As of July 19, Clueless is old enough to rent a car—not that its protagonist, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), ever should. Besides being a terrible driver, she’s also an ambitious student, caring friend, expert on popularity, and an avatar for Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse. Amy Heckerling’s film is one of the most quotable of the ‘90s and ushered in the decade-long trend of teen films based on classic works of literature, from She’s All That (Pygmalion) to She’s the Man (Twelfth Night).
Clueless remains relevant beyond its cultural influence; it’s a brilliant comedy, pure and simple. The entire cast is talented—and damn if Paul Rudd looks like he hasn’t aged a day since—but Silverstone’s comedic timing is particularly stellar. A throwaway line instantly becomes iconic thanks to her Valley Girl drawl. Oftentimes the main character in teen comedies is the dullest member of a colorful cast, playing the straight man while others steal the scene. This is never the case with Cher. Needless to say, it’s a delight to see Silverstone return to the screen in The Baby-Sitters Club, some quarter of a century after she wowed us as Cher.
Heckerling’s razor-sharp dialogue is instrumental in making Clueless work, though. The film feels like a precursor to sitcoms like 30 Rock, packing in a laugh a minute. No character is too small to have a good line, even the DMV instructor Cher terrorizes in her “loqued-out” Jeep. Enjoy the 25 best quotes from Clueless, one for every year we’ve been blessed with this ‘90s classic.
Josh: Actually, I’m going to a Tree People meeting. We might get Marky Mark to plant a celebrity tree.
Cher: How fabulous. Getting Marky Mark to take time from his busy pants-dropping schedule to plant trees.
Cher knows Mark Wahlberg is trash. Josh (Paul Rudd) is for symbolic activism that props up celebrity worship. It’s clear who would fare better in 2020.
Cher: Daddy is so good, he gets $500 an hour to fight with people, but he fights with me for free because I’m his daughter.
Making a spoiled rich kid likable is hard. Heckerling pulls off this feat with admirable ease, but also has the wherewithal to give us plenty of moments to gawk at Cher’s privilege.
Cher: Love was everywhere, and even though I was alone, I was really happy for Tai. It’s like that book I read in ninth grade that said, “ ‘Tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people.”
One of Cher’s most lovable qualities is how she’s incredibly bright yet clueless at the same time. And honestly, who can quote Dickens by heart? Not someone I’d want to go to the mall with.
Cher: Shouldn’t you go to school on the East Coast? I hear the girls at NYU aren’t at all particular.
Fun fact: Heckerling went to NYU.
Dionne: Hello! That was a stop sign.
Cher: I totally paused.
It’s only fitting that the California stop should make an appearance in the most SoCal movie ever to grace the silver screen.
Cher: Hi Daddy, this is my friend Tai.
Mr. Horowitz: Get out of my chair!
Growing up, nothing was scarier than being shouted at by a friend’s parent. That said, I would happily let Mel Horowitz (Dan Hedaya) yell at me for sport.
Cher: She’s a full-on Monet.
Tai: What’s a Monet?
Cher: It’s like the paintings, see? From far away it’s okay, but up close, it’s a big old mess.
Calling someone a “Monet” is a great way to insult them to their face (unless, of course, they’ve seen Clueless).
Josh: If I ever saw you do anything that wasn’t 90% selfish, I’d die of shock.
Cher: Oh, that’d be reason enough for me.
Josh and Cher’s exchanged barbs are some of the funniest lines of the film, but she bests him every time. He may go for an easy jab about her superficial tendencies, but Cher’s insults are far more elegant, as seen here.
Dionne: Why did you do this to your head?
Murray: Cause I’m keeping it real. Cause I’m keeping it real. Cause I—cause I’m keeping it real.
The Clueless cast is a veritable who’s who of young actors that were about to blow up. From Donald Faison to Brittany Murphy to Paul Rudd in his first ever film role, casting director Marcia Ross knocked it out of the park. Ross continued her winning streak on other celebrated teen films like 10 Thing I Hate About You and Princess Diaries.
Mr. Horowitz: What’s with you, kid? You think the death of Sammy Davis left an opening in the Rat Pack?
The entire scene in which Christian picks up Cher but also gets a dressing down from Mel is gold. Mr. Horowitz nails it with this line in particular, though. Cher may find Christian charming because he’s so much better dressed and more sophisticated than other high school boys, but to anyone who can legally drink, he’s whatever the ‘90s version of a hipster was.
Dionne: “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, but thy eternal summer shall not fade.” That! Did you write that?
Cher: Duh! It’s like, a famous quote.
Dionne: From where?
