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Cuba Gooding Jr in Jerry Maguire (Cameron Crowe, TriStar Pictures, 1996)
Stories & Ideas

Tue 01 Dec 2020

Jerry Maguire – Show me the money

FilmPop cultureRead
Maria Lewis
Maria Lewis

Assistant Film Curator

This endlessly quotable line from Jerry Maguire is more than just pop culture popcorn, it's a mantra that speaks to the bond between the two lead characters.

Pound for pound, Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire (1996) is one of the most quoted films in modern pop culture with three key lines that have endured around the water cooler, in trivia, and – most significantly – in popular culture. While “you complete me” and “you had me at hello” have the glassy-eyed benefit of award-worthy deliveries from Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger respectively, neither have the sheer riotous joy of “show me the money!” Part of its power comes from the one-two punch of Cuba Gooding Jr’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Rod Tidwell shouting “show me the money!” to a backing track of West Coast rapper L.V’s The Wrong Come Up (which was released that same year) while Cruise’s strained sports agent Jerry Maguire shouts “show me the money!” back at him in a desperate attempt to keep his only remaining client. Few people do desperation better than Cruise and it’s a desperate moment, juxtaposed beautifully against Gooding Jr’s buoyant performance.

“Show me the money!” ranks at number 25 on the American Film Institute’s ranking of 100 movie quotes of the past 100 years, well above “you had me at hello” which sits at number 52. It’s testament to its impact that Jerry Maguire (1996) is one of only three films to have multiple entries on the prestigious list, The Wizard Of Oz (1939) and Casablanca (1942) being the other two titles. "The notion that the phrases and utterances from this movie still resonate after entering the popular vernacular 20 years ago is rather astonishing,” said film historian Leonard Maltin. “It just shows the very smart writing. Jerry Maguire captured something in the zeitgeist that has lasted." Having only made nine films in his career so far, Jerry Maguire came during what is considered Crowe’s peak in the 1990s with Almost Famous (2000) arriving a few years later. Yet it’s Maguire that has an optimism and light to it that Almost Famous lacks, with “show me the money!” taking on a whole new meaning when you consider it’s one of the most financially successful rom-coms of all time (it earned more than $273.6 million globally). It’s also one of the most critically acclaimed, earning five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Its endurance has a lot to do with the performances, sure, and the solid filmmaking top-to-bottom from the screenplay to the scale. It also has a lot to do with how it makes people feel, which is good. “Show me the money!” has never stopped being used in other films, television series, and songs partially because of this: it invokes a film that makes people feel good and a moment that is so delightfully over the top it endures like Al Pacino’s “say hello to my little friend” in Scarface (1983). In fact, it’s probably referenced in wider pop culture just as much.

It’s a little ironic how the line “show me the money!” has echoed through pop culture much the way it echoes in the film. It’s Tidwell who dips and weaves physically as he chants the line, with an uncertain Maguire uttering it back to Tidwell’s protests of “you can do better that Jerry, I want you to say it and mean it!” The dialogue echoes back and forth as Maguire repeats it and Tidwell demands it with increasing fervour – “louder, Jerry!” – until “show me the money!” bursts from Maguire’s mouth and crashes through the sterile office of the sports agency he’s so desperately trying to hold on to. When it’s uttered later in the film between Tidwell and Maguire, it’s not as unhinged from both parties: it’s their mantra at that point, the unifying motto between the two of them. They invited the audience to feel in on their secret language back in 1996, with viewers given the tools and password to the bro-code between two characters you wanted to spend as much time with as possible.

–  Maria Lewis