Funny and Memorable Movie Insults and Put-Downs

The little known B-movie “High Powered” doesn’t technically qualify as a straight-up comedy since its plot moves forward as a result of tragedy and drama overtakes its lighthearted beginning, but like many B-movie dramas of the studio period, it produced at least one terrifically humorous put-down. One male character continuously puts the make on a female who gets the movie’s best line: “Listen, you can’t help being ugly, but you could stay indoors.”

Listen, you can’t help being ugly, but you could stay indoors.

“You are a sad, strange little man.” There is a terrific little comedic put-down that every elementary school kid knows. The snipe is from none other than Buzz Lightyear and it is directed toward the favorite cowboy figure of everybody under the age of 35. Most people are aware of this particular jape, but the really funny part is not even that part of Buzz’s enlightened put-down. No, most people don’t remember that Buzz Lightyear follows up this little insult with a coup de grace that is absolutely graceful in its simplicity and painful in its sharp bite. “You are a sad, strange little man. And you have my pity.” A put-down is one thing, but topping off the insult with pity, well, that takes into another realm.

Nobody could manage a comedic putdown quite like Rodney Dangerfield. To paraphrase a putdown from another movie, Rodney was a cookie filled with arsenic. He seemed like everybody’s favorite cool uncle and even the mightiest of insults tripped off his tongue as if the cookie was filled with whipped cream. Only later does the full sting arrive and take you straight down to the ground. “Caddyshack” gives Rodney Dangerfield a field day, but few insults beat “You must have been something before electricity.” The great thing about this comedic insult is the way that it can be refashioned to suit the changing times: “You must have been something before the Internet” or “you must have been something back when you had to dial a phone.”

“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberry.”

Let’s face facts: you cannot do much better than that when it comes to a comedic put-down. In the first place, the object of your ire will be spending a goodly amount of time scratching his head wondering just exactly what you said. Once they figure it out, more time will be wasted trying to figure out what the words mean. Sheer beauty from Monty Python.