With David Chase serving as showrunner and an iconic ensemble led by James Gandolfini, the HBO classic The Sopranos set a new benchmark for TV dramas. It also drew great praise for its writing and well-layered characters, all of whom get their moment to shine with iconic dialogues that impact modern audiences today.
From Tony Soprano’s condescending shouts to Carmela Soprano’s sarcastic burns, The Sopranos managed to subvert familiar gangster genre tropes with dry wit and realistic characterization. As a Sopranos prequel film is all set to release this year, it only makes sense to revisit some of the best quotes that contributed to the show’s legacy.
‘Those Who Want Respect, Give Respect.’
Tony Soprano and the mobsters under him are extremely touchy when it comes to their ego and self-respect. Hence, it becomes a silent rule for all to treat each other with respect, no matter how violent or barbaric they might be elsewhere. When Tony’s brother-in-law Riche Aprille tends to go way out of line in bringing him down publically, Tony offers him a friendly reminder to stay within his limits.
Ironically, Richie’s lack of respect is what leads to his death in the very same episode. After a violent confrontation, his fiancé Janice’s anger knows no bounds and she shoots him in the chest.
‘You Ever Feel Like Nothin’ Good Was Ever Gonna Happen To You?’
One of Christopher Moltisanti’s more philosophical musings, this quote perfectly sums up his character arc. Even though Christopher is a morally evil character, the show’s storyline also reveals how he never intentionally chose his life of crime.
With aspirations of becoming a screenwriter, Christopher always wished to get early retirement from the mob. Even though he’s one of Tony Soprano’s most trusted men, he was hardly passionate about leading such a life. At the same time, he never really had the talent to make it big in Hollywood. Indeed, nothing good ever happened to Christopher.
‘Well, I Didn’t Marry A Cartoon Character.’
Carmela and Tony share an extremely toxic relationship, largely due to the latter’s continuous affairs and apathy towards the former’s issues in life. At one point, she even wishes to separate with him only to get back and continue her loveless marriage.
Towards the latter seasons, Carmela makes it evident that it’s high time for Tony to pull his act together. Rather than showing any regrets, Tony ends up defending himself with a comparison to Popeye. ‘I am what I am,’ he says while mimicking the character. To this, Carmela bluntly replies that she didn’t marry a cartoon character.
‘You Steer The Ship The Best Way You Know. Sometimes It’s Smooth. Sometimes You Hit The Rocks.’
By Season 3, Corrado John Soprano aka ‘Uncle Junior’ realizes that his constant struggle to stay on the top is futile. He gives up, accepting his nephew Tony as his true successor.
As Junior introspects, it can be seen that he gave his best in exercising power and control within the family. But he soon lost favor as ‘The Boss’, perhaps because of old age and his own stubbornness to accept reality. However, as this quote suggests, Junior finally comes to terms with his situation.
‘Dad, Are You In The Mafia?’
This quote by Meadow Soprano marked a turning point in Season 1 as Tony realized that he can’t hide his secrets from his children anymore. He tries to defend himself by pointing out how people involved with the waste management business are stereotyped as mobsters but he eventually lets her know the truth.
Even though Meadow appreciates his honesty at that moment, future episodes find her in several arguments with her father regarding the moral choices of his illegal profession.
‘You’re Only Religious When It Suits You.’
As Tony lashes out at his wife Carmela, he calls out her hypocrisy in terms of her religious beliefs. However, the quote not only applies to Carmela but Tony himself along with his peers in the crime world.
Throughout the series, characters like Paulie, Junior, and Livia are shown as faithful Christians but their devotion only seems to be according to their own convenience. Otherwise, they don’t think twice before leading a ruthless life of crime, lies, and betrayal.
‘I Like The One That Says Some Pulp.’
Despite flaunting his persona as a responsible family man, Tony Soprano is also pretty immature as is evident from his childish antics at home. One of the show’s hilariously memorable scenes bears testimony to this.
While Carmela is on the phone, Tony walks in his bathrobe with a box of orange juice in his hand. He then complains to her that the box reads ‘with pulp’. When Carmela reminds her husband that he likes pulpy orange juice, Tony continues his banter by saying that he doesn’t like this much pulp. Instead, he wishes to get the one that says “some pulp.” Irritated by Tony’s demands, Carmela throws the phone at him.
‘Death Just Shows The Ultimate Absurdity Of Life.’
By the show’s sophomore season, Anthony Soprano Jr. aka AJ tends to be drawn towards the readings of existentialist and absurdist philosophers. To the dismay of his parents, he even ends up quoting such profound lines in everyday conversations.
When Carmela starts shouting at her son for driving her car without taking her permission, AJ pushes forward the argument that he’s transitioning into ‘a man.’ Enraged further, Carmela points out the possibility of AJ’s unchecked driving killing off a few girls. AJ is, however, still wishing to treat this situation philosophically, commenting on the futility of death.
‘F****** Expresso, Cappuccino. We Invented This S***…’
With episodes like Christopher, The Sopranos attempts at gaining a more nuanced understanding of Italian-American identity. This tone is carried forward even in humorous scenes like Paulie Gualtieri’s outburst on the commodification of Italian cuisine in America.
This rant starts at a coffee shop when Paulie grows dissatisfied with the concept of “Italian’ coffee like cappuccino and espresso (which he jokingly calls ‘expresso’). And it’s not just the money,” he continues, “It’s a pride thing. All our food: pizza, calzone, buffalo mozzarella, olive oil. These f**** had nothin’. They ate pootsie before we gave them the gift of our cuisine.”
‘In The End, Your Friends Are Gonna Let You Down. Family: They’re The Only Ones You Can Depend On.’
A central theme of The Sopranos is family. Tony Soprano is very well aware that his lifestyle would only put his family members in danger. But at the same time, he’s willing to go to any extent to keep them safe and sound. He shows a similar sense of protection towards his nephew Christopher and the rest of his team.
In the Season 6 episode Members Only, Tony Soprano convinces AJ to put his trust in him with these reassuring words. The quote seems perfect for the final season given how it tests Tony’s personal relationships to the fullest.