The Silence of the Lambs is one of the all-time greatest movies. While it’s certainly graphic and unnerving, it is also brilliantly written, filled with complex characterizations and memorable dialogue. The movie won both Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor at that year’s Academy Awards, a testament to the mesmerizing dialogue and Anthony Hopkins’s ability to recite Hannibal’s with such grace and magnetic bravura.
While he only appears in about twenty minutes of the movie, The Silence of the Lambs belongs to Anthony Hopkins and Hannibal Lecter.
Updated on February 20th, 2022 by Mark Birrell: It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with the character that the best Silence of the Lambs quotes often come from Hannibal Lecter, known for his eloquence and proclivity towards making shocking statements.
Although his interactions with the main character don’t come close to forming the majority of the runtime of the movie, Hannibal’s scenes with Clarice are by far the most memorable of the film, which is certainly saying something for such a tense and gory serial killer thriller.
A Nice Chianti
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
After having his psychoanalysis thrown back in his face, Hannibal grows irritated with Clarice and shuts down. He further threatens her by saying, “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
It’s arguably the film’s most famous quote, and Hannibal’s accompanying hissing noise cements it as an unforgettable movie catchphrase. It’s a fantastic summation of Hannibal’s character, and it reminds the viewer of how dangerous he can be.
“You fly back to school now, little Starling. Fly, fly, fly…”
Now that Hannibal is seemingly done with Clarice, he’s turned his back and wandered away towards the back of his cell, muttering to himself. Hannibal continues to whisper “fly, fly, fly” as she walks away.
While it’s not as famous as the Chianti line, it became a part of Lecter’s creepy image in pop culture like the mask Hannibal wears. It would be used many times as a reference whenever an evil genius needed a funny way to say goodbye.
Hannibal Toys With Senator Martin
“Amputate a man’s leg, and he can still feel it tickling. Tell me, Mom, when your little girl is on the slab, where will it tickle you?”
Once Hannibal has managed to get out of his cell and down to Memphis to meet with Senator Martin, he knows that he has everyone eating out of the palm of his hand. It’s incredible watching him control the situation around him despite being completely restrained.
Naturally, Hannibal can’t help but toy with people, and this particular taunt directed at Senator Martin is one of the most chilling Silence of the Lambs quotes.
Hannibal Appreciates Good Taste
“Oh, and, Senator, just one more thing. Love your suit.”
Once Hannibal has made it apparent that he’s going to be of no more help to Senator Martin and he’s sent them off on a wild goose chase, he’s about to be wheeled away but still has one last observation for the Senator.
Anthony Hopkins’ delivery of this line puts so much energy into the words, it’s made all the more impressive by the fact that he’s tied down completely and has most of his face obscured by the iconic muzzle mask that’s been put on him.
A Lesson From Lecter
“First, principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask what is it in itself? What is its nature?”
Now secure in his special temporary cell in Memphis, Hannibal is poised to make his escape but still has one last chance to have a face-to-face talk with Clarice.
Lecter clearly finds Agent Starling attractive but he also considers her to be intellectually stimulating. He toys with Clarice to some extent in their conversations but he always leads her to something useful. This Hannibal Lecter quote to Clarice isn’t a terrifying tale or a cutting analytical remark, it’s actually a very good lesson and a great help to her.
Hannibal Can’t Believe It
“Jack Crawford sent a trainee to me?”
This quote tells the audience a lot about Hannibal’s character and his reputation. Clarice is still in training, and she tells Hannibal as much. Hannibal, a world-famous serial killer and cannibal, is shocked that Jack Crawford sent him a trainee.
He expects Crawford to send Hannibal his best, considering his reputation. It’s apparent that not only is Hannibal quite egotistical and extremely dangerous, but that Clarice is woefully underprepared for what she is about to do also.
Hannibal Turns His High-Powered Perception On Clarice
“You look like a rube. A well-scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition’s given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash are you, Agent Starling?”
The aforementioned psychoanalysis of Clarice provides the movie with another brilliant bit of dialogue. The entire speech is fantastic, as Hannibal recounts Clarice’s past to her in startling detail.
While the audience doesn’t know for sure if Hannibal’s assertions are true, Clarice’s dejected and shocked face heavily imply that they are. The entire speech centers around Clarice’s past, her socioeconomic status as a child, her Southern accent, her father, her ambitions, and her relationship with boys. It’s a stellar piece of writing and acting.
“Oh, Clarice. Your problem is you need to get more fun out of life.”
