For the Coen brother’s second full-length film, they had one goal in mind: make it different from Blood Simple. Writing the script in 3 1/2 months, they completed production inside of ten weeks, and despite a turbulent relationship with star Nicolas Cage (the Coen brothers are famous for ignoring the suggestions of others), in 1987 the quirky, comedic caper film was released to wildly positive reviews, parlaying those notices firmly into cult status.
Basing the script on the works of famous southern authors like William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, Raising Arizona has a keenly specific dialect that lends itself to endless quotability and establishes the quirk that the Coens have become known for. While it’d be impossible to cover all those lines without posting the entire script, here are some of the best.
Ready? Okay, then.
“Now, y’all without sin can cast the first stone.” – H.I.
This is the moment of insight that, after the film’s considerable opening sequence, leads H.I. and Ed to the idea of kidnapping one of the five “Arizona Quints.” While he admits in retrospect that it wasn’t his best idea, he’s quick to remind everyone the pitfalls of judgment.
“We released ourselves on our own recognizance.” – Evelle
“What Evelle here is trying to say is that we felt that the institution no longer had anything to offer us.” – Gale
After tunneling out of prison, running across a main sewer line (dumb luck, that), and throwing some pomade in their hair, the first place Evelle and Gale go is to visit their old prison buddy H.I. It just so happens to be at the worst possible time, though.
“He explained to us that Edwina’s insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase.” – H.I.
Once they learn the devastating truth about Ed’s infertility, she begins her descent into inconsolable depression, harkening the end to the couple’s “salad days,” as they call them.
“I tried to straighten up and fly right, but it wasn’t easy with that sumb*tch Reagan in the White House. I dunno. They say he’s a decent man, so… maybe his advisors are confused.” – H.I.
When we meet H.I. early on, he’s a repeat offender (they’ve got a word for that), finding himself in and out of jail and contemplating why he can’t live a normal life. While he doesn’t necessarily shirk his personal responsibility outright, he does imply a lot of the blame toward the Reagan administration.
“Would you shop at a store called Unpainted Huffhines?” – Nathan Arizona, Sr.
In the wake of Nathan Jr.’s kidnapping, the cops and FBI swarm about the home of Nathan Arizona Sr. As they make an inquiry about the changing of his last name from the less-fortunate “Huffines,” he gives the kind of answer the owner of “Unpainted Arizona” would be expected to give.
“We’re set to pop here, honey.” H.I.
As Ed and H.I. bring Nathan Jr. home, they become simply ecstatic over their newfound home life, however brief as it is. Wanting the moment to last forever, H.I. tries to capture it on film. It goes as well as you’d expect.
“Awful good cereal flakes, Mrs. McDunough.” – Evelle
While they may not be the best houseguests, both Evelle and Gale sure can be polite.
“What they call the dip-tet.” – Dot
Ridiculing H.I. over his general unpreparedness for family life, Dot lays out a systematic to-do list for him all while yelling at her kid for wearing his sister’s diaper on his head.
“That Buford’s a sly one. Already knows his ABC’s. Watch this, hit the deck, boy!” – Glen
It’s hard to narrow it down to just one, but I’d argue this is Glen’s finest moment as a husband and/or a father.
“Smalls. Leonard Smalls. My friends call me Lenny, but I got no friends.” – Leonard
The mysterious bounty hunter who arrives unexpectedly at Nathan Arizona’s office to discuss his abducted son. While his biographical introduction is brief, he’s not shy about explaining that the $25,000 reward for Nathan Jr. is unacceptable, as he himself fetched $30,000 on the black market in “1954 dollars.”
“I’ll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash ya got.” – H.I.
Even as H.I. shows that he’s incapable of kicking the habits of his former life, he does show brand loyalty.
“Son, you got a panty on your head.” – Guy in pickup
In the midst of a chaotic escape/rescue mission that involves cops, clerks, housewives and a pack of angry dogs, H.I. hijacks a ride with a pickup driver that happens to both cross his path and state the obvious.
“We have a child now! Everything’s CHANGED!” – Ed
Furious at H.I. for regressing into his old habits so quickly, Ed attempts to talk some sense into him. Just not at first.
“Well, no. Unless round is funny.” -Grocer
I bet this is still said about 40% of the time that someone buys a packet of balloons to this day without regard to the bewilderment of cashiers that are just trying to get through their shift with the minimal amount of human interaction.
“Y’all hear that? We’re using code names.” – Evelle
Robbing the “hayseed bank” on the day that farmer’s cash their government subsidies checks, Gale and Evelle hilariously prove their ineptitude throughout the robbery. They even end up using their real names, before their subpar attempt to cover it.
“Give me that baby, you warthog from hell!” – Ed
As Leonard Smalls, who H.I. had seen in his dreams as ‘The Loan Biker of the Apocalypse,’ appears to take Nathan Jr. back, Ed shows absolutely no fear, willing to protect the baby as if it were her own.
“…maybe it was Utah.” – H.I.
After returning Nathan Jr. to the Arizona household, and receiving some parting words of advice from Nathan Sr., H.I. and Ed reconsider their decision to split up. That night, he dreams far into the future, describing with the life of Nathan Jr. unfolding, along with hints of his own. His parting words, of course, abruptly ends the near-poetic setup with a simple bit of speculation about whether it was taking place in Arizona at all.
This is an updated version of a post that originally ran in August of 2015.