Cinema might be my favorite art form, just as making lists of specific subsets of things I like is my favorite hobby. After viewing a number of movies on a date with a very cute person the other day, I noticed that every film I had ever seen – action-adventures, comedies, romances – all of them had one or more pivotal scenes on a phone. Some were good. Many were not. But in my own, not-at-all humble view, the best and hopefully most famous, in no meaningful order, are below.
1. Die Hard:
When everyman John McClane realizes the existential threat to his wife’s life, he calls 9-1-1. The police insist that the line is for genuine emergencies only. His response? “What do you think I’m doing, ordering a ****ing pizza?!”
A classic scene I’m sure you’ll recognize, and styled after the original in When A Stranger Calls, but as I saw Scream first, it has more immediate emotional poignancy with me. Drew Barrymore is talking to a man with a very sexy voice, but unfortunately, he is kind of a jerk. Maybe the jerkiest. You could even say he’s a murderer, what with him killing so many people and all.
3. The Big Sleep:
I make no apologies for wishing I could have married Humphrey Bogart, and I am a man. In the original 1946 film based on Raymond Chandler’s classic novel of the same name, Lauren Bacall rings the police for assistance, when Bogart takes the phone from her. “Hello, what do you want? What? You called me!” he says. Easily the funniest part of an otherwise dark film, one of the classic film noirs.
I’ve seen this phone call scene over a hundred times, and I will never fail to get misty-eyed. Major Strasser is trying to stop Rick Blaine and Victor Laszlo, but as Blaine is played by manly, fedora-wearing Bogart, Strasser’s call is cut short by a bullet.
5. The Matrix:
Nearly everyone knows about slow motion bullet-time, as well as Keanu Reeves’ extensive array of facial expressions, thanks to this movie. The scene where Neo still believes his world is real, and he receives a phone in the mail, and immediately gets a call from Morpheus telling him how to evade the men in black – it’s easily the tensest, most gripping part of the film for me. If nothing else, it’s certainly a famous phone call.
Our protagonist, Leonard, possess no short term memory, so he writes down notes, takes photos, and tattoos himself so he’s able to know what to do. While on the phone, he uncovers a tattoo advising to never answer it. One of the creepiest moments in this artistic, experimental film.
7. Sorry, Wrong Number:
Barbara Stanwyck’s character cherishes her phone, her only connection to the world. One day she picks it up and, due to a crossed line, overhears two men plotting a murder (spoiler alert: it’s about her). The initial call is about as tense as film noir can get, and a huge number of films based their phone call style after this movie.
8. Star Wars:
When Han Solo et al. seek to break Princess Leia out of the prison block, our heroes disguise themselves as Imperial Storm Troopers. The dialogue on the intercom isn’t just hilarious, it was also entirely improvised. “It was a boring conversation anyway.”
9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:
When Cameron pretends to be George Peterson so Sloane can get the day off, and Ferris rings on the other line to convince Ed Rooney it’s all legit, the scene ends with the classic “Ferris Bueller is on line two.”
10. Dr. Strangelove:
The conversation between the US and USSR Presidents is satire at its greatest. This is the phone call that all other calls wish they could be. “I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri.”
Richard Andrew Clark is a staff writer for T-shirts.com, where you can purchase apparel for your next movie night.