The first Dirty Harry movie came out at a time when city violence was at an all-time high. The 1970s was a turbulent period for the United States, and its movies reflected the angst and nihilism of the decade as major problems sprung up both around the world and right here at home. Super actor/director Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of Harry Callahan was a flashpoint for fierce debates about the nature of policing in a city gone to the dogs.
The franchise wasn’t all about anti-hero actioneering, but social commentary as well. Each film looked at a particular issue from the points of view of both the law, and the victims in question. This sparked some great dialogue, and quite a few memorable quotes to go along with it. If nothing else, it proves that policing is far from a black and white affair.
Updated on August 2nd, 2021 by Derek Draven: The Dirty Harry movie franchise might be long gone, but the spirit lives on with a series of memorable and iconic quotes by the titular character. Harry Callahan is one of the grumpiest, most nihilistic cops on the beat, but his no-nonsense approach to police work, and his straight-up black and white view of law and order is refreshingly charming. The films attempted to show life as a cop from their perspective, and the kinds of things they have to deal with on a daily basis. The frustration and cynicism of Callahan’s character can be felt in every one of his quotes, whether sarcastic or serious.
15 [Jennifer] “You’re Either A Cop, Or Public Enemy Number One.” [Harry] “Some People Might Say Both.”
In Sudden Impact, Callahan gets roped up in a case involving Jennifer Spencer, a traumatized victim who takes a page out of the scariest female-driven revenge movies of all time. When the two cross paths, they’re immediately drawn to each other, even if she’s a bit reluctant to trust him so soon.
The two share this exchange, which is typical Harry Callahan. He seems all-too-willing to acknowledge that he’s both a cop and a human wrecking ball that tends to rack up enormous damage costs to the city. It’s part of the reason he’s always in so much trouble with the top brass.
14 “You’re Out Of Bullets. And You Know What That Means – You’re S*** Outta’ Luck!”
The fifth and final Dirty Harry film tried to send Callahan off with a literal bang, giving him a few memorable quotes to work with. This one is particularly iconic since it encapsulates everything that made the character such a cultural icon since his debut in 1971.
Harry started out as an opinionated, grumpy detective who puts criminals in the ground on an almost daily basis. By the time The Deadpool was released, not much had changed. He was still living in an ever-changing world, but that didn’t stop him from taking aim and blowing criminals away who were out to harm others.
13 “Opinions Are Like A*******. Everybody Has One.”
This popular phrase is now practically part of the cultural lexicon, but Harry Callahan beat everyone to the punch decades ago. Not one to mince words, Harry was used to distilling people down to their core elements in a short space of time, or as a means to intimidate anyone he didn’t like.
Here, he makes an accurate, albeit crude analysis of the human condition, and why society has so much trouble getting along. At the end of the day, everyone has their own opinion on how things ought to be done and run, but only the effectiveness of said methods really matters.
12 “It’s A Question Of Methods. Everybody Wants Results, But Nobody Wants To Do What They Have To Do To Get Them Done.”
Harry was known for doing whatever it took to get the job done, within reason. He acted on instinct and impulse, with property damage following in his wake. Fortunately, his instincts proved to be correct nine times out of ten, and his actions saved lives, even if they ended up violating the rules.
Here, he makes a case for the need to deal with the more insidious elements of the criminal underworld by doing things nobody wants to talk about. While Callahan was certainly not a vigilante, he knew that criminals never play by the same rule book as cops do.
11 “Why Don’t You Call Them Right Now And Have Them Send Down An Ambulance. Tell Them There’s Two Sorry-Looking A******* Here With Multiple Contusions And Various Abrasions And Broken Bones.”
This quote is classic Callahan to a T. While his disenfranchised view of the law and day-in, day-out dealings with the worst elements of society must have taken its toll, Callahan never lost his sense of (very) dry humor. After taking out a couple of thugs, he phones up the local emergency line and utters this funny quote.
It’s the perfect thing for a man like Callahan to say and definitely sums up his view of criminals. Laying insult to injury, he acts within the confines of the law in order to get them patched out when anyone else in his frame of mind might have simply pulled the trigger.
10 “Nothing Wrong With Shooting, As Long As The Right People Get Shot.”
In Harry’s world, everything operated under a system of rationality and common sense. Commit a crime, and get punished. It was as simple as that. In Magnum Force, Harry utters this quote while discussing police marksmanship with another officer. It’s simple and straightforward, which sums up Callahan’s entire personality.
Harry had been involved in many scuffles over the length of his career, but he always knew when to draw a gun, and when to simply punch a suspect’s lights out. When the former became an inevitable scenario, he didn’t hesitate in pulling the trigger, knowing full well that in his mind, the shooting was entirely justified.
9 “Well, I’m All Broken Up About That Man’s Rights!”
Callahan wasn’t the least bit concerned with the well-being of the Scorpio killer, and he realized that the current system of law was responsible for bogging down the case in so much legal red tape that it ended up costing the life of an innocent woman. After successfully tracking and arresting Scorpio, Callahan thought he would serve jail time for the death of the young girl he kidnapped.