For a movie that is so beloved as a ‘90s time capsule, it’s impressive that this reference translates into present day. Congrats, Cliff! You’ve survived into the Information Age!
Mr. Horowitz: And no cruising around with Dionne, alright? Two permits do not equal a license.
We love a good Mel quip, but this line also sets up Cher’s need for a licensed driver to accompany her. Josh’s fashion sense may be nowhere near as bold as Dionne’s, but at least he can legally get behind the wheel on his own. And who knows, maybe if Cher wasn’t such a bad driver, they’d never fall in love.
Christian: You like Billie Holiday?
Cher: I love him.
Every time I laugh at this joke, I also remember how I confused R.E.M. and Radiohead for years, just because they both start with the letter “R.” Stay humble.
Elton: My foot hurts. Can I go to the nurse?
Elton sucks for many reasons—snobbery, surprise kissing, etc.—with one of the lesser ones being that he’s the kid always trying to get out of class with the dumbest excuses. Honorable mention goes to, “I can’t find my Cranberries CD. I gotta go to the quad before somebody snags it.”
Tai: Cher, you’re a virgin?
Cher: God, you say that like it’s a bad thing.
Dionne: Besides, the PC term is hymenally challenged.
Petition to start calling all incels, regardless of sex, hymenally challenged.
Josh’s Date: I think that I remember Hamlet accurately.
Cher: Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn’t say that. That Polonius guy did.
This exchange is particularly validating for everyone who’s mostly experienced “classic” literature through movie adaptations.
Mr. Horowitz: Hey you! Anything happens to my daughter, I got a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you.
Normally the overprotective dad trope comes off as tired, but Hedaya’s consistently gruff delivery makes the schtick work.
Amber: Ms. Stoeger, my plastic surgeon doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose.
Dionne: Well there goes your social life.
Our sympathies to all of those currently recovering from nose jobs.
Mr. Horowitz: You mean to tell me that you argued your way from a C plus to an A minus?
Cher: Totally based on my powers of persuasion. You proud?
Mr. Horowitz: Honey, I couldn’t be happier than if they were based on real grades.
The dynamic between Cher and Mel can feel at times a little too “Daddy, can I have the credit card?” but then moments like this remind us that she wants his approval just as much as she wants him to lower his cholesterol. Their mutual respect and admiration makes their relationship one of the sweetest in the film.
Cher: Dionne and I were both named after great singers of the past who now do infomercials.
Nothing screams instant friendship like such glorious nomenclature. Also, treat yourself to the YouTube rabbit hole that is Cher and Dionne Warwick’s infomercials.
Travis: Okay, like, the way I feel about the Rolling Stones is the way my kids are gonna feel about Nine Inch Nails, so I really shouldn’t torment my mom anymore, huh?
Did you know Seth Green was almost cast as Travis, the stoner with a heart of gold? According to Vanity Fair’s oral history of the film, it came down to Green and Breckin Meyer—who also happened to be best friends—and it’s easy to imagine an alternate reality in which the former delivered these iconic lines. However, we’re delighted that Meyer made the cut.
Mr. Hall: Travis Birkenstock—38 tardies. By far the most tardies in the class. Congratulations.
Travis: This is so unexpected. I didn’t even have a speech prepared. Uh, but I would like to say this: tardiness is not something you can do all on your own. Many, many people contributed to my tardiness. Uh, I’d like to thank my parents for never giving me a ride to school, the L.A. city bus driver for taking a chance on an unknown kid, and last but not least, the wonderful crew at McDonald’s for spending hours making those egg McMuffins, without which I might never be tardy.
Goofy stoners are an enduring archetype (Heckerling’s directorial debut, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, features the always-baked Spicoli), but they need something special to make them more than just another tie dye-wearing source of comic relief. Meyer’s unconditional enthusiasm for every line—whether threatening to jump out a window because of his poor grades or trying to charm Tai at a party—is what really sells Travis.
Cher: And in conclusion, may I please remind you that it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty.
Our heroine has a more sound stance on immigration policy than the current president. Her political platform would be worth looking into, even if it includes mandatory makeovers.
Tai: Why am I even listening to you to begin with? You’re a virgin who can’t drive.
The moment that the formerly frumpy Tai comes full circle, usurping Cher in popularity, is hit home with this infamous line. Few movie insults dare to come close.
Cher: As if!
Two words. Four letters. Endless uses. We have to give Cher snaps for her brazen yet simple catchphrase. It’s lasted as a part of pop culture for 25 years, and is sure to endure for many more.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast, hibernophile and contributing writer for Paste’s music and comedy sections. She also exercises her love for reality TV at HelloGiggles every now and then. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.