The greatest success of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, the first movie in his Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, is that it isn’t a spoof of zombie movies. It works spectacularly as a zombie movie on its own – it just happens to be funny. If you removed all the jokes and sight gags, it would still be a scary and effective zombie horror film. So, the jokes and sight gags are just there as gravy. And as far as gravy goes, it’s like Colonel Sanders’. Here are the 10 Funniest Quotes From Shaun Of The Dead.
10 “What’s the matter, David? Never taken a shortcut before?”
This gag works two-fold when you rewatch Shaun of the Dead today. Upon first viewing, it’s just a hilarious gag that undercuts Shaun’s arrogance with some well-timed (and well-performed) slapstick. But since it went on to become a recurring gag in the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, it’s a lot of nostalgic fun to hear Shaun utter the line “What’s the matter, David? Never taken a shortcut before?” and then fall over a garden fence. The way Simon Pegg picks himself up and dusts himself off, trying to pretend it never happened, is the icing on top of this moment’s comedic cake.
9 “You’ve got red on you.”
Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have a way of making repeated lines work brilliantly for comedy in their movies – for example, “How’s the hand?” “Still a bit stiff,” from Hot Fuzz – because the events of the movie force their context to change.
At the beginning of Shaun of the Dead, a few people tell Shaun, “You’ve got red on you,” in reference to the red ink stain on his shirt pocket. However, by the end of the movie, the “red” that is on his white shirt is a bunch of blood-spatter stains from beating up zombies with a cricket bat.
8 “The Batman soundtrack.” “Throw it.”
One of the funniest gags in Shaun of the Dead, and one that would stand on its own as a sketch outside the movie, is the one in which Shaun and Ed go through Shaun’s record collection and decide which records they should throw at the zombies. It’s funny, because even though these flesh-eating monsters are approaching the guys and they want to eat their brains, Shaun still doesn’t want to break any of his favorites. So, when Ed suggests the classics, he turns him down: “Purple Rain.” “Nope.” “Sign o’ the Times.” “Definitely not.” “The Batman soundtrack.” “Throw it.”
7 “He’s got an arm off!”
As soon as we hear on the news that civilians are being advised to keep their doors and windows locked during the zombie apocalypse, we remember that Ed has a tendency to leave the front door open. And then the camera starts panning out and we realize there’s already a zombie in the house. It’s missing one of its arms, which is the first thing Shaun notices when it staggers into the room: “He’s got an arm off!” Ed ends up taking the guy out with an ashtray and then standing over his corpse, panting for a while. It’s a great example of a horror moment and a comedy moment being weirdly and wonderfully intertwined.
6 “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!”
Shaun’s mother being called Barbara is a direct reference to the character of the same name in George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, arguably the most important zombie film ever made as the one that set the template that’s been used for the past 50 years. At the beginning of that movie, when the zombies first show up, Johnny mockingly says, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!” Later, when Shaun is on the phone with Barbara and she doesn’t want him to bother coming over to see if she’s all right, Ed paraphrases the movie when he yells down the phone: “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!”
5 “My friends? A failed actress and a t**t?” “I did not call Diane a failed actress!”
...But he did call David a “t**t.” The best jokes leave things out for you to figure out for yourself. Diane’s acting training comes up later when the characters have to pretend to be zombies. This is Screenwriting 101. It’s something that all screenwriters know they should do, but most are too lazy to actually do it. Whatever you introduce as a part of your character’s background has to become a part of their motivation, too, and it has to become important to the plot later. Diane’s pipe dream of being an actress begins as a throwaway gag, but it later becomes an integral part of the story. It’s brilliant writing.
The final sequence in Shaun of the Dead, as the zombies manage to break into the pub and kill most of the characters we’ve been following. As with all great zombie movies, we’re left with the characters we started with, and the characters we’re the most invested in: Shaun, Ed, and Liz. It gets intense as the trio’s options for survival start to dwindle. They’ve lost all hope of warding off the zombies’ invasion of the pub, and now, all they can do is head to the cellar – where they’ll be trapped underground. One moment lightens the mood as Ed spots his and Shaun’s roommate Pete, and Shaun says, “F**k-a-doodle-doo!”
3 “Okay...but dogs can look up.”
Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg really know how to pay off jokes in their scripts. They’ll bring something up in an early scene and then pay it off in a later one. For example, when Ed tells Shaun that the rifle above the bar in the Winchester is a functioning firearm, Shaun doesn’t believe him. Ed says, “Big Al says so,” and Shaun replies, “Yeah, but Big Al also says dogs can’t look up!” Later, when the gun goes off and Ed says, “Big Al was right!” and Shaun replies, “Okay...” then yanks a dart out of his head and continues, “...but dogs can look up.” It’s an overt example of the Chekhov’s gun.
2 “We’ll have a Bloody Mary first thing...”
Shaun of the Dead has been praised for many things, but in particular, its screenplay by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. The script is airtight, with well-drawn characters and organic story arcs. Wright’s direction brought it all to life in inventive and groundbreaking ways, but on its own, the script would probably still be a pretty interesting read.
Its use of foreshadowing is spectacular, as Nick Frost’s character Ed lays out the whole plot of the movie at the start: “We’ll have a Bloody Mary first thing [they kill a zombie named Mary], have a bite at the King’s Head [Shaun’s stepdad gets bitten in the side of the head], couple at the Little Princess [they pick up Shaun’s girlfriend Liz and the couple she lives with], stagger back here [they imitate zombies to get through the crowd], and then bang! Back at the bar for shots [they shoot zombies in the pub].”
1 “How’s that for a slice of fried gold?”
After he comes to terms with the reality of the zombie apocalypse and grapples with all his responsibilities – i.e. his mother and his girlfriend – Shaun comes up with a few different plans. One involves going back to the house, where there’s a broken window and zombie corpses all over the place, so that’s out. Another involves staying at Liz’s flat, although Ed wouldn’t be comfortable there, because he couldn’t smoke or have a drink. So, after racking their brains a little bit, they settle on the perfect location that will suit everyone’s needs and keep them safe in an undead uprising: the pub!