We might have bitten off more than we can chew with this year-end list. In trying to single out the top 10 lines of dialogue from 2011, we found ourselves trimming away choice soundbites from such outstanding scripts as Tom McCarthy’s Win Win; Mike Mills’ Beginners; the hilarious and infinitely quotable The Trip; John Logan’s rich Hugo screenplay; or Steve Kloves’ final Harry Potter adaptation. But there can be only 10. So here are our choices for the Best Lines of Dialogue in 2011, with explanations as to why we cared so deeply about the words that were said.
#10: "With pleasure."Jean Dujardin, The Artist
The first line of dialogue spoken in Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist, significant because it comes at roughly the 99-minute mark of a 100-minute movie. The director’s impossibly charming ode to Old Hollywood plays with sound in a clever nightmare sequence, but speech – as was the case in the late 1920s – is limited to the occasional title card. When Jean Dujardin’s silent film star George Valentin finally opens his mouth, we’re probably too impressed by his tireless dance moves to notice that he’s French. Vive le Cinema!
#9. "Guess what? You just brought a gun to a bomb fight, officer!"Jesse Eisenberg, 30 Minutes or Less
The lunacy of Ruben Fleischer’s pizza-delivery-guy-with-a-bomb comedy is that inept criminals Nick (Eisenberg) and Chet (Aziz Ansari) basically mimic animated moves that they’ve picked up in Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and countless other action movies over the years. And they work! Which is why we admire the confidence – the flat-out balls – on Eisenberg’s character when he realizes that this mad method is effective, and he reaches into that recess of his brain where the Untouchables quotes are stored to scare off a cop who’s probably getting too old for this shit.
#8: "I'm moving in."Anjelica Huston, 50/50
Any parent will tell you that their biggest fear is having their child die before they do. So when a mom hears that her son has terminal cancer and only a 50/50 chance of survival, it’s understandable that the instinct to be overprotective kicks in. Such is the case when Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) reveals his poor health during a family dinner. Huston’s teary delivery puts a lot of emotion behind the line, but it actually comes across as hilarious thanks to great editing and the entire adult audience thinking about what it would be like to have their mother move in with them.
#7: "Why Cookie Rocket?"Maurice The Orangutan, Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Very few lines of dialogue found a second life on the World Wide Webs this year. But this throwaway bit of monkey reasoning from Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver’s Apes screenplay proved the existence of a level of intellect in James Franco’s “colleagues” that eventually would lead to the end of our planet as we know it. Have an afternoon to kill? Hope onto Fuck Yeah Why Cookie Rocket and marvel at the staying power of this hilariously backward, Yoda-ish question. Then contribute your own meme to the madness.
#6: "Who's Fabio?"The Old Scout, Moneyball
This clueless response from the ancient baseball scout sitting around the table in the bowels of the Oakland A’s baseball stadium encapsulates the obstacles – the “50 feet of crap” – that Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) needs to pass through if he hopes to emerge triumphant on the other side. Bennett Miller’s streamlined Moneyball triumphs because it has nothing to with baseball, despite its’ story’s setting. It’s about knowing when to think against the grain, even when every instinct tells you it’s safer to stick with tradition. It’s about having faith. And it’s about being romantic about whatever your passion might be … baseball or otherwise.
#5: "If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours no matter what. I don't sit in while you're running it down; I don't carry a gun... I drive."Ryan Gosling, Drive
As the song tells us, the Driver is a real human being, and a real hero, and every good hero has to live by a code. The Driver may be a criminal in his own way, but as he explains in his terse and very matter-of-fact speech at the beginning of the film, he's not going to be any more of an accessory than he has to be. Drive struggled at the box office, but this speech has already become iconic-- a modern-day mission statement for a modern-day noir hero.
#4: "I met a dolphin down there and I swear to God that dolphin, looked not at me, but into my soul, looked into my Goddamn soul."Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
You can pick any of Melissa McCarthy's lines in Bridesmaids and get yourself laughing, since her unhinged, completely filter-free their South London Megan was the loose cannon heart of the movie. But for some reason her totally loopy monologue at the beginning of the film, in which she describes a spiritual experience she had falling off a cruise ship, is the most memorable. It doesn't make any more sense in context, but it doesn't have to-- it' your first introduction to the wonderful nonsense that is Megan, and like everything else in the movie, McCarthy sells the hell out of it.
#3: "It’s too much madness to explain in one text!"Leeon Jones, Attack the Block
Jones’s hood rat, Jerome, isn’t exaggerating. As he tries to describe the madness writer-director Joe Cornish unleashes on their South London neighborhood late one night, Jerome understands that 140 characters can’t contain the wit, imagination, terror and attitude of Attack the Block. We only hope you were able to understand Jones’s garbled speech, because so many of the lines spoken by Moses, Jerome and the tough-as-nails kids of Block were keepers. Ninja.
#2. “Maniacal laugh. Maniacal laugh!”Chris Cooper, The Muppets
It takes a second to understand what Chris Cooper’s oily villain, the expertly named Tex Richman, is saying in James Bobin’s winning Muppets reboot. Once it registers, though, it becomes crystal clear that screenwriters Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller aren’t afraid to bring a strange, intelligent sense of humor to their version of Jim Henson’s universe – and if kids (and parents) want to go along for the ride, they’re going to have to work a little harder than usual to keep up. Of course, Cooper later tears down all pretense by rapping, which none of us expected. But by then, we were all maniacal laughing along with the running Muppets joke.
#1. "Elizabeth is dying. Oh wait: fuck you. Elizabeth is dying."George Clooney, The Descendants
Alexander Payne has always been talented at finding the perfect line between comedy and drama, and The Descendants is no exemption. Few films this year are as emotionally powerful, making you laugh hysterically one minute and reducing you to tears the next. It all comes together perfectly when Matt King (George Clooney) finally encounters the man, played by Matthew Lillard, who has been sleeping with his wife. In addition to the fact that Clooney’s delivery is brilliant, what makes the line so great is that it perfectly captures the moment as well as the characters. Clooney is bringing the news because he feels it’s his responsibility, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel the urge to punch the face of the man who has made him a cuckold.
For more of our end-of-the-year coverage, visit our Best of 2011 page.