Life Lessons From: Defending Your Life

Long coma, Art. Long coma.

To refer to Defending Your Life as one of my favorite movies of all time would be an understatement. Albert Brooks’ script about a man who, after he dies in a car accident, finds himself in a bureaucratic afterlife waystation where he needs to justify his existence to determine if his spirit can “go forward” is as lean and airtight as they come. It ranks right below Much Ado About Nothing as a pure example of how dialogue and character development can move a story forward in lieu of big flashy set pieces or artificial “moments.”

The movie, much to my chagrin, turned 30 earlier this month, prompting retrospectives including this interview with Brooks on how the project developed and how a friendship with Carrie Fisher led to Meryl Streep being cast. If you haven’t seen it or just feel like it’s a good time to rewatch the film (it’s never *not* a good time, btw), it’s currently streaming on HBO Max.

In the meantime, from a script that contains more dryly funny bon mots per pound than nearly any other, here are a handful of quotes you can use in a variety of life situations and circumstances.

(Find more Life Lessons From the Movies here.)

When you use more than 5 percent of your brain, you don’t want to be on earth; believe me.

For when you need to exit a situation – party, job etc – in a hurry but want to leave everyone slightly confused until you have made a clean getaway.

It’s not a car, it’s a battering ram. This is what Patton drove.

For when you request a compact sedan from the car rental place at the airport and they give you keys to a van that could seat 15.

Don’t worry, and don’t kick yourself forever. Just take the opportunities when they come.

For when you realize the half-price Blizzard sale at Dairy Queen ended two days ago but only after you drove there already and ordered one.

Y’know if you really wanna make this place feel like Earth, you should open a few of those mini-malls.

For when you’re sitting in the backyard and really want frozen yogurt but can’t muster the energy to stand upright much less actually go anywhere.

Even though this feels like a trial, it really isn’t. It’s just a process that helps us decide, and as imperfect as it may be, we think it works quite well.

For performance reviews, relationship talks or literally any call with your parents.

Welcome to the Past Lives Pavilion.

For when you make the mistake of looking back at stuff you wrote 10 years ago.

I’m fine.

For when you are absolutely, definitively, unmistakably not fine.