15 bitchin’ high school movie lines

Oh, Heather. You're my best friend, but God how I hate you.

The Heathers: the kind of best friends Paris Hilton really needs.

I blame John Hughes (bless his wounded, dark, departed soul) for my inexplicable fondness for teen movies. He had me at “hot beef injection.” After that, I embraced his movies with all the zeal that a weird, slightly morbid, terminally misunderstood high school pariah could. “The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Pretty in Pink” — all these films stand up today as well as they did more than 20 years ago. These are smart movies about teen-agers, not “teen movies.”

And Hughes, above anyone else, taught me to appreciate the value of a really great line, especially when spoken with that particular brand of defeatist teen sarcasm, disdain, poignancy or unexpected stunning insight. So inspired was I that I created a list — it’s five or 10, but an odd number just the same — of such lines I’ve seen in high school movies over the years. Some are classics, some are more recent, some fall somewhere in-between the two poles. Enjoy, and offer up your suggestions…

15. “Courtney, this is not a democracy, it’s a cheerocracy. I’m sorry, but I’m overruling you” (Torrance Shipman, “Bring It On) — Even if you hate cheerleading, there’s no denying that “Bring It On” trotted out a whole mess-o-barbs like this beauty. It’s hard not to love a movie with that kind of clear-sighted quippery.

14. “All my memories from high school are from tonight” (Denis Cooverman, “I Love You, Beth Cooper”) — Does this adaptation of Larry Doyle’s book deserve to have a line here? Based on the strength of this one line (the kind of wistful thing we all wish we’d said), my answer is “yes yes, Hell yes.”

13. “Good morning, Mr. M. Looks like you could use a cupcake!” (Tracy Flick, “Election”) — The A-grabbing overachiever is a staple in movies about teens, but rarely is that character as nuanced, precocious or mercenary as Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon’s best work, I’d say). 

12. “What is it with this chick? She have beer-flavored nipples or something?” (Patrick Verona, “10 Things I Hate about You”) — Heath Ledger had range beyond supervillains and gay cowboys. Witness his most enjoyable turn as Patrick Verona, a bad boy possessed of a wit as sharp as his manly jawline.

11. “I’m off like a dirty shirt” (Duckie, “Pretty in Pink”) — Any girl who tells you she didn’t love Jon Cryer as the hyperkinetic, big-hearted free spirit nicknamed Duckie is a plain ole’ liar … or the kind of girl one shouldn’t associate with, anyway.

10. “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age” (Wooderson, “Dazed and Confused”) — Who doesn’t remember that drawling loser, closing in on 30, who haunted high school football games hoping to score? Matthew McConaughey is that guy — only hotter and infinitely cooler.

9. “Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie” (Cher Horowitz, “Clueless”) — People don’t give “Clueless” credit for being the incisive, witty, satirical look at high school that it was. Lines like this make me wish I could unwatch Amy Heckerling’s gem so I could rediscover it.

8. “Donger’s here for five hours, and he’s got somebody. I live here my whole life, and I’m like a disease” (Samantha Baker, “Sixteen Candles”) – Remember that fear, so specific to the ages of 15-16, that you’d never find love? I’d wager that it’s universal, and nobody taught us that more than Samantha.

7. “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all” (Andrew Clark, “The Breakfast Club”) — Hughes always did love to encourage us to let our awkwardness flower. When A-crowd wrestler Andrew finally let his out, it felt like a small miracle.

6. “I gave her my heart. She gave me a pen” (Lloyd Dobler, “Say Anything…”) — Oh, the pain, the agony, the pure horrifying angst of true first love encapsulated so neatly into 10 words! That Cameron Crowe, he knew a thing or two about dialogue.

5. “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine” (Spicoli, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) — Spicoli is the burnout we all knew in high school, but he was something of a philosopher, too. May we all heed these pearls of stoner wisdom.

