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Never Breach Etiquette, Even in the Face of Armageddon-8 Movie Moments

June 22, 2009

By Nat

1. Ask nicely—even when there’s a potential paranormal/environmental risk and it’s your job to be a prick.


Okay, let’s just get this one out of the way. Most of you already know the context, but for the woefully ignorant, here’s a quick recap: The ghostbusters go on a heavy Larry-King-filled montage of exterminating New York’s paranormals. After encasing them in CGI-looking lasers, they restrain the ghosts in a portable trap and store them in a dish-washer-looking thing in the basement of their headquarters.

Naturally, this draws the attention of the EPA, ably played by the guy who hated popcorn in Real Genius (William Atherton), who marches down to ghostbusters headquarters and demands to see the storage facility, concerned over its potential environmental threat. Pete Vankman (Bill Murray), the smoothest-talkingingest ghostbuster, diverts the EPA’s request to go downstairs by insisting they first use the magic word.

2. Pray—even when it lets your opponent kick you in the head.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

On his quest for the Holy Grail (Cup of the Carpenter), King Arthur (Graham Chapham) and his servant (Terry Gilliam) encounter a number of colorful Dark-Age denizens, but none so memorable as the uber-tenacious black knight (John Cleese).

After lopping off both of the Black Knight’s arms, Arthur kneels down to offer thanks to God for giving him the strength to defeat his foe…which in turn gives the Black Knight a chance to roundhouse Arthur’s head.

3. Share—even when you’ve just forced the person you’re sharing with into prostitution.

The Great Train Robbery

John Simms (Sean Connery) is a dashing 19th-Century con man plotting to heist a trainload of Crimean gold. To do so, he needs to score the four keys that open the gold’s safe. One of those keys is firmly attached to a chain around the neck of sleazy bank-dude Henry Fowler (Malcolm Trellis). Simms’ plan is to get Fowler naked (or at least naked enough to remove  the chain) by setting up a liaison between Fowler and Simms’ moll Mirriam (Lesley-Anne Down).

The problem is Mirriam’s not having it, and in this delightful scene she threatens, begs, and rails at Simms’ callousness for whoring her out—all the while Simms just sits there and takes it, coolly treats himself to an orange. At the end of the tirade, Simms casually dismisses everything Mirriam’s said with his simple offer of a slice.

4. Be kind to your mother—even when there’s a dying body in your trunk.


Psycho Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) and not-as-psycho Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) have just beaten the blart out of Billy Batts (Frank Vincent). Since Billy’s a made man and the boys aren’t, they could get killed if anyone finds out, so they have  to bury the body. The two, along with their boy Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) head to Tommy’s mommy’s (Martin Scorsese’s mommy) house to pick up some shovels.

When they get there, Tommy’s mom invites them in for dinner, and the three sit down to chat with Mrs. DeVito, who shows them some of her artwork while Tommy blithely explains that he hit a deer. Meanwhile, in the trunk, Billy’s still bleedin’ and his heart’s still beating.

5. Punctuate—even when the world and—much more importantly—the life of Eva Marie Saint is at stake.

North By Northwest

They’re on to you is the warning Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) writes to Eve Kendell (Eva Marie Saint), informing her that bad guy Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) and his effete henchman Leonard (Martin Landau) know she’s working for the CIA to stop Vandamm from smuggling a valuable reel of microfilm out of the country to sell to enemy spies.

And despite all the stakes, their insurmountable height, and the rapidly diminishing factor of time, Thornhill (who’s writing the message on one of his impeccably monogrammed matchbooks) still has the panache to properly punctuate the contraction of “they” and “are.” Truly a class act that should make any grammar-Nazi-girl swoon.

6. Never drink Dom Pérignon ’53 at a temperature above 38 degrees—even when you’re about to get laid.


It’s almost as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs. Skip to about 3:45 mark on this clip.

7. No blasphemy—even when you’re in a life-and-death race against Nazis over the fate of the world.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Despite the fact that people drown, burn, plummet, get shot at, stabbed, decapitated, gnawed on by rats, chopped up by luxury liner propellers, and even get…uh… aged to death, no other moment of violence in the entire film has such resonance as Sean Connery (Sean Connery) slapping Harrison Ford (Harrison Ford) for taking the Lord’s name in vain.

8. Use a match, not a lighter—even when all Hell is about to break loose.


Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his boss, bureaucrat Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor), have been on uneasy terms throughout the movie. Hellboy’s a paranormal investigator for a secret government agency specializing in the extermination of paranormal threats. Hellboy, being a…well…a boy from Hell is a bit unorthodox in his methods (though doesn’t that go without saying?), which puts him at odds with by-the-book Manning. But in this one scene, right after Hellboy saves Manning’s life from a brutal Nazi assassin made of sand (really!) and right before the guy who’s even worse than the brutal Nazi assassin made of sand possesses the Hell out everything to bring about the end of the world, Manning lightens up and gives Hellboy a tip on getting a better smoke from your cigar by lighting it with a match.

Jeffrey Tambor and Ron Perlman, the two greatest actors of this scene, take a simple etiquette lesson between a Hellspawn and a guy played by a Scientologist and make it the best part of a surprisingly good picture.


When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered—even when the strongest army in the Western world is bearing the Hell down on you.

—George Washington



One Response to “ Never Breach Etiquette, Even in the Face of Armageddon-8 Movie Moments ”

  1. jane on June 22, 2009 at 7:58 am

    There is nothing in North By Northwest that is not wonderful. Excellent post!