15 Best Understatement Examples in Movies

Understatement is a literary device that belittles something or makes it less important than it actually is. It means to make something less significant or less valuable or smaller than it actually is. Some of the best understatements in movies are as follows.

Example #1

From Armageddon 

It’s not the end of the world, General, the world – Earth –
will still be here. But there will be no life – maybe
cockroaches and some resilient strands of bacteria.

 Spoken by Golden in a voice-over, this conversation takes place in Armageddon. Golden refers to the earth to tell the general that it would be there but without life. Although Golden has also referred to cockroaches and bacteria, he states that there will be no life. This seems an understatement about the significance of life when seen from a scientific lens, for these are also signs of life and it seems that the words do not carry the same significance of life as they should have.

Example #2

From Joker

He’s a busy man.
Too busy for me? I worked for that
family for 12 years. He always had
a smile for me. Least he could do
is write back.

This conversation between Mom and Joker takes place in the movie, Joker. Although the conversation with Mom is quite interesting and 12 years stay is not a short time, the smile and “writing back” shows that Mom has taken it lightly and said in the same vein. This time and smile are more significant than they have been given here. Therefore, it is an interesting and humorous understatement.

Example #3

Beauty and the Beast

It’s a very long journey. Let me fix
you up before you go. I have found
that most troubles seem less troubling
after a bracing cup o’ tea.

This conversation takes place in the movie Beauty and the Beast. Mrs. Potts speaks these words saying that troubles seem less troubling. However, this seems that she has belittled the significance of troubles as they are not less troubling and if they are less troubling, they are not troubles. And when they are equated with a cup of tea, it seems that this is an effective use of an understatement that shows how she belittles troubles to lessen their intensity.

Example #4

From Into the Wild

I wasn’t much older than Tracy when I got
pregnant. And I thought my husband and I
were going to invent peace on earth and
stay together forever. But it didn’t
work out that way. He left. History.

This conversation occurs in Into the Wild. Although Jan tries to tell how Tracy made her pregnant and left her, she has belittled the importance of leaving by stating that he just left and it is history now. This seems that she has taken it lightly and has tried to forget him though it is a highly significant event in one’s life. She has tried to decrease its intensity in her life through this understatement.

Example #5

From Lord of the War

There are over 550 million firearms
worldwide circulation.  That’s one firearm
for every twelve people on the planet.  The
only question is…
(taking a draft and stubbing out
the cigarette)
…how do we arm the other eleven?
The camera zooms away from his face, revealing:

Yuri speaks these words in the movie Lord of the War. He is talking about the weapons. However, the way he has spoken about them that every thirteenth person has a weapon, it seems a horrifying specter but when he states that all others or 12 others should also be armed, it shows how he has decreased the intensity of this statement. This is a good use of an understatement in a tense atmosphere or atmosphere that is going to get charged.

Example #6

From Allahdin

ABU:        Hello!
ALADDIN:    Come on, let’s get outta here!
Gotta keep…one jump ahead of the breadline
One swing ahead of the sword
I steal only what I can’t afford
That’s everything!

Abu and Aladdin are discussing the art of stealing here. As it is a grave crime and is considered wrong in every social fabric, Aladdin wants to try to lessen its significance among other crimes. Therefore, he tries to belittle its importance by showing that it is just a simple act that when he sees that he cannot afford something, he simply steals it. It is an interesting but innocent use of an understatement.

Example #7

From Charade

Everything went smoothly enough until
after the gold was buried — then,
before they could get out, they were
ambushed by a German patrol. A machine
gun separated Scobie from his right
hand — and caught Carson Dyle full
in the stomach.

Bartholomew speaks these words to Reggie in Charade. She states that between Scobbie and his right hand, there was a machine gun. Actually, she wants to state that there was a German patrol officer pointing the gun at him for taking out gold. However, she has lessened the importance of this life-threatening event by saying that the machine gun has separated him from his right hand.

