The Best Movie Trailer Lines in History
It has been 10 years since Harrison Ford worked around the clock.
Released on Jan. 22, 2010, Extraordinary Measures is a movie few people saw at the time and even less remember now; a medical drama starring Brendan Fraser and Ford as, respectively, an advertising executive with a pair of sick children and the medical researcher who could help save the kids’ lives. Upon release, Extraordinary Measures earned just $6 million during its opening weekend, finishing behind classics like Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (in its fifth week of release!) and The Lovely Bones (in its seventh weekend of release!). But what Extraordinary Measures lacked in real-world relevance, it made up for in online memes. Its trailer spawned one of the earliest: Ford screaming “I already work around the clock!”
“Perhaps it’s the tough economic times, but Ford’s line is going viral online, as fans are tweeting it over and over (ESPN’s Bill Simmons is a particularly big fan, appending the quote to his tweets about Mark McGuire’s steroids admission and other newsy items), and putting the quote on a loop,” read an 170-word article published by no less than the Wall Street Journal at the time. “It’s not as catchy as Ford’s line ‘Get off my plane!’ from Air Force One, but it’s a step above ‘You missed your stop!’ from The Fugitive. Can the remix be far behind?”
“I already work around the clock” went viral at a time when the internet was still sort of fun (a headline on an NPR piece about the Extraordinary Measures phenomenon credited the “wonderfully fickle, weird internet” for bringing it to such prominence) — those early years when people were naive and Snakes on a Plane was still fresh in bloggers’ minds. Like that Samuel L. Jackson thriller, Extraordinary Measures flopped hard in comparison with its online footprint. But the legacy of “I already work around the clock” can still be felt to this day, from Adam Driver punching a wall in Marriage Story to “a lot can happen in a lifetime.”
Since we, too, already work around the clock, the 10th anniversary of Extraordinary Measures gives us an opportunity to look back on some other classic out-of-context movie trailer lines that struck a chord with the general populace. King Kong ain’t got nothing on this list, friendo. Ahead, the great movie trailer lines ever.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
“Always do the right thing.”
Spike Lee’s breakout feature is on the shortlist of greatest movies ever made, but despite that level of respect, it’s possible society has slept on its awesome trailer, which feels modern in ways trailers from 30 years ago wouldn’t dare try. The kicker — an interaction between Lee’s Mookie and Ossie Davis’ Da Mayor — is, if not an Original Meme, certainly one of the more oft-repeated lines from a very quotable movie.
“Pop quiz, hotshot.”
Speed relies on this line so much it’s repeated three times in the trailer. Pop quiz, hotshot: that’s a lot.
The Rock (1996)
“Welcome to the Rock!”
Losers always whine about their best, winners go home and say, “Welcome to the Rock.”
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
“I’m the bad guy!”
It’s hard to imagine now but Julia Roberts had kind of hit the skids before the release of My Best Friend’s Wedding. After breaking nuclear with Pretty Woman in 1990, the rest of her decade was far from memorable (I Love Trouble, Something to Talk About). Then along came My Best Friend's Wedding, which cast her opposite Cameron Diaz and turned her into an antagonist with a heart of gold.
Jackie Brown (1998)
“AK-47: When you absolutely, positively have to kill every mother in the room ... accept no substitutes.”
A legendary trailer, a legendary movie. Accept no substitutes.
Finding Forrester (2000)
“You’re the man now dog!”
The “I already work around the clock!” of its time, Sean Connery bellowing, “You're the man now dog!” as the score from The Shawshank Redemption plays over Gus Van Sant’s 2000 drama has far outlived any memory of Finding Forrester itself. Outside of “Bond, James Bond,” has any Connery line been as repeated?
Training Day (2001)
“King Kong ain’t got [nothing] on me!”
The trailer for Training Day, which came out in the shadow of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, tries to position Denzel Washington’s character as more of an anti-hero than he really is in the text, but even the marketing executives knew what gold they had with his late-reel shout of defiance (which subs in “sh—” for “nothing” in the R-rated final product).
The Departed (2005)
“We all are, act accordingly.”
When the trailer’s quotable kicker doubles as the film's core thesis: The Departed is Martin Scorsese unleashed, playing in a world where morality has gone on permanent vacation and everyone is just waiting to die under the watch of the film’s false god, Jack Nicholson. Act accordingly and bring some bleach.
“I am McLovin!”
Superbad didn’t just become one of the biggest surprise hits of summer 2007 because of McLovin, but it didn’t not become one of the biggest surprise hits of summer 2007 because of McLovin either.
No Country For Old Men (2007)
“Call it, friendo.”
What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a coin toss?
Pineapple Express (2008)
A prime example of the trailer being better than the movie itself, the promotional material for Pineapple Express includes two all-time moments: the use of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” (not featured in the movie itself, a true cinema sin) and Danny McBride, in his breakout role, cocking a shotgun and chirping, “thug life.”
“What I do have, is a very particular set of skills. Skills I’ve acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.”
The words that relaunched Liam Neeson’s career.
“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”
Christopher Nolan makes good movies and those movies often have even better trailers. A recent revisit of Inception (streaming now on Netflix!) revealed that film to be a lot sillier than it felt 10 years earlier. But while it’s certainly less polished than something like Dunkirk, it’s a whirl of fun with an amazing ensemble let loose to say a bunch of dream mumbo jumbo. Chief among that group is Tom Hardy, in what was his mainstream breakout role, doing charming Bond stuff and saying the movie's unofficial tagline.
“We’re not just talking about a train, we’re talking about a missile the size of the Chrysler Building!”
The Social Network (2010)
“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”
You know what else is cool? A billion memes.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
“When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.”
Christopher Nolan makes good trailers.
The Bling Ring (2013)
“I wanna rob.”
Like Pineapple Express, here’s a movie where the trailer is much better than the movie it promoted (sorry, #sofiahive). But even if The Bling Ring were as good as Lost in Translation it wouldn't have been able to compete with the marketing and its centerpiece moment: Emma Watson, breaking free from Harry Potter with a pout, a cig, and a request to commit crimes.
“To catch this guy, we’re going to need a blackhat hacker named Hathaway.”
Fun fact: Blackhat so thoroughly hacked the system that it’s probably the last movie Michael Mann will ever be allowed to direct.
Lady Bird (2015)
“What if this is the best version?”
The trailer for Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut includes many of the film’s memorable lines (“it was given to me, by me”), but this one, in particular, remains a go-to meme for many denizens of Film Twitter.
Uncut Gems (2019)
“This is how I win.”
They should have given Sandman the Oscar.
Gallery — The Best Movies of the 2010s, Ranked: