Emily Reed’s top 10 bad lines from good movies (2010’s)

by Emily Reed, Co-editor-in-chief

A movie’s job is to create the illusion of another world within the screen but, sometimes, the screen crumbles and the outside world comes in. Breaking the fourth wall can occur in the form of misplaced objects in period pieces, poor film editing, and lines that are so out-of-place or worded so poorly that they make us laugh, cringe, or become disappointed in our favorite movies.

I have assembled a list of lines that are so noticeably awful that they ruin their respective scenes, and in the case of my #1 pick, the entire ending of the movie. To create my list, I took into account how much I enjoyed the movie (1-10, with 1 being the most enjoyable, 10 the least) and how awful the line truly was (1-10, with 1 being the worst line, and 10 being the least horrendous).

**NOTE** I seem to have picked on the genre of science fiction and the year 2016 the most. It is unclear to me if those categories have more bad lines or I have just watched more movies that fall under those categories.

10) Hidden Figures (2016)

Rating- 9

How bad was this line really?-10

“I sound like a supervisor, don’t I?” “A mean, ole salty one.”

Hidden Figures is a charming, historical biography of three African-Americans mathematicians who worked at NASA– Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe).  They were instrumental in bringing a man to the moon in 1969. However, a bulk of the story takes place in 1960-1961 so there really is no use for the 2015-2017 slang term “salty.”

This film goes to great lengths to make sure every costume, set, and even cars are accurate to the period and it’s such a shame that this line breaks the magic spell of the 1960’s. This Best Picture nominee for the 2016 Oscars with the highest domestic gross amongst nominees at  $144.5 million could afford great talent such as Tom Hanks yet they couldn’t afford an extra set of watchful eyes for their script?

9) Wonder Woman (2017)

Rating- 10

How bad was this line really?- 8

“Keeps our tummies in..”

“Why must you keep them in?”

“Any woman with a tummy would ask that question”

Out of context, these lines sound ridiculous, and, in context, they’re still ridiculous. This scene takes place in the tailor’s shop when Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is getting fitted for clothes to blend in with society. The shopkeeper uses the childish word “tummy” and is overly concerned with Diana’s appearance in baggy clothes. This further muddies the waters in Wonder Woman’s supposed quasi-feminist anthem.

Despite Diana being a strong, female character, her “armor” is a skimpy one piece that leaves people (even characters in the movie!) talking about how gorgeous Wonder Woman looks rather than her being the only one worthy and able to defend the world against Ares, god of corruption and war. This line doesn’t address her armor but it still brings the movie back to focusing on appearances which detracts from what could have been an empowering movie.

8) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

Rating- 8

How bad is this line really?- 9

“I should not be more prudent to call off this attack.”

What does this line even mean? It’s worded in such a confusing way that it leaves audiences scratching their heads. What makes the line worse is that Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), of all people, is saying this nonsensical line. Besides not making sense, he also uses the word  “prudent” which is so stuffy and out-of-place for him to use when he’s on the precipice of magical world domination. At this point in the movie, his army is winning the battle at Hogwarts and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) should be on his way to his eager clutches. Voldemort should be rubbing his hands together in evil glee instead of contemplating calling off the attack while sounding like an old British woman sipping her tea.

7) The Theory of Everything (2014)

Rating- 4

How bad is this line really?- 7

“You will be a valuable asset.”

The script writer must have mixed up the characters of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), analytical mathematical genius, and Jonathan (Charlie Cox), caring choir director, to create a monotone line without feeling said by Jonathan, the man with the biggest heart in the movie.

Jonathan is a kind soul who comforts Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) after her husband Stephen Hawking’s Lou Gehrig’s disease worsens and he has to rely on Jane for basic day-to-day operations. This starts to take a toll on Jane mentally and physically which is why she joins the church choir to become re-socialized in the community.

Jonathan, after their first meeting, visits the Hawking’s house and upon invitation, becomes their compassionate home-health nurse. Jonathan eventually falls in love with Jane, but, listening to this line from their first encounter, it would appear that he is distant, cold, and unattached. Yet, that’s NEVER the case. Perhaps the actor playing Jonathan was embarrassed to say this ill-fitting line and that’s why he says it so quickly in the movie, in a rush to move on.

6) Her (2013)

Rating- 3

How bad was this line really?- 6

“Rachel, I miss you so much it hurts my whole body! The world is being unfair to us.”

It’s helpful to note that this is a quote from a love letter that the main character, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), writes at his job writing letters for other people. Theodore is so talented at writing love letters that his letters are published in a best-selling collection, yet, you wouldn’t know it from this line that sounds like it was written by a melodramatic teenager.

The problem with this line (and the rest of this subsequent letter) is that it lacks the sentiment of real love supported by specific imagery. Theodore’s best love letters are written through reliving memories with his ex-wife and infusing that genuine emotion into his words. This line has none of the above factors and is a poor attempt at imagery featuring an angsty, over dramatic phrase that does nothing to garner sympathy from the audience.

