HBO’s legendary series, The Sopranos, undeniably revolutionized the landscape of primetime television, earning its place as one of the finest drama series in history. This contemporary tale of the mob boasts James Gandolfini in his career-defining role as the infamous New Jersey crime boss, Tony Soprano, surrounded by an ensemble cast that includes the remarkable talents of Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, and Lorraine Bracco.
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Beyond its intricately developed characters and memorable performances, The Sopranos earns acclaim for its exceptional writing and dialogue, which has left an indelible mark on the minds of countless Soprano aficionados. While there are certainly well-known, top-tier quotes like “Those who want respect, give respect,” it’s the lines from episodes such as “The Happy Wanderer” and “Whoever Did This” that showcase some of The Sopranos’ most iconic quotes.
10. “If You Can Quote The Rules, You Can Obey Them”
In the midst of escalating tension between Tony and Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantolino), Ralph finally oversteps his bounds by playing a tasteless prank with a phone call targeting Paulie’s mother, Nucci (Francis Ensemplare). When a furious Paulie (Tony Sirico) confronts Tony about the incident, Tony takes a firm stance and reminds him of the rules they live by.
In the episode “Whoever Did This” from Season 4, Tony’s stern admonition to Paulie stands out as one of the series’ standout quotes. It’s one of those moments where Tony upholds the principles of “this thing of ours.” Of course, as the story unfolds, Tony himself deviates from his own counsel, but it’s these memorable lines that contribute to the complexity of Tony’s character.
9. “More Is Lost By Indecision Than Wrong Decision”
As Tony contemplates purchasing a shorefront house, Carmela (Edie Falco) initially has her doubts but begins warming up to the idea. She advises Tony to make a swift decision. Unfortunately, her newfound happiness crumbles when Tony’s ex-girlfriend confirms his infidelity, leading Carmela to leave him.
Carmela’s wisdom about making decisions promptly resonates strongly at the conclusion of the episode “Whitecaps.” This quote also serves as a foreshadowing of the conflicts in the next season, involving Tony’s cousin, Tony B. (Steve Buscemi), and Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent). In Season 5, Tony’s indecisiveness leads to tragic consequences, and while he recognizes it’s the wrong choice, he also understands it’s the only one that can save him and his crew.
8. “If There Are Any Flies On You, They’re Paying Rent”
Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) has already stirred the pot as the head of the family, going as far as imposing a tax on Hesh Rabkin (Jerry Alder). Hesh doesn’t outright oppose the move, but he does question the amount and requests a sit-down to discuss it. New York underboss Johnny Sacrimoni (Vincent Curtola) steps in as a mediator between Hesh and Junior, maintaining an air of sophistication and civility throughout the discussion.
In the episode “Pax Soprano,” Johnny Sack’s condescending remark to Junior is a display of old-school mobster charm, a quality that many fans appreciate in traditional New York mob characters. Johnny possesses a stoic demeanor and a way with words that can easily deceive many of the guys, including Paulie, whom he manipulates through flattery and clever white lies.
7. “Whatever Happened to Gary Cooper? The Strong, Silent Type?”
In the pilot episode, Tony meets with Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) for the first time to discuss his recent panic attack. After a few moments of silence, it becomes clear that Tony isn’t exactly the sharing type. As Melfi tries to explain the benefits of therapy to him, Tony deflects her attempts with sarcasm and an iconic reference to the classic movie star Gary Cooper.
Tony’s remark about Cooper remains one of the show’s most famous quotes and is central to Tony’s character. This signature line also reappears in the closing scene of the episode “Christopher,” transforming into an unexpected and humorous exchange between Tony and some of the guys, which further solidifies its place as a memorable moment in the series.
6. “Whaddya Hear, Whaddya Say?”
Paulie Walnuts first delivered his trademark line in the season one episode, “The Happy Wanderer.” However, most fans often associate it with the episode “Watching Too Much Television.” After getting acquitted of a gun charge and being released from jail, Paulie pays a visit to the Bada Bing to catch up with the guys. He announces his return with his iconic greeting, a moment that never fails to evoke laughter.
