The 80s was a big decade, especially when it came to cinema. With so many iconic pop culture stars on screen at once, movies became full-fledged visual and audio experiences with tons of memorable moments. That went double for memorable quotes and one-liners uttered by a variety of interesting, dynamic and likeable characters.
There was no shortage of outrageously awesome quotes in 1980s action films, and not all were cut from the same cloth. Some were characters ranting and raving, while others cracked jokes, and the rest waxed philosophical in the coolest possible way. Here’s ten of the best from 1980s action flicks that continue to resonate with fans.
1. Schwarzenegger’s Iconic Running Man Rant (1987)
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1980s one-liners are the stuff of cinematic legend, but nothing tops this extraordinarily crazy (and funny) rant that his character Ben Richards drops in The Running Man. After being tormented by the machinations of ruthless game show host Damon Killian (played by Family Feud’s Richard Dawson), Richards is offered a lucrative contract to become a cast regular.
Rather than take the offer, Richards grabs a nearby TV camera in order to get up close and personal, replying “You cold-blooded bastard! I’ll tell you what I think of it! I’ll live to see you eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist, because I’m going to ram it into your stomach, and break your goddamn spine!” then throws the camera to the ground with a typical Schwarzenegger “Eeyah!”
2. Leia Loses It In The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Empire Strikes Back continues to stand as the pinnacle of everything that encapsulates the Star Wars saga, even if its template has been ignored moving forward. It’s full of excitement, shocking twists, and of course, a healthy dose of laughs, courtesy of its leads. One of those outrageously funny moments occurs in the first act, on the planet Hoth.
After saving Luke Skywalker from the jaws of a vicious Wampa, Han Solo turns his attention to goading Princess Leia with talk of romance. When he goes too far, Leia blurts out with some struggle “Why you stuck up… half-witted… scruffy-looking… nerf-herder!” For the uninitiated, nerfs were a sort of intergalactic cow or ox farmed for food and hide, and they also reeked to high heaven.
3. Dirty Harry’s Hot Dog Lesson In Sudden Impact (1983)
Harry Callahan spent the entirety of Sudden Impact searching for the victim of a vicious gang rape who exacted revenge on her assailants in particularly brutal fashion, shooting them in the family jewels, before putting one through their skull. At one of the crime scenes, a fellow cop asked Harry if the brutality of the job was getting to him, while unceremoniously scarfing down a large hot dog.
Callahan began rattling off a list of the horrible crimes he had to contend with on a daily basis, before concluding “Nah, that doesn’t bother me, but you know what does bother me? You know what makes me really sick to my stomach? It’s watching you stuff your face with those hot dogs! Nobody… I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog!”
4. Ripley Goes Nuclear In Aliens (1986)
Aliens continues to stand tall as one of the greatest sci-fi movie sequels of all time, thanks in large part to the masterful direction of James Cameron, and Sigourney Weaver as fan favorite Ellen Ripley. After she and her Colonial Marine team are given a bloody nose by a hive of lethal xenomorphs, they are forced to retreat and discuss options.
Ripley suggests nuking the entire site from orbit, adding “It’s the only way to be sure.” However, Weyland-Yutani suit Carter Burke immediately interjects, citing the “substantial dollar value” of the installation. Without missing a beat, Ripley says “Well they can bill me!” Straight-up epic, in every way.
5. The Joker’s Medical Advice (1989)
It’s almost impossible to nail down the single-greatest Joker quote from Tim Burton’s iconic 1989 Batman film, thanks in heavy part to Jack Nicholson’s masterful performance as the Clown Prince of Crime. However, there’s one that continues to resonate with fans more than three decades after release.
When Batman begins making the headlines on Gotham’s nightly news, his arch-nemesis the Joker becomes enraged, going off on a tangent about the whole situation. He then turns to his right hand man Bob, and proclaims loudly “This town needs an enema!” It was one of the most outrageously awesome quotes of the decade, and completely out of left field.
6. Rambo Proclaims His Patriotism in First Blood, Part II (1985)
It’s been fashionable to dump on Vietnam veterans for years at this point, but the anti-war sentiment was especially strong right after the conflict came to an abrupt end. After the disastrous pullout, men like John Rambo were stuck between two worlds, abandoning a fight due to bureaucracy and politics, while getting spat on at home.
When Colonel Trautman suggests that Rambo not hate his country for the treatment he’s received, Rambo replies “I’d die for it! I want what they want, and every other guy who came over here, and spilt his guts, and gave everything he had wants – for our country to love us, as much as we love it! That’s what I want!” It’s outrageously awesome, particularly because that kind of sentiment has been actively discouraged, even today.
7. Wade Gets Philosophical in Road House (1989)
Sam Elliott played mentor and half father/brother figure to Dalton in 1989’s Road House, and he was keen to come assist when things to too rough. After arriving, he met up with Dalton’s love interest Doc, and immediately put the moves on her with his own signature brand of rustic bad boy charm.
When she excused herself momentarily, Wade got a wide-angle view of her walking away, and muttered “That gal’s got entirely too many brains to have an ass like that.” It was a pleasant oxymoron for Wade, who undoubtedly was used to seeing beautiful women engaged in not-so-intellectual behavior night after night. Male moviegoers were impressed by Wade’s approach, while the ladies were attracted to his game. A win/win for everyone.
8. Chuck Norris Doesn’t Need A Watch In Invasion USA (1985); He Decides What Time It Is
Invasion U.S.A. was a rather controversial Cannon Films action picture with Chuck Norris given quite a lot of leeway (and budget) to make a political statement about how easily terrorism could break out on U.S. soil. The actions sequences are great, but critics and fans are pretty split on the film’s overall quality.
Nevertheless, it did offer up one of the most outrageously cool quotes in 80s cinema, during the end act. Norris’ character Matt Hunter confronts his Soviet nemesis Mikal Rostov, and mutters “It’s time!” in a menacing voice, right before blowing him to smithereens with an M72 LAW.
9. Davidge & Jerry Insult Each Other’s Cultures In Enemy Mine (1985)
1985 was a huge year for excellent, well thought out sci-fi action movies, and Enemy Mine is one that deserves special recognition. The relationship between mortal enemies Davidge and the alien Drac known as “Jerry” goes from an uneasy truce for the sake of survival, to a life-altering friendship that paves the way for peace between both races.
However, it starts off in hilarious epic fashion. Davidge insults Jerry’s iconic spiritual leader with the line “You know something, Jerry? Your great Shismar ain’t s***!” Not to be outdone, Jerry immediately replies “Earthman… your Mickey Mouse is one big stupid DOPE!” It’s hard to top that level of outrageous hilarity.
10. The Kurgan Ruins Church For Everyone In Highlander (1986)
With the fabled “game” supposedly drawing to a close in 1986’s original Highlander film, the villainous Kurgan decided to pay Connor MacLeod one last visit before their ultimate and final battle. He crashed a church with little regard for the meek-hearted folk who were simply trying to pray in peace, dressed in punk attire with a hideous excuse for a haircut.
When MacLeod remarked that his old friend Ramirez’s blade didn’t cut deeply enough into the Kurgan’s neck during an old skirmish, the latter replied “Ramirez was an effete snob! He died on his knees. I took his head, and raped his woman before his blood was even cold!” It was a disturbing, yet satirically badass line that continues to resonate with Highlander fans, particularly because of the church setting.