Comebacks. There’s a feeling of pride and self-satisfaction when you deliver one, that can only be bettered by following it up with another one. Check and mate! Most movies that we watch always intend on making us root for a certain character and in cases when they do not, we still end up preferring characters over the actors they are played by or their motives. We love these characters to the point where we either look up to them or tend to be inspired by their views on the world and the people inhabiting it. For our faith in the movie, the directors usually reward us with a comeback line that lives on for decades and becomes our go-to line for any mess that we find ourselves in. So, considering every line in existence since the talkies, this list includes the best comebacks to have been put on screen. For the sake of diversity, I haven’t simply categorized them on the basis of their brashness or content, but also the relevance they have to the plot and the manner in which they were delivered. Here’s a list of the top movie comebacks of all time.
20. Yippe ki yay, Motherf*cker! (Die Hard)
Hans Gruber: Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?
John McClane: Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.
Die Hard! For the entirety of the 90s, it was the go-to movie for every young guy out there. German villain, an All American policeman and some powerful one-liners. Frankly speaking, there’s more to ‘Die Hard’ than that. It’s one of the best written action flicks you’ll find and gives us a relatable common man turned hero (I have always loved this concept and though it lacks in realism, it is way ahead of superhero films) with the charm of Manhattan’s streets engulfed around his f bombs. This line has now become John McClane’s signature remark. One of the best comebacks ever.
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19. How do you like them apples? (Good Will Hunting)
Will: Do you like apples?
Will: Well, I got her number. How do you like them apples?
When you are a janitor and an Ivy League guy insults your friends to impress a girl by quoting books he spent $150k on, what can you really do? If you are Will Hunting, you send him back to the dusty pages he was born from (or rather his mind), and get the girl as well. This is a brilliant comeback to a cocky guy who undermines the prodigious Will’s abilities and gets served cold apple pie with tuna sauce.
18. But you have heard of me. (The Curse of the Black Pearl)
Norrington: You are without doubt the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of.
Jack Sparrow: But you have heard of me.
Depp’s role as Jack Sparrow earned him worldwide acclaim and transformed him into a deserving A-lister. Sparrow’s nonchalant attitude and wit is captured sublimely in his lines, and with a comeback such as this in front of the governing authorities of England he sprinkles tiny drops of his dauntlessness, a quality that is never confined and is as vast as the waters he sails on.
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17. Yeah, f*ck you too! (The Thing)
The Thing: *roars*
MacReady: Yeah, f*ck you too!
My favorite comeback from this list! For people who haven’t watched the movie, The Thing is a 50 footer alien who gorges on any living organism it can find. When ‘The Thing’ roars at MacReady, he says the most Kurt Russell line ever and blasts it with dynamite. The build up to this scene is nerve-wracking and with all his friends falling victims to the creature on the isolated continent, it’s a “do and die” situation for MacReady. A great touch to an even greater climax.
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16. It’s just a flesh wound! (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
King Arthur: Look, you stupid bastard, you’ve got no arms left!
Black Knight: Yes I have.
King Arthur: Look!
Black Knight: It’s just a flesh wound!
You can only appreciate the greatness of this scene when you watch it. Even after 40 years, ‘The Holy Grail’ remains to be the most loved comedy movie of all time and it’s hilarious lines like these that keeps it highly relevant in pop culture and the internet. It’s a spoof of King Arthur and His Knights of Round Table, and contains a comically dramatized image of the story, making a mockery out of a lot of beliefs and practices influencing the medieval period.
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15. You are an inanimate fackin’ object! (In Bruges)
Natalie: Harry. Harry! It’s a inanimate f*cking object!
Harry: You’re an inanimate fackin’ object!
Our initial glimpse of Ralph Fiennes’s character is a crazy outburst following Ken’s (Gleeson) refusal to shoot Ray (Farrell). For almost half of the film, you develop an idea of Harry (Fiennes) to be an unrelenting mafia boss but there’s always a slight apprehension because, well, the movie turns a suicide attempt into a joke. 15 minutes later we see Harry smashing his telephone, a reaction that is carried out by every other person, and then arrives this silly comeback and not only does it destroy the “boss” image but also brings an unhinged person into the story revolving around two hitmen (since this is a dark comedy, the outcome is perfect).
