Top 20 Movie Comeback Lines
Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Movie Comeback Lines.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the best rebuttals delivered by characters in films.
What movie comeback line do you love? Let us know in the comments!
#20: “Warthog-Faced Buffoon”
“The Princess Bride” (1987)
“The Princess Bride” is a timeless story of adventure, romance, and devastating insults. When the noxious Prince Humperdinck finds his supposed-bride Buttercup with the supposed-dead Westley, he proposes a duel to the death. But Westley proposes one “to the pain.” The prince doesn’t understand, and before he explains, Westley gives this all-time great takedown. And his verbal undressing of Humperdinck doesn’t stop there, telling him about the horrible fate he wishes to befall him and calling him a “miserable, vomitous mass.” This moment shows how words are capable of inflicting just as much pain as the sharpest sword.
#19: “I Have to Go Shopping Now”
“Pretty Woman” (1990)
In sales, good customer relations are everything. But somehow, the sales clerks at this fashion retailer didn’t get the memo. When escort Vivian visits a high-end clothing store in hopes of purchasing a new outfit, she’s treated with hostility and told to leave. They may think they've triumphed over the dejected Vivian, but their victory is short-lived. The next day, Vivian returns in a sensational new outfit. She's not looking for an outfit, but to tell them what a mistake they made and that she won't be giving them her business. Hopefully, they thought twice before judging a customer by their outfit again.
#18: “I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed”
In real life, injuries like being shot require immediate medical attention. But in action movies like “Predator,” you can delay treatment so you can deliver a cool comeback. In the heat of battle, Heavy-gunner Blain is told by explosives expert Poncho that he’s been hit. Not at all fazed, Blain reacts to this injury like it’s nothing more than a stubbed toe. And he’s not the only one who gets to deliver a cool line. Right after, Poncho lets off some grenades and asks Blain if he has time to duck before they explode. Even without Arnold, this “Predator” scene is peak action-movie coolness.
#17: “An Insult to Stupid People”
“A Fish Called Wanda” (1988)
The bigger one’s ego is, the easier it is to damage it. When jewel thieves and lovers Otto and Wanda get in a spat over Wanda's seduction of barrister Archie Leach and Otto’s subsequent reaction, he protests her use of a certain “S” word to describe him. She agrees, but not in the way he intended. As Wanda puts it, Otto’s intelligence isn’t even equal to that of sheep, and all sorts of things he claims to be true are, in fact, false. Jamie Lee Curtis’ sharp tongue and Kevin Kline’s wounded reaction to her undressing of his arrogance are just two reasons why “A Fish Called Wanda” continues to be a comedy classic.
#16: “I Am Big. It’s the Pictures That Got Small”
“Sunset Boulevard” (1950)
When you’re on the top, it’s hard to believe that could ever change. That’s the theme of “Sunset Boulevard,” Billy Wilder’s classic noir about a faded silent film star. When screenwriter Joe Gillis recognizes Norma Desmond and refers to her previous fame, Norma has a comeback for the ages. It isn’t that she lost her power. Instead, it’s the films themselves that weren’t worthy of her talent. Gloria Swanson, herself a silent film star, packs every syllable of this line with total conviction. Norma might not have spoken much in her films, but she sure knows how to make her words count.
#15: “Your Mother Was a Hamster and Your Father Smelt of Elderberries”
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975)
We weren’t around in the Middle Ages, but we don’t think they talked exactly like this. In one scene from this classic medieval comedy, King Arthur and his men come by a castle settled by some French soldiers, seeking the titular chalice. The representative for the soldiers claims they already have a grail and refuses Arthur’s request to see it. Things get pretty personal from there, with the Frenchman going after both Arthur’s mother and father with his putdowns, which are as creative as they are hilarious. We’d watch a whole movie of this man and his insults.
