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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    Actually, it precedes The Untouchables -- it's in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
    – user28162
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 9:39
  • It might first have memorably been said in 1987, buy Spielberg's 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' acted it out in 1981.
    – user28814
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 12:10
  • I thought it was "Bringing" in The Untouchables as well.
    – N. Presley
    Commented Jun 16, 2018 at 1:31
  • @N.Presley I don't know where I got it from, I think the IMDb quotes page. But thanks for noticing, I'll try to check the transcript or even the actual scene.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 17:29

2 Answers 2


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


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.


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:



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."

  • A saying from 1732: Take not a Musket to kill a Butterfly.
    – Hugo
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 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)..
    – paddotk
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 18:11
  • 6
    @Hugo that quote from 1732 is something completely different.
    – paddotk
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 18:12
  • @poepje: Yes, that's why the 1732 quote is a comment and not in my answer.
    – Hugo
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 9:05
  • 2
    @Hugo That's because Ngram looks in pdf books, not worldwide common knowledge. The internet doesn't know EVERYTHING...
    – paddotk
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 14:27

I may be wrong, however I think that expression was first used in the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" Robert Redford & Paul Newman 1969

  • 2
    Welcome to Movies & TV! We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 19:16

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