We’ve all encountered them: lines of dialogue so bad, they elicit groans from anyone with a hint of taste.
But do bad lines pop up more often in bad movies, or are movie fans simply willing to overlook terrible dialogue if they like the characters and story? While the entries on our list of Ten Terrible lines in Great Movies remain close to our hearts, we think you’ll agree that they’ve earned their place.
Jurassic Park (1993)
“Your investors, whom I represent, are deeply concerned. Forty-eight hours from now, if they’re not convinced, I’m not convinced. We’ll shut you down, John.”
In Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, Donald Gennaro is the lawyer sent along with the movie’s ‘dinosaur experts’ to determine the park’s safety, but the wording of his warning to Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm shows flawed logic. This over-explanatory line is confusing at best, and an outright mistake at worst, butchered by clumsy wording. Written more clearly, later scenes of the main characters being unconvinced while Gennaro sees only profits would be twice as interesting. It’s a line best ignored in a movie famed for its quotability.
Superman: The Movie (1978)
“Can you read my mind?”
In Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie, Donner originally planned to have the film’s love theme, “Can You Read My Mind?”, sung by Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) in a musical number. Ultimately, the song was worked into Lane’s midnight flight with Superman (Christopher Reeve), with Kidder reciting the lyrics instead. Kidder’s and Reeve’s chemistry make the sequence work better than it could have, but Kidder’s deadpan delivery, coupled with the unexpected addition of an internal monologue while flying alongside her new “friend from another star,” defies logic.
5. Titanic (1997)
“A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.”
Unlike some of James Cameron’s greatest hits - the first two Terminator films, Aliens, and The Abyss, lines like “I’m the king of the world” or “I’ll never let go, Jack” have become the butt of countless parodies and memes - and they’re not even the film’s worst offenders. It’s the insight into the nature of women, delivered in the voice of elderly Rose (Gloria Stuart) that stands out most. It’s too on the nose, but saying women are secretive while making not one, but two plays on the name of the film’s ‘Heart of the Ocean’ necklace? That’s the real tragedy.
4. Batman Begins (2005)
“Have you finally learned to do what is necessary?”
“I won’t kill you. But I don’t have to save you.”
With his Dark Knight trilogy, Christopher Nolan adapted Batman’s mythology for modern audiences while keeping much of the source material intact, though each film still included a handful of controversial moments. No line sums up those issues better than this one. In the film’s climax, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) informs his mentor Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) that he will never kill in the name of a ‘greater good’ before ultimately leaving Ra’s to die.
“Deliver us– [Green Goblin bursts through wall] — DELIVER US…”
“Finish it! Finish it!”
Sam Raimi loves over-the-top dialogue and action, and mainstream audiences got their first mass exposure to his style in Spider-Man. The result was a resounding success, but even though today’s comic book blockbusters have Raimi and Spider-Man to thank for their popularity, none has come as close to being cringe-worthy in its ‘heightened’ villains as Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. This exchange between the Goblin and Aunt May ended up exactly as Raimi intended, which proves that even the most inspired minds occasionally cross the line.
Man of Steel (2013)
“They say it’s all downhill after the first kiss.”
“I think that only applies if you’re kissing a human.”
There are few tasks more daunting than re-imagining a global icon, and although Christopher Nolan paved the way with his Batman films, director Zack Snyder courted scorn on a whole new level with Man of Steel. He takes cues from Nolan’s movies, but some of those cues are clearer – and more flawed – than others. A kiss from a hero after saving the day is nothing new, but this line stuck out so much after the decimation of Metropolis that the sentiment’s overwhelming cheesiness is the least of its problems. It shares DNA with Nolan’s brand of Bat-humor, and in the Man of Steel universe, it’s completely out of place.
The Matrix (1999)
“He’s… a machine.”
A taste was all it took for The Matrix‘s Neo (Keanu Reeves) to realize the benefits of instantly downloading knowledge into a human brain. When Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) comes calling for an update on his progress Neo’s operator explains that Neo has had no sleep, no food, and no time off; in other words, he is “a machine.”