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25 of the best tv quotes from the last 25 years

Contributed by
Sep 2, 2017

Here at SYFY WIRE, it’s no secret that we enjoy celebrating the things that we love. Sometimes that takes the form of unranked lists. To us, that’s love.

Join us as our entire staff celebrates anything and everything in genre through our series of “25 Greatest from the last 25 years” lists. They are all unranked, because all of the people, movies, shows, comics, props (and so on) have equal standing for us.

Genre television has been full of memorable dialogue for decades, but the past couple and a half of them has seen some of the best writing in the genre. Case in point: these classic turns of phrase.

“Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” – Firefly

One of the best single scenes in all of Firefly is when Wash is playing with two dinosaur toys, who are exploring “this land.” It’s just such pure fun from actor Alan Tudyk, and a much nicer quote for us to include than him being a leaf on the … oops, made you cry.

"Crackers don't matter" - Farscape

A shortage of food will get to even the strongest of crews, and things get tense in this episode of Farscape, where the crew goes crazy. It led to the episode being a fan favorite, and inspired a heck of a write-in campaign. When the series was canceled, fans sent boxes upon boxes of crackers to network execs.

"Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole." -Supernatural

Literally the first episode of the entire series establishes right off the bat that, when Dean is driving, he’s picking the music. While this collection of “the greatest hits of Mullet Rock” may not be Sammy’s thing, we’re going to hear a lot of it over the next decade-plus of Supernatural episodes, and Dean lets us know why right away. This is another quote that was tailor-made for memes, posters, and t-shirts.

"Evil beware; we have waffles." -Teen Titans

Amazingly, this quote comes from the original Teen Titans animated series, which was much more focused on things like action and ongoing plot, and not from the currently running comedy series Teen Titans Go. Tara Strong’s deadpan delivery of the Raven line comes after a signature “silly Starfire” moment, and can probably be looked at as inspiration for the comedy show in the first place.

"Frak" - Battlestar Galactica

While “So say we all” is great for rallying fans or troops together, “Frak!” is great for swearing when you don’t want to get yelled at for cursing. Yeah, it is completely synonymous with another 4-letter word, but it’s socially acceptable to say in public! You can use this in literally any situation you’d use that other word, and only fellow geeks will fully know what you’re saying.

“From them rose millions of tiny maggots. Maggots? Maggots. Maggots. Maggots. Maggots.” – Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace

This obscure parody of ‘80s horror features plenty of dialogue that will make you cringe, but when the titular character reads from his “canon of chillers,” this line, where he repeats “maggots” one too many times, encapsulates the series nicely. It skewers horror anthology shows so easily, and just when you think it’s going to stop, it goes one more step.

"The hardest thing in this world, is to live in it." -Buffy

If you’re tearing up at just the mention of this quote, we get it. When Buffy, in what was very nearly a series finale, tells her little sister Dawn she has to be strong right before sacrificing her life to stop the apocalypse, she goes one step further. “Dawn, the hardest thing in this world, is to live in it. Be brave. Live…for me.” And then we all cried for three months.

"Hodor." - Game of Thrones

Hodor. Hodor? Hodor Hodor Hodor. Hodor! Hodor. Hodor!*
*”Hold the Door” turning into Hodor will never not make us weep like babies!

“I’m so embarrassed. I wish every else was dead!” – Futurama

Futurama was great at subverting quotes and tropes, and this one from Bender is a perfect example. You expect him, in his time of embarrassment, to say he wishes he were dead, but that’s not Bender. Hey, his version is messy, but it works.

"I drink and I know things" - Game of Thrones

Tyrion Lannister is another infinitely quotable character, and this explanation of his place in the world of Westeros is the best encapsulation of any character on the show. It’s also the perfect quote for when literally anyone asks you about how you know about anything when you’re holding a glass of wine, or better still, an Omegang GOT edition brew.

"Indeed." - Stargate

Teal’c had one standard way of responding to basically any situation: “Indeed.” The compilations on youtube are over 4 minutes long. There are memes and t-shirts. Is this the easiest one on the list to accidentally quote? Indeed.

“It appears we have lost our sex appeal, Captain.” – Star Trek: Voyager

There’s nothing quite like Vulcan humor. It’s so Vulcan funny, and usually pretty Vulcan ridiculous. When some strange free-floating creatures leave the hull of the Voyager, Tuvok makes this comment, and you can see Kate Mulgrew almost break when she hears it.

“It’s all because of that temptress. She tricked my son with her carnal manipulations and he fell right into her vagenda!” – Fringe

We could probably have done a list of 25 Walterisms, because Walter Bishop was the most quotable character in sci-fi in the last 25 years all on his own. In this Season 3 quote, talking about Fauxlivia, Walter perfectly explains her methods, and coins an Urban Dictionary term at the same time.

