, a little ridiculous. It’s just been referenced so frequently in popular culture that it’s become good enough to represent the movie. The movie’s ending is pretty cool, too, even if it does get spoiled on a Threadless.com t-shirt. Honorable Mention: None, that was the line.
4. “Show me the money!” -Jerry Maguire. Remember what I said about A Few Good Men? Never underestimate the power of shouting something really loud over the phone, making a fool of yourself in front of other people and doing the “right thing” all at the same time. Tom Cruise makes himself a little less loathsome in this one, but mostly, it’s Cuba Gooding, Jr. helping him out. Honorable Mention: “You complete me,” and “Help me help you.”
3. “Life is like a box of chocolates.” -Forrest Gump. Oh goodness, that boy sure did love his Momma. In a movie that was hailed by the world, then subsequently ridiculed for how critically acclaimed it was, it’s pretty obvious that Forrest Gump did something right. High school kids used this line as their senior quote – first sincerely, then with increasing amounts of irony. Like it or not, Forrest Gump is an unforgettable movie. Honorable Mention: “But you ain’t got no legs, Lieutenant Dan.”
2. “Party on Wayne.” –Wayne’s World. This is one of those things where the entire movie is completely quotable. Kids playing hockey or basketball in the street would shout “Game off!” when a car drove by. As soon as someone utters a quote from this movie, the conversation is completely off track. For the next 20 minutes, the beginning of every sentence is, “And…remember that scene…” Few movies are so consistently spot-on with their catch phrases and quick throw-away jokes. This is a masterpiece of references. Honorable Mention: The entire movie, especially the Bohemian Rhapsody scene.
1. “The Dude abides.” –The Big Lebowski. There are about ten characters who have absolutely priceless lines in this movie. And the difference between Wayne’s World and The Big Lebowski (there are many, but for the purpose of this article…) is the fact that there is an underlying cynicism behind Lebowski, while Wayne’s World was based on mirth. It’s dark, biting humor, and it’s indicative of a mastery of bleak comedy. People latched on to The Dude. They gleefully uttered, “Nobody fucks with The Jesus.” When they bought a rug, they wanted it to tie the room together. Honorable Mention: Most of the movie, especially the lines delivered by John Goodman.
What are some of your favorite ’90s movie quotes?