Dostoevsky once stated that sarcasm was the ‘last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded. Wilde, however, considered it the lowest form of wit-or was he just being sarcastic?
The Oxford Dictionary defines sarcasm as ‘the use of irony to mock or convey contempt’ though, the online Urban Dictionary adds that ‘people who are sarcastic usually annoy the hell out of everyone’.
So what of sarcasm and the movies? Well, as the following list will show, certain characters exude a rasping, ironic type of wit. What’s more, they are absolutely hilarious-fully-formed, multi-dimensional characters who leap of out the screen and treat the viewer to howling gags and hilarious witticisms.
Some may take umbrage with these selections and there are some characters who only use sarcasm as part of a wide repertoire of types of wit; the simple sarcastic reply sitting neatly alongside burlesque, blue, deadpan, droll, farcical, mordant, screwball and self-deprecating forms of humour. But the sarcasm is there.
Rather than isolate sarcasm as a comic trope entirely, the following selection should be seen as the funniest film characters who use a significant amount of sarcasm in their wider arsenal of derision and jest.
10. Hans Gruber – Die Hard
‘Very good, you’ve figured it out already’.
Hans Gruber was the internationally-feared, wonderfully-sarcastic, crazy German operating a brilliantly camouflaged armed robbery .As the plans of his bank heist slowly unravel thanks to the valour of Mr Yippee-Kay-Ay himself, Gruber’s humour plummets to new levels of disdain and despair.
One of the more charismatic villains in Hollywood’s blockbuster history, Gruber was so slick he was positively likeable. There was all that superficial elegance of manners and wit, hiding the vicious temper and psychosis bubbling underneath. Gruber projected an honour-amongst-thieves, kind of gentleman’s code too-he never really wanted to hurt anybody he just wanted a bumper Christmas this year;
And it was surely Gruber’s composure and finesse that he maintained (and struggled to maintain) in the midst of the chaos that gave us his most sizzling sarcasm- those dainty pleasantries he offered whilst dishing out his criminal threats
Here’s a few excerpts of the Gruber charm;
Gruber to the unfortunate Mr Takagi; ’ I will count to three. There will not be a four’
Gruber to hostages; I wanted this to be professional. Efficient, adult, cooperative, not a lot to ask. Alas, your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way, so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life’
And when Gruber isn’t merrily humming Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, delegating orders to his minions, reassuring hostages and offering Yuletide blessings ( ‘now I have a machine gun-ho-ho-ho), he has time for those minor details of life.
‘‘Nice Nice Suit. John Philips, London. I have two myself. Rumour has it Arafat buys his there too’
This article was first posted on July 11, 2013