Unfortunately, he was chewed out for the use of police brutality and denial of the Scorpio’s rights, despite his psychotic and sadistic nature. Callahan uttered this quote with angry sarcasm while wondering why the legal system was more concerned about Scorpio’s “rights” than the brutal death of an innocent young girl.
8 “Briggs, I Hate The Goddamn System! But Until Someone Comes Along With Changes That Make Sense, I’ll Stick With It!”
This quote came courtesy of Magnum Force, which pitted Callahan against a group of rogue police officers who took a page from Hollywood vigilante revenge flicks and dispensed their own brand of justice. It put him in a very precarious position since he himself loathed the system he was forced to operate within, and frequently bent the rules to get the job done.
These cops crossed a line Harry would never have dreamt of, however. When confronted by the ringleader Briggs, Callahan speaks this quote which sums up his frustration and reluctant dedication to the oath he took as a police officer, even if it meant letting criminals off the hook.
7 “Now You Know Why They Call Me ‘Dirty Harry’. I Get Every Dirty Job That Comes Along.”
Harry Callahan’s newest partner Chico Gonzalez spends his first few days trying to figure out why everyone calls him “Dirty Harry.” Several theories pop up before the two are called in to deal with a suicide jumper on top of a building. Callahan decides to take the job by going up onto the ledge, presumably to talk him down.
Instead, he uses a humorous bit of reverse psychology to get the jumper to attack him. After punching him in the face and knocking him out to save his life, Callahan returns to Gonzalez and speaks this quote, which finally sheds some light on his nickname.
6 “A Man’s Got To Know His Limitations.”
The final act of Magnum Force features Callahan taking out the rogue group of cops in one final showdown. When the act is done, Harry returns to a car, only to be confronted by the ringleader Briggs. Rather than kill Callahan, he reveals that he intends to frame him for murder, and prosecute him using the same system he hates.
Unbeknownst to Briggs, Callahan activates a mailbox box bomb which triggers when Briggs drives off, thinking he’s won. Callahan watches the explosion before uttering this quote, which is a fitting end to the renegade cop crew.
5 “Here’s A Seven Point Suppository, Captain!”
It’s safe to say that Harry Callahan had little patience for authority figures, primarily because they had a tendency to jam him up and prevent him from doing his work the way he wanted to. Yet, the world was changing, and Callahan couldn’t quite keep up with the laundry list of new laws that seemed to protect criminals more and more while leaving cops and citizens left to hold the bag.
In The Enforcer, Harry takes his insubordination to a new level when Captain McKay gives him a sixty-day suspension, which quickly blossoms into one hundred and eighty. Enraged by the decision, Harry hands him his badge and delivers this hilarious quote, before dumbing it down with a follow-up that Captain McKay could understand better.
4 “You Know What Makes Me Really Sick To My Stomach? Is Watching You Stuff Your Face With Those Hot Dogs! Nobody, I Mean Nobody Puts Ketchup On A Hot Dog!”
Harry Callahan had seen the worst society had to offer as cop working in San Francisco, and by all accounts, it should have gotten to him more than it did. Yet, he always clung to a twisted sense of humor in order to deal with it all, which might have been enough to keep him teetering on the side of good.
When a fellow cop asks him if the carnage is getting to him, Harry goes off on a rant about the rising crime, the horrible acts of violence, and a government mired in bureaucracy. He then drops this quote and reveals what really bothers him more than anything, which is one of the most hilarious moments of the franchise.
3 “Cause He Looks Too Damn Good, That’s How!”
In the first Dirty Harry film, things got personal between Callahan and the Scorpio killer, especially after the latter was let off a murder charge based on improper police procedure. Callahan made it his mission to shadow the Scorpio anywhere he went during his off-hours, prompting the killer to take drastic measures.
He paid someone to beat his face to a pulp, then ran in front of the media to try and frame Callahan. When his superiors suspected him of doing the deed, he proclaimed his innocence. When they asked why, Callahan replied with this quote, which is both hilarious, and intimidating at the same time.
2 “Go Ahead. Make My Day!”
Most Dirty Harry fans recognize this quote as the semi-ultimate, and it’s gone down as one of the most iconic in movie history, which is no small feat for a single action franchise. In fact, it might be one of the most defining quotes of the cops and robbers movie genre ever committed to film.
Clint Eastwood defines this popular quote, which his character utters for the first time when a diner is held up in the middle of the afternoon. Rather than back down from the thugs inside, he confidently points his trusty .44. Magnum, and drops this quote that would intimidate even the seediest criminal.
1 “You’ve Gotta’ Ask Yourself A Question. ‘Do I Feel Lucky?’ Well Do Ya…PUNK?”
This quote comes straight from the titular first film during the most iconic moment in the entire Dirty Harry franchise. Callahan first utters it after a dangerous shootout with a gang of bank robbers in the middle of the afternoon, only to repeat it when he faces down the Scorpio in the final act.
In the first instance, the thug didn’t feel very lucky, but in the second instance, Scorpio clearly did. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out well when Callahan shot him dead in the chest with an explosively powerful .44 Magnum round, ending his terror campaign for good.
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