At its core, The Sopranos documented one man’s battle against the age-old truth that all ducklings eventually fly the nest. The 86 culture-changing episodes that followed, simply dealt with the repercussions as the pains of their parting came home to roost. As Tony’s high-flying ways were beset by panic attacks, it became clear that no matter how high a duck flies, it must come down for water. The ducks left and the tribulations that followed were mere ripples in the water.
Along his journey, Tony Soprano barked him way through some of the most iconic lines in TV history. At least once in every episode, he spat out a gilded line, or else simply made some utterance about gabagool. Thus, naturally, we can’t include all of his gems in our supercut without stitching together some comprehensive six-hour rundown. Alas, there can only be ten, but we pray that the ones we have chosen prove entertaining all the same.
James Gandolfini perfectly portrayed the beloved gangster besieged by his own conscience and on what would have been his birthday, we see this gilded list of lyrical gems as a celebration of his work as an actor. Tony Soprano is possibly the greatest and most perfectly realised TV character to ever grace our screens and as the behemoth behind it all, Gandolfini pushed the boundaries forward in terms of small-screen acting. With great gusto, humour and reverence, he imparted a performance that briskly left an audience chuckling towards a state of empathy for someone who was, in truth, a relatively despicable guy.
Below are his ten best lines.
Tony Soprano’s ten best lines:
10. “You got no fucking idea what it’s like to be number one.”
Aside from the pressures of his own unexpected upsurge in ethics, Tony also had to deal with the loneliness at the top. Everyone wanted a piece of his pie and as the vulture swarmed, he sent them packing, one roared-out line at a time.
In typical vessel popping exuberance, this particular outburst left those of us watching at home, no matter how comfortable the lazy chair, in a trembling cold sweat and on no uncertain terms.
9. “I went ahead and ordered some for the table.” (His final words of the show)
The finale of The Sopranos was one of, if not the most anticipated event in TV history. Rather than bubbling away on ‘who shot JR’-Esque anticipation, the grand finale was set to be the celebration of a show that heralded in a so-called golden age.
As ever, subtlety and craft won and Tony’s last line was one with such multifaceted depth that scholars of the future will muse endlessly about how it somehow relates back to the ducklings.
8. “Take your hat off”
In the nuclear reversal of the Randy Newman song, ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’, Tony demands that a man removes his baseball cap while dining in a fine establishment.
He approaches the table with the suppressed roar of a man who’s just stubbed his toe while stepping on an upturned plug during a funeral service. This sort of ‘lid on a bubbling pan’ dark comedy permeated the show with laugh out loud moments.
7. “Nostradamus and Notre Dame. It’s two different things completely.”
“Nostradamus and Notre Dame. It’s two different things completely” – He certainly not wrong there. One thing that many of the cheap redactions that have followed The Sopranos have failed to grasp is that goonish henchmen should, indeed, be very goonish.
Whether it was Paulie Walnuts or Silvio Dante, Tony’s coterie of clownish cronies, certainly knew how to prise a truly comedic line out of him.
6. “Those who want respect give respect.”
Another essential element of Tony’s oeuvre was his propagation of wisdom from the old country. While he might have worn the crown in a kingdom of fools, he was at the top of the castle for a reason. “Those who want respect, give respect,” is a great example of how true nuggets of wisdom permeated the show.
Far from being a cheap snatch at some high-brow relief from the slapstick elements of the show, these moments were essential to the development of his character. These mantras proved that he really did have a code of ethics and the battle they presented were at the root of his pains, along with the ducklings of course.
5. “A grown man made a wager. He lost. He made another one – he lost again. End of story.”
Nobody has been able to sum a story up in as few words as Tony Soprano, since Shakespeare reduced the passing of Richard III and the culmination of his play of the same name down to “He died.”
The Shakespearian brevity of Tony, is once again, bracingly funny as well as serving as an insight into the way his mind brutally processes things down to only the most pertinent of points.
4. “If you can quote the rules, then you can obey them.”
Once more his wisdom comes to the pass. Tony presides over the scene like a bear as Paulie runs his mouth off, then like a schoolteacher who has let things go as far he can take, his iconic pointing finger prods into Paulie’s chest.
“Did you hear what I said?” and probably with wet underpants that contain the most shrivelled of Walnuts, Paulie replies, “Yes.”
3. “Lately I’m Getting The Feeling That I Came In At The End. The Best Is Over.”
Aside from James Gandolfini’s fantastic portrayal, the writing on the show has remained near unrivalled. The scene from which this line comes is an epic piece of art, but the line in question is the pièce de résistance.
There is a weight, heft and poetry to it that tied Tony’s situation to the narrative of modern society. It’s like Albert Camus meets Goodfellas and the result is one of TVs golden moments.
2. “They’re the vehicle that gets us here. They drop us off and go on their way. They continue on their journey. And the problem is that we keep trying to get back on the bus, instead of just letting it go.”
Aside from the obvious overbearing influence of the ducklings, the battle of ego, masculinity and effrontery are at the core of the show. In sentimental moments, Tony not only lets the mask slip, but he reveals that behind his exterior his mind has been whirring away trying to make sense of it all.
There is always more to Tony than meets the eye.
1. “Someday soon, you’re gonna have families of your own and if you’re lucky, you’ll remember the little moments like this, that were good.”
We’re ending on a sweet note because as Tony would logically say, you don’t have dessert before business and “you don’t eat where you shit”. The gangster setting of The Sopranos might not be relatable for many of us, but the family life depicted therein resonates with universality.
This line took the classic Kurt Vonnegut quote: “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things,” and they put that famed utterance through the filter of everyone’s favourite gangster. The result was a line that showed why Sopranos was a show that bestrode every element of American life.
Please enjoy the supercut below.