The Dirty Harry franchise has a lot going for it, but what makes it great is Clint Eastwood and his dry, laconic delivery. More than twenty years after the final Dirty Harry flick’s release, people are still quoting the guy. How’s that for an enduring character? Here are the ten greatest lines. Read ’em, if you’ve got the guts.
10. “What did you want me to do, yell ‘Trick or treat’ at ’em?” The Enforcer
A great comeback to a classic butt kisser, the politically savvy Captain McKay (Bradford Dillman), who tells Harry to run the bad guys out of town but turns on him as soon as Harry’s methods attract attention. Harry is still fighting the same fight seven years later. (See No. 9.) But at least Harry shows McKay, for the moment.
9. “It’s a question of methods. Everybody wants results, but nobody wants to do what they have to do to get them done.” Sudden Impact
That’s the late-series Dirty Harry in a nutshell: righteous judge, jury, and executioner. And he has a point, doesn’t he? Everyone loves when he saves the day, but nobody likes the way he does it. One of his more insightful lines.
8. “By the ‘minority community,’ I suppose you’re talking about the hoods.” The Enforcer
That’s Harry’s response to getting dressed down by his boss for appearing insensitive to racial issues. The line reduces the politically savvy McKay to sputtering. You’ve got to love how Harry can turn accusations of racism back on the accuser with such ease. He should’ve gone into politics.
7. “When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher’s knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn’t out collecting for the Red Cross.” Dirty Harry
Insolent, subversive, and (yes) funny. This is Harry talking to the mayor, who’s mighty unhappy with the bad press generated by Harry’s quick-on-the-draw ways. After all, things aren’t always what they seem — except when they are, as Callahan’s comical scenario proves.
6. “When police start becoming their own executioners, where’s it gonna end?” Magnum Force
Not one of Harry’s most quoted lines but a tidy riposte to criticism that Dirty Harry was a love letter to vigilantes with badges. The line is tied to a great twist, since he’s talking to by-the-book Lieutenant Briggs (Hal Holbrook), who’s been ragging on Harry about police brutality and community relations while heading up a secret cabal of, yes, vigilantes with badges.
5. “You forgot your fortune cookie. It says, ‘You’re shit out of luck.'” The Dead Pool
This, one of the classic Dirty Harry zingers, comes from the final movie in the series. The gem of a line, aimed at a hopped-up bleached blond robbing a Chinese restaurant and roughing up customers with his equally volatile pals, says everything you need to know about Harry: he’s tougher and more clever than you.
4. “A good man always knows his limitations.” Magnum Force
As a cop who’s always being criticized by some pantywaist with a big desk, Harry develops quite the way with acid-laced sarcasm reserved for guys he can’t literally shoot down. Like this line to Briggs, who’s never used his gun and is proud of it. Harry doesn’t take kindly to that and subtly mocks Briggs’s manhood with his trademark wry half-grin.
3. “Smith & Wesson — and me.” Sudden Impact
This is the result of Harry telling a gun-toting street thug with jive-ass attitude “We’re not just gonna let you walk out of here” and the poor sap asking who “we” is. Gotcha! You know that guy wet his pants immediately. The crazy thing is that there are two lines even better.
2. “Go ahead — make my day.” Sudden Impact
Short, sweet, and quietly belligerent, this is Harry’s sneering dare to the last punk standing with a gun during an attempted robbery. The line’s so great that two years later President Reagan appropriated it to put Congress on notice that he had his “veto pen drawn and ready” to shoot down any tax-increase bill they might dare send his way.
1. “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” Dirty Harry
Come on; you knew this was coming. You never forget your first, and this was the first Harry Callahan quotation that went directly from the screen to America’s lips. Harry himself likes this line so much that he delivers it twice, first to a wounded bank robber near the beginning of the movie and then again at the end, to the contemptible serial killer Scorpio (Andrew Robinson). Is there anyone in American who hasn’t said this a few times?