- “Don’t’ Call Me Shirley” is one of the many hilarious quotes from Airplane!, making it one of the funniest movies ever made.
- Airplane! is filled with a tremendous amount of jokes, keeping fans laughing non-stop.
- The movie’s clever use of parody and comedic timing creates some of the most memorable lines in cinema history.
The “Don’t’ Call Me Shirley” quote is just one of the lines that make Airplane! one of the funniest movies ever made. It is a parody of the airplane disaster movies which were popular for a time. The movie follows a flight that is put in danger when a severe bout of food poisoning incapacitates the pilots and many passengers, and the desperate efforts to land it safely. Of course, the movie doesn’t take that premise seriously at all, only using it as an excuse to deliver some wild humor.
Few movies have been as quotable as Airplane!, with so many lines still being quoted to this day. Part of what makes such a memorable comedy is the incredible amount of jokes they throw at the audience. Fans are hardly done laughing at one joke before another even funnier one comes along. The movie has become a comedy classic and features some of the funniest, most memorable lines in cinema history, including the famous Airplane! “Don’t’ Call Me Shirley” quote.
10 Dated ’80s Comedies That Should Seriously Be Updated
1980s comedies like The Breakfast Club and Uncle Buck are so iconic that a remake or sequel would do incredibly well in modern times.
13 “No, I’ve Been Nervous Lots Of Times.”
While Airplane! is a very rewatchable movie, its humor tends to sneak up on audiences with jokes hiding in plain sight within mundane conversations. The audience laughs at the cleverness of the joke as well as the fun in that they didn’t see the obvious gag coming. When Ted gets on the airplane for the first time since his traumatic experiences in the war, he is on edge and his kind seatmate asks if he is nervous, and he admits he is. When the nice lady asks if it is his first time, Ted assures her with this obvious line.
12 “No… That’s Just What They’ll Be Expecting Us To Do.”
One of the great aspects of Airplane! is how the movie takes clichéd and tired genre dialogue and sticks it where it doesn’t belong. These well-worn lines are hilarious because of the context they are used in. Such is the case with this quote from Rex Kramer, a no-nonsense military man helping guide the plane to the ground.
Though he has been working tirelessly to save the plane, Kramer seems to forget the purpose as the plane approaches. Someone asks him if they should turn the runway lights on, to which Kramer replies, “No… that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do.” The line is made even better by Robert Stack’s intense delivery.
11 “Wait A Minute. I Know You. You’re Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.”
One of the most recognizable faces in Airplane! is someone not usually known for acting. Kareem Adbul-Jabbar was a basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers at the time and seeing him pop up as a pilot named Clarence is a thrill for the audience, but it gets better when he gets called out. While he is trying his best, a young boy points out that he isn’t Clarence but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The fourth wall breaking gets funnier when Abdul-Jabbar’s professionalism fades away once the kid starts talking trash about his ball playing.
10 “It’s A Big Building With Patients, But That’s Not Important Right Now.”
So much of the humor relies on silly misunderstandings. Though there have been great parody movies over the years, few match the rapid pace of Airplane! Dr. Rumack assesses the situation with the sick passengers. He then tells the flight attendant that they need to land and get these people to a hospital. Concerned, she says “A hospital? What is it?” A straight-faced Rumack explains what a hospital is. The movie can afford such throwaway jokes as this since it has so many other great ones to follow.
9 “You Can’t Take A Guess For Another Two Hours?”
Leslie Nielsen steals the show as Dr. Rumack. Of course, the “Don’t call me Shirley” line is his most famous, but he has so many brilliant quotes in the movie. When the situation grows dire, Rumack and the pilot have an intense conversation in which he asks the pilot if he can guess when they can land. The pilot responds with “Not for another two hours.” Rumack asks, “You can’t take a guess for another two hours?” It is a perfect example of how Nielsen’s dry delivery made these lines funny.
8 “I Just Want To Tell You Both, Good Luck. We’re All Counting On You.”
Recurring gags the Zucker Brothers added make Airplane! fun. While a line or moment might not seem funny at first, the more it repeats itself or comes back into the story again and again, the funnier it gets. As Ted and Elaine attempt to land the plane, Rumack pokes his head into the cockpit and gives them some simple words of encouragement, “I just want to tell you both, good luck. We’re all counting on you“.
As the plane begins to lose control, he sticks his head in and repeats the same line. Finally, once the plane is safely landed, he sticks his head in again and says the same thing. What starts as a normal line grows into one of the biggest laughs in the movie.
