Any long-running series will have at least a few iconic quotes — sayings that live rent-free in players’ heads long after the credits roll. Many of the best quotes from the Call of Duty series come from the earlier games in the series, the titles that defined its writing style and made it a household name.
The original Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 from 2007 and 2009 have a higher billing than other games in Call of Duty history for reasons beyond their effect on the series’ narrative. In short, they’re more memorable, badass, and sometimes more meme-able than the quotes from later in the franchise. There is some representation from more recent titles here, but only a few.
The Best Iconic Quotes in Call of Duty History
There are dozens of amazing quotes from almost all the Call of Duty games, but for my money, it’s the earlier ones that have the most by far. Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 2 (2009), the first Black Ops. These games helped define and redefine what an FPS single-player campaign looks like, and you’ll find most of the quotes I list from those three games, though there are some from more recent titles as well.
1. Remember, No Russian
The opening line to a mission so controversial it made national headlines and prompted Activision to put not only a disclaimer about said mission but also the ability to skip it entirely. “No Russian” was undoubtedly the biggest shock moment gaming had experienced in years and a defining set piece all but unchallenged in the years since.
2. History is Written by the Victor
You could call this line from Shepherd MW2’s (2009) mantra, as it defines how Shepherd views his actions and how Price and Soap do at the game’s climax. It’s also a condemnation, though I leave such philosophical questions to better minds than mine.
3. The More Things Change, the More They Stay The Same
The first new dialog in Modern Warfare 2 (2009) helped set the stage for the entire campaign, as General Shepherd — Call of Duty’s best villain — waxes poetic about the times in which we live and how humans do nothing but repeat cycles.
4. How’d a Muppet Like You Pass Selection
Another quote from the CoD4 tutorial section, spoken by the original Captain Price, is another moment of levity. Important to note is the sentence before the muppet quip: “What the hell kinda name is Soap, eh?” Even without that extra context, the line was famous enough that it made its way to the Modern Warfare reboots starting in 2019.
5. Switching to Your Sidearm is Always Faster Than Reloading
More tutorial because some of the best lines in CoD4 come from its introductory section; this one is both character dressing and gameplay instruction. While I don’t know the real-life veracity of such a statement, in the context of the game, it was a nice touch.
It’s not the first Call of Duty mem, but one of the better ones, hearing Sgt. Foley certainly ordered your character, Private Ramirez, to take literally any action that was not funny. Better still, when the order was to “Secure the Burger Town!”
7. On Your Feet, Soldier, We Are Leaving!
Captain Price’s command during the early Tanker mission in CoD4 was also brought forward to Modern Warfare (2019), though in a less epic context. It was the first time things got hairy in a series where nothing is ever not going wrong, and both the line and its delivery were amazing.
8. Your Fruit Killing Skills Are Remarkable
This line, spoken by Gaz in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, helped set the tone for the rest of the game. Hard-nosed and serious, but with a bit of levity from time to time. It also made sure we knew that Gaz was a snarky one.
9. Good, That’s One Less Loose End
Shepherd’s betrayal (MW2 2009 spoilers, sorry!) shocked the Call of Duty system, blurring the lines between good and bad even further following No Russian. It would also mark the second player character to die in the same game, leading the way for Price and Soap to take the reins.
10. Good Time to Take Inventory
More of an aside, during Price’s monologue before the final mission in MW2 (2009), this quote is still one of the most memorable in the game for the casualness with which it’s spoken and the gravity of its implications. After all, it does come before a suicide mission where the only goal is to kill the hero general of the USA.
Related: All Call of Duty Games in Order
11. I Lost 30,000 Men in the Blink of an Eye. And the World Just F*****’ Watched
Shepherd gives his reason for every atrocity in MW2 (2009) to who he believes is already a dead man; this quote is another condemnation of both the in-game world and the real one. And though there have been no nuclear attacks in real life in decades, Shepherd’s disgust at the media and the world’s reaction is at least understandable, even if his actions in response are possibly worse.
12. The Numbers, Mason, What Do They Mean?
Sadly, more of a meme than a powerful quote, these words from various characters in Call of Duty: Black Ops have nonetheless stood the test of time. And while the story of Black Ops wasn’t as grand or as large a spectacle as MW2 (2009), its focus on the seedier side of military operations was still appreciated.
13. Press F to Pay Respects
Not so much a quote as an instruction, F to Pay Respects is probably the best-known phrase in all of Call of Duty, and for all the wrong reasons. I have a lot of love for Advanced Warfare, but its campaign was not the stellar achievements of entries past. However, this quote now transcends the game that spawned it, and because of Call of Duty’s larger audience, it has more staying power than the Press X to Doubt from LA Noire.
14. We Get Dirty, and the World Stays Clean. That’s the Mission
Despite tons of quotes to choose from in Moder Warfare (2019), this one from Captain Price is the only one that sticks in my memory. The MW reboot tossed aside much of the humor and levity of the original trilogy in favor of a far more gritty experience. This quote exemplified the game’s narrative message: war is hell, and those who fight it, at all levels, are the ones to see it first.
15. My Name is Viktor Resnov, and I Will Have My Revenge!
The entire twist of Black Ops hinges on this quote, excellently delivered by Gary Oldman and serviceably delivered by Sam Worthington. It matters so much that you play two missions that essentially end with it. I think it would be even more memorable if the gunshot sound that follows didn’t sound like a toy.