Movie dialogue


“You know that great John Goodman line from ‘The Big Lebowski’?” Apollonia asked me recently.



I’ve only seen “Lebowski” once.  “Which line?” I asked.



“You remember,” she said:



Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”



Okay.  That’s pretty good.



So often, a really good line of movie dialogue needs a lot of setup.  In the movie “Jumbo,” for example. Jimmy Durante is trying to hide an elephant.  It’s right behind him!  The policeman says something like, “We’re here to take the elephant.”  And Durante (with the elephant right behind him, remember) says, with great innocence:



“What elephant?”



Sometimes it’s tone of voice.  The young Hayley Mills, in “The Trouble with Angels,” was able to deliver this line at least twice, in an unforgettably passionate teenage British-accented voice:



“I’ve got the most scathingly brilliant idea!”



Maybe Katherine Hepburn as the scheming Eleanor of Aquitaine in “The Lion in Winter”?:



“Of course he has a knife!  We all have knives!  It’s 1183, and we’re barbarians!”



You’ve got to ask yourself: will it mean anything to the people who haven’t seen the movie?  We movie-lovers are, after all, a very odd lot.  We speak in code, like any mysterious medieval guild. 



Okay.  “Sleeper,” with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.  He’s wearing this ridiculous inflatable suit, and she’s riding on his back as they speedboat across the river, and the police are shooting at them as they’re escaping, and she’s crying and pounding her fists on his back and shrieking: “I hate you I hate you I hate you!”  And Woody says, very calmly:



“Try not to get upset.”







About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

3 Responses to Movie dialogue

  1. Bird says:

    This made me laugh. Last night, during my insomniac early hours this morning, I was watching The Office. The line was. “Why is Jim treating the magician poorly?” I have no idea why this struck me so funny, but it did, and I laughed and laughed. Good piece, Loren!!

    • It’s the truth: sometimes the dialogue is just perfect. I left out “Moonstruck,” which is full of perfect dialogue. I find myself saying “Johnny Cammereri is a big baby!” under my breath at the most inappropriate times, because it’s just such a good line. And how about this one: “Old man, if you give any more of my good food to those dogs, I’m gonna kick you ’til you’re dead.”

      • Bird says:

        LOL!! I love that last line!! One of my favorites is from Tommy Boy…That’s gonna leave a mark…we say it around here all the time..

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