Scenes that were serious back then but risible now

I just got back from a public screening of The Fellowship of the Ring at a local movie theatre. When Sean Bean delivered Boromir’s much-parodied line, “One does not simply walk into Mordor!”, the entire auditorium erupted into peals of laughter.

What other scenes or snippets of dialogue from movies, TV shows, or books were taken completely seriously upon their release, but nowadays elicit sniggers?

Damnation Alley: The town’s infested with killer cockroaches!

At least, I think it was meant to be serious!

“There is a herd of killer rabbits headed out way and we desperately need your help!” – Night of the Lepus

Clearly intended to be serious, but people laughed at it from the beginning.

Angel was a pretty cheesy movie (it’s about a high school student who also works as a prostitute). But when one character gets stabbed and another character is yelling “Don’t you dare die on me!” the line was original and hadn’t yet become a cliche.

I mean there is nothing particular cheesy or risible about that scene IMO (as far as I remember its been a while). Its just its been meme-ified to the point where the meme is more memorable than the original scene.

Some of the Nicolas Cage memes might could scenes might count, except for the “serious back then” part.

Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). When the nightmares of the protagonist, representing despair and terror, appear on-screen, there are sequences that are animated and now look way out of place. Younger students of film in a class I attended in the 00’s busted into laughter.

Yes, that’s exactly my point. What was originally intended by the filmmakers, and understood by the audience, as a completely serious scene has since been parodied by memes over and over to the point where it’s hard to watch it today without chuckling.

@RealityChuck’s example doesn’t really fit the parameters of this discussion, since people always laughed at Officer Lopez’s line, even if the writers didn’t intend for that to happen. Back in 2001 nobody was laughing at Boromir.

“Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

Another oldie but goody:

The nowadays clearly hilarious bit in the old classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951) when the doctors finished the examination of Klaatu at the hospital:

DOCTOR ONE: "How old do you think he is?
DOCTOR TWO: Oh, I’d say 35, 38.
DOCTOR ONE: He told me this morning while I was examining him. He’s 78.
DOCTOR TWO: Oh, I don’t believe it.
DOCTOR ONE: Life expectancy in his planet is a hundred and thirty.
DOCTOR TWO: Well, how does he explain that?

[Doctors begin to light cigarettes and start smoking in the hospital!]

DOCTOR ONE: He says their medicine is that much more advanced. He was very nice about it, but he made me feel like a third-class witch doctor!"* [puffs his cigarette]


There’s a scene in Diamonds are Forever where Sean Connery’s James Bond is about to sleep with Jill St John’s Tiffany Case. The scene is supposed to be sexy, but it’s clear that Connery at this point is completely out of shape and especially so in today’s action star world where every hero has a six pack, what would have been seen back then as a serious lovemaking scene is now rendered hilarious since we now have much higher expectations/standards of fitness for James Bond especially.

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” Not a particularly serious scene, but sincere.

Hey, that was serious.

At least, to 9 year-old me, who had nightmares about the guy getting in the car with the flesh-eating cockroaches for weeks afterward.


A lot of The Godfather I’d say qualifies now. “I gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” and “Luca Brasci sleeps with the fishes” have been parodied and referenced so often they are part of the language.

I’m not sure any audiences took Reefer Madness seriously, even back in 1936, but the level of giggling evidently ramped up in a major way by the 1960s.

The original D.O.A. with Edmond O’Brien has a scene with jazz fiends in a nightclub getting rapturously into the music which was serious or even shocking in 1950 but is hilarious now.

Ditto nightclub or celebratory scenes in a host of films from the 1930s-1950s where everyone is dancing and drinking amid dense clouds of cigarette smoke. “Dang, those white folks sure knew how to party!”

Not altogether serious originally but funny in a different sense now: in Goldfinger, our eponymous villain is playing golf – attired in an even-then-outdated (I think) version of a Scottish golfing outfit – against Bond, with Oddjob, who is attired in (deadly) bowler hat and formal jacket, working as his caddy. “You must forgive my caddy, Mr. Bond,” says Goldfinger. “Golf is not yet the national game of Korea.”

In Deliverance, the rape scene is supposed to be horrifying. Now everyone just laughs at the “squeal like a pig” line.

I’ve never understood why “It’s a trap!” is supposed to be so knee-slappingly hilarious.

Probably any of the tropes from Bond count. Most especially any of the “Before I kill you in the most elaborate way possible I will tell you my whole plan, Mr Bond” scenes

TvTropes calls this the “Seinfeld Is Unfunny” trope - a work is so often copied and parodied that it comes to seem hackneyed and derivative. When I saw The Maltese Falcon, I thought it was a mishmash of hardboiled detective noir cliches. And it was - because it established those cliches in the first place.