Ah, the arrogant supervillain. Is anyone more in love with the sound of his own voice? Hurling witty bon mots and dastardly threats may not physically harm the hero, but the right line can mean the difference between becoming the next Joker… or the next joke. Here are ten that strike fear in the hearts of heroes.
10. “My name is Freeze. Learn it well, for it is the chilling sound of your doom.” (Mr. Freeze, Batman & Robin, 1997)
“Chilling.” Get it? Because he’s Mr. Freeze! Honestly, any of the many ridiculous ice puns in Akiva Goldsman’s “brilliant” screenplay for Batman & Robin could be on this list. But this one is so wonderfully awful it somehow becomes good before going back to awful. And the fact that it’s delivered in a barely decipherable Austrian accent is just (forgive me) icing on the cake.
9. “We are the future, Charles. Not them. They no longer matter.” (Magneto, X-Men, 2000)
The great Ian McKellen has a way with a words (“You shall not pass!”), making even the most pedestrian comic book movie dialogue sound like Shakespeare. (I’m looking at you, X-Men 3.) More than a cheap threat, the line sums up Magneto’s belief in mutant superiority over mankind. When McKellan is on screen, everyone else is extinct.
- Greatest Films, Greatest QuotesA major compilation of memorable movie quotes (with audio clips) from major movies.
- Common Movie Misquotes“Me Tarzan, you Jane.” Nope. “You dirty rat!” Wrong again. Find out what the real quote is.
- Great Opening LinesThe very first words often define the movie. Here are some that did so memorably.
- Great Last LinesThe last thing you hear can make or break a film. Don’t believe us? Here’s proof!
- Supervillain ThreatsHalf of a bad guy’s appeal is the way he verbally taunts the good guy.
- ’80s Movie Quotes QuizThe rad decade has plenty of catchphrases and quips. Bueller? Bueller?
- Hilarious Quotes in the Movies QuizSometimes the funniest lines are the inappropriate ones. But who said what?
- The Mafia Movie Quotes QuizSometimes words cut as well as guns in The Godfather, Donnie Brasco, and Carlito’s Way.
- Your Favorite Movie QuoteWant to share your favorite movie quote of all time? Now’s your chance!
8. “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” (Joker, Batman, 1989)
In typical Joker fashion, the line is both menacing and nonsensical. Jack Napier/Joker asks this of all his prey, because he just plain likes the sound of it. If he had used a different line on poor little Bruce Wayne, perhaps elder Wayne would never have figured out that Napier killed his parents. And when sampled in Prince’s “Batdance,” it sounds a whole lot better than Joker’s less quotable witticism, “This town needs an enema.”
7. “I’m not a comic book villain. Do you seriously think I would explain my master stroke to you if there were even the slightest possibility you could affect the outcome?” (Ozymandias, Watchmen, 2009)
Alan Moore’s chilling twist on the old “supervillain blabs his diabolical scheme to the hero” trope is one of my favorite scenes in both the graphic novel and Zack Snyder’s adaptation. Yes, it’s more effective (and slightly different) on the page, but a great quote is a great quote in any medium.
6. “There was one Napoleon, one Washington, one me!” (Big Boy Caprice, Dick Tracy, 1990)
Al Pacino’s arrogant crime lord fancies himself “the law” and is fond of quoting famous minds like Ben Franklin and Friedrich Nietzsche. (Of course, he’s also known to completely lose his train of thought.) Like any good villain he thinks extremely highly of himself, so why not make the comparison to our founding father? Meanwhile, on the Pacino movie quote scale, Dick Tracy ranks way above Scent of a Woman.
5. “How ironic, Tony! Trying to rid the world of weapons, you gave it its best one ever! And now, I’m going to kill you with it.” (Obadiah Stane, Iron Man, 2008)
Iron Man avoids the usual supervillain monologues and taunts right up until the end when Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane spouts a few villainous quips through his souped-up armor. But even the corny action banter crackles and pops under Jon Favreau’s iron hands. Now hopefully he’ll help Mickey Rourke lighten up in the sequel.
4. “The power of the sun, in the palm of my hand!” (Doc Ock, Spider-Man 2, 2004)
What starts out as a device meant to help the world turns into an explosive super-weapon while mechanical arms turn a brilliant scientist into the mentally unstable “Doc Ock.” Supervillains, be they James Bond’s Goldfinger or Syndrome from The Incredibles, love to boast about their diabolical creations. (Though you have to admit, possessing the power of the sun in your hand is pretty boast-worthy.) A great over-the-top moment in the best Spider-Man movie.
3. “They wouldn’t put me on a pedestal, so I’m layin’ ‘em on a slab!” (Penguin, Batman Returns, 1992)
Daniel Waters’ (Heathers) script for the underrated Batman sequel has some great dark one-liners (choose any of the ones delivered by weirdo actor supreme Christopher Walken), and this Penguin gem is particularly memorable. The clever play on words here also speaks to the movie’s theme that supervillains are really just sad, vengeful little children seeking approval. You know, like Ann Coulter.
2. “Wanna know how I got these scars?” (Joker, The Dark Knight, 2008)
The Dark Knight is filled with quotable Joker lines, but this oft-repeated query ranks high for being both chilling and a brilliant character choice. (We never actually find out how he got those scars, since his story keeps changing.) By not giving Joker a clear origin, the screenwriters made him all the more menacing. Plus, there’s the whole holding a knife to your face thing. Rarely has a simple question been so loaded. (Runner-up: “Why so serious?”)
1. “Kneel before Zod!” (Zod, Superman II, 1980)
What else could it be? Terence Stamp’s haughty villain demands respect and insists that everyone — be it Superman or the President of the United States — drop to their knees as lowly subjects of the Kingdom of Zod. The line, still wonderfully pompous, has become a cultural touchstone, turning up everywhere from Mallrats to Smallville. It’s safe to assume that when Zod returns to fight Superman on the big screen, Big Blue will be kneeling before him.
Got a great supervillain quote? Annoyed that “Arnie” made the cut while Lex Luthor did not? Let us know in the comments.
When not writing for places like The Onion and HBO, Nick Nadel is in line at the comic book store alongside the other geeks, er, fans of speculative fiction. Want more comic book movie news and opinions? Follow Nick Nadel’s column on Twitter.