4. “Don’t go mistaking paradise for a pair of long legs” (Watts, “Some Kind of Wonderful”) — Hughes’ ability to reduce big truths into one-liners is legendary, and this is a prime example because it captures the wisdom and plaintive angst of unrequited love.

3. “I’m still here, asshole!” (Angus Bethune, “Angus”) — A fierce battle cry for all of us who never screwed up the courage to stare down our high school tormentors. Three cheers for smart fat kid Angus, who said what so many of us could not.

2. “How would you like to have a sexual encounter so intense it could conceivably change your political views?” (Gib, “The Sure Thing”) — Everyone has a favorite John Cusack line. This is mine, and I am unwavering in my devotion to it.

1. “Dear Diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count” (Veronica, “Heathers”) — In the way of smart, sharp, observant comedies about teen-agers, nothing beats “Heathers,” a perfect satire of the dark tensions that underwrite teen social interactions.

14 Responses

  1. Great list full of great movies as well. Some of these flicks will always be my highlights of the 80’s and beyond. They just don’t make em like they used to.

    • Amen to that. These days we get mind-numbing stuff like “Whatever It Takes” or “High School Musical,” nothing vaguely as fantastic as “The Sure Thing.” Even “Beth Cooper” doesn’t come close to “Fast Times.” I miss the old days. Drat. Now I feel disappointed AND old.

  2. while it wouldn’t really work on a list like this, my favorite line from Heathers is still. “Lick it up, baby! Lick. It. Up.”

    • Nice one! There are so many from “Heathers” that I still work into conversation (I’m sad like that) that it was really hard to choose. Other classics: “Heather, my love, there’s a new sheriff in town”; “Grow up, Heather. Bulimia is so 1987″; and “She’s my best friend. God, I hate her.”

  3. What a great list! I love Watt’s line, that’s my fave as well as Keith’s “you look good wearing my future.” Don’t kill me, but I have not seen Say, Anything, but that is going to change tonight. I actually bought it a few months ago as part of a DVD bundle. I’ll let you know if I’ll love Lloyd Dobler.

    • Don’t kill ME, but “Say Anything…” isn’t my favorite teen movie. It makes the Top 10, maybe, and John Cusack is great in it.

  4. These are all brilliant! What a great idea for a list!

  5. LOVE LOVE LOVE The Dazed and Confused and Clueless quotes, but Heathers is one of those movies that is so freaking wrong you can’t help but shamelessly adore it.

    I miss the eighties.

  6. What no quotes from Ferris Bueller’s Day off, how about
    ” Oh, he’s very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude. ” or “I asked for a car, I got a computer. How’s that for being born under a bad sign?”

    • Oh, hell. I knew I would forget something major. That’s why I keep you around — to remind me of my shortcomings. No, actually I was going to include a quote, but then I couldn’t decide on one. There may have to be a Part 2 list in the future…

  7. brilliant list. you can always tell the stuff online that took a lot of thought and effort and the stuff that was just tossed up there for the sake of it. that list took a lot of thought and effort. good job M Carter.
    – Drugs?
    – Thank you, no. I’m straight.
    – I meant, are you in here for drugs?
    – Why are you here?
    – Drugs.

    • Many thanks for the encouragement. It hurt my heart to leave off “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Like I told Comedian, I couldn’t settle on a quote. There were too many good ones. I see now a part deux is inevitable.

  8. Great list. My favorite John Cusack line is “I killed the President of Paraguay with a fork. What have you been up to?” from Grosse Point Blank, but that is not strictly a teen movie (though it is a movie about high shcool, and arguably the direction Dobler would have gone in if he hadn’t got the girl), so my favorite line of Cusack’s and probably any other teen/high school movie is the one you chose, or from Better Off Dead:
    “…so I ask, which is better, not speaking English or speaking Howard Cossell?”

    • There are so many Cusack lines I could hardly choose just those two. It was rough, I tell you. But you make an interesting point: What WOULD Lloyd have done if he hadn’t won Diane’s heart? He was a little shiftless, so I could see him becoming a hit man.

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