The late great John Candy had a way with comedy, and he had a way with words. So it’s no surprise that throughout his classic ‘80s movies, there’s a good number of quotes that still stick with fans to this very day. It’s time to celebrate that legacy, by running down the wit and wisdom found within some truly memorable quotes from Mr. Candy’s best movies.
“Who wants an orange whip? Orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips.” - The Blues Brothers (1980)
Playing as a part of the all-star cast in The Blues Brothers movie, Candy’s law enforcement agent wasn’t without a sense of humor. Not to mention, it was rather polite to offer his co-workers all orange whips on the job!
“You ever travel by bus before? Hmm. Your mood's probably not going to improve much.” - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
In buddy comedy scenarios, it’s all about knowing how to play your partner. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles puts that practice to the test in several ways, as John Candy gets to needle Steve Martin with lines such as this. Absolutely knowing that Neal isn’t going to take to bus travel very well, Del confirms as much with this well played, well timed moment.
“You might have noticed that, uh, I've got a slight weight problem.” - Stripes (1981)
Rather than giving John Candy a simple, self-deprecating fat joke, Stripes saw his character of Dewey “Ox” Oxenberg calling his larger body type out from the jump. Turning it all around into a fun punchline, this admission leads to Ox’s backstory, which is just as humorous as the reaction he provokes with this very line.
“What’s your record for consecutive questions asked?”- Uncle Buck (1989)
Between John Candy and Macaulay Culkin, Uncle Buck scored a late comedy hit for the ‘80s. Culkin’s interrogation of the equally straight-faced Candy still stands out as an iconic moment of rapid fire back and forth.
“Sorry folks, park’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya.” - National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
One of the best punchlines to a comedy movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation allowed John Candy to land a huge laugh with a very simple statement. The rest was history, especially with a patented Chevy Chase freak out in the mix.
“I'm a mog: half man, half dog. I'm my own best friend!” - Spaceballs (1988)
John Candy wasn’t always the smart alec with a sharp tongue. His humor also leaned in on the lovable and the absurd, with both factors colliding in Mel Brooks’ Star Wars spoof Spaceballs. Barf the Mog explains himself so clearly, but so adorably, that even John Candy's prosthetic issues couldn't stop him from delivering.
“She could probably speak English already. I think she was in shock from bein' arrested y'know.” - Splash (1984)
Initially Daryl Hannah’s mermaid in Splash didn’t seem to speak English when she met Tom Hanks’ lovesick Allen. After a quick TV spree Madison seems to pick up the language with no problems, which pays off in a couple of ways. One of which is John Candy getting to treat his on-screen brother to this theory of how that changed so quickly.
“Those aren’t pillows.” - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
The right line can lay out so many implications without needing to spell everything out. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles has one of those moments, which aptly pairs John Candy with Steve Martin, in a scene that slowly escalates into those three simple-but-audience-breaking words.
“Trapped in a tiger trap, by a tiger. This could be a setback.” - Volunteers (1985)
A little wordplay can go a long way, especially when this scenario from Volunteers saw John Candy’s Tom Tuttle outfoxed by a big cat. Capping his bewilderment off by writing it all off as a slight inconvenience, rather than a pretty big reversal, just makes it all the more amusing to hear Candy dance with this alliterative accident.
“You don’t want to eat in a place where there’s rats. And I just found some rats in the back!” - Summer Rental (1985)
Crusading for the little guy in 1985’s Summer Rental, John Candy’s Jack Chester leaves a seafood restaurant in a dramatic huff. After losing out on a table, and the remaining lobsters, to a snooty resident (Richard Crenna), Candy leaves the scene with this crazy last ditch attempt to sully the dining establishment’s name.
“Monty, this is Hackensack, NJ. No scout comes here, you understand that. Trains are going through the outfield right now.” - Brewster’s Millions (1985)
While the New Jersey baseball scene has changed, especially in the Minor Leagues, this Brewster’s Millions line is still pretty funny. This is especially true when taking into account John Candy and his joke about a rather inconvenient railway situation; which leads to a promise of drinking with his in-movie buddy, and pitcher for the Hackensack Bulls, Monty Brewster (Richard Pryor).