Paulie has a plethora of memorable quotes, but his signature catchphrase stands out as one of the show’s finest. Portrayed by former wiseguy and Goodfellas star Tony Sirico, Paulie brings an authentic style to The Sopranos with his impeccably tailored suits, animated gestures, and witty one-liners, creating a compelling and convincing portrayal of a Mafioso character without overdoing it.
5. “You Steer The Ship The Best You Know. Sometimes It’s Smooth. Sometimes You Hit The Rocks. In The Meantime, You Find Your Pleasures Where You Can.”
After being overlooked for the position of captain, Ralphie stirs up tension between Tony and the rest of the Aprile crew. This prompts Tony to question his decision to appoint Gigi instead of Ralphie. Uncertain about the best course of action, he turns to Uncle Junior for guidance. In the episode “Whoever Did This,” Junior engages in a conversation with Tony about the Ralphie situation and imparts surprisingly insightful advice. It becomes evident that being the boss of the family isn’t always as glamorous as it may seem. However, Junior’s quote conveys the comforting notion that everyone can only do their best in their given roles.
4. “‘You’re Only As Good As Your Last Envelope.”
Ever since he lost the money from Valery, also known as The Russian, Paulie has sensed a shift in Tony’s attitude towards him. He opens up to Silvio Dante about it at the Bing, and Silvio, known for his straightforwardness, doesn’t sugarcoat the situation. He admits that Tony and the rest of the crew have begun to question Paulie’s loyalty. While the truth can be painful, Silvio doesn’t hold back.
Silvio is a man of few words, and his candid reminder to Paulie in the episode “Eloise” stands out as one of the character’s best lines. It’s also a favorite among Sopranos fans. Silvio rarely engages in conflicts, especially with someone like Paulie. Still, in true Silvio fashion, he remains composed and respectfully reminds his friend that whether they’ve known Tony for five years or five weeks, ultimately, this is still a business.
3. ‘A Don Doesn’t Wear Shorts.’
Tony and some of the guys host a party in a hotel suite, where they meet with New York boss Carmine Lupertazzi and Johnny Sack. During their conversation, Carmine and Tony discuss the success of the Esplanade. After some small talk about Junior’s case and Tony’s mental health, Carmine leaves him with an unusual comment about wearing shorts at a cookout.
Carmine’s line in the episode “For All Debts Public and Private” is a classic Sopranos quote with a rather unsettling backstory. According to Michael Imperioli, Gandolfini received a late-night phone call from an anonymous person who told him, “Don’t wear shorts,” referencing Tony’s attire in the pilot episode, and then hung up. The call left the actor somewhat shaken, but series creator David Chase incorporated the advice into the show. Throughout the rest of the series, Tony never wears shorts.
2. ‘Some People Are So Far Behind In The Race That They Actually Believe They’re Leading.’
When Tony meets Junior at his doctor’s office, they discuss Tony taking over the executive poker game and his uncle’s cut of the pot, as well as future financial expenses. By the end of the conversation, Tony believes he finally has the upper hand over his uncle. However, Junior boldly reminds his little nephew that he’s smarter than Tony thinks.
In the episode “The Happy Wanderer,” Tony may think he has everything under control, but so does Junior despite his house arrest. Junior has some of the best quotes, but this is one of his finest one-liners that captures the character’s sharp wit and skillful tact that many, including Tony, often make the mistake of underestimating.
1. ‘Those Who Want Respect, Give Respect.’
With a couple of capos in the can, Tony tries to divide things up accordingly between the crews, but Richie Aprile isn’t satisfied with his cut and is being penalized for selling drugs on his garbage routes. His nephew, Jackie Jr., oversteps his place and attempts to strengthen his uncle’s defense by piping in on the conversation but fails miserably.
Tony’s response to Jackie Jr. in “The Knight in White Satin Armor” is one of the series’ best quotes and one of Tony’s most ruthless lines. Instead of raising his voice or choosing harsh words, Tony sums up everything he needs to say with this short and sweet quote that, as Richie points out, is just a nice way of saying to go fu*k yourself.