Skip to content

The Best Put-Downs From History, Hollywood, and More!

Welcome to the burn ward.

Is there anything better in this world than a truly inspired insult? A good put-down is a thing of rare beauty, something to be relished like a fine wine. You can't even pretend to be offended when somebody insults you with the right combination of artistry and wit. Don't take it personally, bro. Just say "sick burn" and let it go. History has been filled with crushing zingers and some of the best put-downs the world has ever seen. Below, you'll find 52 examples, each sure to bring you oh-so-much joy.

READ THIS NEXT: 126 Good Roasts, Comebacks, and Funny Insults.

The Best Put-Downs Politics Have Provided

political bobbleheads of former presidents and candidates
Shutterstock / Angela Ostafichuk
  1. "My dear, you are ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be ugly." — British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Nancy Astor, the first female Member of Parliament, when she called him "disgustingly drunk"
  2. "Bill Clinton is a man who thinks international affairs means dating a girl from out of town." — Author Tom Clancy on the 42nd President of the United States
  3. "He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I ever met." — President Abraham Lincoln on one of his political opponents
  4. "How could they tell?" — Dorothy Parker on the death of President Calvin Coolidge
  5. "There's one area where Donald's experience could be invaluable, and that's closing Guantánamo. Because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground." — President Barack Obama on President Donald Trump
  6. "[Gerald Ford] is so dumb, he can't fart and chew gum at the same time." — President Lyndon B. Johnson on the 38th President of the United States
  7. "I've been called worse things by better men." — Pierre Trudeau on Richard Nixon
  8. "Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress, but I repeat myself." — Mark Twain on the members of Capitol Hill
  9. "Nancy, if you were my wife, I'd drink it." — Winston Churchill, after being informed by Nancy Astor that if she was married to him, she would have poisoned his coffee

Savage Put-Downs From Hollywood

aerial view of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles
Shutterstock / Sean Pavone
  1. "She ran the whole gamut of the emotions, from A to B." — Author Dorothy Parker on Katharine Hepburn's acting
  2. "Gentleman, Chicolini here may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot, but don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot." — Groucho Marx in Duck Soup.
  3. "I don't approve of political jokes; I have seen too many of them get elected." — Comedian Jon Stewart on the tools of his trade
  4. "What you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul." — Adam Sandler getting reprimanded by the school principal in Billy Madison
  5. "James Franco: acting, teaching, directing, writing, producing, photography, soundtracks, editing; is there anything you can do?" — Actor and comedian Natasha Leggero on the Disaster Artist star
  6. "We were trying to get pregnant, but I forgot one of us had to have a penis." — Comedian and television producer Roseanne Barr on her ex-husband Tom Arnold
  7. "He has Van Gogh's ear for music." — Writer and filmmaker Billy Wilder, while listening to an actor sing in the movie Kiss Me, Stupid
  8. "She speaks five languages and can't act in any of them." — Sir John Gielgud on Casablanca star Ingrid Bergman
  9. "His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." — Actor Mae West on a man she didn't like in Belle of the Nineties
  10. "Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses." — Actor Elizabeth Taylor on her storied career

The Best Comebacks From Literature

waxwork of Shakespeare, a man responsible for some of the best put-downs in literature
Shutterstock / Massimo Todaro
  1. "All morons hate it when you call them a moron." — Author J.D. Salinger from his novel Catcher in the Rye
  2. "If your brains were dynamite, there wouldn't be enough to blow your hat off." — Author Kurt Vonnegut, from his novel Timequake
  3. "One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity there ain't nothing can beat teamwork." — Author Mark Twain, in one of his most famous mass burns
  4. "He is simply a hole in the air." — Author George Orwell in his novel The Lion and the Unicorn
  5. "I desire that we be better strangers." — The legendary playwright William Shakespeare, from As You Like It
  6. "You see, but you do not observe." — Arthur Conan Doyle, from A Scandal In Bohemia
  7. "You talk too damn much and too damn much of it is about you." — Raymond Chandler, from his novel The Long Goodbye
  8. "Your hair wants cutting." — Said by the Mad Hatter to the March Hare in Lewis Carroll's novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Self-Deprecating Comebacks

