The internet has totally changed the way our society consumes movies and television. Due in large part to social media, entertainment consumption no longer has to be a solitary experience. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, we can now experience movies and television shows collectively as a culture. We can immediately share our favorite lines of dialogue. We can instantly make a gif of our favorite scene. We can take a screenshot of Keanu Reeves making a funny face and repurpose it a million times over on our Facebook feed.
Because of this constant sharing and re-sharing of ideas, it sometimes becomes hard to pinpoint the origin of certain internet memes. At a certain point, people stop quoting the movie or TV show, and they start quoting the internet meme inspired by the movie or TV show. It’s an interesting phenomena, and one that is uniquely original to the 2000s.
This list aims to shed a little light on where some of the most popular memes come from. Some of these will completely shock you – were you aware that you probably see Pugsley from Addams Family Reunion almost every day on the internet? There are other entries on this list that, while you may subconsciously be aware originated from a popular movie, you probably no longer immediately associate it with that movie. Memes constantly change and adapt, and they tend to distance themselves from their sources over time. Let’s dive into 15 Annoying Memes You Didn’t Know Came From Classic Movies and TV Shows.
15. “Do Not Want”- Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Ok, this meme is legitimately funny. You may have seen this phrase accompanied by anything from Gerard Butler in 300 to one of the My Little Ponies. But the actual origin is much funnier than that would imply.
In 2005, a blogger put together a series of screenshots from a Chinese bootleg of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. The bootleg was full of funny translations, including the title, which read as Star Wars: The Backstroke of the West. By far the funniest moment that was lost in translation comes near the end of the film. The famousl(ly bad) moment when Darth Vader learns of Padme’s fate and shouts “NOOO!” to the heavens became even more unintentionally hilarious in the bootleg version, where Darth Vader shouts “DO NOT WANT!”
This screenshot of this moment went viral, and soon the phrase “do not want” and its sister “do want” became a shorthand for any expression of feelings online. The simplicity and directness of the phrase made it an instant hit, and it’s hilarious origins in Star Wars were almost immediately forgotten.
14. “Treat Yo’ Self”- Parks and Recreation
The anthem for self-care, “treat yo’ self” rapidly broke free of it’s origin in Parks and Recreation and became a statement for casual hedonism everywhere. How often have you heard a co-worker mutter this as they help themselves to another slice of birthday cake, or a high school student shout it as they order the “Gotta Have It” size ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery? Sure, it’s possible those people are avid fans of Aziz Ansari and Retta, but we’re willing to bet they have no idea that the phrase originated on the NBC cult hit.
The popularity of the meme is completely understandable. While the “Pawnee Rangers” episode that spawned the phrase is a hilarious romp, the phrase itself is just so indelible and contagious it’s impossible not to remember it next time you’re indulging yourself with a spa day or a dessert. Tom and Donna gave us permission to revel in our urges every once in awhile, and the internet took that impulse and ran with it.
13. Accusatory Donald Sutherland- Invasion of the Body Snatchers
How often have you been scrolling through Reddit, only to find a very silly photo of Donald Sutherland suddenly pointing an accusing finger your way, with text decrying a hipster, or a contrarian, or any number of supposedly awful things? If you’re a savvy filmgoer (like the kind that frequents Screen Rant) you probably immediately recognize this as the final image in the incredible 1978 remake, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. We’re willing to bet, however, that most of the middle school students posting this meme on Tumblr have never seen that brilliant sci-fi/horror film, and are more drawn to the silliness of the actor’s face and the versatility of his wagging finger. The meme does work in a variety of different circumstances on the internet, given that there tends to be a lot of disagreement and finger-pointing in online forums anyway. It’s just a shame that the overuse of the image somewhat dulls the chilling moment in the film from which it derives.
12. “Am I The Only One?”- The Big Lebowski
Though The Big Lebowski has become a bona fide cult classic in the years since it’s release, it was actually not terribly successful during its initial theatrical run. The movie made only $17 million in the United States, just barely overcoming it’s $15 million budget. Critics were divided on the film, though many have come to love it since. All of this is to say, The Big Lebowski was not a movie that was immediately embraced by the culture at large. Yet somehow, an image from it has become one of the most shared memes on the internet. We’re referring of course to the gun- wielding Walter (played by John Goodman) bellowing in white, Arial font “AM I THE ONLY ONE…?”
The line in the film is actually, in it’s entirety, “Am I the only one around here who gives a sh*t about the rules?” The second part of the line has been largely discarded by the Facebook browsing crowd. The first part of the line has been repurposed in that way that only memes can, to apply to everything from the 2016 election to proper MLA essay formatting.
11. “Shut Up and Take My Money!”- Futurama
A meme for the blissfully ignorant consumer in all of us, “shut up and take my money” has become a mantra for social media users across the web. While it is usually accompanied by the image of Fry holding up a fistful of cash, the phrase has become so ubiquitous it has really detached from Futurama completely. “Shut up and take my money” has become the rallying cry that people attach to new iPhone announcements, Buzzfeed articles about bacon products, and various wine dispensers.
