As the sun sets on the 2010s, we’re entering our second decade as a culture of memes, a culture in which so many of us are Extremely Online and share a library of references and jargon that don’t exist outside these weird little boxes into which we type.
Over the past decade, memes and discourse became as much a part of the pop culture experience as watching a film or TV show. Many of these texts took on a life outside the medium by being endlessly quoted online, rarely in context. To celebrate, we picked our favorite film/TV quotes from the 2010s — all of which transcended the original piece of work and became inextricably woven into online culture.
“We need to go deeper”
Believe it or not, Inception was this decade. Along with the iconic musical cue known as “BWAHHH,” this film also gave us the concept of dream levels, in which the characters traveled deeper and deeper within their mark’s subconscious in order to carry out their mission. The words “We have/need to go deeper” don’t actually appear in the movie in that order, but the urgency is ever-present as characters discuss going deeper in some way. When paraphrased, it just means we have to find out more, to keep working, to get to the bottom of whatever is irking us, like how this movie ended.
“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”
The Social Network had plenty of quotable moments (Aaron Sorkin has a reputation to protect, after all), including but not limited to “Drop the ‘the'” and “You better lawyer up, asshole,” but perhaps the most fun to quote in the right context is this one. I am not what one would call financially savvy, but I do know one thing: A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.
“I am the one who knocks”
In 2011, before we had the vocabulary to describe memes in popular culture (they existed on Tumblr, iykyk), Walter White started an early one with his chilling declaration that “I am the one who knocks.” Who can run from danger when they have become danger themselves?
“Treat yo self”
Before there was self-care as a concept and industry, there was “treat yo self” — the idea that you can put yourself first and indulge a little, if only once a year. As co-opted by Parks and Recreation viewers and wider culture after this Season 4 episode, “treat yo self” became synonymous with carte blanche; I’m buying the thing, going to the place, doing whatever the heck I want, because “treat yo self.” It’s an airtight argument.
“Help me, I’m poor”
Bridesmaids delivered plenty of scenes with an alchemical balance of cringeworthy moments and outright hilarity, including this one: Annie (Kristen Wiig) mixes alcohol and pills for her uneasy flying, and ends up causing such a ruckus on the bridesmaids’ flight to Las Vegas that the plane is diverted and their party kicked off. Among its many gems, the plane sequence includes Annie’s “Help me, I’m poor,’ a deeply sarcastic dig at rich Helen (Rose Byrne) and her patronizing nature that sets Annie’s teeth on edge.
“I volunteer as tribute”
Like The Handmaid’s Tale, anything from The Hunger Games is grim as hell, to be deployed only with heavy irony and humor — like when a company wants to give away a year’s supply of free candy or you find out that Chris Evans is single. May the odds be ever in your favor.
“You merely adopted the darkness”
The Dark Knight Rises struggled to live up to its predecessor in every way, but it did give us a great entry of Tom Hardy speaking in a voice that isn’t his own and spouting this iconic line. The “darkness” part is optional; whatever the thing is, you were born into it, molded by it. Whoever you’re talking to merely adopted it. Poseur.
“You had my curiosity, now you have my attention”
Like “You merely adopted the darkness,” this Django Unchained quote benefits from its highly-specific word choice and inflection, but applies in any number of situations. Friends arguing over plans and finally landing on something fun? Use it. A movie just cast your favorite celebrity crush? Use it. Dems finally starting an impeachment inquiry? Use it.
“Not great, Bob.”
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) made a three-syllable case for his character in Mad Men‘s Season 6 finale, three words that rapidly took on a life of their own beyond the show. “Not great, Bob” requires absolutely no context to be enjoyed. I was today years old when I learned that Pete says it after learning his mother has died, and only through ~journalistic research~ did I find out that Bob himself is James Wolk. [Editor’s note: Watch Mad Men!]
“Surprise, bitch. Thought you’d seen the last of me?”
Whether you fell off American Horror Story after Season 1 or know every backstory and detail of Ryan Murphy’s sprawling gory anthology, you’ve stumbled across a “Surprise, bitch” online or in the wild. The line — uttered by Emma Roberts’ Madison Montgomery when she appears to have risen from the dead — is applicable to literally any situation in which one party is surprised and the other is extremely smug.
“I am the captain now”
If you’ve actually seen Captain Phillips, then good on you for doing the extra research into exactly when and how to use this quote. The rest of us will coast on our trailer knowledge alone and happily quote this whenever our bosses temporarily leave us in charge.
“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
You’d think this would be a phrase one can only use in conversation with Jon Snow, but it is not! Whenever someone knows nothing, we invoke the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and the only thing he knows. Keeping Jon’s name in there makes the reference explicit, unless you’re committing fully to a strong and convincing Northern English accent. You knuh nothin’, Jon Snuhhh.
We all want to be seen and acknowledged for our actions. We all want to be witnessed. When the war boys in Mad Max: Fury Road spray their mouths with chrome spray paint to get a manic buzz and amp themselves up for what is usually a fiery act of self sacrifice, they yell “witness me,” like we all yell internally when we post on social media.
Within House of Cards itself, Claire’s (Robin Wright) first time breaking the fourth wall was an immense gamechanger. In the months that followed, the #MeToo movement swelled in and out of Hollywood, including allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct leveled at House of Cards star Kevin Spacey himself. Netflix acted quickly; Frank Underwood was out, and Claire was in, making it quite literally Robin Wright’s turn at the top of the show’s billing before its seventh and final season. “My turn” became a rallying cry for victims sharing their stories and the oppressed taking back power after years of losing it to corrupt forces.
“Under his eye”
It’s dark as hell to invoke a hyperpatriarchal dystopia, but the last few years of this decade have given us sufficient occasion to feel like we were hurtling towards an autocratic nightmare — and under his eye, of all eyes.
“That’s hella tight”
Lady Bird began the inevitable wave of early-2000s nostalgia. While Timothee Chalamet’s Kyle is a fuckboy who transcends any time period, he lures in Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) when they first meet by reading a book and respecting her rebellious streak with this extremely 2002 phrase.
“How come, Chief Willoughby”
This quote from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has the darkest origin story on this list, but it’s yet another that grew salient outside the film itself. In Three Billboards, this is the text on the final billboard; an appeal for justice from grieving mother Mildred (Frances McDormand) for the rape and murder of her daughter. On the internet, the joke comes from seeking justice from entirely non-serious crimes, like how Saturday Night Live never gave our New York team tickets to see Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Taylor Swift on the show. How come, Chief Willoughby?
Kellen Beck contributed to this article.