Classic (And Not-So-Classic) Movie Scenes You Probably Only Know From Memes

Popular memes often come directly from movies. Some of these memes come from classic movies we all recognize, but other memes have become far more popular than the movies that inspired them. Even though these memes have circulated across the internet, many people still can’t name the movie or describe the scene they came from. Quite often, the meme and the way it's used have a completely different context than the original movie scene.

So if you've ever wondered about the origins of some of your favorites, like the Nicolas Cage "You don't say!" meme, or the Antonio Banderas laptop reaction meme, this list has got you covered.

  • How it's used: This meme is literally used for finger-pointing, to call someone out when they're doing something wrong. Like when someone is using incorrect grammar. Or, when someone is pointing out that someone else is using incorrect grammar. It can also be used to express a general frustration with something in life. But people use memes in all sorts of ways. Like many of the other memes on this list, this one can be used either sincerely or ironically.

    The scene in context: It comes from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 1978 remake of a 1956 film about an alien plot to infiltrate society by impersonating humans. The scene happens at the end of the film, when (spoiler) the aliens have indeed snatched Matthew's (Sutherland’s) body. In this scene, Matthew is alerting his alien allies about the presence of his former friend, the still-human Nancy. Matthew isn't actually speaking in the clip, but uttering an inhuman, high-pitched shriek. In context, it’s not so much an accusation as an act of snitching.

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  • How it's used: To express concern, followed by immediate relief. For example, if you saw a trending rumor that your favorite celebrity passed away, then found out it was just a hoax. 

    The scene in context: It's from the 1998 Denzel Washington thriller Fallen, in which he plays John Hobbes, a detective who captured a serial killer and is now investigating a copycat. In the scene, Hobbes and another detective, Jonesy (John Goodman), are having a deep conversation about the purpose of existence. Hobbes is contemplating his answer when the phone rings. He jokingly puts his hand on his chest in relief, like he's been let off the hook. 

    Like most things on the internet, memes have only a few seconds to grab attention and get their point across. It makes sense that the meme version of "relief" would come from a scene in which Denzel was exaggerating that emotion for comedic effect. Memes and subtlety don't really go together.

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  • How it's used: Showing approval or agreement. Can also be used to illustrate a situation that went your way.

    The scene in context: After this meme became popular, many people assumed the man in the meme was Zach Galifianakis. Usually, nobody would ever mistake Robert Redford for Zach Galifianakis, but Redford's big beard and shaggy, unkempt hair sort of does resemble Galifianakis in an unaired Tim and Eric sketch. The scene comes from Redford's 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson. Redford plays the eponymous Jeremiah "Liver-Eating" Johnson, a veteran of the Mexican-American War who becomes a fur trapper in the Rocky Mountains. He's nodding because he's just successfully caught a fish, proving to his family that they'll be able to survive in the wilderness.

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  • Roll Safe, AKA The Head-Tapping Guy, 'Hood Documentary'

    Roll Safe, AKA The Head-Tapping Guy, 'Hood Documentary'
    Photo: BBC Three

    How it's used: This meme is mainly used for jokes in the form of a supposedly clever tip that's actually based on a flaw in logic. Can also be used to share a sincere tip or life hack. 

    The scene in context: It looks like it's from a forgotten 1980s comedy, but it's actually from a British web series called Hood Documentary, a parody of "urban culture" documentaries that aired on BBC Three in 2015. Creator and star Kayode Ewumi plays Reece Simpson, AKA "Roll Safe," a wannabe up-and-coming rapper/actor/famous person who's also the star of a reality show chronicling his misadventures. In this scene, Roll Safe is waiting for a date to show up and telling the camera people why he likes her. He claims to appreciate her intelligence, then makes what he thinks is a clever double entendre about the good "head" on her shoulders, and finally taps his head as if to say, "Get it???"

  • Nicolas Cage's Creepy Smile, 'Vampire's Kiss'

    Nicolas Cage's Creepy Smile, 'Vampire's Kiss'
    Photo: Hemdale

    How it's used: It can be used to express genuine surprise. More commonly, it's used sarcastically after someone points out something everyone else already knows as if it's new information. So if someone says, "Did you know the nodding bearded guy from the meme is Robert Redford and not Zach Galifianakis," reply with this meme and a hearty, "You don't say!" Basically, it's an updated version of the "O RLY?!" meme. 

    The scene in context: It comes from the 1989 horror-comedy Vampire's Kiss. Nicolas Cage plays Peter Loew, an '80s yuppie literary agent. During a one-night stand, Peter gets bitten and thinks he's turning into a vampire, and his sanity quickly unravels. At work he becomes even more belligerent than he already was, focusing mainly on Alva the office admin. In the scene in question, Peter has called Alva into his office to berate her - just because he can - after she failed to locate a contract from 1963. The meme doesn't come from one particular moment in the scene. His face looks like that for the whole scene, because this is Nicolas Cage we're talking about here.

  • How it's used: For throwing shade. It's especially useful for responding to something that's not worth arguing, like a brag or an attempt at trolling. Like all effective shade, this meme clearly communicates to the recipient exactly what you think of them, while still letting you plausibly deny that you're a jerk. 

    The scene in context: Many of us first learned how to throw shade from Marcia Brady, so it makes sense that a scene from A Very Brady Sequel would become the all-purpose Throwing Shade meme. In the scene, Jan is once again seeking her older sister's approval by claiming she's just gotten a new boyfriend named George Glass. Marcia replies that she's "never heard of a George Glass," lets Jan lie some more, and finally delivers a devastating "Sure, Jan," thoroughly destroying her self-esteem.

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