The action genre has many different variations. Shoot ‘em up, comedy, adventure, noir and comic book just to name a few. One thing that binds all the different sub genres together is over the top dialogue. Fantastic cheesy one-liners. The lines that make the edges of your mouth curl.
Inspired by a random YouTube video I found, here are my top 10 action movie one-liners.
Some basic criteria that I include in these top-10:
- The movie itself and how much I like it
- The character itself and who the line is directed at
- How badass was the kill surrounding the one-liner if there is one
- How often do I quote the line?
Viewer Discretion Is Advised – Vulgar Language To Follow
10.) “Get to the chopper!”
Predator is one of my favorite action movies of all time. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a legend of one-liners. Naturally, had to combined to two here.
Honorable mention here that I thought about doubling up on was Blain’s (played by Jesse Ventura), “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
9.) “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubble gum.”
They Live (1988)
How many people here have heard of the the movie They Live? Show of hands?
John Carpenter’s satirical picture stars the wrestling legend Roddy Piper. He plays a loner who discovers a pair of sunglasses that illuminates the fact he is living in a world being taken over by aliens.
It’s a unique one for sure, but when Nada walks into that bank, it’s an all-time line.
8). “You gotta ask yourself one question…Do I feel lucky? Well do ya punk?”
Dirty Harry (1971)
Clint Eastwood’s Dirt Harry has so much swagger. It’s on dangerous levels of its own…before you throw in the .44 Magnum.
The closing moments of Eastwood’s soliloquy are dripping with confidence. It’s not over the top or too profound, it fits into the character just perfectly. In this opening scene we learn so much about Harry and what makes him one of the most controversial and productive cops on the force.
Another honorable mention from the Dirty Harry franchise is from Sudden Impact (1983): “Go ahead, make my day.”
7.) “He chose…poorly”
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)
This is a dark horse selection. The final in a trilogy (we ignore the fourth addition) that I adored when first falling in love with movies concludes with Indiana Jones and his father Henry James seeking the Holy Grail. Naturally, before the Nazis can get it.
Robert Eddison plays the Grail Knight and is in charge of instructing all travelers of the choice they must make; to pick the correct Grail. His delivery of “He chose…poorly” is slow, profound and iconic when the bad guy is turned inside out.
Fun sad random fact, Eddison passed away just two years after Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade was released.
6.) “Warriors, come out and play”
Stolen by the Golden State Warriors (how many of their fans have seen the movie??), this had three lines that I wanted to include. I went with “Warriors, come out and play” for one major reason. The line was improvised…at least that’s what the lore says.
The legend was dismissed a bit when the actor himself, David Patrick Kelly, says it wasn’t truly his own idea: “I’ll take credit for the bottles and how I said it. But I remember him (director Walter Hill) kicking in the lines.”
The Warriors is is one damn unique movie and now a cult classic. A very simple premise with a filming production that was riddled with backstage problems. I recommend everyone see it and form their own opinion. I just love “Warriors, come out and play” for the moment it happens in the film and for being the most iconic of the movie.
The other two lines I thought about including were Cyrus’s “Can you dig it?” and Ajax’s “I’ll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle.”
5.) “This Is Sparta”
The first on my list that people from this generation may actually know! How about that?!
There is no spinning it. I LOVED 300 when it came out. It is still one of the most adrenaline pumping theater-going experiences that I have ever had. I remember going to see it with my friends back in high school and reenacting King Leonidas’ kick on the doors walking back to the parking lot.
Zack Snyder’s dramatic slow-motion tendencies and chorus of angels builds up to the strike and then Gerard Butler has his turn of being the over-macho action token. Then the turn around while the rest of the Persian emissaries are killed…I mean I’m ready to run through a wall and pretend I have an eight-pack of abs.
Also, the line “Because only Spartan women give birth to real men” from Queen Gorgo is a fantastic burn I forgot till re-watching the YouTube clips.
4.) “You shall not pass!”
Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
Another out-of-the-box selection. The Lord of the Rings franchise is one of my favorites and The Fellowship of the Ring captivated me for what an adult action-adventure fantasy could be like.
Gandalph’s stand against Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad Dum is a major moment in the movie and for those who hadn’t read the books, it was a major shocker. The entire sequence in the Mines of Moria stands up as one of the best in the trilogy and this final lash of the whip was a major exclamation point.
Also, I may or may not scream “You shall not pass” when watching or playing basketball. Lock down defense!
3.) “Yippee Ki Yay motherfucker!”
Die Hard (1988)
Like Predator, Die Hard is in my Mount Rushmore of action movies. It is the perfectly paced adventure with iconic characters in each of the titular roles. Bruce Willis’s John McClane in his tattered tank top is legendary, and the undeniable line of “Yippee Ki Yay Motherfucker” is raised to an upper echelon by Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber menace.
The most identifiable line from a genre-defining movie has to be included on any sort of list like this.
2.) “Are you not entertained?!”
Gladiator is a staple instead of my top-10 movies all-time. It really marked the first time when I remember noticing a movie for its cinematic achievements and the subtleties of story telling.
This scene here had me SO amped when I first saw it. I think part of the reason may be because I am always partial to protagonist or antagonists with two swords: cue up Leonardo, Legolas, Death Stroke and Darth Maul for example.
1.) “There can be only one!”
There can be only one. And this is the one. From Highlander, there is no movie line that I have quoted more and connected with in my life time.
Whether it be in competition when things get feisty, or sorting out wires and trying to find the right match…I just whisper “There can be only one.”
If you have seen the fantasy classic (in my eyes at least), you know the meaning of the line. But if you haven’t (which I’m assuming is the majority), then I beg you to seek it out and indulge in fantastic 1980’s fanfare.
This is one of my top three quoted movie lines across all genres, and among the action variety, it is stapled, glued, cemented and lasered onto the top of my rankings. I could live four and a half centuries and it’ll stay there.
P.S. for Highlander, one of the best movie soundtracks that not many people have heard of. The soundtrack was made by none other than the legendary rock back, Queen.
Some of my other favorites!
“You’re a disease, and I’m the cure.” – Cobra (1986)
“Say hello to my little friend.” – Scarface (1983)
“Hello boys, I’m back!” – Independence Day (1996)
“I will look for you. I will find you. And I will kill you.” – Taken (2008)
“Asta La Vista, Baby” – The Terminator (1984)
“Yea, I’m thinking I’m back!” – John Wick (2014)
I know that this is is an area and topic that is divisive. I may have missed more than one line, so feel free to comment and share letting me know what are some of your favorite movie one-liners!