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Looking back on the movies of 2012 there's plenty to rave about, from powerful performances, to daring directors, and scintillating screenplays. This list pays a bit of tribute to all three, praising those lines of dialogue that are not only endlessly fun to quote, but also perfectly captured a key element of a feature's theme, character or story.
It was incredibly difficult to narrow down this list. To keep it from getting long and wonky great lines from Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, Wachowski Starship's Cloud Atlas, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, and Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom fell by the wayside. But what rose to the top were ten truly sensational lines of dialogue, sure to quoted and clung to for years to come.
#10 “Fuck you, science!” - Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street
Inspired by a memorable '80s TV show about cops undercover at a high school, this comedy feature was ten times funnier than it had any right to be, thanks in part to Channing Tatum's go-for-broke goofiness. Playing a dopey screw-up cop, Tatum's character Jenko was pretty touchy about being called dumb. However, after taking a taste of the latest street drug, he is newly confident and convinced he's a genius. So, he unleashes his garbled brilliance on a dry erase board before his baffled classmates, then bellows a war cry we're taken to shouting at the least opportunity.
#9 "Tequila is my lady!" - Bradley Whitford, The Cabin In The Woods
Joss Whedon's regularly praised for the kinetic and clever banter he scripts. But of all the lines worth quoting in he and Drew Goddard's meta horror masterpiece, it was this cheer for intoxication that came out on top. Not only is it fun to throw out at parties, but also this line perfectly encapsulates the fickle compassion of the men in the control room. Whitford's button-pusher has only just opined about the tragedy of the twenty-somethings' fighting for their survival on the surface, when the arrival of revelers pulls him right out of empathy and into party mode.
#8 "You fatuous nincompoop!" - Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
There have been plenty of solidly scornful insults hurled this year, but beating out Loki's "mewling quim" is a put down similarly old fashioned, yet way more badass. Tony Kushner's script for Lincoln offers Tommy Lee Jones a string of stinging witticisms, but the standout was Congressman Thaddeus Stevens' exasperated response to the Democratic opposition. What we wouldn't give to see this phrase invoked on the floor today!
#7 “I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same for yourself, fucker? Can you forgive? Are you capable of that?” - Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
The dialogue of David O. Russell's offbeat rom-com flies fast and furious with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence batting it back and forth with a dynamic and fearless energy that's rightly earning Oscar buzz. But while Cooper's character fixates on transforming himself to achieve his ideal life, Lawrence's Tiffany is more realistic and accepting of her flaws. Her challenging attitude about self-acceptance and her past becomes a turning point for the movie as well as how we think of its characters.
#6 “The kitten whispers and tickle fights stop now!” - Jane Lynch, Wreck-it Ralph
Strapped into intimidating body armor and carrying a massive gun, Jane Lynch's Calhoun is a force to be reckoned with in Disney's Wreck-it Ralph. Nonetheless, she was lovable, not just because of her backstory—the most tragic ever bestowed on a video game character—or her unexpected but welcomed romance with the plucky Fix-it Felix Jr., but also because her commands took the standard drill sergeant shtick to a new and gleefully absurd level. Her sneering lines serve as playful parody, but still made her the toughest sprites at work in Litwak's Arcade.
#5 “Argo fuck yourself!” -Alan Arkin, Argo
When searching for a way to extract six Americans trapped in Iran back in 1980, the American government looked to Hollywood for an answer. Tapping a savvy but crass producer (Alan Arkin) for help, a CIA agent (Ben Affleck) became a mover and shaker, and a rescue mission got a cover as a science-fiction movie production. Arkin's character was a total pro, so not only did he convincingly mount PR for a fake movie, but also he gave it the perfect catchphrase. Handy enough, it also serves as an excellent rallying cry for Argo's award season bid.
#4 “That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.” - Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers
Whedon's second appearance on this list is well earned. The Avengers is stocked with punch lines, asides, and badass zingers, but it's Bruce Banner's transformative confession that smashed the competition. Two noteworthy film actors (Eric Bana and Edward Norton) had previously tried and failed to make the Hulk a compelling live-action character. As a result, many believed it just couldn't be done in film. Then, came Mark Ruffalo with his volatile blend of tough and tender, and the Hulk went from a liability in The Avengers ensemble to its most raved about member.
#3 "Fuck you, thunder! / You can suck my dick! / You can't get me thunder / 'Cause you're just God's farts!" - Seth MacFarlane & Mark Wahlberg, Ted
The titular teddy bear of Seth MacFarlane's debut feature took full advantage of his movie's R-rating, unfurling four-letter words, politically incorrect jokes, and some lines so shocking they'd only be repeated in hushed tones. But behind all the foul language beat a remarkably warm heart that made Ted as sweet as it was scandalous. Sure, the childish song above is hysterically lewd, but it's also a great reflection of the deep bond Ted (MacFarlane) and John (Mark Wahlberg) share. Thunder buddies for life!
#2 “The law says you cannot touch! But I think I see a lotta' lawbreakers up in this house tonight.” - Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike was one of the year's biggest breakout hits, and won Channing Tatum a new respect from critics and audiences. But it's Matthew McConaughey who stole every scene offered as the lascivious live wire Dallas. Owner and MC of the Xquisite Strip Club, Dallas dons a trademark cowboy hat, leather vest, no shirt, and the lowest slung chaps ever to hit the silver screen to introduce the club's tantalizing acts. Though the speech above is part of his nightly routine, McConaughey says it with such fresh swagger and naughty enthusiasm it's impossible not to impulsively check your pockets for dollar bills.
#1 “I’m the motherfucker who found the place... sir.” - Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Grounded and gritty in its reality, this riveting film from Kathryn Bigelow allows for few causes for audience celebration. Then, there is the moment following CIA operative Maya's (Jessica Chastain) insubordinate outburst where her role in the room is called into question. Convinced she has found Osama bin Laden's secret hideaway, she responds to the attack with a ballsy mix of confidence and defiance. And, we the audience, break from our silent tension, cheering and laughing, grateful for the release. Don't doubt, Chastain plays the biggest badass hitting theaters this year.