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I hope this question isn't too tirivial, but in The Punisher Harry Heck says to Frank

You are one dumb son of a bitch. Bringing a knife to a gunfight.

right before Frank kills him making said knife shoot out from the shaft.

I always understood this quote as a reference to The Untouchables, when Malone (having a gun in hand) says to some thug trying to stab him

Isn't that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight.

Just before running into a trap and being gunned down.

  1. So first of all is there any source that this is indeed intended as a reference to The Untouchables or is it just me drawing a connection where there is none (though the quotes are really similar).

  2. And furthermore, is the quote from The Untouchables maybe in turn a reference to another (maybe more famous) older movie/story (to which The Punisher maybe actually refers, too)?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 11 down vote accepted

As far as I can tell, it comes from The Untouchables film.

Films

According to searches at Subzin, The Untouchables was the first with this line, but has been emulated in at least 20 other films since 2000.

  • The Untouchables (1987) 01:21:23 Brings a knife to a gunfight.

  • The Target Shoots First (2000) 00:17:38 What are you doing, Max? Bringing a knife to a gunfight?

  • Shottas (2002) 00:18:22 what are you doing, max? bringing a knife to a gunfight?

  • Duplex (2003) 01:17:10 Who are ya, bringing a knife to a gunfight?

  • The Punisher (2004) 01:06:55 Bring a knife to a gunfight.

  • Waist Deep (2006) 00:33:12 Nigga, don't bring a knife to a gunfight, my...

  • BloodRayne II: Deliverance (2007) 00:28:09 Ain't it like an Irishman to bring a bottle to a gunfight.

  • Dod vid ankomst (2008) 00:59:29 How typical of you, bringing a knife to a gun fight.

  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) Nice try kid, but I think you just brought a knife. To a gunfight.

  • The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009) 00:35:47 That's like bringing a knife to a gunfight. / Yeah, or like bringing a really small gun to a gunfight.

  • The Good Guy (2009) 00:37:24 Never take a knife to a gunfight, mate.

  • Wonderful World (2009) 00:26:00 Never bring a knife to a gunfight.

  • Death Hunter (2010) 00:50:49 Just like a rookie to bring a knife to a gun fight.

Including some variations on the theme:

  • The Glimmer Man (1996) 00:16:59 It's kind of like takin' a screwdriver to a gunfight.

  • Black Cat Run (1998) 00:32:40 A crow bar to a gun fight? Drop the fucking crowbar.

  • Urban Justice (2007) 01:27:07 l know you ain't dumb enough to bring a fist to a gunfight.

  • G-Force (2009) 01:12:27 [Speckles] Just like humans. Bringing guns to a space junk fight.

  • Unrivaled (2010) 00:28:46 you brought a knife to a bottle fight.

  • Cross (2011) 00:08:06 Genius. Brings sticks to a gunfight.

Books

The Untouchables film is based on the 1957 book of the same name, but it doesn't seem like the quote comes from the book.

The first use of the phrase I could find in Google Books is in 1989, after the film came out: in a fishing magazine and a book called Texas Wit and Wisdom). It does sound like it could be a Texas phrase.

This Ngram shows nothing before 1987:

Ngram

Newspapers

Likewise, the first use I found in Google News is from June 24, 1987 in the Argus Press's review of The Untouchables.

'Untouchables:' It's a Brilliant Movie Destined To Be a Classic

...

He [Sean Connery] has lots of great lines as Ness's mentor but the best one is when he tells Ness right away the first rule of police work:

"Make sure when your shift is over you go home alive."

Another is when, fighting for his life, he cracks:

"Leave it to a ... to bring a knife to a gunfight."

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3  
+1 Extensive research. It really suggests The Untouchables as the source. –  Napoleon Wilson Jun 9 '12 at 11:16
1  
Nice thing! But you forgot about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Here's the scene(sorry, couldn't find a better version): youtube.com/watch?v=D0TemUsNhyY –  Dragos Jun 11 '12 at 10:01
    
@Dragos: Thanks, I've added it along with some others. –  Hugo Jun 11 '12 at 10:31
    
A saying from 1732: Take not a Musket to kill a Butterfly. –  Hugo Jun 26 '12 at 11:03
    
Great answer, however I do keep wondering if it's not a common expression (so not neccesarily from a movie or book).. –  poepje Apr 16 '13 at 18:11

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