Dialogue is one of the key parts of any motion picture. For that reason, directors and screenwriters have always made sure that there are a couple of clever lines in their projects. At times, the actors have even improvised some statements. No matter where they come from, some movie lines are iconic.
Many things contribute to a memorable exchange between two characters, but the most important one is the question that’s asked. Throughout Hollywood’s lengthy existence, audiences have heard a number of incredible questions from both protagonists and antagonists.
10 “Is It Safe?”
Dr. Christian Szell – Marathon Man
“Is it safe?” might be a comforting question for someone who’s hiding from an outside threat but in Marathon Man, it comes from Lawrence Olivier’s iconic villain. The scientist, Dr. Szell, keeps repeating the line as he drills holes into the teeth of a Ph.D. student to encourage him to reveal information.
The question further accentuates Szell’s creepy nature because he shows some level of concern, yet he keeps on damaging the student’s teeth. What’s more troubling is that the victim doesn’t have the information that he is being asked to provide, but Szell keeps going.
9 “What Is It That Gives Me Joy?”
Al Capone – The Untouchables
Committing a murder during a banquet is the stereotypical mobster move, but before that happens, Capone exercises some oratory skills. In The Untouchables, Capone circles the table where his capos are enjoying their meals. He then picks up a baseball bat and asks them what they think he loves the most.
As expected, the Chicago mob boss doesn’t wait for an answer. Instead, he cuts right to the chase and tells them that his passion is baseball. Immediately after that, he quickly descends on one of them with the bat for being a traitor. Fans knew he was going to punish someone as soon as he picked up the bat, but his choice to beat around the bush first makes the scene all the more interesting.
Doc Brown – Back To The Future Part II
Roads are of little importance in time travel scenarios. Doc Brown makes sure to remind Marty of this at the end of Back to the Future Part II. Brown asks the above question after Marty suggests they should back up because there are no clear roads.
Doc’s single-word question is one that audiences are likely to ask because, by the second installment of Back to the Future, it’s obvious how the scientist moves from place to place. However, since Marty isn’t the one with the ideas, he can be forgiven for not being so sure.
7 “You Talking To Me?”
Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver
In Taxi Driver, the cab driver, Travis Bickle, realizes that not everyone is born tough. As such, Travis figures he needs to do some practice in front of the mirror. In one of the most iconic movie scenes, he imagines a confrontation where he’d be likely to use his gun and what exactly he would say.
The question alone qualifies Taxi Driver as one of the unforgettable movies from the ‘70s because it’s as amusing as it is relatable. Since then, the line has been imitated by many other movie characters and also become a pop culture gem.
6 “But Did You Die?”
Chow – The Hangover Part II
People have a tendency to complain about things that are of little importance, which is something Chow points out when he is having a conversation with his friends in The Hangover Part II. Tired of hearing them complaining about their bad day, Chow asks an important question to put everything into perspective.
Chow’s remark makes plenty of sense because his friends don’t have it as bad as they think they do. To him, there are worse things in life than the misfortunes they went through that particular day. For that reason, his friends should be very thankful.
5 “Have You Checked The Children?”
Curt Duncan – When A Stranger Calls
“Have you checked the children?” is asked twice in When a Stranger Calls, and it brings chills each time. The first time, the murderous Curt Duncan asks a younger babysitter if she’d checked on the kids, and she quickly realizes the kids have been murdered. Years later, Curt asks her about her own children.
This time around, the question is especially unnerving because viewers expect the protagonist to have been subjected to the same nightmare. Luckily, she finds her children safe when she gets home. From then on, a confrontation between her and Curt begins.
4 “Are You Not Entertained?”
Maximus – Gladiator
As the hero in Gladiator, Maximus doesn’t particularly enjoy the bloodlust that Romans have. He hates how they enjoy watching gladiators slaughter each other in the arena. To express how he feels, he asks the crowd an important question after quickly dispatching an opponent.
With the remark, Maximum is mocking members of the crowd, suggesting that their tendency to find joy in gladiatorial games isn’t good at all. Within the question lies the message that they are all evil for having such preferences.
3 “You Want The Truth?”
Colonel Jessup – A Few Good Men
The remark “You can’t handle the truth,” has become an important part of pop culture over the years, and it all stems from Colonel Jessup’s question in A Few Good Men. In the scene, he is called to testify about the death of one of his officers at Guantánamo Bay, and he ends up snapping when the lawyer pushes him too hard.
Jessup asks this question and answers it himself with an even better remark, which is why his words are so golden. According to him, high-ranking officers like him have to do bad things to protect the country. In his mind, killing one of his weak soldiers is required to prevent his unit from having flaws.
2 “I’m Funny How, Funny Like A Clown?”
Tommy DeVito – Goodfellas
Goodfellas’ hard-boiled and tough-talking characters are the major reason it’s considered one of the best gangster movies ever made. One of them is the mobster Tommy DeVito, who begins intimidating his associate, Henry Hill, when Henry calls him a “funny guy.”
The question is an instant mood changer. Before it’s asked, everyone is laughing at Tommy’s jokes inside a restaurant. However, he suddenly implies that he doesn’t appreciate being thought of as funny. Watching the nervous faces of the other mobsters is even more fascinating, but it later turns out that Tommy was only joking.
1 “Why So Serious?”
The Joker – The Dark Knight
The most iconic movie question comes from one of the greatest-ever Batman villains, and it’s all about frowning. The Joker asks the above question as he is holding Gambol at knife point. He recalls how his father carved a smile onto his face because his dad was angry at him.
The question is unforgettable because the Joker is able to trigger both sympathy and shock with it. By narrating how his father tortured him, he brings fans to his side. Within minutes, though, he alienates everyone by carving a smile on Gambol’s face. The moment explains why he looks the way he does and confirms that he will be forever evil.
NEXT: 10 Most Thought-Provoking Movie Villain Speeches, Ranked
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