dictionary definition of self-deprecating; best put downs for oneself
Shutterstock / Sharaf Maksumov
  1. "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap." — Dolly Parton, referring to herself.
  2. "There are doctors who save lives and firemen who run into burning buildings. I'm making movies. It's stupid." — Jennifer Lawrence during an interview with Vanity Fair
  3. "It's a good thing I was born in this century when superfluous television seems to be part of the economy." — Comedian Conan O'Brien on what would have happened had he been born in another era
  4. "Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes." — Jim Carrey on men and relationships
  5. "I'm sure wherever my dad is, he's looking down on us. He's not dead, just very condescending." — Jack Whitehall on family bonds
  6. "I had a wonderful childhood, which is tough because it's hard to adjust to a miserable adulthood." — Larry David reflects on life
  7. "If I can fit this over my nose, none of you have excuses." — Barbra Streisand urging everyone to mask up
  8. "Shoutout to all the girls that didn't want me back then, but now that I have money, y'all still don't want me. I respect the real." — Emmanuel Hudson on his rise to fame
  9. "People say, 'But Betty, Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends.' Well, at my age, if I want to connect with old friends I need an Ouija board." — Betty White on connecting with others

READ THIS NEXT: 40 One-Liner Jokes That'll Crack Up Your Friends.

The Best Put-Downs in Sports

Close up image of soccer players at the stadium
Shutterstock / alphaspirit.it
  1. "Lie down so I can recognize you." — Boxer Willie Pep, greeting a former opponent
  2. "What problems do you have, apart from being blind, unemployed, and a moron?" — Tennis star John McEnroe to a Wimbledon spectator
  3. "Only if there's an outbreak of bubonic plague." — Giovanni Trapattoni when asked if he would consider picking Paolo Di Canio for Azzurri
  4. "Tonight, I am stressing: You take this outfit home and you burn it. We don't want to see this." — Kevin Garnett on TNT reporter Craig Sager's ridiculous outfits
  5. "Is he OK? I'm shocked they found one, you could never tell by the way he plays." — Roy Keane after learning Clive Clarke had suffered a non-fatal heart attack
  6. "He's playing like an ordinary golfer." — Rory McIlroy on Tiger Woods and his dwindling performance
  7. "Lacks what I call knowing-how-to-play-football." — Arrigo Sacchi when asked his opinion of opponent Steven Gerrard
  8. "Alan Shearer is boring; we call him Mary Poppins." — Freddy Shepherd, who supposedly later apologized to Mary Poppins

The Best Burns in Musical History

waxwork of beethovan
Shutterstock / Prachaya Roekdeethaweesab
  1. "I like your opera. I think I will set it to music." — Composer Ludwig van Beethoven, slapping another composer to the curb
  2. "Music journalists like Elvis Costello because music journalists look like Elvis Costello." — David Lee Roth on the Pump It Up artist.
  3. "What a good thing this isn't music." — Gioachino Rossini on Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique
  4. "A malicious guy [who] will step on anybody's face to succeed, and cross any line of decency." — Trent Reznor on Marilyn Manson
  5. "He looks like Zorro on doughnuts." — Noel Gallagher on Jack White
  6. "He was a six-and-a-half foot scowl." — Igor Stravinsky on Sergei Rachmaninoff
  7. "A vile, hideous human being with no redeeming qualities." — Boy George on Madonna
  8. "If Morrissey says not to eat meat, then I'll eat meat—that's how much I hate Morrissey." — Robert Smith on the English singer-songwriter.

Wrapping Up

That's it for our list of the best put-downs history has to offer! Be sure to check back with us soon for even more fun. You can also sign up for our newsletter so you don't miss out.

Carrie Weisman
Carrie Weisman oversees all SEO efforts at Best Life. She specializes in content optimization and editorial marketing. Read more
Filed Under
 •  •  •