The line actually originates in a season six episode of the popular animated series. The episode, titled “Attack of the Killer App”, is a parody of Apple-product fandom. Fry listens for a moment to a tech store employee explaining the drawbacks and stipulations of the latest gadget, then interrupts him by shoving cash in the guy’s face and shouting the now universally recognized line. What originated as a parody has now become a catchphrase for online consumerism.
10. Tips Fedora- Addams Family Reunion
The “tips fedora” meme had actually been gathering steam for months before the above photo hit the web, thanks to some Reddit and Tumblr threads, but the meme absolutely exploded when this image became attached to it. But who is the man in the photo? None other than Jerry Messing, the actor best known for portraying Pugsley in Addams Family Reunion.
The meme is typically used as a response to young white men putting their foot in their mouth or otherwise embarrassing themselves online. Popular iterations include the phrase “M’Lady” or “I consider myself a male feminist”.
The photo of Messing was actually a professional headshot the actor uploaded to his Facebook page in 2011. Shortly afterward, a Redditor attached the photo to the meme, and the two became inseparable. Messing actually uploaded the photo as a joke, totally aware it was a silly extra photo taken during a normal headshot shoot. The actor has expressed regret that it has come to represent certain communities on the internet, but he generally seems to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing.
9. “So I Got That Goin’ For Me”- Caddyshack
When Harold Ramis made Caddyshack in 1980, he probably didn’t realize one of the lines in his movie would find new life on the internet 33 years later. But that’s exactly what happened with the line “So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”
The line, of course, is uttered by Carl Spackler, played by the great Bill Murray. In the movie, Spackler tells the story of caddying for the Dalai Lama, who refuses to tip Spackler, but does give him a blessing. Murray delivers the line in that character’s iconic cadence, and it’s a hilarious throwaway gag in the film.
In 2013, the line resurged on Reddit, with a user pairing the image of Spackler with a caption about the dental work he had had done recently. The image went viral, and soon others were sharing the image with their own tales of woe followed by a minor stroke of luck. Virtually all of the jokes follow the same pattern as from the original film, with a negative being followed by a minor positive, then ending with the now famous line.
8. “Bye Felicia”- Friday
Remember around this time last year when everyone inexplicably started saying “bye felicia,” and you were very confused and sure you missed something? Ok, in fairness, this could have just been our experience. But for whatever reason, the phrase “bye felicia” became ingrained in the cultural lexicon around 2014-2015. People were saying it online and offline, and it seemed to come from nowhere.
If you (like us) Googled the phrase, you probably saw the Urban Dictionary explanation, describing the phrase as a dismissive farewell to someone you don’t really care about. At this point, your feelings may have been a little hurt if the “Felicia” had ever been directed at you.
If you continued reading the article, you may have learned the baffling origin of the phrase. It actually comes from the 1995 stoner comedy, Friday, starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. In the movie, Ice Cube says the phrase to a woman named Felicia when he wants her to leave. Exactly why this phrase suddenly caught fire online nearly ten years later is anyone’s guess. That’s just the nature of the internet.
7. “Mmm Whatcha Say”- The O.C (and SNL)
If you can think of a famous character death in film or television, there’s a good chance you can find a Youtube clip of it set to the song “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap. Go ahead, Youtube Gandalf or any Game of Thrones character. So what does this meme mean? Where does it come from?
The rise of this silly internet phenomenon actually started with everyone’s favorite California-based melodrama, The O.C. A dramatic character death in the show was set to this song. Almost immediately, The Lonely Island parodied the moment on SNL, and the internet was off to the races. The somewhat ridiculous song totally dissolves any self-seriousness in a fictional character death. What started out as an O.C. parody transcended that particular show to represent any overly serious moment in film or television. It’s such an easy joke, making it a popular meme for anyone with iMovie and a Youtube account.
6. “That Escalated Quickly”- Anchorman
“That escalated quickly” just might be the most overused meme on this list. Not since The Office popularized “That’s what she said” has a joke been used more frequently and with less thought than this particular joke from the first Anchorman. Used as an easy button to almost any conversation, the phrase can be heard in offices, classrooms, and restaurants around the world. It’s so easy to forget how funny it’s original use was.
After the epic and over the top anchorman battle in Anchorman, in which Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) impales an enemy with a spear, the gang sits back in their office recuperating. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) succinctly sums up the insanity with an understated “boy, that escalated quickly.” The entire sequence is hilarious and ludicrous, and Ferrell sells the button beautifully.
The moment obviously struck a chord with audiences, because years later, the phrase began being used more and more, both online and in-person. Anytime something ridiculous is said or someone leaps to a bizarre place, there’s always someone there with a quick “well that escalated quickly.” We’re willing to bet the majority of these jokesters have have completely forgotten they’re quoting a classic Adam McKay comedy.
