An Ode to Obscure Movie Quotes

Chad Durham
May 21, 2020 · 10 min read

The world has long celebrated classic movie quotes. The combination of a brilliantly conceived phrase and the perfectly calibrated delivery of that phrase has the potential to fuse itself to our hearts and minds forever. In fact, the American Film Institute released a list in 2005 of the 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All-Time. It is an incredible list made up of the movie quotes that almost everyone knows. These are the quotes that you can say at any time and everyone around you will recognize them immediately. Gems like “Here’s looking at you, kid” and “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” and “You had me at hello” and one of my favorites, “There’s no crying in baseball!” It’s amazing to read through the list and be transported to each of the films the quotes come from. Or, even if you are not familiar with the movie, to realize, perhaps for the first time, that it originated in a motion picture and not in real life.

Beyond those famous and infamous quotes, however, there are the movie quotes that you used to quote with your college roommates or your siblings or your parents. These are not famous quotes. Half of the time they are not even clever quotes. They are the tiny lines that you somehow latched onto and began to say and, somehow, they ultimately began to mean something. These are the quotes I want to write about today. Likely, most of the quotes I include here will not be the quotes that you and yours have perpetuated. When you finish, we would love to hear your examples of quotes you love in the comments here or on Facebook or Twitter. Let us know what obscure movie quotes you adore and repeat, regardless of their intelligence or relevance.

So, here are some obscure movie quotes I love and a tiny bit of context. They are not in any particular order. Where I could find them, there are YouTube links accompanying the explanation. These are the forgotten, the silly, the short, the obscure. That does not make them any less memorable for me.

“Buenos dias!” from The Road to El Dorado (2000) — In the underrated animated comedy from DreamWorks, Miguel (Kenneth Branagh) and Tulio (Kevin Kline) discover the city of El Dorado and are mistaken for gods — and proceed to milk that for all it’s worth. My favorite obscure quote comes from Kline’s Tulio. When Branagh’s Miguel says that he noticed the two leaders of El Dorado had a little tension between them, Tulio responds with an incredibly inflected “Buenos dias!” as if to say “Wake up!” or “Duh!” or something to that effect. It has never failed to make me laugh. I have never fully implemented it into my everyday speech, but I have such affinity for Kline’s delivery and the nonsensical nature of the use of the Spanish phrase. I always aspire to use it more often myself on a day-to-day basis. Maybe this will be the catalyst for that. Since I could not find a clip on YouTube of Tulio uttering the phrase, I included the GIF for your enjoyment.

“One? Two? Is it one?” from Ghostbusters (2016) — As I stated in my article about my favorite movie sidekicks, Kate McKinnon is one of the best scene-stealers ever. Be it on Saturday Night Live or any number of big-screen comedies, McKinnon delivers lines with verve and style, and always with something off-kilter. In the female-led Ghostbusters reboot, the women are dragged in for a visit with Andy Garcia’s mayor, where he asks them to stop doing what they are doing. He has two Homeland Security agents with him and one of them (played by Michael K. Williams) asks the women, “Do you have any idea how many federal regulations you are breaking on a daily basis?” Holtzmann (McKinnon) replies with “One?” They say no. So she asks, “Two?” They respond in the negative again. “Is it one?” she asks again. It’s simple and silly and we say it all the time. Anytime there is anything to be counted or perhaps when we are divvying dessert up with our kids, this quote comes out.

What are you doing with the television?” from Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) — I will be honest: I did not love this movie and I have only watched it once. I found it only mildly funny and I wished the satire had been a little more pointed. But all it took was one time to remember forever the most classic line from the film, which my wife and I have now quoted for years and years. When Dick and Jane pick up their TV to carry outside (to sell it, I think, because they need money(?) — I can’t remember), their young son, who has somewhat of a Latin-American accent because he has been raised by a Latin-American nanny, sees them exiting and asks, “What are you doing with the television?” It’s silly and throwaway, but has led to 15 years of quoting in our home.

“ . . . Jaack Blaack” from The Muppets (2011) — The muppets and their movies have been providing hilarious quotes since the 1950s. So it’s fitting that my favorite obscure quote from the 2011 movie completely lacks any context. The Muppets have kidnapped Jack Black and have him tied to a chair. A large muppet named Gene (or Behemoth) looks on as Jack Black screams for help and then simply states “You sure got nice teeth, Jaack Blaack.” Humorously enough, the part we love to quote is just the actors name, with the “A” sound stretched out. “Jaack Blaack.” That’s it. But it’s beautiful.

Where are the chips?” from Nacho Libre (2006) — Speaking of Jack Black, Nacho Libre has no shortage of bizarre and quotable lines, a tribute to Jared Hess and Mike White’s writing and the brilliance of the cast. One of my favorite lines, though, comes as Black’s Nacho is doling out the “meal” for the day and one of the monks is disgusted with the food, so he asks “There is no flavor. There are no spices. Where are the chips?” And so, we have been asking “Where are the chips?” for over a decade now. Anytime chips are missing or even when they are right in front of us, we can ask this obvious question in our best approximation of Richard Montoya’s accent and laugh like it is the very first time.

