What we've got here is failure to communicate
|"What we've got here is failure to communicate"|
The Captain (Strother Martin) delivers the quote.
|First used in||Cool Hand Luke|
|Voted No. 11 in AFI's 100 Movie Quotes poll|
The phrase "What we've got here is failure to communicate" is a quotation from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, spoken in the movie first by Strother Martin (as the Captain, a prison warden) and later, abridged, by Paul Newman (as Luke, a stubborn prisoner).
The context of the first delivery of the line is:
Captain: You gonna get used to wearing them chains after a while, Luke. Don't you never stop listening to them clinking, 'cause they gonna remind you what I been saying for your own good.
Luke: I wish you'd stop being so good to me, Cap'n.
Captain: Don't you ever talk that way to me. (pause, then hitting him) NEVER! NEVER! (Luke rolls down hill; to other prisoners) What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men.
The Captain's line is often misquoted as "What we have here is a failure to communicate".
Towards the end of the movie, Luke takes a final stab at freedom – stealing a dump truck and taking flight. After his dramatic escape from the Florida chain gang prison, Luke abandons the truck and enters a Church, only to be surrounded by police moments later. Feeling that his life is no longer worth living, walks to a window facing the police and mocks the Captain by repeating the first part of his speech ("What we've got here is a failure to communicate."). He is immediately shot in the neck by Boss Godfrey.
References in popular culture
- Guns N' Roses included the quotation, sampled from Martin's speech in the film, in the opening of their song "Civil War" (1990), and later remixed it in "Madagascar" (2008).
- The quotation has been used in the movies Take the Money and Run (1969, spoken by James Anderson), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Ernest Saves Christmas (1988), Waterworld (1995, spoken by Dennis Hopper, who has a small role in Cool Hand Luke), Major Payne (1995), "Arena", Halloween (2007), Whole Lotta Sole (aka Stand Off) (2012).
- The quotation was used in several television shows as well, including The Dukes of Hazzard (season 7, episode 7 "Cool Hands, Luke and Bo"), Frasier (Season 4, episode 11, "Three Days of the Condo") and The Cleveland Show (Season 1, episode 12, "Our Gang"), Cracker, Californication, CSI, NCIS, Kyle XY, Oz, Xena, Parenthood, Darkwing Duck, Get Smart and Farscape. It was also in the first episode of the TV series The Mod Squad (aired 9/24/1968).
- Ninth Circuit judge Alex Kozinski riffed on the quotation in a 1990 case concerning copyright law, opening his decision by declaring that "[w]hat we have here is a failure to compensate." (Unsatisfied with special effects footage commissioned from Effects Associates for the 1985 movie The Stuff, director and defendant Larry Cohen had paid less than the agreed-upon price.)
- "Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give A Damn", AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes, American Film Institute.
- Greatest Film Mis-Quotes, AMC Filmsite
- Pop Culture 101: COOL HAND LUKE. Turner Entertainment Networks
- Dennis O'Dell (2008-11-14) Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy Review. BBC
- Bond, Callan (February 8, 2006). "Questions and Answers". Cool Movie Trivia.
- Effects Associates, Inc. v. Cohen, 908 F.2d 555, 555 (9th Cir. 1990).