Among the complaints leveraged against the Terminator: Genisys trailer last week, perhaps the most reasonable and deserved was the way the classic line “Come with me if you want to live” was just haphazardly shoehorned in.
Action movie one-liners are a staple in film history. They bring a certain empowerment to characters and really punctuate the stupidity of a situation. And yes, many of them are quite stupid. But it’s mostly the good kind of stupid. It helps if there are bullets flying and explosions going off behind action stars. We roll our eyes while simultaneously raising our fists triumphantly after every perfectly sliced line of cheese. In no specific order: here are the best, worst, and often forgotten/unappreciated one-liners.
“Bond, James Bond” – Bond Franchise
Shaken, not stirred. Espionage. Alcohol. Sexism. No international superspy does it quite as well as James Bond. Suave doesn’t quite cover it. Neither does messy gender politics. That doesn’t stop this line from being able to sweep the pants off of men and women across the globe. Don’t try it out at bars though.
“Hasta la vista, baby” – Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Judgement Day is the highlight of the Terminator franchise and a reminder that well-staged action scenes are exemplified by believable human drama. Throughout the action epic’s 136 minute (153 extended) runtime, the T-800 learns to understand human emotion. A young John Connor teaches the machine some hip lingo. There’s no better personification of their playful relationship than this gem.
“Go ahead, make my day” – Sudden Impact
Unlike the majority of prolonged action franchises, the Dirty Harry movies never became unwatchable garbage. They became decent action fare. But even in the fourth installment, there was enough juice left in the throttle to grace the world with this beauty.
“It’s just been revoked” – Lethal Weapon 2
Lethal Weapon is the best of the series. There’s simply no argument about that. For straight up action entertainment, Lethal Weapon 2 KO’s the competition. The influx of one-liners from LW2 are so plentiful, it’s hard to pick just one. “I’m getting too old for this shit” is the franchise staple. As Riggs and Murtaugh go up against a racist South African politician with diplomatic immunity, it’s only fair that Murtaugh retorts by disregarding his status and shooting him in the head. Fuck your diplomatic immunity!
“You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you.” “You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die” – The Princess Bride
This is technically two but it’s from the same movie and it’s my list anyway. The Princess Bride is a movie with a little bit of everything. It’s the definition of fantasy adventure. Cary Elwes plays the most respectable swashbuckler in all the land and comes across a young Mandy Patinkin. Naturally, they must duel, but not without maintaining a sense of mutual respect.
“Get away from her, you bitch!” – Aliens
Aliens is so different from its predecessor, it almost fails as a sequel. The continuing journey of Ripley’s battle against the Xenomorph hordes is bolstered by a final fight with the Alien Queen. It’s mother against mother as Ripley uses a power loader to even the scales and to save her new surrogate daughter.
“Yippee Ki Yay, Motherfucker” – Die Hard
I know this list is in no particular order but it’s Die Hard. Die Hard is the number one of everything. It’s a Christmas movie, an action masterpiece, and gave us a truly human hero (No other action hero gets their feet cut on glass). John McClane is the blue collar action star who goes up against the big business thief, Hans Gruber. Gruber is a calculating villain with a plan behind every plan. McClane straps bombs to chairs and hopes it hits a bad guy. When the two talk to each other over a walkie talkie for the first time, McClane ends the conversation as any grumpy American should.
“Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else” – X-Men
Bryan Singer’s X-Men are fine movies. Never rising to the top of the list of “best superhero movies” and definitely not the masterpieces some claim them to be (really?). I wouldn’t say any are bad or unwatchable… only during the ending of the first movie. It’s a line that should be delivered sarcastically, with other characters noting how horrible it was. That’s what happens when you get a director who is scared of fun.
“I’m gonna take you to the bank Senator Trent… to the blood bank!” – Hard to Kill
I never understood the love for Steven Seagal action movies. I guess there’s an appeal to the schlockiness of it all. It’s ironically hilarious to watch these movies, sure. But why spend time with this crap when we can watch Die Hard in peace. Jesus. to the fucking blood bank.
“You’re a real blue flame special, aren’t you, son? Young, dumb and full of cum, I know” – Point Break
Point Break is the type of action schlock I love to watch. It’s well-directed and plays to its own strengths where any faults can be easily forgiven. Almost any faults. Kathryn Bigelow creates a chaotic action world with FBI agents named Johnny Utah for christ’s sake. Lord knows John C. McGinley never exactly screams subtle.