This corn is like an angel” from Dan in Real Life (2007) — Steve Carell’s Dan is blindsided by the fact that the woman he just met and felt an instant connection with is actually his brother’s girlfriend. This information is shattering and sobering and it is difficult for him to deal with, especially since he is a widower who has never really attempted to “get back in the dating pool.” So when his brother (Dane Cook) tells the story of seeing Marie (Juliette Binoche) for the first time, he cannot help but feel a bit churlish. Cook’s Mitch says that he saw an “angel” in the class and the rest of the family gathered around the dinner table swoons. Not Dan, though, He mutters bitterly under his breath (mostly), “This corn is like an angel.” Cut to me every time I eat corn — ever. Hahaha. The great delivery by Carell is what made this more obscure movie quote so iconic.

I love Spam and Reese’s; can I have it?” from 50 First Dates (2004) — There are multiple humorous lines from 50 First Dates but my favorite is when Doug (Sean Astin) and his father (Blake Clark) bring a package to Adam Sandler’s Henry Roth before he leaves on a boating trip around the world. They bring him a large amount of Spam and Reese’s as a gift. The minute they hand it to Henry, Doug immediately says, “I love Spam and Reese’s; can I have it?” in his lispy voice. This quote can be employed at any time, really. Neither Spam nor Reese’s needs to be involved. The “Can I have it?” is the key to repeating this quote often. If someone is eating something you want, it’s time.

Like sleeping?” from Despicable Me (2010) — When the young girls of Despicable Me sell cookies to Vector (Jason Segel), they are somewhat confused by the “pajamas” he is wearing. He informs them that it is a track suit in which he does super-cool things. The youngest girl, Agnes (voiced by Elsie Fisher!!), responds, “Like sleeping?”, which completely undermines his desire to be taken seriously. This quote does not have perfect practical application unless you’re making fun of someone’s outfit. That does not stop us from using it as often as we can.

That’s actually hilarious” from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) — This quote, from Chris Evans as Lucas Lee in the movie adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel, has a small but passionate following from Scott Pilgrim fans. It comes when Lucas Lee leaves all of his stunt doubles to beat up Scott (MIchael Cera) and he is so unconcerned by it that he walks away reading a text and then responds to that text by laughing and then saying “That’s actually hilarious.” There are many times that this quote can be employed, though I rarely use it. I am just tickled by it.

“I’m for it!” from The Princess and the Frog (2009) — The voice work in The Princess and the Frog is top-level. The cast is incredible, each creating a distinct character through their inflection and tone. Peter Bartlett plays Lawrence, the long-suffering valet of Bruno Campos’ Prince Naveen, and has many flawless line deliveries, varying from obsequious to rage-filled. My favorite, though, is a small, throwaway line late in the movie when Lawrence is in Prince Naveen’s body and about to marry Charlotte. As THE PRIEST asks Lawrence if he takes Charlotte to be his wife for as “long as they both shall live,” Lawrence replies, “What? I do. Yes. I’m for it.” One of the funniest wedding replies I can remember and a quote that can be used pretty much any time you could just say “yes.” Whenever “yes” is boring, adopt your Lawrence voice and say “I’m for it.”

Like my nana” from Wreck-It Ralph (2012) — When Ralph takes off to try to get a medal, he leaves his video game machine without an antagonist, so the game stops working. Mr. Litwak, the owner of the arcade comes over to check it out and proclaims that the game has gone cuckoo, “Like [his] nana.” And that soon that may have to put it out to pasture, “Like [his] nana.” It’s a subversive and hilarious joke. This quote can rarely be used on the spur of the moment, but it is definitely worth celebrating.

You’re my same height. That is neat” from Orange County (2002) — For my college friends and a few of my siblings, this movie is THE KING of the obscure quote. I could have chosen countless quotes to be the representative quote (“What is?” “He was like no, bro, it’s the carburetor. And it turned out, he was right.” “I had to take off my pants to run faster through the flames.” “It was a little long so I didn’t read it all but who cares ’cause I gave you an A!” “Poo poo. Pee pee.” “Like his DEATH birthday.” And even an incredible, wordless quote from Catherine O’Hara who just says “Eh . . . EH” before speaking. I could go on but this article is already long.) The quote above is from when Sean Brumder (Colin Hanks) visits Dean Durkett of Stanford (Harold Ramis) and he and his girlfriend accidentally give the Dean some drugs. So while they try to convince him to let Sean into Stanford, he cannot quite keep focused, including delivering the crown jewel of obscure movies quotes: “You’re my same height. That is neat.” And my sister and I have been saying it ever since, as well as at least 10 other quotes from Orange County. This is the amazing power of the obscure movie quote, how it can permeate your daily speech, even 18 years later.

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