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14. Swear to me! (Batman Begins)
Flass: I never knew. I don’t know. I swear to God…
Batman: Swear to me!
Batman is oblivious to comebacks I guess. His words are more like a statement, he demands you to do as he says or lick the sidewalk. A man of action, he indulges in words only as a last resort and his domineering presence over Gotham is conveyed perfectly in these 3 words. While interrogating the corrupt detective Flass, who pleads innocent regarding the details of the drug racket by swearing to God, Batman comes up with this kickass line and in stating his status as judge, jury and executioner.
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13. I’m walkin’ here! (Midnight Cowboy)
Ratso Rizzo: I’m walkin’ here! I’m walkin’ here!
If it wasn’t for the cab driver, this scene would have never existed and the list would have been robbed of this peach of a line. While Dustin Hoffman crosses the road absent-mindedly with Jon Voight, he’s almost hit by an incoming cab that wasn’t part of the script. Hoffman stayed in character and improvised with this comeback to the honking cab, brilliantly portraying a New Yorker who has grown up on its streets. His performance in this movie was followed by a string of movies in 70s, a period in which he was considered the finest actor.
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12. They call me Mr Tibbs! (In the Heat of the Night)
Gillespie: Well you’re pretty sure of yourself, ain’t you, Virgil? Virgil—that’s a funny name for a nigger boy that comes from Philadelphia! What do they call you up there?
Tibbs: They call me Mr. Tibbs!
Sidney Poitier’s thundering comeback and believe me, Hollywood was changed forever. Though Poitier did win an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964, but like in most cases he had to wait for that movie which would elevate him to the legendary status. ‘In the Heat of the Night’ did just that and was a graceful slap on the faces of people who considered the casting of a black man in the lead role, an anomaly.
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11. He must have had on some really nice pants. (Pursuit of Happyness)
Martin Frohm: What would you say if man walked in here with no shirt, and I hired him? What would you say?
Christopher Gardner: He must have had on some really nice pants.
Lines like these make this movie a great one. It’s not a vigorous comeback but a witty response, something unexpected but required of the character in the situation he’s in. Nothing cheeky and is an earnest reply from the protagonist, who we are supposed to emotionally bond with and that’s the aim of the movie. This line is very essential for the plot as well, it portrays Gardner’s quick thinking and results in him getting a shot.
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10. No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die. (Goldfinger)
James Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
Goldfinger: No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!
James Bond has undergone transitions, though not very considerable, they have been a reminder of the actors’ qualities. But what truly stands out in every film is the antagonist in the Bond franchise, and when we are talking about Bond villains it has to begin and end with ‘Goldfinger’. Hence this famous line is unsurprisingly starting off the top 10. Goldfinger unlike most of 007’s enemies is not a person with the fantasized “evil plan for the world”, but is just a very greedy guy who wants it all for himself. This particular confrontation is the closest Bond got to death!
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9. Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe? (The Breakfast Club)
Richard Vernon: Questions?
John Bender: Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?
This line is every high school student’s dream. Snapping back at the assistant principal who’s served you detention, questioning his attire is just smooth and rebellious. It’s obviously delivered by the “bad guy” of the school but his true self does get explored later on in the movie. For those who aren’t aware, Barry Manilow is a pop star who was known for his extravagant dressing sense back in the 70s and 80s, mainly because of the whole shift in the entertainment industry that encouraged such changes.
8. Oh, I’m sorry, did I break your concentration? (Pulp Fiction)
Brett: No, no, I just want you to know… I just want you to know how sorry we are that things got so fucked up with us and Mr. Wallace. We got into this thing with the best intentions and I never..
Jules: (*shoots the man on the couch*) Oh. I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?
