'Billy Madison' at 20 and the 35 most quotable movie comedies | EW.com


35 most quotable movie comedies: See our ranking

A look at the genre's most echo-worthy movies, in honor of 'Billy Madison's 20th birthday

When Billy Madison opened in theaters 20 years ago today, Adam Sandler was baptized by a cold critical reception that would become the norm for his comedies. Few cared for Sandler’s spoiled, gibberish-speaking man-child, who had to repeat all 12 grades in order to inherit his father’s riches. EW’s Owen Gleiberman spoke for many in his profession when he wrote, “By the end, you feel like a drill sergeant—you want to wipe that stupid grin off Sandler’s face.” 

Neverthless, Billy Madison opened at No. 1, though it wasn’t a blockbuster on the scale that Sandler’s subsequent films became. (It grossed just $25.5 million.) Somehow, Billy persevered and made an everlasting mark on the pop-cultural subconscious—at least, for the substantial audience who couldn’t help giggling when Billy insisted it was cool to pee in his pants or weighed the superior benefits of shampoo versus conditioner. Billy Madison might not be one of the great comedies, but it’s oddly become one of the most quotable. 

Madison had the good fortune to exist at the tail end of an era when fans—especially young men—spent money on VHS tapes and wore them out with multiple viewings, enshrining certain movie quotes as part of a communal vocabulary. DVD and Blu-ray would subsequently offer a similar viewing convenience. But by the time sleeker technology became dominant, the finite cul-de-dac of old-school home video—and cable TV—had to compete with the infinite Internet, ever more immersive video games, and a vast plethora of streaming options that made the notion of watching the same movie 25 times much more unlikely. As the New York Times wrote last year in an article called “The Rapid Decline of the Movie Quotation,” “It’s also hard to justify rewatching [a movie] when nearly every film made since the Lumière brothers is available at the click of a button, as opposed to the limited options of a brick-and-mortar video store.”

In the age of Netflix, the universally recognized movie quote that elicits an appreciative giggle or one-up volley when it’s dropped casually into conversation is an increasingly endangered species. Comedies still make money at the box office, and they still play on cable months later—but young, impressionable audiences aren’t likely to sit through the repeat viewings required to give quotes universal currency. As a result, a flimsy, sophomoric film like Billy Madison—which also enjoyed a long run on cable that continues to this day—has its defenders in a debate about the most quotable movie comedies of all time.

EW’s writers put their heads together to complile a list of the 35 most quotable comedies since 1970—an admittedly arbitrary cut-off that limits an appreciation for cinematic history but generally reflects the pool of comedies that have the greatest influence on movie-lovers in 2015. It surprised no one that the 1980s—a golden age for repeat viewing—dominated the list, but the debate over No. 1 was fierce.

Starting with No. 35, here’s EW’s list of the comedies we know by heart and can’t help quoting—for better or for worse. (Note: Many of these film clips are rated R.)

35. A Christmas Story (1983)
If this charming holiday movie had simply come and gone after its successful 1983 release, it would’ve been fondly remembered by those who recall the Bumpus hounds and Scut Farkus’ yellow eyes. But its annual wall-to-wall Christmas Day reruns have made it impossible to miss, and fans of all ages could now conceivably step in for the narrator (Jean Shepherd) on a moment’s notice. —Jeff Labrecque

Quick Quip: “I triple-dog dare ya!”

Spotlight Soliloquy: “I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!”

Diehard Deep-Cut: “It’s a major award!”

34. Bull Durham (1988)
There was nothing minor-league about Ron Shelton’s baseball rom-com, which captured the ribald flavor of life in the Carolina League. The lingo and humor may have been inspired by his own days in the minors, but you can’t go anywhere near a ballpark today—from Little League to the Majors—without hearing tidbits of his characters’ wisdom. —JL

Quick Quip: “Candlesticks always make a nice gift.”

Spotlight Soliloquy: “Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.”

Diehard Deep-Cut: “Rose goes in the front, big guy.”

33. Say Anything (1989)
This Cameron Crowe heartbreaker might be more romance than comedy, but its funniest quotes have a way of seducing the souls of teenagers from multiple generations. The only thing in it that you can’t quote is when people say “hello” and “goodbye.” Well, except when “goodbye” is Lloyd Dobler holding up a boom box—and that goodbye becomes a hello. —Danielle Nussbaum

Quick Quip: “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.”