#14: “But You Have Heard of Me”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003)
It didn’t take long for audiences to fall in love with Captain Jack Sparrow. It’s not that the pirate was particularly dashing or heroic. In fact, it was the lack of those qualities that made him endearing. After assessing Sparrow’s low-quality supplies, Royal Navy officer Norrington declares him to be “the worst pirate [he’s] ever heard of.” Eager to get the last word, Sparrow points out that Norrington does know who he is, which is validation enough. Jack Sparrow might be a lousy pirate, but when it comes to handling insults, he’s an absolute pro.
#13: “No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Die”
James Bond is one of the coolest characters ever created. But we have to admit his enemies are pretty charismatic themselves. The evil gold fanatic Auric Goldfinger captures Bond and, in true movie villain fashion, straps him to a table with a laser pointing right at his nether regions. As the laser burns through the table, Bond realizes his options are limited, but he still asks Goldfinger if he’s expecting information. Goldfinger counters this, saying he expects Bond to die. We know that this scene isn’t going to be the end of 007, but it’s still a suspenseful encounter, with a great line.
#12: “You Brought Two Too Many”
“Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968)
There’s so much to appreciate about the opening of Sergio Leone’s epic spaghetti western, from its gorgeous landscapes to its sound design. But there’s one line that lets you know this isn’t going to be your typical gunslinger tale. Three men wait at an empty train depot, exchanging glances but not words. Then, a train arrives, and off it steps a man playing the harmonica. The other three have been sent to kill him and laugh about how he’s outnumbered. But this is Charles Bronson. As soon as he lowers his eyelids and shakes his head, you know it’s about to go down. The guns go off and the men go down, including Harmonica. Unlike his foes, though, he lives to see another day.
#11: “Why Don’t You Go Piss Your Pants Again?”
If you do something embarrassing when you’re younger, you better hope that others don’t remember. Or, if they do, hope that they don’t use it against you. When classmate Greg gets upset with Evan for his lack of interest in their current soccer game, Seth brings up a traumatic moment that’s clearly burned into Greg’s memory. When Greg brings up how long it’s been since that particular incident, Seth nonchalantly retorts with how “people don’t forget.” This isn’t just a great comeback. It’s also a great way to establish a relationship between characters in under a minute.
#10: “No. Have You?”
The Xenomorphs aren’t the only ones exhibiting slimy behavior in this sci-fi sequel. But that doesn’t mean it’s left unchecked. When cocky private Hudson sees fellow Colonial Marine Vasquez doing pull-ups, he smugly asks her if she’s “ever been mistaken for a man.” Without missing a beat, Vasquez says she hasn’t and throws it right back at him, to the praise of her fellow soldiers. It’s pretty impressive to affirm one’s femininity while also challenging another’s masculinity in three words. Hudson doesn’t seem too hurt by it, though. And later on, he has much bigger problems to worry about.
#9: “Yes, It’s True”
Being a Ghostbuster is tough. You have to deal not only with supernatural menaces but also skeptical bureaucrats like EPA inspector Walter Peck. Fortunately, things are a bit easier when you have Bill Murray - er, Peter Venkman among your ranks. When Peck rants about the Ghostbusters and their supposed fraudulence to Mayor Clotch, Venkman looks on with total disinterest. When the mayor asks if these claims are true, Venkman instead affirms something about Peck’s manhood, much to his fury. Murray is the king of deadpan roasts, and this scene is one of his finest hours.
#8: “Your Mom’s Chest Hair”
“Mean Girls” (2004)
We all have those high school memories of being insulted and not being able to think of a good comeback in time. In these moments, we wish we could be Janis Ian. When an obnoxious classmate makes a rude comment about her hair, Janis snaps back with a cutting response about his mother. It’s a brief moment, and right after, she’s introducing herself to Cady in a friendly manner. Janis is one of the most likable characters in the “Mean Girls” ensemble. But she’s not about to take insults without dishing out some of her own.
