Top Eight… Phone Calls In Movies

I just called… to say… I love this movie scene… Phones are very handy for moving the plot along, but don’t forget they do that in life too. Here’s eight thrilling conversations from Ross McG and there isn’t an iPhone in sight.

8. Ransom (1996)

I’m not sure I’d even have the guts to borrow a pencil from Mel Gibson, never mind kidnap his son. But for perennial bad-guy portrayer Gary Sinise, kidnapping Braveheart’s boy is all in a day’s dastardly work. Yet even he is shaken by a tense telephone exchange with mad-as-hell Mel (‘GIMME BACK MY SON!’), who has form in real life when it comes to shouting down the blower.

7. A Single Man (2009)

As usual, the Academy got there just a little too late, giving Colin Firth his Best Actor Oscar for The King’s Speech when he should have really got it a year earlier. The pinnacle of his work in A Single Man sees the star of St Trinian’s 2: The Legend Of Fritton’s Gold do nothing more than pick up the receiver and receive bad news. It begins like a Yellow Pages commercial – with Firth as JR Hartley – but by the end you’ll be in the same tears as he is. Some damn fine acting.

6. Sneakers (1992)

Proof, if any were needed, that all you need for a good phone call scene is Robert Redford asking, ‘Can you guarantee my safety?’ A lot. Phil Alden Robinson’s espionage comedy thriller is more fun than Missions Impossible 1, 2 and 3 put together and its signature sequence sees Redford, Aykroyd, Poitier and co huddled round Alexander Graham Bell’s finest. And all on speaker, too.

5. Tropic Thunder (2008)

Unfortunately, Ben Stiller’s attempt to mix war with parody turned out to be a bit of a mess, but it has one huge saving grace: Tom Cruise. His Les Grossman is not to be messed with on the dance floor or the telephone. His etiquette on the latter may be a little startling (‘Take a big step back and literally F*** YOUR OWN FACE!’) but when it comes to spotting pan Pacific bulls**t power plays from afar, he’s your man.

4. Heat (1995)

Playing the most unlikely ‘Neil’ in cinematic history, Robert De Niro rings no-good double-crosser William Fichtner in Michael Mann’s crime classic. ‘I’m talking to an empty telephone. ‘Cos there is a dead man on the other end of this f*****g line.’ That’s all well and good, Neil, but why did you call him up then?

3. Magnolia (1999)

Only the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, the best actor to be called ‘Hoffman’ since Dustin Hoffman, could get away with speaking this dialogue: ‘I know this sounds silly, and I know that I might sound ridiculous, like this is the scene in the movie where the guy’s trying to get a hold of the long-lost son, you know, but this is that scene. This is that scene.’ Mag-nolia-ificent.

2. Dial M For Murder (1954)

Hitchcock loved phones. Perhaps he liked their coldness and detachment, themes that inhabit his greatest works. Or perhaps he just wanted to put Tippi Hedren in a phone booth and throw plastic birds at her. In Dial M For Murder, he chillingly stages the attempted slaying of Margot (Grace Kelly), while her villainous husband (Ray Milland) listens in.

Watch the Dial M For Murder phone sequence HERE

1. Swingers (1996)

How To Lose A Girl In Six Phone Calls. In the days before texting and Twitter, if you met someone you liked you had to call them up. And speak to them. Can you imagine? Watching loveable loser Mikey (Jon Favreau) leave message after message on a potential date’s machine is as painful as anything offered up by the Saw movies. So not money.



20 Responses to “Top Eight… Phone Calls In Movies”

  1. Great choices!

    I thought ‘Taken’ was going to be somewhere in the list though, while I am not a big fan of that film. Neeson going on kick ass on the phone was good!

  2. carp. great shout Caz. totally forgot about Liam putting his game face on in Taken. most ludicrous dialogue ever, but great nonetheless.
    ‘I have a certain set of skills..’

  3. What no Strangelove? ‘The Bomb Demitri, The Bomb’ or on a related topic how about the call that sets the crap flying in Miracle Mile?

    Good list my mind went immediately to Swingers

    oh and Scream!

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  5. Strangelove.. good call, Wynter.. quite literally.

    never redundant having you on Hatter. dont worry, we’ll get voting

  6. Great list! Glad to see Dial M for Murder in there, I just saw that movie a couple weeks ago, what a great film 🙂 Also the Tropic Thunder telephone calls were some of the highlight of the movie.

  7. What an original idea. Cool list!

  8. What about Bourne with the whole “Get some sleep Pam, you look tired” *cue music*

  9. Great list! #1 is perfect. Would the entire film Phonebooth count?

  10. mcguinnr Says:

    Yeah – great list, McG. Play Misty For Me has a whole series of freaky calls that make it gripping. Also love the first phone call in Risky Business that gets the whole thing rollin’.

  11. DR STRANGELOVE and the opening scene of SCREAM would top my list. Also, what about the phonecall that sets up SPEED

  12. Great choices! Swingers scene was so painful, that after awhile, almost every time he called I just turned away and couldn’t even look.

  13. i would have had to include John Cusack’s first call to Ione Skye in Say Anything.

  14. Very nice list. Scream would’ve been on my own list of best phone calls. And I don’t suppose Schumacher’s Phone Booth qualifies, sine the entire movie is one long (or a series of) phone call, right?

  15. Great list. One of the best (and worst, if you’re Colin Farrell) has to be Phone Booth. Nice throwback to a time before iPhones too.

  16. I kept going down the list, getting more and more worried that Swingers wouldn’t be there, but nay, numero uno! Awesome.

    I hate to say it, but Cruise probably deserves another entry on here, for the Show Me the Money call. Pretty damn iconic.

    Inserting Hoffman from Happiness would’ve been pretty sweet, too…

  17. mcguinnr Says:

    Michael Caine’s call to Britt Ekland in Get Carter – really menacing despite the pervy overtones.

  18. I would have thought ‘Heat’ placed at #1. Fichtner’s reaction is priceless.

  19. Yeah Heat for number one. Great list anyway!

  20. I agree with Caz, Taken was one I was expecting. The phone call in that trailer pretty much made that movie a box office hoot.

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