Okay. You talk about Pulp Fiction and this confrontation scene is the first thing that goes through your mind. Samuel L Jackson’s miraculous performance as Jules quite frankly made him the Charles Bronson of today, and it is this very scene that set that defines Tarantino’s intensified world. Positively, he did make changes from the chilling scene in ‘Reservoir Dogs’ by inducing cold humor here. Anything funny coming from a man as cold as Jules will always turn on the tension, but it’s this coldness that keeps us on the edge of our seats and not the gore.
7. Well if I gave you any thought I probably would. (Casablanca)
Ugarte: You despise me, don’t you?
Rick: Well if I gave you any thought I probably would.
‘Casablanca’ is filled with great quotes and that’s probably why this line gets ignored quite often. Casablanca was made in the 40s and there was no option of using an expletive to express your contempt and since Rick Blaine is already the epitome of classiness the moment he appears on screen, it’s quite apt that he prefers a slick remark. Formal and lethal like a .44 magnum, this is such a great comeback delivered with such finesse, I personally would have had a breakdown if I was at the receiving end.
6. No, I am your father. (The Empire Strikes Back)
Vader: If only you knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father. Luke: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Vader: No, I am your father.
The movie that made plot twists so popular, and led to the use of the term “Spoiler Alert”. After a gruelling lightsaber battle where Vader single-handedly defeats Luke he spares his life and instead asks him to join the Dark Side. Throughout the 1st and 2nd parts, Vader showed an inexplicable keenness towards Luke and we finally get the answer when he reveals to be Luke’s father, who Obi Wan claimed was killed by Vader.
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5. I am big. It’s the pictures that got small. (Sunset Boulevard)
Joe Gillis: You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.
Norma Desmond: I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.
One of the greatest performances from a female lead, Gloria Swanson was sensational as Norma Desmond with every line of her being a mainstay in the film industry. There’s a lot of opinions on the stark similarities between the actress and her role, to an extent that she got submerged beneath the shadow of her character. Desmond is a faded silent movie star who’s lost in her world conjured only in an attempt to a make a comeback.
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4. You talkin’ to me? (Taxi Driver)
Travis Bickle: (*stares in the mirror*) You talkin’ to me?
The only self comeback line on this list. It would be a sin to ignore this and frankly looking at yourself in the mirror has never been same. In this scene Bickle imagines a situation which would result in him blazing his guns out. It reflects his fading sanity and by talking to himself, he is getting distant from the world day by day. There’s a smile on his face when he says “You talkin to me” and by adding these lines, DeNiro gives a new dimension to his already dynamic body language.
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3. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. (Gone With The Wind)
Scarlett: Rhett, Rhett… Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?
Rhett Butler: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
The #1 Movie Line of All Time by the AFI. This line was groundbreaking, not only in terms of its delivery but also its historical importance. This was the first time the word “damn” was used in a movie after the Code had banned its use after 1930. Clark Gable’s delivery is breathtaking, and gives no pause anywhere conveying his promptness to leave Scarlett and move on.
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2. You can’t handle the truth! (A Few Good Men)
Col. Jessup: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col. Jessup: You can’t handle the truth!
Jack Nicholson has stepped into the villain’s boots on a few occasions, with most of them involving him being a psychopath. His role as Col Jessup was different though, and he is a cold calculating villain, a man who is wary of every step he takes and goes to any lengths to erase them after moving forward. In one of my favorite interrogation scenes, Kaffee (Tom Cruise) sledges Jessup to the point of intimidation and it is no surprise when Jessup tears apart his proud, composed visage. The comeback follows one of the best delivered monologues, and its rather sad to see him on the losing side after those impressive 5 minutes.
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1. Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. (The Big Lebowski)
Jesus Quintana: You ready to be f*cked, man? I see you rolled your way into the semis. Dios mio, man. Liam and me, we’re gonna f*ck you up.
The Dude: Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.
The most un-typical comeback on the list! The Dude’s response is classy and gives us a perfect idea about the character in 10 words, with 9 of them being monosyllabic. The effort to stand up to pedophiles is not worth his efforts and he respects everybody’s freedom to express themselves, alright. This particular sentence has now become the standard response for every individual who believes to “never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience”.
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