Spotlight Soliloquy: “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed.”

Diehard Deep-Cut: “You must chill.”

32. Raising Arizona (1987)
For their second film, the Coen brothers created a cartoonish universe for a ne’er-do-well (Nicolas Cage), his wife (Holly Hunter), and their misguided scheme to kidnap a baby. The colorful dialogue crackles, aided by performances by first-rate actors who live in their sometimes-outrageous characters. —Kyle Ryan

Quick Quip: “Son, you got a panty on your head.”

Spotlight Soliloquy: “I don’t know. You tell me. This whole dream, was it wishful thinking? Was I just fleeing reality like I know I’m liable to do? But me and Ed, we can be good too. And it seemed real. It seemed like us. And it seemed like, well, our home. If not Arizona, then a land not too far away, where all parents are strong and wise and capable, and all children are happy and beloved. I don’t know. Maybe it was Utah.”

Diehard Deep-Cut: “Hit the deck, boy.”

31. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
The Griswold family Christmas movie was the rare comedy sequel to actually surpass a very funny original with its own fair share of great quotes (“Sorry folks, park’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya”). The third Vacation film brought the fa-la-la-la-ha-ha in full force, especially with visits from an extended family that sent Clark through the attic ceiling. —DN

Quick Quip: “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”

Spotlight Soliloquy: “Grace? Ohhh…She passed away 30 years ago. … Oh. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Diehard Deep-Cut: “Shitter was full.”

30. Billy Madison (1995)
It might be slightly difficult to remember when Adam Sandler’s antics were actually fresh, but all it takes is popping in a VHS copy of his first major movie and learning once again about the puppy who lost his way. —Kevin Sullivan

Quick Quip: “Want to touch the heiney.”

Spotlight Soliloquy: “Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Diehard Deep-Cut: “Man, I’m glad I called that guy.”

29. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
Judd Apatow’s blockbuster practically announced what and who audiences would be laughing at for the next decade. From Steve Carell’s square hero to Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd’s horny co-workers to Jane Lynch’s inappropriate boss to Leslie Mann’s psychotic drunk, Virgin is like a limited-edition comic collectible that is still in mint condition. —JL

Quick Quip: “Know how I know you’re gay?

Spotlight Soliloquy: “You’re a good-looking man. Very pretty. Real soft, delicate features. They’re real feminine, you know, which is good for me because that would be a simple sort of transition, you know what I’m saying? Maybe throw a little rouge on you, tuck your sack back. You game?

Diehard Deep-Cut: “Let’s get some f—in’ french toast.”

28. The Jerk (1979)
Steve Martin’s breakout role as lovable idiot Navin Johnson perfectly exploited his best skills: wordplay, physical comedy, character work, and cat juggling. The Jerk not only made Martin a movie star, but it also inspired a generation of comedians that followed—look no further than the way the nerds obsessed over it in Freaks & Geeks. —Kyle Anderson

Quick Quip: “He hates these cans! Stay away from the cans!”

Spotlight Soliloquy: “I know we’ve only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days and the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days and the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in then evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it.

Diehard Deep-Cut: “What a great place! You know, you can tell so much about a person from the way they live. Just looking around here I can tell you’re a genuinely dirty person.”

27. Trading Places (1983)
Eddie Murphy in Trading Places is the comedy-God equivalent of Michael Jordan leaping from the foul-line with his tongue out. There are so many hilarious scenes where you just know he’s going off that you almost expect the frame to be shaking slightly from the cameraman’s giggling. —JL

Quick Quip: “When I was a kid, if we wanted bubbles, we had to fart in the tub.

Spotlight Soliloquy: “I ain’t seen nothing since I stepped on that landmine in Vietcong back in ‘72. It was rough, very painful. [You were in ‘Nam? So were we. Where?I was in… Sang Bang… Dang Gong… I was all over that place, basically, a lot of places. [What unit were you in?I was with the Green Berets, Special Unit Battalions… Commando Airborne Tactics Specialist Tactics Unit Battalion. Yeah, it was real hush-hush. I was Agent Orange, that was my name, Agent Orange. Special Agent Orange, that was me.”

Diehard Deep-Cut: “And she stepped on the ball.”

26. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Some notable quotables in Richard Linklater’s nostalgic comedy about a group of teenagers on the last day of school in 1976 stand out as nuggets of truly well-written comedy, but many of its best bits of dialogue are memorable for their charmingly authentic stoned-teenager vernacular. —Ashley Fetters  

Quick Quip: “That’s what I love about these high-school girls, man. I get older; they stay the same age.

Spotlight Soliloquy: “Man, it’s the same bullshit they tried to pull in my day. You know, if it ain’t that piece of paper, there’s some other choice they’re gonna try and make for you. You gotta do what Randall Pink Floyd wants to do, man. And let me tell you this: The older you do get, the more rules they’re gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin’, man. L-I-V-I-N.”

Diehard Deep-Cut: “I’m sorry, m’am. I was just escorting your fine young son home from school. There were some ruffians about.”

25. Zoolander (2001)
There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a smart comedy about dumb people—and on that front, Ben Stiller’s magnum opus delivers in spades. Its dialogue is just as finely honed as its surprisingly sophisticated satire, providing plenty of lines that sound as funny when spoken by a normal person as they do from the lips of Stiller’s dim-witted male model. —Hillary Busis  

Quick Quip: “What is this? A center for ants?

Spotlight Soliloquy: “Do you understand that the world does not revolve around you and your ‘Do whatever it takes, ruin as many people’s lives,’ so long as you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose, or people you leave dead and bloodied along the way, just so long so you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way?

Diehard Deep-Cut: “I invented the piano key necktie! I invented it! What have you done, Derek? You’ve done NOTHING!

24. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Mike Myers struck gold with Austin Powers, a spy spoof that introduced both a memorable hero and a memorable villain—played by the same actor. Powers is hilarious satire that also escapes the shadow of what it parodies by being just ridiculous enough to be endearing, too. —Jonathan Dornbush

Quick Quip: “Yeah, baby, yeah!

Spotlight Soliloquy: “The details of my life are quite inconsequential… Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a 15-year-old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical: summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds—pretty standard, really. At the age of 12 I received my first scribe. At the age of 14 a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum. It’s breathtaking. I suggest you try it.”

Diehard Deep-Cut: “That train has sailed.”

23. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Like most teenagers, John Hughes’ beloved movie skillfully walks the line between comedy and melodrama—but whether the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal are making you laugh or well up, they’re also inspiring you to repeat their words. P.S.: John Bender was telling authority figures to eat his shorts when Bart Simpson was just a twinkle in Matt Groening’s eye. —HB

Quick Quip: “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?

Spotlight Soliloquy: “I’ll bet he bought those for you. I bet those were a Christmas gift. Right? You know what I got for Christmas? Oh, it was a banner f—ing year at the old Bender family. I got a carton of cigarettes. The old man grabbed me and said, ‘Hey, smoke up Johnny.’

Diehard Deep-Cut: “Could you describe the ruckus, sir?

22. Old School (2003)
What could possibly go wrong when a bunch of mid-life-crisis-era dudes—including Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell—decide to recapture the glory of their college days and start their own fraternity? As it turns out, thankfully, lots. Old School ensured that tranquilizer darts and streaking after a certain age would never be thought of the same way again. —Sara Vilkomerson

Quick Quip: “You’re my boy, Blue!

Spotlight Soliloquy: “True love is hard to find. Sometimes you think you have true love, and then you catch the early bird flight home from San Diego and a couple of nude people jump out at you, blindfolded, like a goddamn magic show, ready to double-team your girlfriend.”

Diehard Deep-Cut: “There’s my wife. See that? Always smiling? Hi, honey. Judging, watching, ‘Look at the baby, look at the baby.’

21. Wedding Crashers (2005)
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn’s days as members of the Frat Pack were never quite as memorable as they were in Wedding Crashers. The film found the perfect mixture of Wilson’s mellow charm and Vaughn’s fast-talking bravado, and complemented their skills with a maniacal Bradley Cooper, a certifiably insane Isla Fisher, and Christopher Walken… being Christopher Walken. —JD

Quick Quip: “Tattoo on the lower back. Might as well be a bullseye.

Spotlight Soliloquy: “What were they like anyway? They looked pretty good—are they real? Are they built for speed or for comfort? What’d you do with them? Motorboat? You play the motorboat? You motorboatin’ son of a bitch! You old sailor you!

Diehard Deep-Cut: “Mom! The meat loaf! F–!