October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article celebrating the most entertaining one-liners in horror films is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Some may disagree, but there’s no one single thing that good horror movies are supposed to do. Sure, they should ideally scare, unsettle, disgust, and/or entertain with their genre-themed beats, but some can also make you cry, make you angry, or make you laugh. The film’s visuals play a major role in all of these, obviously, but sometimes it’s the dialogue that gets a point across — whether serious or humorous — in a short, sharp, and direct way.
Today’s list looks at (and listens to) the best one-liners in horror films. Some are meant to leave viewers smiling, while others drive home a film’s theme or a character’s concern. All of them, though, have become memorably iconic in the years since their respective film’s release, and those of us here in the Boo Crew quote them on the regular in our daily life. We’re not alone in that. Probably.
Now keep reading to see the one-liners that have stuck with us the most over the years, as collectively shared by Chris Coffel, Brad Gullickson, Meg Shields, Anna Swanson, Jacob Trussell, Valerie Ettenhofer, and myself.
10. “Sometimes, dead is better.”
Don’t sit there and lie to me, yourself, or whoever is sitting nearby. You just read that one-liner in the strangely infectious northeastern accent of The Munsters patriarch, Fred Gwynne, as Jud Crandall in Mary Lambert’s adaptation of Stephen King’s masterwork, Pet Sematary. All you have to do to get that Crandall sound is drop those hard Rs, replace them with an “-uh”, and add a dash of musicality to your words. The next thing you know, you’ll be sending ominous messages to your next-door neighbors, warning them under no circumstances should they bury anything in the creepy old pet cemetery that no one would have been able to find if you hadn’t led them there in the first place. But I digress. If we typically think of “Here’s Johnny!” as the greatest one-liner from a King film, then “Sometimes dead is better” is inarguably the greatest one-liner King ever actually wrote himself. (Jacob)
9. “Wait a minute, who am I here?”
While many of the one-liners on this list aim to be funny to some degree, this chilling moment from 1987’s The Stepfather is as heartstopping as they come. It’s partially because we know it means poor Susan is about to suffer the consequences, but it’s also because Terry O’Quinn absolutely terrifies with his performance. His mask crumbles just briefly as his warped mind tries to regain balance after mistaking which false life he’s living, and it’s a glimpse into and behind his madness. He quickly recovers, and the killer’s face shows a relatable look of relief, at which point he has to take out poor Susan as she wasn’t supposed to see or hear any of that. Killers in horror rarely suffer moments of doubt or confusion, and this quick look makes him all the more human — which is ultimately all the more terrifying. (Rob)
8. “Oh no tears, please, it’s a waste of good suffering.”
With a Clive Barker script, Hellraiser is packed to the pins with plenty of clever lines, but if we had to pick an absolute favorite cheer-worthy line, this is the one. This is one of the moments that helped turn Pinhead into an instant horror icon, not to mention a great example of the film’s sly sense of humor. And to top it all off, it’s also the truth. If there’s one thing Hellraiser delivers, it’s good suffering. Tears or no tears. (Anna)
7. “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
I’ll be honest and admit that John Carpenter’s last theatrically profitable film — it’s true, all seven features that followed failed to earn a profit on release — didn’t entirely work for me on first viewing. In my defense, I was coming in off the high of his previous film, Prince of Darkness, so an action/sci-fi flick with a more surface-level commentary than usual from Carpenter didn’t quite satisfy. Rewatches showed me the error of my ways and also allowed me to appreciate the film’s blatant comedic bent as well. Roddy Piper is a part of most of the film’s laughs, from his first reaction to wearing the glasses (that allow him to see aliens in our midst) to the epic alley fight with Keith David, but it’s this line and delivery that gets me rolling. Even the pause before opening his mouth works brilliantly, and after the line is delivered with measured precision he starts capping alien ass with abandon. This is cinema, baby. (Rob)
6. “Garbage day!”
Odds are you have never watched Silent Night, Deadly Night 2. But if you have spent any amount of time on the internet you’re likely very familiar with one scene. Unable to overcome the trauma of having a murderous brother, Ricky goes on a random killing spree targeting those he deems “naughty.” Marching down a suburban neighborhood, amused by the gun in his hand, Ricky comes across a poor fellow just trying to take out the trash. Ricky stares him down with his wide, manic eyes, shouts “garbage day,” and proceeds to shoot him through the tin can. Then, coolly and calmly, he twirls the pistol around his fingers before blowing on the barrel. “Garbage day” rightfully gets all the shine, but don’t sleep on the way Ricky mutters “motherfucker” to himself under his breath just moments prior after blasting some other dude. (Chris)
This list of the most quotable horror movie one-liners ever concludes on the next page…
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