The Bonfire of the Vanities

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The Bonfire of the Vanities is a 1990 film about a Wall Street hotshot who sees his life unravel in the spotlight after his mistress runs over a young teen, attracting the interest of a down and out reporter.

Directed by Brian De Palma. Screenplay written by Michael Cristofer, based on the novel by Tom Wolfe.
An outrageous story about greed, lust and vanity in America. Taglines

Peter Fallow

  • If you're going to live in a whorehouse, there's only one thing you can do: be the best damn whore around.
  • [Narrating] A $600 million bond, to which he stood to get $1.8 million on commission, which would retire the mortgage on his Park Avenue co-op. For Sherman McCoy, that was all in a day's work.
  • [narrating] Our hero, Sherman McCoy, was about to make a simple phone call. But despite the existence of 11 telephones, and 7 different lines, in 14 rooms of his 16-million-plus dollar apartment, this was a phone call he could not make at home.
  • [narrating] It was all over. There was no hope now. The darkness closed in around them. And then I noticed the most peculiar thing. Sherman was smiling.
  • [narrating] Yes see, Sherman, who started with so much, lost everything. But he gained his soul. Whereas I, you see, who started with so little, gained everything. "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses..." Ah well. There are compensations.

Sherman McCoy

  • Remember guys, a frantic salesman is a dead salesman!

Judge Leonard White

  • [to court room] Racist? You dare call me racist? Well I say unto you, what does it matter the color of a man's skin if witnesses perjure themselves. If a prosecutor enlists the perjurers. When a district attorney throws a man to the mob for political gain, and men of the cloth, men of God, take the prime cuts? Is that justice? I don't hear you...Let me tell you what justice is. Justice is the law. And the law is man's feeble attempt to lay down the principles of decency. Decency! And decency isn't a deal, it's not a contract or a hustle or an angle! Decency... decency is what your grandmother taught you. It's in your bones! Now you go home. Go home and be decent people. Be decent.


  • Reverend Bacon: [about the incident with Henry Lamb] This is a tragedy! A fine young man has been struck down. God- fearing, church-going, never in trouble, graduating from high school, ready for college - and somebody comes along - some rich white people in a rich white man's car and wham! They run him down and never even stop. Now what are we going to do about these parking tickets?
  • Judy McCoy: I'm leaving you! [pause] After the party... and now, if you will excuse me, we have guests.
  • Sir Gerald Moore: I was at dinner last evening, and halfway through the pudding, this four-year-old child came alone, dragging a little toy cart. And on the cart was a fresh turd. Her own, I suppose. The parents just shook their heads and smiled. I've made a big investment in you, Peter. Time and money, and it's not working. Now, I could just shake my head and smile. But in my house, when a turd appears, we throw it out. We dispose of it. We flush it away. We don't put it on the table and call it caviar.
  • Maria Ruskin: [when she and Sherman end up in Bronx] Sherman... where are all the white people?


Peter Fallow: Was it true that Aaron Lamb was an honor student at Riddell High School?
Teacher: Mr. Fallow, the standards of our school are much different than other schools. We are just focused on packing in the kids from Bronx and Harlem and keeping them off the streets. At Riddell High, an honor student is anyone who comes to class and does not piss on the teacher.
Peter Fallow: So what about Aaron Lamb?
Teacher: Well, I saw him in class a couple of times, and he never tried to urinate on he qualifies as a honor student in our book.

Peter Fallow: Caroline, you devil.
Caroline Heftshank: Peter, you pig!

Sherman McCoy: I understand you went to Yale.
Tom Killian: Yeah. You, too. Huh?
Sherman McCoy: What did you think of it?
Tom Killian: It was okay. As law schools go. They give you the scholarly view. You know. It's terrific for anything you want to do - as long as it doesn't involve real people.

Sherman McCoy: There's one thing I can do. I want to see the truth come out, and burn every one of them, and there's only one way to do that.
Mr. McCoy: And what is that?
Sherman McCoy: Lie.
Mr. McCoy: Oh... you know I have always been a great believer in the truth. I have lived my life as honestly as I can. I, I believe in the truth as an essential companion to a man of conscience. A beacon in this vast and dark wasteland, that is our modern world. And yet...
Sherman McCoy: Yes?
Mr. McCoy: this case, if the truth won't set you free, then lie.

Trial. Sherman plays Caroline's recording
Maria Ruskin{on tape}: Sherman, you know I am a sucker for a soft dick.
Some of the people in courtroom laugh
Sherman McCoy{on tape}: I suppose we could still go to the police. We could get a very talented lawyer...
Maria Ruskin{on tape}: And put our heads right into the tiger's mouth? I'm the one who was driving the car. Don't you think I'm the one who should make the decision? And I say, no. No, Sherman. Trust me. Nothing is going to come of this little newspaper article. Absolutely nothing.
Maria faints after courtroom realizes she has just perjured herself
Abe Weiss: Objection! Mr. McCoy, is that your tape?
Sherman McCoy: Yes. I have this tape in my hands right now.
Sherman's statement is technically true, as he is holding a blank tape he bought at an electronic store


  • Take one Wall Street tycoon, his Fifth Avenue mistress, a reporter hungry for fame, and make the wrong turn in the Bronx... then sit back and watch the sparks fly.
  • An outrageous story about greed, lust vanity in America.