When Clint Eastwood Uttered ‘Go Ahead, Make My Day’
In the early '80s, Clint Eastwood had already established himself as one of the most recognizable stars in Hollywood. Hits like A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and The Ugly had proven the actor’s box office appeal and 1971’s Dirty Harry gave him the iconic role of the titular character. December 1983 saw the release of Sudden Impact, the 4th in the Dirty Harry series of films. With it came one of the most recognizable lines in American cinema history: “Go ahead, make my day.”
The scene begins innocuous enough. Eastwood's character, Inspector Harry Callahan, enters the Acorn Cafe to get his morning coffee. When the server puts an unusual amount of sugar in his drink, Callahan realizes its a sign; the diner is being robbed. A shootout between the inspector and a group of would-be robbers proceeds. When the only criminal left standing grabs a hostage, Callahan stares him down and delivers the memorable quote.
It was Charles B. Pierce, a writer and filmmaker with a story credit on Sudden Impact, who came up with the line. Short in length but deep in intensity, the phrase has gone on to live a life of its own in pop culture. Eastwood knew the words would resonate, but in a 1985 interview with Rolling Stone he admitted that he too was surprised at just how famous the phrase became. "I knew that 'Make my day' would have a certain amount of impact in the film, but I didn’t realize it would become a sort of 'Play it again, Sam.'"
"Go ahead, make my day" became a veritable go-to for Hollywood script writers. Almost every major '80s sitcom used, referenced, or parodied the line at some point, including Golden Girls, Night Court, Mr. Belvedere, ALF and Roseanne. Even Marty McFly got in on the act, as Michael J. Fox’s character utters the line while staring into a mirror during 1990's Back to the Future III.
Pop culture moments weren’t limited to visual mediums. In 1984, country singer T.G. Sheppard released a novelty song titled "Make My Day." The track featured Eastwood's dialog and reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.
Even politicians got in on the act. During his speech at the 1985 American Business Conference, President Ronald Reagan, himself a former actor, stated "I have my veto pen drawn and ready for any tax increase that Congress might even think of sending up. And I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers. Go ahead, make my day."
In 2005 the American Film Institute named "Go ahead, make my day" No. 6 on their list of the 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time. In 2017, the San Francisco cafe location where the line was first uttered was demolished to make way for a new hotel.
Canadian metal band Convict only have one album to their name - 1985's "Go Ahead... Make My Day".
'Golden Girls' (1985)
'Sledge Hammer' (1986)