#7: “Your Opinion, Man”
“The Big Lebowski” (1998)
A great comeback doesn’t need to be particularly inspired. It doesn’t even need to be said with any kind of energy. When lewd bowler Jesus Quintana taunts The Dude, Walter, and Donny about how they’re going down in an upcoming competition, The Dude stumbles his way into perhaps the most polite comeback we’ve ever heard. He has a lot more on his mind than bowling, but his response epitomizes the laidback nature of The Dude. If you’re ever in an argument that you want to get out of as soon as possible, this line always comes in handy.
“Die Hard” (1988)
Evil mastermind Hans Gruber thinks his plan to take over Nakatomi Plaza and steal from it is foolproof. But he didn’t count on matching wits with the likes of a detective named John McClane. When McClane introduces himself over a walkie-talkie recovered from one of Gruber’s dead henchmen, Gruber starts to sense his scheme might have a new obstacle. His cold and sneering tone might intimidate some, but for the armed and dangerous McClane, Gruber is a coward hiding behind a facade of power. With one softly spoken, profane comeback, John McClane gets us amped up even more than we already were.
“The Avengers” (2012)
Part of what makes superhero movies like “The Avengers” so good is how they create compelling conflict not only between heroes and villains but also between heroes and other heroes. When the Avengers are initially assembled, there’s more hostility and less camaraderie between the members. Steve Rogers questions Tony Stark’s hero qualifications out of his Iron Man suit, and Stark rings off four impressive attributes, starting with “genius.” Black Widow’s facial reaction to this comeback pretty much matches ours. Fortunately, Captain America, and Iron Man were eventually able to work with each other, not against.
#4: “How Do You Like Them Apples”
“Good Will Hunting” (1997)
It’s great to be educated, but not if you’re using your intellect as a way to demean others. Clark learns this the hard way in this scene from “Good Will Hunting.” After flexing his supposed genius at a neighborhood bar, the arrogant history student is confronted by an actual genius in Will Hunting, who dresses down Clark and his unoriginal arguments. The takedown doesn’t stop there. Later, Will manages to get the lovely Skylar’s phone number, a fact he’s eager to share with Clark. From this point on, Boston and apples would forever be linked.
#3: “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs”
“In the Heat of the Night” (1967)
Things are unbearably heated in this mystery, and we’re not just talking about the temperature in its southern setting. After Philadelphia detective Virgil Tibbs is wrongfully arrested in the small town of Sparta, Mississippi, he's asked to help with a murder investigation. But Tibbs’ detective skills aren’t enough to earn him the respect of Chief Bill Gillespie, who charges at him with racist insults and demands to know what he’s called in Philadelphia. Disgusted by Gillespie’s bigotry but not willing to lose his cool, Tibbs responds that he’s addressed with respect in the City of Brotherly Love. Gillespie and Tibbs’ relationship later becomes a respectful one, and Tibbs showed he wouldn’t let anyone disrespect him, no matter what their position is.
#2: “You Can’t Handle the Truth”
“A Few Good Men” (1992)
Movies like “A Few Good Men” make courtrooms look as exciting as any battlefield. And it’s only fitting that this particular case happens to involve the military. When lawyer Daniel Kaffee cross-examines Colonel Nathan Jessup about his involvement in the murder of a Marine, Jessup starts to lose his cool. After Kaffee demands the truth, Jessup delivers one of the most powerful exclamations in movie history. It’s even great as he continues, trying to argue that his rank lets him get away with things others could never. The passion between Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise is felt in every syllable and expression. Jessup soon falls on his own sword, but he goes out with total force.
#1: “Frankly, My Dear…”
“Gone with the Wind” (1939)
Being dumped is hard. It’s even harder when the person breaking up with you can barely muster any passion. That’s what happens at the end of classic romance “Gone with the Wind.” After realizing he and Scarlett O’Hara’s marriage cannot withstand any further tragedy, Rhett Butler leaves Atlanta. Scarlett chases after Rhett and pleads with him to stay, asking how she’ll get along without him. Rhett simply tells her that’s none of his concern and walks off into the fog. Clark Gable manages to charm us even when he’s being callous, and after all these years, this line is still the best movie comeback of all time.