These Are the Greatest Movie Insults of All Time
Whether it’s done to heighten dramatic tension, establish characters, or make audiences laugh, nothing spices up a film like a good insult. Insulting someone in real life is an impulsive (and not always clever) act, but the verbal grenades movie characters lob at each other are curated by writers and a director, which makes them all the more juicy.
In honor of this most incendiary of art forms, RealClearLife has put together a list of the greatest movie insults of all time. (Please note that some of these clips are NSFW.)
The Drill Sergeant Scene in Full Metal Jacket – Stanley Kubrick’s classic Vietnam War film is full of one-liners, but its most impressive collection is a series of insults spewed from the mouth of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (played by real-life sergeant R. Lee Ermey). He doesn’t mince his words when shouting at his rag-tag band of recruits at boot camp. The greatest thing about this scene? Most of it was improvised.
The ‘Nothing’ Speech in Swimming with Sharks – For anyone who has ever worked as an office underling, this scene will ring a few bells. (Well, hopefully not too many.) The boss here is Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey) and his insult-filled response to Guy (Frank Whaley) is a slow burner for the ages.
French Guardsman’s Taunts in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – The 1975 classic, starring Monty Python comedy troupers John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Graham Chapman, is full of the sketch comedy that worked so well for them on the small screen. In this scene, a French soldier goes on a particularly creative verbal rampage, calling the Englishmen below “empty-headed animal food trough wiper[s],” “pig dogs” and “sons of a silly person.” (Hopefully, this is not how the French and English treat one another in real life.)
Princess Leia Lets Han Solo Have It in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back – In a particularly light moment in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia lets the swashbuckling, cocky Han Solo have it in front of Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, and C-3PO, calling Han a “nerf herder.” What, pray tell, is a “nerf herder”? That would be one who herds the nerf, a “species of furry, non-sentient animals raised for their milk, meat, and hide,” according to the Wookieepedia. It’s also the name of a pop-punk band from Santa Barbara, CA.
The Man in Black Squares Off With Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride – One of the most enjoyable movies to come out of the 1980s, Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride is full of future stars, including Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, and Fred Savage, not to mention pro wrestling legend Andre the Giant. It also features some of the finest one-liners and barbs in cinematic history. In this particularly tense scene, The Man in Black (a.k.a. Westley) verbally abuses Prince Humperdinck in heroic fashion. (It comes in the first :20 of the clip; you’ll know it when you hear it.)
The ‘Jerkoff’ Speech From The Big Lebowski – Simply put, this movie by the Coen Brothers is comedy gold. The reason? Scenes like this one, where The Dude (Jeff Bridges) groggily faces The Law—and The Law wins (by way of a number of hurled insults and one very painful coffee mug). You wanted movie insults, you’ve got ’em.
Blaine vs. Ugarte in Casablanca – One of the greatest insults ever spoken onscreen came in the black-and-white classic Casablanca, when Ugarte (Peter Lorre) says to Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), “You despise me, don’t you?” How Rick responds might be one of the coldest burns in American film. We’re shivering just thinking about it.
Jack Carter Annihilates Eric Paice in Get Carter – Michael Caine has spoken a good one-liner in his time, and one of our favorites is this poetic insult his character Jack Carter hurls at Ian Hendry’s Eric Paice in the 1971 gangster classic. For full effect, Carter says it after he slowly removes Paice’s sunglasses. It’s so cold, you’ll think winter’s right around the corner.
Melvin Goes Full Misogynist in As Good As It Gets – Jack Nicholson adds a quasi-comedic element to every movie he’s in—and 1997’s Oscar-winning As Good As It Gets is no exception to that rule. When a female receptionist makes the mistake of asking insult machine Melvin Udall “How do you write women so well?,” out comes one of the harshest retorts towards the fairer sex in human history. (Probably not a good idea to repeat this one to your wife or girlfriend.) Cue to the 1:41 mark for the line.
Garth Makes a Funny in Wayne’s World – In this 1992 comedy based on the classic Saturday Night Live sketch of the same name, Dana Carvey’s desperately shy character Garth Algar levels the boom with one of the funniest dessert-related insults of all time. If you’re wondering, pralines are a soft, nutty flavored candy that resembles fudge. Now you’ll never forget. —Will Levith, RealClearLife