• Hannibal Lecter’s quotes reveal his incredible ego and manipulative nature, showcasing how he thinks and behaves.
  • The dialogue in The Silence of the Lambs is exceptional and evidence of why it won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
  • Clarice Starling’s strength and battles against sexism in her profession are important elements of the movie’s feminist themes.

Along with creating one of the most chilling movie villains of all time and delivering huge thrills, The Silence of the Lambs quotes have helped cement its impressive cinematic reputation. The movie is often regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made, and certainly one of the greatest crime dramas. While it includes many tropes of the “catching a serial killer” movie, it transcends the genre thanks to some masterful writing, acting, and directing. Several standout quotes from The Silence of the Lambs highlight its terrific characters and bone-chilling sequences that have made it a classic.

Adapted from the novel by Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs has an incredible script, and its numerous Hannibal Lecter sequels and prequels have failed to match its quality. Ted Tally even won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, a fine reward for filling this film with some of the finest dialogue ever heard in a crime drama. Though Lecter himself gets to deliver many of the movie’s most memorable lines, there are a number of quotes from The Silence of the Lambs that fans remember all these years later.

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13 “Jack Crawford Sent A Trainee To Me?”

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)

Hannibal Lecter staring into the camera

The first scene between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter is packed with meaning and foreshadowing. Upon glancing at Clarice’s badge, Hannibal notices that it expires in one week. When Clarice tells him that she’s a trainee, a look of surprise crosses his face, and he can’t help but ask, “Jack Crawford sent a trainee to me?” It displays Hannibal’s incredible ego. Not only is he one of the country’s most feared criminals (not exactly something a trainee should be dealing with), but he also believes that a trainee will crumble under his intelligence and machinations. With these few words, audiences already glean an understanding of how Hannibal Lecter thinks and behaves.

12 “You Know What You Look Like To Me With Your Good Bag And Your Cheap Shoes? You Look Like A Rube.”

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)

Clarice talks to Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs

From behind a glass wall in his cell, Hannibal Lecter still manages to feel as though he is totally in control. He is an expert at reading people and immediately gets to work picking apart Clarice when she first comes to visit him. Though his infatuation with her will grow over time, his first impression of her is not impressive. He reads her in a way that suggests he has done this to many other people who came to visit and was effective at summing them up.

11 “Oh, And Senator, Just One More Thing: Love The Suit.”

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)

Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs
No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett Collection / Rex Features ( 411879fv ) ‘THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS’ – Anthony Hopkins – 1991 VARIOUS

When Catherine Martin becomes Buffalo Bill’s latest captive, desperate measures are taken in order to bring her back as she is the daughter of Senator Ruth Martin. Lecter is brought in to offer his own expertise on the case and insists on meeting the senator in person. Once again, though Lecter is bound and wearing a mask, he seems in control and first toys with the senator before offering some made up clues of who Buffalo Bill really is. Before leaving, Lecter compliments the senator’s wardrobe. The sly sense of humor Lecter shows in this moment is more playful than he is ever seen before but it is all the more chilling that he knew the comment would disturb the senator.

10 “Ready When You Are Sergeant Pembry.”

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)

Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs

Lecter’s escape from prison is one of the most memorable moments in The Silence of the Lambs. After seeing him behind bars for the entire movie, the audience glimpses the monstrous and dangerous side of Lecter. He enacts his plan when the guards are serving him dinner, patiently and politely waiting for them to go through the normal serving routine only to then strike in a terrifying way.

In the aftermath, one guard is dead and the other, Pembry, tries to crawl away. Lecter calmly picks up the discarded knife and repeats his line, “Ready when you are, Sergeant Pembry.” It is a fascinating look at Lecter as a villain as he flashed from polite gentleman to wild animal then returns to politeness even as he plans more horrible things for his victim.

9 “A Census Taker Once Tried To Test Me. I Ate His Liver With Some Fava Beans And A Nice Chianti.”

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)

Hannibal Lecter leaning against the glass

This is likely Hannibal Lecter’s most famous quote, and the one guaranteed to give viewers goosebumps. By this point in the movie, Hannibal’s horrific crimes have been well exposited and understood by Clarice, but when she meets Hannibal, she sees a rather polite and agreeable man who treats her with respect. But when she throws a snide remark his way, he offhandedly mentions how he once ate a man’s liver. The sly, almost inconsequential way he so matter-of-factly states it finally reveals the monster underneath the façade.

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8 “Well, Clarice. Have The Lambs Stopped Screaming?”

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)

Clarice Starling on the phone in Silence of the Lambs

Upon making his violent escape from prison, Hannibal flees to Bimini and phones Clarice after she catches Buffalo Bill. The first thing he asks her is if the lambs have stopped screaming, referencing a prior discussion that the two had shared. The Silence of the Lambs is a brilliant crime thriller, but it’s also a psychological drama concerning the mind of Clarice Starling. Clarice is a good person, and she desperately wants to help the defenseless of the world. By asking her if the lambs have stopped screaming, Hannibal is both confirming the capture of Buffalo Bill and the appeasement of Clarice’s desire. In a strange way, it shows that Hannibal cares for her.

