Last week, we published what I believed at the time to be the definitive account of the greatest movie trailer lines in history. Trailer lines, of course, are subjective, and how indelibly they imprint on your brain can depend on many things, including whether you lived in the region where that movie was being most heavily advertised and how much television you were watching at that stage of your life.
All of this is an unnecessarily long-winded way of saying that there were lots of amazing trailer lines we left out of the original list. Why not do a part two? Trailer lines are the movie equivalent of that obnoxious tune you can’t get out of your head: the only way to feel better is to spread it to someone else.
Trailer Line: “I’m trying to solve a murder here!” (line at 1:18)
Movie: Striking Distance (1993)
A consistent theme of interviews I’ve done with eighties and nineties filmmakers is what a pain in the ass Bruce Willis apparently was. According to Striking Distance director Rowdy Herrington, Robert De Niro was attached first, then Mel Gibson, and then Michael Douglas, before Bruce Willis got involved. Pain in the ass though he may be, it’s hard to imagine De Niro, Gibson, or Douglas being able to strike that exact note of fed-up cop petulance that Willis hits in “I’m trying to solve a murder here!” (Is this the 90s cop version of “I’m walkin’ here!”?) The way his voice gets a bit brittle when he’s really pushing it — it’s almost like his voicebox has a “gain” setting. He’s truly a man in command of his instrument.
I had also memory-holed the part where Bruce Willis’s character’s name in Striking Distance was “Tom Hardy.” Can we get Tom Hardy to play Tom Hardy in a remake of Striking Distance? I would watch the hell out of that movie.
Trailer Line: “I’ve found a cure for the plague of the 20th century and now I’ve lost it!”
Movie: Medicine Man (1992)
In his follow-up to Predator (1987), Die Hard (1988), and The Hunt For Red October (1990) John McTiernan chose… this absolute head-scratcher about a doctor in the Amazon played by Sean Connery (sidenote: has any director ever had as good a three-movie run as Predator, Die Hard, Red October?). Connery’s protege was played by Lorraine Bracco from Goodfellas and The Sopranos. If the movie was a relative disappointment at the box office and a complete flop with critics, the attempt to boil down its convoluted plot into a single trailer line did give us this magnificently clunky yet unforgettable trailer line. “I’ve found a cure for the plague of the 20th century and now I’ve lost it!”
Sean Connery damn near makes that sound like something a person might say, God bless him. But… you had the cure for cancer, and you… lost it? In the long version of the trailer, he even attempts to justify it. “Haven’t you ever lost anything? Your car keys?? Well, it’s rather like that!”
Is it, though? In retrospect, you could probably tell the movie wasn’t going to work based on the fact that the more they attempt to explain the central plot conceit, the less believable it gets.
Trailer Line: “Welcome to Earth!”
Movie: Independence Day (1996)
I can’t believe I left Will Smith, one of the all-time great trailer line deliverers, off the original list. Independence Day is also one of the greatest trailers of all time. I vividly remember seeing it and thinking “this is going to be the greatest movie ever made.” I ended up disappointed by the actual movie, even though I was barely old enough to have developed taste at that point, which probably explains how I eventually grew up to become a film critic.
Anyway, if you remember one thing from Independence Day, it should be this one incredible moment. I love the idea that this alien traveled millions of miles through space, blew up the White House with a laser beam, and the first that happened after it opened the hatch was getting punched in the face. It’s like if Michael Jordan showed up to a pick-up basketball game and the moment he stepped on the court someone ran by and yelled “prison rules!” and kicked him in the nuts.
Trailer Line: “This! Is! Sparta!”
Movie: 300 (2006)
Speaking of movies that never quite lived up to the trailer, let’s travel back in time to revisit 300, when speed ramping was new, and Zack Snyder bravely asked “what if we just did animation in every frame?”
I can admit it, this trailer blew my mind when it came out. That being said, I think the movie would’ve been much better if it hadn’t elided how gay the real Spartans were, to the point that it was tradition for the bride to dress up as a man on the wedding night. Though I suppose it was still pretty homoerotic. In my mind, 300 is indispensable if only because it gave us this gif:
If I’m not mistaken, I think I first saw this on YTMND.com — which is of course named for the trailer line “You’re the man now, dog.” A Russian nesting doll of trailer lines!
