Movie News

Feature : The 10 Funniest Movie Lines!

Movie News
Drew Turney

An Australian-based film critic and celebrity interviewer now based in Los Angeles, California.

You know the old saying about how if you have to explain a joke it’s not funny any more? A dictionary defines ‘funny’ as ‘causing laughter or amusement’, which doesn’t help very much. The reason it’s so hard to quantify is because ‘funny’ is like ‘hungry’ – it defies constructive description and you can only experience it to know it.

The closest we can come to describing the effects of something that’s funny is the distance between our expectations of an event and the actual result, like a moment of emotional grandiosity when the detective’s about to identify the killer and the maid comes in with the vacuum (a craft of humour the British have perfected and are most famous for). The cinema screen is perhaps the best medium to deliver the joke – and this is a very carefully considered random sample that easily could be a list of hundreds.

1. Annie Hall (1977)

Alvy (Woody Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) are arguing about Annie’s relationship with one of her college professors, Alvy convinced she’s having an affair with him. Already angry, Alvy dismisses Annie’s course (Existential motifs in Russian literature) by calling it ‘mental masturbation’. Annie retorts bitterly by saying they’re finally talking about something he knows about. “Hey, don’t knock masturbation,” Alvy snaps, “it’s sex with someone I love.”

2. Fast Times in Ridgemont High – 1982

Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Linda (Phoebe Cates) are talking about their prospects for love as teenagers in a small American town in the early eighties. When Stacy expresses her desire for romance, Linda brings the situation into sharp relief. “Romance… in Ridgemont? We can’t even get cable!”

3. Flying High 2: The Sequel (1982)

Putting one of the most stone faced, serious character actors of the 1980s – John Vernon – in a gatling gun gag comedy followed the modus operandi of both Flying High movies (Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, William Shatner et al). He plays Ted Striker’s (Robert Hays) psychiatrist, in court to decide Ted’s fate after being set up to look like a nutcase when he voiced concerns about the Mayflower 1 commercial space flight. When the prosecuting attorney asks for his impression of Mr Striker, Stone replies in a droll voice; “I’m sorry, I don’t do impressions. My training is in psychiatry.”

4. The Man With Two Brains – 1983

Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin) brings his new wife Dolores (Kathleen Turner) home after their wedding. Blissfully unaware that Dolores is a scheming gold digger out for his fortune, Michael doesn’t even realise when her true colours show through. Seeing the doctor’s household staff awaiting their arrival at her new house, she snaps “What are those assholes doing on the porch?” “No,” Hfuhruhurr corrects her with infinite patience, “they’re pronounced ‘azaleas’.”

5. Innerspace – 1987

The villains capture Jack Putter (Martin Short) and bundle him in the back of a freezer truck to spirit him away and learn the secret of the miniaturisation program that’s shrunk navy pilot Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) to the size of a cell somewhere in Jack’s body. Nasty head honcho Victor Scrimshaw (Kevin McCarthy) engages the shivering Jack in a pep talk you think will be about the opening up of a new scientific frontier. “Miniaturisation Jack… that’s the ticket. That’s the edge everyone is looking for. Who will have that edge, Jack? What country will control miniaturisation? Frankly, I don’t give a shit. I’m only in this for the money.”

6. Trainspotting – 1994

Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) and his friends have kicked the habit and found life distinctly lacking. Having temporarily chosen life, Renton informs us during his voiceover that; “At, or around this time, Spud, Sick Boy and I made a healthy, informed, democratic decision to get back on heroin as soon as possible.”

7. Ghostbusters – 1984

Bedlam descends on the New York Mayor’s (David Margulies) office and at the middle of it all is a pitched battle between the Ghostbusters trying to convince the Mayor of the impending danger because of the coming of Gozer and slimy EPA agent Walter Peck (William Atherton) blaming them for the explosion that let their entire cache of trapped paranormal entities loose. Ray Stanz (Dan Aykroyd) explains to the Mayor that the power grid restraining them was in fact switched off by ‘dickless here’ (Peck) after his court order cease-and-desist. “They caused an explosion,” Peck barks back. The Mayor turns to Venkman (Bill Murray) to ask if it’s true. “Yes, it’s true,” Venkman deadpans, “this man has no dick.” If you listen carefully in the ensuing scuffle, you can hear Venkman protest ‘Well that’s what I heard!’

8. This Is Spinal Tap – 1984

Clueless Spinal Tap bassist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) is explaining to documentarian Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) how their amps are louder than ever because they go up to eleven, which is one louder. DiBergi asks the obvious question – why aren’t the amps just louder in general so the top number is still ten? Tufnel, confused but unperturbed in his conviction, replies simply that “These go to eleven.”

9. Life of Brian – 1979

Mistaken for the Messiah, young Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) uses to job as a gladiator stadium snack vendor to try and make contact with the militant underground so he can strike a blow against his Roman oppressors. His task is made difficult with the militant Judean underground being more splintered and factionalised than the Romans themselves. Approaching one such gathering, he clandestinely asks them if they’re the Judean People’s Front. “Fuck off,” leader Reg (John Cleese) barks. “We’re the People’s Front of Judea!”

10. The Naked Gun – 1988

Nordberg (OJ Simpson) has been gunned down in a sting gone wrong, and super-cop Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) promises his fretting wife Wilma by assuring her; “Wilma, I promise you, whatever scum did this, not one man on this force will rest one minute until he’s behind bars (to his colleagues) …Now let’s grab a bite to eat.”

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About Drew Turney

An Australian-based film critic and celebrity interviewer now based in Los Angeles, California.

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