11 Points

The Billy Madison Quandary: Why No One Can Ever Make a Definitive List of Its Best Quotes
written by Sam Greenspan

I recently happened upon a list called "Billy Madison Lines So Ingrained in Our Culture You Forgot Where They Came From."

The writer, a fellow named Stephen Tompkins, featured 23 quotes, including: "Eric is pregnant!"... "Judas Priest, Barbara, it's one of those flaming bags again"... "It's too damn hot for a penguin to just be walkin' around here"... "I hate cursive and I hate all of you"... "Ok, a simple 'wrong' would've done just fine"... and "Everybody on? Good, great, grand, wonderful! No yelling on the bus!"

I found his picks fascinating. Because if I'd been writing the list, very few of his picks would've have been anywhere near it. Those six I just listed probably wouldn't have made a top 100.

And that's when it clicked: It's actually impossible to make a definitive list of the best Billy Madison quotes.



Here are MY 11 seminal Billy Madison quotes:
  1. "How 'bout you, Sideburns?"

  2. "I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul."

  3. "That's assault, brotha."

  4. "Want to feed that donkey some beer? Get it all messed up?"

  5. "R-O-*C*-K."

  6. "Feel those kicks, it's gonna be a soccer player."

  7. "Why don't you just give her the trophy?"

  8. "A guy I know, him and her got-it-on."

  9. "R... you going to the mall later?"

  10. "If your dog is lost, you don't look for an hour then call it quits. You get your ass out there and you find that f****** dog."

  11. "Ask her if she likes anybody from class."

My list and Tompkins' list are mutually exclusive. So whose list features the definitive quotes from Billy Madison? Both... and neither.

All 17 quotes listed so far in this post are, in a vacuum, nothing. We're not dealing with Confucius or Abraham Lincoln or Mitch Hedberg here. Billy Madison doesn't feature a string of profound quotes, or even sensical quotes -- and it wasn't supposed to. But it is inherently quotable, from start to finish.

It was a movie that millions of people in a specific subset of a generation watched repeatedly, and different parts stuck with different groups of friends. Those parts were repeated over and over for the past 20 years within those groups of friends. In the face of every line being potentially quotable, a definitive list of the "best" or "most ingrained" quotes is impossible.

That list is individually defined, unique to you, wholly based on your experience. It's your "blue duck."

And I would assume other groups of friends in other generations have the same feeling toward movies like The Jerk, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Swingers, Old School, Mean Girls, Anchorman and (hopefully) MacGruber.

Art -- even "art" with giant quotation marks around it, like an Adam Sandler movie featuring baby talk and an imaginary penguin -- must elicit individualized interpretations, and, in many ways, is defined as such. In other words: Sometimes, there's a list the Internet just can't make. Everyone's list of the most memorable/persistent/funny/essential Billy Madison quotes is inherently both right and wrong. The duality of Madison. Relativism in its purist form.

Or, in a different context -- it's like arguing which is better, shampoo or conditioner.


This post was originally published on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Movies.

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