Funniest Jewish movie characters


Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you how much I love movies, and comedies in particular. And, as a Jew, I’m generally drawn to the Jewish characters. Here’s a list of my all-time favorites—let me know if I overlooked anyone!

15. Maury Ballstein
Actor: Jerry Stiller
Movie: Zoolander

Iconic quote: “For Christ’s sake it’s a casserole, Sheila, it’ll stay!”

Why he’s Jewish: His last name is Ballstein, he wears a Magen David necklace, and at one point he says he’s “shvitzing like a schmendrick.”

Why he’s here: The Stiller family has been a great fixture the world of Jewish comedy, and they all make appearances in Zoolander. Jerry, however, is the only one whose character is Jewish, and he doesn’t disappoint. Showing every stereotype in the book for a rich Jewish big shot, Maury and his chest hair keep us laughing the whole time.

14. Rabbi Tuckman
Actor: Mel Brooks
Movie: Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Iconic quotes: “I mean, what a combination. Loxley and Bahgel! It can’t miss;” “Married in a hurry, married in a hurry! Please invite me to the bris.”

Why he’s Jewish: …Rabbi.

Why he’s here: Come on, did you really think Mel Brooks wouldn’t make this list? And, while he has many characters to choose from (including the Yiddish-speaking Native American in Blazing Saddles…“Schvartzes!”), Tuckman takes the cake with his constant circumcision jokes. While this is a tough achievement, I believe Rabbi Tuckman is one of Mel Brooks’ least subtle characters—and I love it.

13. Dot Matrix
Actress: Joan Rivers
Movie: Spaceballs

Iconic quote: “Ok, we all know Prince Valium is a pill. But you could have married him for your father’s sake and had a headache for the next 25 years!”

Why she’s Jewish: Well, there’s a general assumption that, even though she’s a robot, she shares the religion of her owner—it’s all Lone Star and Barf needed, a Druish Princess! Although, it is funny, because as a robot, she doesn’t look Druish.

Why she’s here: Hello again, Mel Brooks creations. Joan was the perfect voice for the robot of a Druish Princess. And she’s hysterically sassy throughout the movie. Hilarious.

12. Winston Wolfe
Actor: Harvey Keitel
Movie: Pulp Fiction

Iconic Quotes: “It’s thirty minutes away. I’ll be there in ten;” “Call me Winston.”

Why he’s Jewish: The actor and last name are pretty much dead giveaways.

Why he’s here: Quentin Tarantino has a knack for making great characters that perfectly illustrate their origins and backgrounds, without being stereotypical to the point of being stale or boring. The Wolf is an absolutely unique character; he solves problems. There’s a tremendous amount of mystery surrounding him, because you never know what black-tie event Marcellus calls him at, his origins, or how he got the skills he has for solving problems. A truly great character. The reasons he’s not higher up: he’s neither by definition Jewish or by definition a funny character. He still manages to achieve both, though.

11. Gretchen Wieners
Actress: Lacey Chabert
Movie: Mean Girls

Iconic Quote: “Why should Caesar get to stomp around like a giant, while the rest of us try not to get smushed under his big feet? What’s so great about Caesar? Hm? Brutus is just as cute as Caesar. Brutus is just as smart as Caesar. People totally like Brutus just as much as they like Caesar. And when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody, huh? Because that’s not what Rome is about. We should totally just stab Caesar!”

Why she’s Jewish: She says so.

Why she’s here: A great movie with a lot of great lines, Gretchen’s the only Jewish character. But hers is a great one, and is an illustration of the stereotypical spoiled pretty Jewish teenager.

10. Les Grossman
Actor: Tom Cruise (yes, Tom Cruise)
Movie: Tropic Thunder

Iconic Lines: “Let’s face it, the kids aren’t exactly dressing up as The Scorcher for Purim anymore;” “Ok, Flaming Dragon, f***face, first, take a step back, and literally F*** YOUR OWN FACE;” “Wow. You’re a great American. This nation owes you a huge debt. Now SHUT THE F*** UP AND LET ME DO MY JOB!”

Why he’s Jewish: Aside from the last name and the Purim line, rumor has it that he was based off of Harvey Weinstein.

Why he’s here: SO many reasons. First of all, I could pretty much copy every single one of his lines down up there, and most of them would be in all caps. Plus, the moment I realized that was Tom Cruise, I laughed so hard I almost had to step out of the theater. And let’s not forget his awesome dance moves.

9. Every character in Wet Hot American Summer

Iconic Lines: “You taste like a burger. I don’t like you anymore.” (-Paul Rudd’s Andy); “Douchebags are hygienic products; I take that as a complement. Thank you!” (-Gabriel Millman’s Caped Camper); Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks): “What’chya doin’?” Andy: “Writing in my gournal. I write my thoughts in it every day.” Lindsay: “Oh, you mean a journal?” Andy: “Yeah, whatever. I guess I’m not all smart like you;” “I want you inside me.” –Michael Showalter’s Coop; “Before we start, I’d just like to say the campers you’re about to see SUCK D***! But, nevertheless, please welcome them.” –Amy Poehler’s Susie

Why they’re Jewish: It’s pretty obviously a Jewish summer camp. Plus, the guy on the radio at one point mentions “Jewish Day School radio,” and when the kids pray, they start with Baruch ata

Why they’re here: Most Jewish millennials have seen Wet Hot more times than they can count. And not to worry for those who haven’t—despite what its title may suggest, the movie isn’t exactly x-rated. Like with Les Grossman, I could have quoted the entire movie up there. And the cast is absolutely incredible. If you haven’t seen this cult classic, do it now.

8. Miracle Max
Actor: Billy Crystal
Movie: The Princess Bride

Iconic Line: “There’s a big difference between dead and mostly dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead, there’s usually only one thing you can do.” (Inigo Montoya: “What’s that?”) “Go through his clothes and look for loose change.”

Why he’s Jewish: Cause. He is.

Why he’s here: A great actor in an even greater movie, Billy Crystal is absolutely brilliant as Miracle Max, and he and his wife Valerie remind us all of that crazy old Jewish couple we know. He and Valerie are absolutely adorable together.

7. Pretty much any Jonah Hill or Seth Rogen character

Iconic Lines: Don’t get me started!

Why they’re Jewish: They both always play either explicitly or implicitly Jewish characters.

Why they’re here: They are both hilarious. And they have incredibly similar types of comedy—they’re both chubby, Jew-froed, sarcastic guys who are kinda jerks but also super funny so you forgive them. And, while neither is even close to the greatest Jewish actor of all time, they are so similar and their characters are so obviously Jewish that I had to give them a shout-out.

6. Noah Levenstein (aka Jim’s dad)
Actor: Eugene Levy
Movie: The American Pie series

Iconic Lines: “It’s like banging a tennis ball against a brick wall, which can be fun. It can be fun, but it’s not a game. It’s not a game. What you want is for your partner to return the ball;” “Evidently you two made quite the handsome couple on the internet…oh, I didn’t see it. It…uh…was brought up at a PTA meeting.”

Why he’s Jewish: They say so in the movie.

Why he’s here: Cause he’s the Jewish dad. The perfect mix of supportive, awkward, and impossibly embarrassing. There are many others of his quotes that I opted not to put here—for obvious reasons.

5. Al Czervik
Actor: Rodney Dangerfield
Movie: Caddyshack

Iconic Lines: “I shoulda just stayed home and played with myself;” “Hey, you’re alright, you musta been something before electricity, huh? You wanna make 14 dollars—the hard way?” “Whoa, somebody step on a duck?” “Hey Wang, I think this place is restricted, so don’t tell anybody you’re Jewish, alright?” “HEY EVERYONE! WE’RE ALL GONNA GET LAID!”

Why he’s Jewish: He’s Rodney Dangerfield.

