nicholson1.jpg“You only lie to two people in your life, your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.” — Jack Nicholson in the April 1994 issue of Vanity Fair.

Jack Nicholson is great with memorable personal quotes like the one above, but he’s primarily thought of as someone who delivers a writer’s lines so well, that they have a good chance of landing in the next American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest Movie Quotes. At least half of the credit goes to Nicholson’s delivery.

There are a lot of good actors but none that I know of can quite deliver dialog in the same memorable way Jack does. I can’t speak for everyone (well, actually I can, but it wouldn’t be honest), but I can give you my own list of favorite Nicholson movie quotes.

THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

Wilbur Force : Most people don’t like to go to the dentist but I rather enjoy it myself. …(giggles) There’s a real feeling of progress when that old drill goes in. (maniacal laugh) I’d almost rather go to the dentist than anywhere… No novocain… It dulls the senses. (smile)

THE LAST DETAIL

Shore Patrol sailor Billy Buddusky: Name’s Buddusky. Always wantin’ to call me “badass.” I AM a badass.

and

Beer, it’s the best godamn drink in the world, dontcha think?

and

To bartender who threatens to call the Shore Patrol when Buddusky insists he serve an underage sailor: I am the motherfucking shore patrol, motherfucker. I AM the motherfucking shore patrol. Now give this man a BEER!

AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Author Melvin Udall: (to couple in restaurant) You people talkin’ metaphors oughtta shampoo my crotch!

and

Secretary: How do you write women so well?

Melvin Udall: I think of a man … and I take away reason and accountability.

and

Gay Neighbor: Thank you, Melvin. You overwhelm me. I love you.

Melvin Udall: I tell you buddy, I’d be the luckiest guy alive if that did it for me.

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST

Randall P. McMurphy: What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin’? Well you’re not! You’re not! You’re no crazier than the average asshole out walkin’ around on the streets, and that’s it.

THE SHINING

Jack Torrance: I’m not gonna hurt ya, I’m just gonna bash your brains in. Gonna bash ‘em right the fuck in!

And who could ever forget the famed scene of Jack sticking his head through the shattered hole in the door and saying, “Heeere’s Johnny!”
NOTE: That line was ad libbed by Jack.

A FEW GOOD MEN

Marine Colonel Nathan R. Jessup: You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to stand there in that faggoty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some fucking courtesy. You gotta ask me nicely.

And

Jessup: There is nothing on this earth sexier, believe me, gentlemen, than a woman you have to salute in the morning. Promote ‘em all, I say, ’cause this is true: if you haven’t gotten a blowjob from a superior officer, well, you’re just letting the best in life pass you by.

And

Jessup: I run my unit how I run my unit. You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous.

and

Jessup: You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled.
Col. Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth.
Col. Jessep: YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

And

Jessup: [yelling] I’m gonna rip the eyes out of your head and piss in your dead skull! You fucked with the wrong Marine!

FIVE EASY PIECES

The diner scene is a classic; therefore, the dialog between an increasingly irritated waitress (Lorna Thayer) and Jack’s character, Bobby, is quoted in full.

Bobby tries to order breakfast in a diner:

Bobby: I’d like a plain omelet no potatoes tomatoes instead, a cuppa coffee and wheat toast

Waitress: No substitutions

Bob: What do you mean? You don’t have any tomatoes?

Waitress: Only what’s on the menu. You can have a #2, plain omelet, comes with cottage fries and rolls.

Bobby: I know what it comes with but it’s not what I want.

Waitress: I’ll come back when you make up your mind.

Bobby: Wait a minute, I have made up my mind. I’d like an plain omelet, no potatoes on the plate, a cuppa coffee and a side order of wheat toast.

Waitress: I’m sorry, we don’t have any side orders of toast. It’s a muffin or a coffee roll.

Bobby: What do you mean you don’t make side orders of toast. You make sandwiches don’t you?

Waitress: Would you like to talk to the manager?

Bobby: You’ve got bread and a toaster of some kind?

Waitress: I don’t make the rules.

Bobby: Okay, I’ll make it as easy for you as I can. I’d like an omelet plain and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.

Waitress : A #2, chicken sal sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?

Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven’t broken any rules.

Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh?

Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.

THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK

Daryl Van Horne: “I’m just your average horny little devil.”

EASY RIDER

George Hanson: I guess I really tied one on last night. I must’ve had a helluva good time. I wish I could remember it.

And

You know — this used to be a helluva good country. I can’t understand what’s going wrong with it.

NOTE: Record producer Phil “Wall of Sound” Spector played the drug dealer at the start of Easy Rider.

This article began with a real-life quotation of Jack’s, and it should end with another good one. At a time when Jack was involved for a number of years with Angelica Huston, another woman had been observed flitting about his Mulholland Drive house by a visiting journalist, who asked Jack about the “other woman.”

“What can I do?,” Jack responded, “I’m hot.”


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