Trailer Line: “I’m an old broken down piece of meat.”
Movie: The Wrestler (2008)
The Wrestler was so damned good, and the trailer is still one of the all-time greats. It’s rare to see a movie as good as The Wrestler that could also be completely summed up in its own trailer line. “I’m an old broken down piece of meat” — that’s the entire movie right there. But it was unspoilable. I probably could’ve watched four hours of Mickey Rourke being an old broken down piece of meat. God I love Mickey Rourke. He’s a man who loves tiny dogs, looks like Steven Tyler on steroids, and hangs out exclusively with anthropomorphic glam rock ferrets. Is Mickey Rourke is the best celebrity this country has ever produced? I say yes.
Trailer Line: “Welcome… to The Rock.”
Movie: The Rock (1996)
The Rock was arguably the high-water mark of both Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer and “welcome to The Rock” its most iconic line. It’s a testament to how good a trailer line it is that people could remember that and not Nic Cage weaselishly snorting “Heh, chemical superfreak, actually,” a few seconds earlier. In any other trailer, that would’ve been the trailer line.
Is there anything Sean Connery says that doesn’t sound like an amazing trailer line? I believe there’s a direct correlation between how big a box office star someone is and their ability to deliver the iconic trailer line.
Trailer Line: “YES they deserve to die and I hope they burn in hell!”
Movie: A Time To Kill (1996)
A Few Good Men (1992) was a movie that consisted entirely of waiting for Jack Nicholson to growl “You can’t handle the truth.” So when A Time To Kill (a Joel Schumacher adaptation of a John Grisham novel) did essentially the same thing with Samuel L. Jackson and “YES they deserve to die…” four years later, it’s a testament to Jackson that the ripoff manages to eclipse the original.
Truly, no one can deliver a trailer line like Samuel L. Jackson. The only reason “tired of these motherf*ckin snakes etc” didn’t make this list is because it was obvious that the filmmakers had simply discovered that having Samuel Jackson shout just about anything automatically makes it sound like a movie. It should be noted that Dave Chappelle identified this phenomenon early on:
How’s it taste, motherf*cker?!
Trailer Line: “Tell the truth!”
Movie: Concussion (2015)
In having Will Smith shout “Tell the truth!” in a Nigerian accent, Concussion inadvertently combined A Few Good Men and “In Afrika, it’s bling-bang.” It works beautifully. He even says it twice in a row, like he was practicing different line reads. I don’t think I ever actually saw this movie. And after all, why would I? Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free and whatnot.
Trailer Line: “It’s snakes out there this big?”
Movie: Anaconda (1997)
Jon Voight, Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Eric Stoltz, and Ice Cube? Talk about a cast! I actually can’t believe that Anaconda is 24 years old. Gun to my head, before looking it up I would’ve told you that this movie came out in 2006. That’s a testament to the timelessness of “It’s snakes out there this big??”
There should be an entire docu-series of Ice Cube reacting to nature. Netflix, please throw some money at this.
Trailer Line: “I’ll never te-eell.”
Movie: Don’t Say A Word (2001)
Half the reason I even wrote this list was because I was so embarrassed for leaving “I’ll never te-ell” off of the first version. This trailer-line was so good that I didn’t even remember the movie it came from, which is even more impressive considering Sean Bean says the title right in the trailer. Don’t Say A Word came out two weeks after 9/11, and some speculate that the earworm quality of its trailer line was enhanced by a dearth of other movie options around that time.
Certainly, there were few releases in those two weeks (Hardball and The Glass House, anyone?), but Don’t Say A Word came out the same weekend as Zoolander and a week before Training Day, and I’ll be damned if I can remember any lines from those trailers (though the movies are great). The same weekend the following year had about the same number of new movies, so who knows.
“I’ll never tell” was the perfect movie line because the sense memory of hearing is indelible even when pretty much everything else about the movie was not. RIP, Brittany Murphy.