What’s most disappointing about this line is that in the movie, Theodore wrote and read MUCH better love letters but this is the one Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) decides to praise? That makes no sense to me!

5) Interstellar (2014)

Rating- 5

How bad is this line really?- 5

“Maybe the sun cooked its brain or it was looking for something.”

Even with a southern drawl and his superb acting ability, Matthew McConaughey couldn’t make this line sound good. For starters, a satellite probe doesn’t have a brain to “cook” and what could it possibly be looking for in an abandoned wasteland?

This scene is used as impetus to inspire our main characters Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain) to search for the hidden NASA base, but the problem is, the probe is in the entirely wrong direction. The scene is an uncreative transition, propelled by this lousy and cliched line, making it a baffling waste of time in an already lengthy movie.

4) Black Swan (2010)

Rating- 2

How bad is this line really?- 4

“I’m the Swan Queen.You’re the one who never left the corps.”

As a dancer myself, I can attest to the fact that dancers, especially in ballet, are expected to be perfect. From our teachers we receive countless corrections and disappointed looks when mistakes are made. However, groups are never forced to do 100 push ups as retribution for one person’s error.

The word “corps” is most closely associated with the military when in reality, ballet is an individualized sport focused on perfection rather than working together as a team. Their philosophy is that if everyone knows the steps, there’s no need to work as a unit.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) says this line to Lily (Mila Kunis), a ballerina Nina feels threatens her lead role, while she is descending into madness leading to her untimely death. That makes the line even more puzzling because her last words are a reference to the military which has nothing to do with ballet? Really? I don’t believe it.

3) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rating-  6

How bad was this line really?- 3

“You were already the best soldier in my cadre.”

“I was sixteen.”

“I was protecting you!”

“You dumped me!”

When I hear the last line, I imagine a jilted teenage girl storming away from her boyfriend of two months and vowing to destroy everything in a blazing fire that reminds her of him. I definitely don’t visualize a strong woman who is a skilled fighter and filled with rage for being left to die in an Imperial labor camp as a teenager.

In the movie, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is clearly angry. It’s just unfortunate that she doesn’t have the strength in words to confront Saw Gerrara (Forest Whitaker), who is supposed to be her foster father and mentor, and tell him how upset she was about being left in a bunker at age 16 with a knife and loaded blaster only to find that he was never returning. When she was abducted and taken to a work camp, she lost all semblance of her childhood as well. For being forced into a life of slavery and having all that time to think about what she’d say to her failure of a parent, her response was shockingly and sadly juvenile.

2) Argo (2012)

Rating- 7

How bad was this line really?- 2

“Sir, exfils are like abortions. You don’t wanna need one… …but when you do, you don’t do it yourself.”

Ben Affleck’s humor is as lifeless and dry as his acting in Batman vs. Superman… which is not a compliment. Affleck directed and starred as the main character Tony Mendez in the film Argo that tells the true story of the making of a fake film of the same name.

This line is said during a meeting with Mendez and the CIA who are tasked with strategizing a plan to rescue six Americans held hostage in Iran during the U.S. hostage crisis in 1980. Mendez proposes that he and a team extract the hostages by masquerading as Hollywood producers scouting for a location to film a (ridiculous) science fiction film.

In the end, Mendez’ proposed plan actually works and the hostages are returned safely. However, I’m hoping the real Tony Mendez didn’t utter the same line as Ben Affleck.

This line destroys the serious mood of the conversation and doesn’t act as comic relief. Affleck delivers the line in his signature monotone voice which does nothing to elevate the line to make it remotely funny. It’s an ill-timed comparison to something that isn’t relevant or necessary to the conversation.

1) Arrival (2016)

Rating- 1

How bad is this line really?- 1

“I forgot how good it felt to be held by you.”

“You wanna make a baby?”

“Yes. Yeah.”

What’s disappointing is that these three lines are the last words the audience hears to end this masterful science fiction epic voted as #11 on IMDB’s best 100 films of 2016 list. When I first heard these lines, I paused the movie and burst out laughing. They were so heinously bad that they motivated me to write this list!

When Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), physicist, asks Louise Banks (Amy Adams), linguist, this question, she is deep in reverie, attempting to process the shocking news that the heptapod aliens who arrived on Earth are not bent on world domination. Instead, they are gifting the human race with their language that makes anyone fluent in it capable of seeing the past and the future.

Louise, as the only fluent human speaker, decides that even though she knows what suffering the future will bring, she will have a child with Ian, watch their daughter die, and end up heartbroken when Ian leaves her afterwards.

Ian interrupts Louise’s profound revelation with the stupidest question imaginable that perhaps was meant to sound cute but came out sounding creepy. It doesn’t help that Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams have no chemistry whatsoever. This underdeveloped romance and Ian’s last line ruined what could have been an end to a movie that left my brain doing cartwheels, thinking.

When I watch Arrival again, I’ll make sure to fast forward through the last three lines to keep together the integrity of the film and not subject myself to the worst line said on film (so far) this decade.