Example #8

From The Things My Father Never Taught

I loved my father and he taught me
many useful things. But he didn’t
teach me anything at all about
women. There was a time when I
resented that. And then, one day,
it occurred to me that perhaps he
didn’t know all that much about
the fairer sex.

This is the voice of Adult Melvin in The Things My Father Never Taught. He states that his father has taught him many useful things and it has occurred to him that he has not known many things about women. He then belittles the importance of women by saying they are fairer sex and that his father must not have known much about them. This is a good use of an understatement by comparing women with useful things and saying that it is the most useful thing that his father has never taught him.

Example # 9

From Platoon

Do you … do you know you’re gonna die … Big
Harold? … do you feel like … like …
everything’s gonna be fine and then …
Bullshit man, you gettin outta the field, man.  Three
hots a day, white sheets, dem pretty white nurses
give you blowjobs too you pay em enough, I heard tell
bout dem white bitches.  Better save yo strength

Big Harlod is teaching Chris how to save his strength for the war. They are considering women only bullshit and bitches and belittling their importance in the humdrum and chaos of war. It seems a good understatement that Big Harold is belittling the importance of women for Taylor and asking him to save his strength.

Example #10

From Megamind

Well, you’d think he’d invent a
wool sweater that didn’t itch so

This conversation between Einstein and Plato takes place in the Megamind movie. Both are talking about what Einstein has done for the world. However, to belittle the significance of his Theory of Relativity, Einstein tells Plato humorously that he thinks that Einstein has invented wool sweaters that should not itch the people. This is a good use of understatement that shows the humorous side of Einstein as well as his tone how he belittles the importance of the theory.

Example #11

From Honeydripper

You women don’t worry
About your life
She made Jack the Ripper
Throw away his knife-

Bertha Mae speaks these words in Honeydripper to show that even life is not much important as throwing a knife. This is a good use of understatement vis-à-vis life that women do not worry about.

Example #12

From The Army of Darkness

Why would you say that I am
insane?  I wouldn’t say that I’ve
lost my mind simply because I’ve
heard the voices and seen the
godless things moving in the
woods. If anything, I think more
clearly now than ever before. I
know now that there is such a
thing as a living Evil.

Ash opens the movie with these words. He is stating why others would call him insane when he just talks to voices after hearing things around him when others do not. Actually, he wants to undermine the significance of this psychological issue when to others it seems that it is an important problem he is facing. However, he questions it through this understatement.

Example #13

Air Force One

I know…
But lots
a times I feel like it’s me
versus the world.  Some kid at school
teases me and the same day a plague
breaks out in Bangladesh.  I mean it
doesn’t take a genius to figure which
is more important.

Alice speaks these words in the movie Air Force One, with reference to his own problems vis-à-vis the problems that the world faces at different places. He thinks that he is equal to the whole world that is an understatement that he is belittling the importance of happenings in the world, such as the plague of Bangladesh by equating it with the teasing of a kid.

Example # 14

From Tomorrow Never Dies

In any case, this is my father, Charles:
A royal bastard who started the first radio
and television stations. Said I’d never
amount to anything, but…(passing his own portrait)
I turned it into this.

Speaking to Bond, Harmsway tells him about Hong Kong and his father, Charles, who started his ration and television business. He tries to belittle his role by pointing to his painting that he has turned his father into this picture. This shows his apparent disregard for his parentage, though the hanging of the painting on the wall points to his inner desire to preserve it. This is a good understatement about one’s parentage and their legacy.

Example #15

Since the disintegration of her
parents’ marriage, she’d only loved
two things. The first was her long
blonde hair.

The narrator speaks these words at the beginning of the movie, 500 of Summer, and tells about Summer, the girl. He is of the view that she loves her blonde hair and they are very important for her after the disintegration of the marriage of her parents. This seems a good understatement that only hair has so much significance when the marriage disintegration has been belittled in comparison to hair.