“I’m gonna kill you all kinds of dead!” – The Spirit
Frank Miller was once a good writer. He’s got a messy track record otherwise. His art is ugly and his mind left him long ago. He’s like that old man yelling offensive obscenities at a cloud. Then a studio decided it was a good idea to let him write and direct an adaptation of his own comic. In a Stallone action movie context, The Spirit would probably own lines like the one listed above. Instead, it’s loathsome and disappointing.
“It’s my birthday, time to light my candles” – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The movie that almost singlehandedly tears down my defense of the superhero genre is one of the most disappointing movies of 2014. There’s fun comic book silliness, then there’s unchecked camp. What could be an intense negotiation scene between hero and tragic villain, turns into a scene straight out of Schumacher’s Batman films. Yeah, reminding everyone how it’s your birthday is definitely threatening.
“What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age!” Batman & Robin
The worst superhero movie also is home to the worst superhero dialogue. Any words spouted from the mouth of an ice coated Arnold Schwarzenegger are contenders for the worst the film has to offer. I chose one up above but really it’s all about what you think is the most unbearable.
“Yeah, fuck you too!” The Thing
I love The Thing like I would my own child. John Carpenter’s thriller is improved by Kurt Russell and his unstoppable level of beard and badass. In the climax of the film, the titular creature becomes a smorgasbord of human and beast. There was supposed to be a prolonged fight between Russell’s Macready and The Thing but due to budget and shoddy effects it was dropped. I imagine the fight was crazy stressful to film, so much so that I can imagine Carpenter just screaming “Fuck!” into an endless void of stress. It’s fitting that Macready shouts the same thing at the creature.
“Play time’s over” Hot Fuzz
Edgar Wright’s homage to all things buddy cop is a constant barrage of references and embracing the bonds between partners (platonic and otherwise). Wright’s knowledge of genre bestowed him great filmmaking assets but it also helped his homages to become comedy classics. Hot Fuzz earns the underappreciated moment of Sgt. Nicholas Angel embracing his status as supercop with a killer one-liner of his own.
“There’s 215 bones in the human body. That’s one” – Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Is it cheap to have two posts from the same movie? Maybe. But have you seen Terminator 2? It’s unlike any other action movie. There’s a beating heart in the center of it. It doesn’t hurt that Sarah Connor learned to kick some serious ass in between the years of T1 and T2. Her perseverance to stop Judgement Day from happening is so powerful, she has abandoned all attachments from modern society. Breaking out of a mental institution was only the beginning.
“Donuts don’t wear alligator shoes.” Black Dynamite
I recently had the pleasure of viewing this parody of the blaxploitation genre and I don’t know how it avoided me for so long. I’m honestly ashamed. It’s un-pc in all the right ways. It also makes little to no sense and you should watch it forever. I know I will. Don’t trust a donut who wears alligator shoes.
“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum” – They Live
Another John Carpenter movie on the list because why not? Carpenter cast Roddy Piper (people tell me he’s a wrestler or something) as an everyman, fighting against an alien control operation. A criminally underrated movie in its own right, Roddy Piper walks into a final confrontation with the alien controllers endowed with special glasses. Sadly, he’s all out of bubblegum.
“Forgiveness is between them and God. It’s my job to arrange the meeting” – Man on Fire
The late Tony Scott is the definition of underappreciated. His many collaborations with Denzel Washington were usually more hit than miss. He even gave us Top Gun. He gave us fucking Top Gun, guys. But his most underappreciated effort has to be the modern revenge-thriller, Man on Fire. Denzel’s effortless cool demeanor throughout the movie eases us into comfort before he blows up a man by putting a bomb up his ass.
“I aim to misbehave” – Serenity
Firefly season 2 will come out eventually. It has to. Until then, we have Serenity to keep us company. It functions more as a series finale than a standalone movie but that’s fine. This was a movie for the fans. The fact that it’s even good is a miracle. It’s inspiring, carefree nature is a love-letter to those of us who were there for the show once those DVD’s came around. After suffering a huge loss and discovering a dark secret, Captain Malcolm Reynolds gathers his crew around for one last mission that will surely cost them their lives. They stand up to the oppressive empire that closes in around them. The crew of the Serenity don’t get to wave them the finger. They just get to expose them for their true nature. Misbehaving was never this fun.
Feature Image: Terminator: Genisys, Paramount Pictures