5. “Surprise, Motherf*er”- Dexter
Sometimes a moment in a TV show contains such inherent silliness, you just know it’s going to become immortalized in meme form. A notable example comes in the season one episode of Dexter, “Born Free”. In the episode, Dexter (Michael C. Hall) goes to inspect a shipping container at a shipyard. Suddenly he is confronted by James Doakes (Erik King) who shouts “Surprise, motherf*cker.” There was no way the internet was going to ignore that moment.
Soon, a short five second clip of Doakes speaking the delightfully profane line began appearing on Reddit. The clip, and eventually just the text, were used in forums and conversations where someone was, obviously, surprised. The immediacy of the language is so simple, it’s the perfect response for any number of situations online. And, like nearly all the entries on this list, it has become almost entirely dissociated with it’s original source. Like some type of movie monsters, these memes break free of their trappings and learn, adapt, and grow on their own.
4. “That Would Be Great…”- Office Space
By now, you’re probably noticing a pattern with most of these memes. They start out as a funny or otherwise memorable moment in a good movie, they lie dormant for several years, then someone on Reddit repurposes them for the internet age. They take off like a fighter jet, and soon, everyone has forgotten the movie or show that they originally came from. The story is no different for the “that would be great…” meme you’ve no doubt seen on your Facebook feed from time to time, or heard your boss or teacher say to you when asking a request. Do these people realize they’re quoting a cult comedy classic by Mike Judge? Maybe some of the comedy nerds do, but the grand majority heard or saw the phrase online, chuckled, and appropriated it for their own use, totally unaware of Gary Cole’s terrific performance.
Of course, the phrase originates with Cole, as he repeatedly asks Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) to do mundane and awful tasks in their drab, soul-crushing office. The movie famously bombed, but gathered a cult following on DVD.
The first instance of the phrase appearing online used the wording “Yeeeeah, if you could just, go ahead and read this in my voice, that’d be great.” Soon the phrase was shortened, simplified, and repurposed a million times over, leaving Gary Cole in the dust.
3. “What If I Told You”- The Matrix
This meme is an interesting case in that, while everyone recognizes Morpheus from The Matrix, the line accompanying the meme was never uttered in any of The Matrix movies. That’s right. This meme took on such a life of it’s own that it has managed to fool the entire internet.
We’re talking of course about the famous “What if I told you” meme that floats around conspiracy theory message boards and political forums. The text accompanies Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, and is usually followed by some condescending or superior opinion.
Like we said, most people sharing the meme probably recognize the character of Morpheus, but almost none of them know that they are sharing a line that wasn’t in the actual movie. It is thought this line is a summary of the “red pill, blue pill” moment in the first film, but the actual words “what if I told you” are never once spoken. Fooled us again, Reddit.
2. Conspiracy Keanu- Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Laurence Fishburne’s acting partner in that famous Matrix scene is no stranger to internet memes himself. A screenshot of Keanu Reeve’s confused face from the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure has become a genuine internet sensation, lovingly termed “conspiracy Keanu”. The image is often paired with paranoid hypotheses and ridiculous propositions.
So how exactly did Keanu go from his excellent adventure to being an internet meme? It all started with New York Magazine’s Vulture Blog. In 2008, they published a slideshow featuring some of their favorite Keanu facial expressions throughout his movies. One of the slides featured this now famous image of Keanu.
It didn’t take long for people to start sharing the image and adding their own, pseudo philosophical captions. Popular captions include “What if the CIA invented dinosaurs to discourage time travel?” and “What if the blue I see isn’t the same color blue you see?” Makes you think, doesn’t it? No? Yeah, us neither.
1. Crying Dawson- Dawson’s Creek
Anyone who has spent any time on the internet has, at one time or another, happened upon a hilariously over emotional photo of James Van Der Beek sobbing. The image has been shared millions of times, with every user putting their own unique spin on it. And it all started with a late 90’s drama on the WB. It’s very possible that some of the younger internet users have shared Dawson’s face without ever having seen an episode of Dawson’s Creek.
There’s not really much of an elaborate backstory to this famous meme. It’s just a funny, simple picture. It became the perfect candidate to represent heightened sadness or melodrama online. Van Der Beek has actually said that his sobbing wasn’t even called for in the script on the day this scene was shot. He just got caught up in the emotion of the scene. Thanks to the power of screen capture, that heightened emotion has been memorialized. Having been completely removed from the original context the photo becomes comedy gold. Van Der Beek has a good sense of humor about the whole thing, saying he finds it funny. It’s a good thing too, because that photo will arguably live on long past the time when Dawson’s Creek has been forgotten.
Did we forget any memes that originated in television or film? Which of these memes do you find the most obnoxious? Let us know in the comments!