“Bear... bear... Big Bear... big bear chase meeeeeeee...!” - The Great Outdoors (1988)
John Candy plays exasperation like a pro, especially in the face of fear. So when he tried to warn his family in The Great Outdoors of a particularly big bear that was chasing him, the resulting advisory came out in fits and starts.
“Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face!” - Uncle Buck (1989)
Insults have always been something that John Candy has had a way with delivering. After defending his family against a particularly tough principal (Suzanne Shepherd), the character Uncle Buck gets its name from allows our hero to produce that very coin, and some stinging word of wisdom. You can't easily copy something like this; just ask anyone who remember ABC's short lived Uncle Buck series.
“My reputation precedes me. Otherwise I'd be late for all my appointments.” - Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989)
Believe it or not, a joke can be made funnier by its comedian’s laughter. Who’s Harry Crumb? gave John Candy a moment where that was proven to be true, as he drops this Marx Bros. style wisecrack, and chuckles at just about the time the audience would be laughing as well.
“Come on thru. I'm Joe Public, welcome to my beach.” - Summer Rental (1985)
It may be a simple gag that includes the help of a well placed sign, but that’s all John Candy needed to make this Summer Rental moment work. His dejected annoyance that a public beach entrance is right in the eye line of his family’s vacation digs lands without fail, right down to sarcastically proclaiming himself as “Joe Public.”
“It's not that you had too much to drink. You're just too skinny.” - Splash (1984)
Spoken with an air of academic assurance, John Candy gives Tom Hanks a firm reason as to why he hasn’t had enough to drink in 1984’s Splash. Candy’s lines paired with Hanks’ drunken despair makes waves in a movie that you can actually catch on streaming; albeit with some Disney+ friendly alterations.
“That's not a real gun, is it Clark?” - National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Chevy Chase terrorizes poor John Candy in National Lampoon’s Vacation with what looks like an actual gun. At least, he does so until the moment where Candy’s security guard character calls it out as a BB gun. A little bit of back and forth, plus a BB fired at John’s backside, makes for an excellent punchline to this running gag.
“Well sir, we were going to this bingo parlor at the YMCA, well one thing led to another, and the instructions got all fouled up…” - Stripes (1981)
Coming up with a good excuse that gets you and your buddies off the hook is always a valuable skill. But even Dewey “Ox” Oxenberg couldn’t vouch for his friends, especially when trying to explain their supposed “bingo night” is a feat he attempts while sporting still drying mud from a bikini wrestling incident.
“Our speedometer has melted and as a result it's very hard to say with any degree of accuracy exactly how fast we were going.” - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Excuses to get out of any sort of traffic ticket have to be creative and logical. This laugh line from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles falls into the first category, as John Candy makes this admission to Michael McKean, in the name of trying to get on the good side of his scene partner. Admittedly, while being very humorous, it’s not the best line to use on a cop during a traffic stop.
“I did it.” - The Great Outdoors (1988)
What else could anyone say after polishing off most of “The Old 96-er” from The Great Outdoors? Mr. Candy seemed to have won a battle with his iconic 96 oz. steak nemesis, and all that was left was to preemptively celebrate with a weak, but humorous cheer of victory.
“Nice dissolve.” - Spaceballs (1988)
Mel Brooks movies love to break the fourth wall ever so delicately in the name of laughs. Barf the Mog’s comment on the transition between scenes in Spaceballs stands as proof that such a gag can play like gangbusters. Provided, of course, you’ve got a legend like John Candy delivering the line.
“Sergeant, does this mean we're through for the day?” - Stripes (1981)
While Dewey “Ox” Oxenberg doesn’t deserve the throttling he gets from Sgt. Hulka (Warren Oates) in Stripes, it is the perfect button to this particular line. Ox’s innocent inquiry of whether his day in military training is done sets it all up for an expert payoff, showing that John Candy was just as funny teeing up a joke as he was taking the swing.
