EM: Hello, I’m Em T. Wytte, and I love puns.
ALL: Hi, Em.
Puns don’t get the best rap nowadays (personally, I blame groaners for this); however, for all that it isn’t “cool” to like puns, they are everywhere. They’re in movies, they’re on tv, they’re in advertisements, they’re in memes, and they’re in books. They’re a huge part of western society (Interesting tangent: apparently, not all languages or cultures have puns.).
The best part about puns (IMHO) is that even though they are associated with comedy, they can be used in all different genres and in all types of situations. They can lighten a moment in an otherwise serious film, send a hidden message, or add to general silliness.
Here are 10 great example puns from movies from a multitude of genres. WARNING: Many spoilers and some cursing ahead!
- The Client
Johnny Sulari: [Hits the table hard with his fist and then points to the salt
and pepper shakers.] Goddamn bugs. City’s lousy with ‘em.
He talks as if he hit a fly or cockroach or something (a bug). In reality, he’s warning his nephew about the transmitters (bugs) the Feds hid in the salt and pepper shakers. Then, instead of talking, he writes the kill order on a napkin. See! Puns can be serious.
Paden: Stella. Are you the Midnight Star herself?
Stella: I am. I’m always there, but I only shine at night.
In this western, the plot is generally serious, but the characters get to enjoy some lighthearted moments. This banter between Paden and Stella plays on Stella’s name and the name of the saloon (The Midnight Star).
Toodles: [Searching for something on the floor] Lost, lost, lost.
Peter Banning: Lost what?
Toodles: I’ve lost my marbles.
This is actually a repeating pun in the story. The old man really did lose his marbles, but we don’t know that at the beginning of the movie. When he says it, we think of the other meaning of the phrase (going crazy), and since he’s looking on the floor for something he hasn’t really lost, we can’t help but agree. That’s characterization, banter, and foreshadowing (because later Peter finds the marbles).
Then, of course, there are the more direct groaners.
Smee: A man so quick, he’s even fast… asleep!
The fact that this is a groaner is good characterization for Smee and the pirates. It showcases their “lower” humor since they all cheer, and it shows their lack of education since this pun followed a similar pun with words too long for the pirates to understand.
- The First Wives Club
Ivana Trump: Ladies, you have to be strong and independent,
and remember, don’t get mad, get everything.
This is a play on the multiple meanings of “get.” It’s a passing one-liner that tops off the movie. It’s the only time we see the character, yet we remember the line – and in a way, she summarizes the theme of the film.
- Ocean’s Eleven
Danny: Now, they tell me I paid my debt to society.
Tess: Funny, I never got a check.
Ooooh, burn! This one’s clever and bitter at the same time. He’s saying that he completed his prison sentence, and she spurns his words in a witty way that makes it clear that she isn’t ready to forgive him.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ultron: You’re unbelievably naïve.
The Vision: Well, I was born yesterday.
The phrase “born yesterday” means that someone is naive. The Vision’s response shows that he is aware of the phrase’s meaning and has a sense of humor since he actually was born/created the day before.
- Sherlock Holmes
[A chambermaid enters Irene Adler’s room and screams when
she sees Holmes, handcuffed naked to the bed with a pillow
covering his groin.]
Sherlock Holmes: Madam, I need you to remain calm. And trust
me, I’m a professional. Beneath this pillow, lies the key to my release.
[The Maid screams again and runs out; cut to later in a carriage.]
Sherlock Holmes: Of course, she mis-interpreted my intention entirely.
Constable Clark: Naturally, sir.
Have I mentioned that puns can be wonderfully dirty? Actually, this type of pun has a specific name: double-entendre. If you don’t understand, ask your parents (or someone who explains risqué things to you. Like Google.).
Mrs. Copperbottom: Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. You missed the delivery.
Herb Copperbottom: Oh!
Mrs. Copperbottom: [holds up a box with a picture of a robot on it]
But it’s okay. Making the baby’s the fun part.
This is an animated family comedy, and the baby was delivered – the UPS/Fedex/Whatever Driver dropped off a box full of baby parts at their door. To make the baby, they have to follow the printout directions and assemble the parts (with a wrench and so forth). The best thing about double-entendres is that kids don’t usually get them. So as dirty as this line could be, the kids don’t get it. That’s one way family movies stay kid-safe but entertain the adults, as well.
Dark Helmet: What’s the matter, Colonel Sandurz? CHICKEN?
Obviously, the character’s name was chosen with this line in mind. An entire character designed and named to make this pun possible. Now, that’s dedication.
Dark Helmet: Careful you idiot! I said across her nose, not up it!
Laser Gunner: [Opening his helmet to reveal extremely crossed eyes.]
Sorry sir! I’m doing my best!
Dark Helmet: Who made that man a gunner?
Major Asshole: I did sir. He’s my cousin.
Dark Helmet: Who is he?
Colonel Sandurz: He’s an Asshole sir.
Dark Helmet: I know that! What’s his name?
Colonel Sandurz: That is his name sir. Asshole, Major Asshole!
Dark Helmet: And his cousin?
Colonel Sandurz: He’s an asshole too sir. Gunner’s mate
First Class Philip Asshole!
Dark Helmet: How many Assholes do we have on this ship, anyway?
[Entire bridge crew stands up and raises a hand]
Entire Bridge Crew: Yo!
Dark Helmet: I knew it. I’m surrounded by assholes!
[Dark Helmet pulls his face shield down]
Dark Helmet: Keep firing, Assholes!
Do I really need to explain? Seriously though, if you want to study puns, get a Mel Brooks movie. They’re everywhere in Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Young Frankenstein. It’s one of many layers that make the movies so fantastically funny.
- The Muppet Movie
Fozzie: [Wearing a false beard and pretending to be the bartender]
Drinks are on the house!
This is actually a plot point. Fozzie tricks the angry bar crowd into going on top of the roof – for the drinks. Their misunderstanding of this pun saves Fozzie and Kermit. That’s right, the main characters of the movie are saved by a pun.