7 “I’m Having An Old Friend For Dinner.”

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)

Chilton yells at Clarice

In one of the greatest puns in the history of film comes at the end of The Silence of the Lambs. After catching up with Clarice over the phone, Hannibal cuts the conversation short as he reveals that he’s “having an old friend for dinner” while hiding out in Bimini. The “friend” in question is Dr. Frederick Chilton, the director of the “Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane”. It’s a masterful final line, proving both threatening and darkly hilarious in equal measure. While it sounds like some type of cordial get-together, Clarice and the audience knows exactly what Hannibal means.

6 “Not ‘Just’, Clarice. What Set You Off?”

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)

Hannibal Lecter staring into the camera

The pivotal and most important moment of the entire film sees Hannibal and Clarice discussing her childhood inside the Memphis courthouse/makeshift prison. Hannibal wishes to discuss her past traumas, but Clarice seems reluctant. When she coldly states, “One day I just ran away,” Hannibal digs deeper, stating, “Not ‘just’, Clarice” and asking “What set you off?” By probing further, Hannibal is able to break Clarice’s shell, and she finally admits the truth about the metaphorical screaming lambs and her desire to help the helpless. The Oscar-winning performances of Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster make this exchange one of the most compelling moments in the movie.

5 “Why Don’t You Look At Yourself And Write Down What You See? Or Maybe You’re Afraid To.”

Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster)

Clarice holds up her FBI badge in Silence of the Lambs

When Clarice first meets Hannibal, he remains one step ahead of her throughout the length of their conversation. He’s aware of the numerous FBI tricks she’s pulling to gain trust, and he’s easily able to read Clarice’s past, character, and desires. But Clarice is a strong woman, and she eventually turns the tables on Hannibal by asking him to analyze himself. It works. Not only does the line establish Clarice as a strong, take-no-nonsense agent, but it also demonstrates that she can go toe-to-toe with Hannibal in conversation. This could be the moment in which Hannibal agrees to help her, perhaps respecting her drive and fortitude. Though she is underestimated, she is one of The Silence of the Lambs‘ smartest characters.

4 “Cops Look At You To See How To Act. It Matters.”

Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster)

Clarice Starling in the back of a car

Clarice Starling is one of the strongest female leads of all time, and the movie is as much about her strength as it is about the hunt for a serial killer. Jack Crawford pulls the Sheriff away from Starling, knowing that he won’t want to talk business in front of a woman. This understandably irritates Starling, and she later confronts Crawford about it. It’s not only important to Clarice’s character development, but it also proves one of the movie’s most important sequences in terms of its feminist themes. The movie does a great job of showing Clarice battling against the sexism in her profession without making it direct part of the narrative.

3 “It Rubs The Lotion On Its Skin Or Else It Gets The Hose Again!”

Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine)

Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs contains two terrifying villains, and fans continue to debate about who is the scariest. This iconic line from Buffalo Bill is perhaps the movie’s most famous, proving a nightmare-inducing glimpse into the detached mind and practices of the prolific serial killer. He wants Catherine to lotion so her skin is clean and suitable for wearing, and he uses a hose against her when she disobeys. Perhaps the most important thing to take away is his use of “it” rather than “she”, establishing the complete disassociation he undergoes when interacting with his victims. Ted Levine delivers a haunting performance that deserves the same level of acclaim as his costars.

2 “Memory, Agent Starling, Is What I Have Instead Of A View.”

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)

Hannibal Lecter's drawing of Florence

One of the first things that Clarice notices in Lecter’s cell is his incredibly detailed drawing of Florence, Italy. When she inquires about the detail, Lecter simply states, “Memory, Agent Starling, is what I have instead of a view.” This line does a couple of things. Not only is it gorgeously written and performed, but it also depicts Lecter as a cultured savant, with both a deep knowledge of Florence and a great talent for art. But it also sets up his frustrating lack of a view, which is something that Clarice will utilize to her advantage while trying to sway Lecter later in the movie. The intelligence and culture Lecter has makes him all the more chilling as a remorseless killer.

1 “You Won’t Wake Up In The Dark Ever Again To That Awful Screaming Of The Lambs.”

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins)

Hannibal Lecter sitting behind bars

During the movie’s most pivotal sequence, Clarice finally unveils her lamb dream to Dr. Lecter. Lecter in turn sheds his eerie, serial killer persona for just a second and inhabits his past life as a psychiatrist, helping Clarice to understand her dream. When she spills the details, Hannibal finally understands her desire and motivations – the motivation to clear her head of past trauma and help the helpless. With this, he finally understands Clarice and is able to let her go, both as an FBI agent and now as a client.

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