“Look at the flowers.” – The Walking Dead

Need to know whether Carol is the stone-cold and baddest character on the entire The Walking Dead series? When she determines she needs to kill Lizzie, the little girl who’s become a bit of a terrifying psychopath, she says, on repeat, “Just look at the flowers, Lizzie.” It’s a terrible and emotional moment (Carol weeps while saying it, and pulling the trigger), and probably the biggest turning point for any one character on the whole show.

"Run, Barry, Run!" - The Flash

While it’s not quite the same as Arrow’s powerful mission statement, this one is certainly fitting for a character whose primary ability is running quickly. There’s something inspiring about hearing it – it’s the easy, little way to tell someone you believe in them, and we smile every time we hear it (or a variation on the theme).

"Save the cheerleader, save the world." -Heroes

Oh, Heroes Season 1, you were so, so good. Another “mission statement” quote, this one gave our heroes, especially Hiro, something to do – something they had to do. It was basically a perfect marketing message, driving home the importance of Hayden Panettiere’s character, all while giving Hiro a literal call to action.

"So say we all" - Battlestar Galactica

A simple refrain, this was famously improvised by actor Edward James Olmos the first time it was used in the show, and became not just a way for characters to express their enthusiasm - religious or otherwise - for a cause, but for fans to gather together. Even at BSG reunion panels, the refrain is still shouted by every one of thousands of fans in the room.

"Spoilers" - Doctor Who

River Song and the Doctor’s relationship is unconventional, to say the least. While there’s clear love there between these two, thanks to them both being time travelers, they cross paths all sorts of out-of-order. River, then, keeps a journal so she can keep things straight – but the Doctor isn’t allowed to peek, because therein lie “Spoilers!” Alex Kingston’s perfect delivery on this one-word quote definitely helps make it so fun, playful, and full of possibility.

"Surprise, bitch." - American Horror Story: Coven

The modern day metric of measuring a show is how GIFable it is. This Emma Roberts gif of her saying “Surprise, bitch. I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me” as Madison Montgomery basically took over Tumblr for an entire season of TV. It was applied to other shows, movies, and basically every situation where you could take it to someone. When the character returned in AHS: Apolcalypse, so did the line. Surprise, Bitch… it made the list.

"...timey wimey...stuff" - Doctor Who

In the greatest episode of Doctor Who history, “Blink,” (don’t @ me), we see a video of The Doctor (David Tennant flavor) explaining time. It’s a brilliant, simple explanation for something immensely complex, especially with how the Doctor views and deals with it :"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to affect, but actually, from a non-linear, non subjective point of view it is more like a big ball of wibbily wobbly timey wimey…stuff” Since then, this is a favorite quote for any nerd running late. “Sorry I missed my deadline, but when you think about it, time is more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey… stuff, right boss?”

"The truth is out there." - The X-Files

Look, we like mission statements here, OK? This is perhaps the phrase most associated with a particular TV show ever. You can’t read or hear the words “The truth is out there” without hearing that X-Files theme song in your head immediately thereafter, and Mulder’s extreme dedication to the promise it brings is at times admirable, and, at other times, depressing.

"We have to go back." - Lost

One of the best plot twists of the last 25 years was triggered by this quote: After watching what we thought were flashbacks of a drunken and disheveled Jack back in his old life as a doctor, we found out at the end that it was a flash-forward. He and Kate, and presumably others, had gotten off the island, but Jack knew it was wrong. The perfectly dramatic and passionate “We have to go back, Kate! We have to go back!” blew the minds of Lost fans… and has been endlessly quoted by them since.

“We're all stories in the end...just make it a good one, eh?" – Doctor Who

This is one of the most poignant things that the Doctor has ever said, and that really is saying something. If our lives are all stories, then we owe it to ourselves to make them as great as we possibly can. Leave it to #11 to break out some incredible wisdom in a moment that seems close to hopelessness.


“You moon-faced assassin of joy.” – Babylon 5

Every good sci-fi franchise needs its own great curses and insults, and Ambassador Londo Mollari came through for us with this one. Who needs to ever call someone a “Debbie Downer” when you can use “moon-faced assassin of joy” instead!

"You have failed this city." - Arrow

When Arrow launched, no one knew it would be the start of an entire universe of stories and DC characters coming to The CW. But with this simple, five-word phrase, fans got behind the future Green Arrow instantly. It was the perfect Season 1 mission statement – the people on his list did something that Starling City could not abide. Now, you believed in Arrow and his cause, even if he didn’t know what it was really about back then.

Those were OUR choices. What are yours? Let us know in the comments which TV quotes of the last 25 years you’d put on your list? You know you have some! And check out our complete "25 Greatest" lists here.

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