10 ’80s Comedies That Should Be Remade
Between time-traveling slackers, an anthropomorphic duck, and an angry network head, these characters could be adapted perfectly for a 2020s audience.
7 “By The Way, Is There Anyone On Board Who Knows How To Fly A Plane?”
Airplane! picked the perfect sub-genre of movies to parody. All the tension of those thriller movies set on airplanes is replaced by the movie pointing out how silly the premises are. With all the pilots taken out by food poisoning, the remaining crew tries to figure out how to land the plane safely while keeping everyone calm. Elaine addresses the passengers, before asking for any pilots present, which turns the whole plane into a panic. The fact that she thought such a request might go unnoticed is funny enough in itself.
6 “Calm Down! Get A Hold Of Yourself.”
The movie does a great job of taking small, recognizable moments from movies like these and twisting them into absurdity. For instance, disaster movies like this always seem to have that one character who can’t deal with the situation and begins to freak out. That person usually gets a slap in the face to calm them down.
That’s probably not the best way of calming someone, and Airplane! seizes on that ridiculous idea. As one passenger begins to lose it, characters take their turns delivering the rough calming method, shaking her and slapping her. It goes on to reveal everyone on the plane is lined up with various weapons, waiting for their turn.
5 “Looks Like I Picked The Wrong Week To Quit Sniffing Glue.”
Lloyd Bridges is probably most known for his scene-stealing work here as the stressed tower control supervisor, McCroskey. As he deals with the increasingly difficult situation of the doomed airplane, there is a running gag about his many bad habits. McCroskey starts by saying, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking,” a pretty clichéd line. Later he remarks about quitting drinking as well. Then it’s pills. By the time the joke lands on sniffing glue, McCroskey is high as a kite. It is a reworking of a well-known trope.
4 “Joey, Do You Like Movies About Gladiators?”
Captain Lawrence Oveur
Sometimes the outlandish quotes are among the funniest. When a young boy comes to the airplane cockpit early in the flight, Captain Oveur tries to give the kid a friendly welcome, then proceeds to ask him a series of inappropriate questions. The exchange starts innocently enough, with the captain asking the boy, “You ever been in a cockpit before?” From there, the direction he takes the conversation is unexpected. The line about gladiator movies is so random in an already very strange scene, that it’s impossible not to laugh.
3 “And That, As Much As Anything Else, Led To My Drinking Problem.”
Many quotes serve as the perfect setup for a sight gag. One of the best gags is when the movie’s hero, Ted, is explaining his dark past, something his fellow passengers are regretting asking about. His experience in the Air Force left him haunted and, like many brooding movie heroes, he explains that he developed a drinking problem. Ted then takes a drink and completely misses his mouth, spilling the drink all over his head. It seems like such an obvious gag, but the reveal is one of the best jokes in the movie.
20 Best Parody Movies, Ranked
A great parody combines the familiar with the absurd, making for something truly hilarious and ranking them among the best.
2 “I Am Serious, And Don’t Call Me Shirley.”
Though Leslie Nielsen became a comedy movie icon, he was a relatively serious actor until Airplane! One of the movie’s most famous lines comes as Dr. Rumack asks Ted if he can fly the plane. Shocked, Ted says “Surely you can’t be serious.” Dr. Rumack responds with the iconic “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” It is a testament to Nielsen’s acting skills that he can deliver the line with such a straight face, but that makes it all the funnier and immediately cemented him as a comedy icon.
1 “Well, I’ll Give Him Another Twenty Minutes, But That’s It!”
Man in Taxi
Post-credit scenes are all the rage these days, but Airplane! perfected the use of them back before it was cool. Near the beginning of the movie, Ted is working as a cab driver and heads to the airport to try to talk to Elaine. As he does, he leaves his customer in the backseat with the meter running.
Ted unexpectedly boards the plane and the adventure unfolds. And the movie periodically cuts back to the poor man still waiting in the cab. After the credits roll, the movie sneaks in one more joke as the scene finds the man still waiting and beginning to suspect his driver might not return. It’s a forgotten gag that gets one of the biggest laughs.
- A man afraid to fly must ensure that a plane lands safely after the pilots become sick.
- Release Date:
- $3.5 million
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Julie Hagerty, Robert Hays, Leslie Nielsen
- Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
- 88 minutes
- Arthur Hailey, Hall Bartlett, John C. Champion, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
- Paramount Pictures
- Paramount Pictures