Part of the reason that Hannibal enjoys talking to Clarice so much is that he feels that he can be honest with her and she with him. A lot of the time, this dynamic translates into gruesome talk about serial murder. However, sometimes Hannibal just offers up a piece of general life advice to her.
While Hannibal’s idea of “fun” may be far removed from everybody else’s, it’s not a bad recommendation for Clarice. He finds her to be thoughtful and polite and does at times seem like he really wants the best for her in his own strange way.
I Tell You Things, You Tell Me Things
“Quid pro quo. I tell you things, you tell me things. Not about this case, though. About yourself. Quid pro quo. Yes or no?”
The “quid pro quo” sequence is another famous moment, and it’s here that the movie really begins to delve into the relationship between Hannibal and Clarice. Clarice has been repeatedly warned to refrain from sharing personal information with Hannibal, as he often uses said personal information to psychologically torment his victims.
Therefore, when Hannibal says, “Quid pro quo. I tell you things, you tell me things. Not about this case, though. About yourself”, the audience knows that Clarice shouldn’t divulge any info. But she does, and it’s riveting storytelling.
Clarice Has Hannibal’s Attention
“I think it would be quite something to know you in private life.”
In that same sequence, audiences again learn a little bit about Hannibal and Clarice’s relationship. After Clarice tells him some personal information about her dead father, Hannibal opens up and says, “You’re very frank, Clarice. I think it would be quite something to know you in private life.”
Not only is it a gorgeous line in and of itself, but it lets the audience in on Hannibal’s feelings towards Clarice. Hannibal doesn’t see Clarice as a victim; he sees her as an interesting person.
Hannibal Proposes A Scandalous Idea
“People will say we’re in love.”
In Clarice’s final visit to Hannibal, Hannibal claims that “People will say we’re in love.” He’s obviously referring to Clarice’s incessant drive for information, but it’s a very interesting quote with some deeper subtext.
This line proves especially interesting when considering the movie Hannibal (the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs) and the direction that the relationship between Hannibal and Clarice takes within it. But even when ignoring that story, this is a very intriguing line. Does Hannibal love Clarice? Does Clarice rely too heavily on Hannibal? Is she getting a little too close? It even draws the audience in even more.
And Don’t Your Eyes Seek Out The Things You Want?
“No. We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don’t your eyes seek out the things you want?”
After Clarice asks for Hannibal’s help, Hannibal gives it to her and tells her that Buffalo Bill “covets” his victims. He then asks her what people covet. “And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet?”
Following her disappointing answer, Hannibal gives one of the most beautiful lines in the movie: “We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don’t your eyes seek out the things you want?” It’s a great line, and it eventually helps Clarice crack the case but this line, more than any other, taps into the central theme of the film, which is the way that women are viewed–or gazed upon– by men in all walks of everyday life.
You Wake Up In The Dark And Hear The Screaming Of The Lambs
“You still wake up sometimes, don’t you? Wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs.”
The Silence of the Lambs is about the journey of Clarice as a protagonist and her development into a confident FBI agent. Bearing that in mind, the courthouse scene between her and Hannibal may be the movie’s most vital sequence.
After telling Hannibal about her childhood trauma with the spring lambs, Hannibal correctly assumes, “You still wake up sometimes, don’t you? You wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs.” And with that, both Hannibal and the audience learn about what drives and haunts Clarice.
Hannibal Checks up On Clarice
“Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?”
This line may be a little cheesy, but it’s certainly a memorable one. After Clarice solves the case and kills Buffalo Bill, an escaped Hannibal gives her a call and asks her if the lambs have stopped screaming.
Hannibal now knows Clarice perhaps better than anyone else and this line reminds the audience of that right before the end. Though she’s gained the respect of Jack Crawford and found a certain parental approval that she lost when her father died, Hannibal knows that silencing the past is not that simple.
I’m Having An Old Friend For Dinner
“I do wish we could chat longer, but I’m having an old friend for dinner. Bye.”
What a horrifying line for Hannibal to go out on! Hannibal hates Chilton, and he has seemingly tracked him down to the Bahamas. He then uses a particularly clever bit of wordplay, telling Clarice that he is “having an old friend for dinner.”
It sounds like he’s inviting Chilton over to his place as a guest, but it obviously refers to Hannibal literally eating Chilton. It’s a chilling line, but to make it Hannibal’s last was an inspired bit of writing. With it, Hannibal walks after Chilton and blends into the crowd – just another citizen among many.
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