“If they told you wolverines would make good house pets, would you believe them?” - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Steve Martin’s Neal really tries to hold out hope for getting home to his family in time for Thanksgiving throughout every inch of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. While that’s not a bad thing, certain situations like hoping for a flight right before Thanksgiving need to be brought down a peg. Enter John Candy’s Del, who defuses such hopes with creative reference to dangerous animals.
“I'm Buck Melanoma. Moley Russell's wart.” - Uncle Buck (1989)
Over a decade before Austin Powers had his own run-in with a pronounced mole, and some tricky wordplay, Uncle Buck tangled with that scenario in a rather hysterical fashion. As John Candy’s character couldn't stop himself from blundering in reference to Anita Hogarth (Suzanne Shepherd) and her notable facial feature, we the audience got a nice little ramble that got him there in the end.
“I must warn you, Vince Barnes, I have a black belt in Aikido...and the boots to match.” - Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989)
Harry Crumb is a secret weapon when it comes to failing upwards. He’s also a master wordsmith who can drop a pithy line like this, and still do an impressive (stunt double assisted) backflip in Who’s Harry Crumb? If only he was that delicate around the Pterodactyl eggs he almost breaks in the process.
“With all this mess, that the radio’s the only thing that’s really working good. It’s clear as a bell!” - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Everything and anything happens to John Candy and Steve Martin during their Planes, Trains, and Automobiles journey. With an incident rendering their rental car a burnt out, open air cruiser in the middle of the midwestern fall, you have to admit Candy’s Del tries his best to convince a law enforcement officer (Michael McKean) that they’re still riding in a somewhat legal style.
“They’ve gone to Plaid.” - Spaceballs (1988)
Selling the absurd is a comedian’s job, and a movie like Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs had folks like John Candy lovingly putting in overtime. With this flick’s answer to hyperspace involving going to Plaid, the visuals were already there to make the joke stick the landing. But hearing Candy as Mog reinforcing things with his dialogue above really made the gag work like a charm.
“Say I wish you folks at home could see this. Seymour, where’d you get such a weeeeeeird plant?” - Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
In a brief appearance in the film version of Little Shop of Horrors, John Candy pulls out all the stops in setting up “Wink Wilkinson’s Weird World.” By time he introduced guest Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) and his strange and interesting plant Audrey II, even the mere elongation of the word “weeeeeeeeird” is turned into an easy laugh.
“You know, that may be worth something.” - Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989)
Never underestimate the power of a good deadpan delivery. In Who’s Harry Crumb?, our titular sleuth has no idea the paperweight he’s playing around with is a fossilized Pterodactyl egg. And yet when he’s informed of this fact, all he can muster is a strict and serious utterance that’s so sharp, it just makes the line sing even more.
“Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going?” - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
You wouldn’t be faulted for almost missing this line from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, as John Candy delivers it in the middle of a pretty busy sequence. However, if you’re a frequent watcher of this movie, you’d probably be able to enjoy it pretty easily; especially since Candy makes physical reference to this implication with a funny drinking motion.
“One.” - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Getting a temperature check on your journey is as easy as looking at your dashboard these days. But in the days of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, it wasn't always that easy. Especially when Del (John Candy) and Neal (Steve Martin) are riding in the back of an uncovered truck. When Neal poses that question on a particularly cold day, Del's response of "One" may not be a warm though, but it's certainly a comedic ice breaker.
"I bet you fifty bucks any one of those guys could tell you where Jimmy Hoffa is buried!” - Armed and Dangerous (1986)
There are two John Candy jokes that any one from New Jersey would especially appreciate. One is a joke in Brewster's Millions about the state of Jersey minor league baseball. The other is this gag from Armed and Dangerous, a movie teamed Candy with former SCTV partner Eugene Levy. It goes over as well as one would hope.
In a career that saw so many iconic roles and fun John Candy trivia come to pass, the actor still has a treasure trove of memorable '80s moments that truly shine. They will continue to live on for years to come, so long as people are ready to laugh with a man who made laughter so very easy to come by.