The 10 Best Retorts in Science Fiction and Fantasy

A properly-delivered snappy line can be so good that it's worth whatever hardship prompted it in the first place. Usually it's the line you think of two weeks after being insulted. In science fiction and fantasy, with the benefit of a script, it's delivered right on time, and in every imaginable situation. Take a look at the very best zingers in science fiction and fantasy.

10. Bender's Got a Gutter Mouth

The Situation: Bender, hooked on electricity, goes to a sleazy drug den, gets his fix, and then is so disoriented that he falls down and literally rolls in the gutter, unable to get up. The reverend of the Church of Robotology passes by and sees him.

The Pitch: "Wretched sinner unit! The path to robot heaven lies here ... in The Good Book 3.0."

The Home Run: "Hey! Do I preach to you when you're lying stoned in the gutter? No! So beat it!"

This is just the kind of thing you want to tell anyone who ever gives you unwanted advice, which at one point in time or another, is everyone. Just keep moving people. No one wants you standing over us, neat and righteous, while we're at our worst. Have the courtesy to steadfastly ignore the misery of your fellow humans.

The 10 Best Retorts in Science Fiction and Fantasy


9. Inigo's Other Line

The Situation: Inigo Montoya has nearly been defeated in a duel to avenge his father's life, turned the tables on the evil Count Rugen, and they begin the process of bargaining.

The Pitch:
Inigo - "Offer me money."
Count Rugen - "Yes!"
Inigo - "Power, too. Promise me that."
Count Rugen: "All that I have and more! Please!"
Inigo - "Offer me anything I ask for."
Count Rugen - "Anything you want."

The Homerun: "I want my father back, you son of a bitch."

What I like about this is Inigo set up his own come back, knowing that the guy would have no choice to play along. Generally, this would be unfair, but he did work for twenty years frantically searching and had a gut wound from the Count's throwing knife, so really, I'll let it slide.

8. Captain Mal is Literary

The Situation: Captain Mal Reynolds, intrepid space mercenary, is hiding a troubled young girl wanted by the evil Alliance. The Alliance has sent their evil Operative to retrieve the girl, and the man confronts Cap'n Mal, and tries to persuade him to hand her over.

The Pitch: "That girl will rain destruction down on you and your ship. She is an albatross, Captain."

The Homerun: "Way I remember it, albatross was a ship's good luck, 'til some idiot killed it."

BAM! You just got Rime-slapped. That's what you get for altering the context of Coleridge. In the poem, the albatross around the neck was a sign of the burden of guilt, not just any burden. You changed it around, you got burned. Take that.

The 10 Best Retorts in Science Fiction and Fantasy


7. Worf Finally Gets Something Right

The Situation: Q, the omnipotent trickster being is stripped of his powers and dumped on the Enterprise, asking for asylum. The crew, understandably, thinks he's trying to play them. Q tries to convince them and Worf replies.

The Pitch: "I have no powers! Q the ordinary. Q the miserable, Q the desperate! What must I do to convince you people?"

The Homerun: "Die."

Oh, Worf. You never do or say anything right. There's an entire internet meme of your stupid, knee-jerk suggestions getting shut down. The empath counselor in the slinky dress got more suggestions listened to than you, and she was useless. Finally you have gotten a line that's true to character, smart, and funny. Of course, no one listened to you, but that's your lot.

6. The Futurama Crew Owns PETA

The Situation: Finding some edible 'somethings' on an alien planet, the group sells them as 'popplers.' The popplers get picked up by a chain store, which makes people rich, but gets the attention of Mankind for Ethical Animal Treatment. The group protests the idea.

The Pitch: "You can't own property, man."

The Homerun: "I can, but that's because I'm not a penniless hippie."

The Pitch: "We're with Mankind for Ethical Animal Treatment. Popplers are living creatures. You gotta stop harvesting them for food, or we'll boycott!"

The Homerun: "You're vegetarians. Who cares what you do?"

The Pitch: "The point is you shouldn't eat animals that feel pain."

The Homerun: *along with a well-thrown brick* "Okay, we won't eat you."

Do we really need to explain the consistent awesomeness? Take that, parody of people who care about animals but have no sense of appropriate behavior!

The 10 Best Retorts in Science Fiction and Fantasy


5. Carol Ferris Finally Gets it Right

The Situation: Hal Jordan has just saved Carol Ferris from certain death in the first half of the Green Lantern movie. Now he is floating over her office, fishing for hero worship and compliments. She, of course, recognizes him. He seems incredulous.

The Pitch: "How did you know it was me?"

The Homerun: "What do you mean? I've known you my whole life! I've seen you naked! You don't think I would recognize you because I can't see your cheekbones?"

Oh. My. God. Finally. I know it's a trope, but it was particularly silly this movie, where the costume was quite literally nonexistent. I feel like I could recognize Ryan Reynolds by the torso impression he would leave if he were to fall face down in soft mud. This was an easy pitch, but the sharp sarcasm was needed.

4. Captain Jack Sparrow Makes a Good Point

The Situation: Captain Jack Sparrow, who has just saved the life of the governor's daughter, has been discovered as a pirate and is being arrested. His belongings are being cataloged by the evil Norrington, who mocks both Jack and his possessions.

The Pitch: "No additional shot nor powder, a compass that doesn't point north, and I half expected [the sword] to be made of wood. You are without doubt the worst pirate I've ever heard of."

The Homerun: "But you have heard of me."

The opposite of love isn't hate it's indifference! You care, Norrington. Deep down, you care. You will more in the three movies - and something like seven hours of film - to come, but already he has scored a point.

The 10 Best Retorts in Science Fiction and Fantasy


3. Men In Black's Philosophy of Love

The Men in Black, a clandestine organization that manages and maintains secrecy for the tens of thousands of alien refugees inhabiting Earth, requires that their members give up their civilian identities in their entirety. For one of them, Kay, that meant up giving up the girl he loved decades ago. When a new member, Jay, finds out about this, he tries to comfort Kay.

The Pitch: "You know what they say. It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

The Homerun: "Try it."

Yes. Do try it. This is a perfect response to people giving meaningless and insulting platitudes as a way of making themselves better while working their mouths.

2. Hermione Granger's Got Her Priorities Straight

The Situation: In The Order of the Phoenix, Hermione and her Gryffindor housemates talk about Quidditch, Hermione being of the opinion that it's a boring and nigh-incomprehensible sport that always stops a narrative dead in its tracks. (Or something like that.) The others are incredulous at her indifference.

The Pitch: ""Hermione, you're good on feelings and stuff, but you just don't understand about Quidditch."

The Homerun: "Maybe not but at least my happiness doesn't depend of Ron's goalkeeping ability."

And Harry Potter gets shut down. How does your mother's love defend you against this, Harry? Not at all. And she makes a good point (though a frustrating one for sports fans). Loving sports means hanging your happiness on the athletic ability and sturdy ankles of complete strangers.


1. Bender Invites You To Do Something

The Situation: Anything.

The Pitch: Anything.

The Homerun: "Bite my shiny metal ass."

Look, sometimes you top a list with a spectacular set piece. Sometimes, though, you have to use the most completely utilitarian piece in your arsenal. This can be used at any time, in any place, for any reason, including filler. It's the blue jeans of insults, and not giving it context just makes it funnier and more appropriate. This is a burn to be used by all, at any time, and if anyone has a problem with that . . . well . . . you know what you can do.