Why he’s here: Aside from Dangerfield being one of the funniest Jews to ever live, his character is just awesome and hilarious—in a movie filled with awesome and hilarious characters. I couldn’t let the actor, movie, or character go unmentioned.

4. Sgt. Donny Donowitz (or you might know him better as the BEAR JEW)
Actor: Eli Roth
Movie: Inglourious Basterds

Iconic Lines: “After I kill that guy, you have 30 feet to get to that guy;” “Teddy f***in’ Williams knocks it out of the park! Fenway Park on its feet for Teddy f***in’ Ballgame! He went yardo on that one, out to f***in’ Lansdowne Street!”

Why he’s Jewish: …Bear Jew.

Why he’s here: For a movie that empowers Jews who fought in World War II and that is incredibly hilarious, there aren’t too many funny, major Jewish characters. Brad Pitt’s Aldo the Apache is pretty awesome, but not Jewish; and Mélanie Laurent’s Shoshana Dreyfus is straight up badass, but not funny. In terms of the Basterds themselves, who, aside from Aldo (and probably the ex-German soldier, Til Schweiger’s Hugo Stiglitz), are all Jewish, The Bear Jew is the only one with a relatively significant role—and it’s a hysterical one. The man who German soldiers think is a golem doesn’t “beat German soldiers with a club.” Oh no, that’s too civil and reserved for him. As Aldo says, “He bashes their brains in with a baseball bat, is what he does.” His few hysterical lines, as well as the incredibly cathartic scene in which (spoiler!) the Bear Jew kills Hitler then shoots his body continuously with a machine gun, landed him the number 4 spot on here.

3. Armand Goldman
Actor: Robin Williams
Movie: The Birdcage

Iconic Lines: “Actually, I was talking to the a**hole behind you;” “You do an eclectic celebration of the dance! You do Fosse, Fosse, Fosse! You do Martha Graham, Martha Graham, Martha Graham! Or Twyla, Twyla, Twyla! Or Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd! Or Madonna, Madonna, Madonna!… but you keep it all inside;” “So what? The important thing to remember is not to go to pieces when that happens. You have to react like a man, calmly. You have to say to yourself, ‘Albert, you pierced the toast, so what? It’s not the end of your life!’” “I made you short?”

Why he’s Jewish: He says so. Also, they change their name to Coldman at one point so they don’t seem Jewish.

Why he’s here: The biggest question many will have is why isn’t Nathan Lane’s Alan here. True, they are together, but there is no indication that Alan converted, and while Alan’s lines are funnier, I personally think Armand is a better and funnier overall character. He’s both classic Jewish and classic Robin Williams, and the wit and humor of both the character and the movie are just perfect.

2. Bialystock and Bloom
Actors: Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder; Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick
Movie(s): The Producers(s)

Iconic Lines: Too many to count.

Why they’re Jewish: It’s pretty obvious.

Why they’re here: While they may not be the best Mel Brooks movie characters, they are certainly the best Jewish Mel Brooks characters. The teams of Mostel-Wilder and Lane-Broderick are both perfect matches, and the fun singing, dancing, and joking makes both movies delightful. From “Springtime for Hitler” to “Prisoners of Love,” you’ll laugh the whole time.

1. Walter Sobchax
Actor: John Goodman
Movie: The Big Lebowski

Iconic Lines: “Shut the f*** up Donny;” “That’s right, Dude. They peed on your f***ing rug;” “You want a toe? I can get you a toe. I can get you a toe by three o’clock this afternoon, with nail polish. Those f***in’ amateurs;” “Smokey, this is not ‘Nam, this is bowling, there are rules;” “THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS, LARRY! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU F*** A STRANGER IN THE A**;” “Oh, please, dear? For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint;” “Lady, I got buddies who died face down in the muck so that you and I could enjoy this family restaurant!” “I’m stayin’. I’m finishing my coffee. Enjoyin’ my coffee;” “Three thousand years of beautiful tradition from Moses to Sandy Koufax, you’re GODD*** RIGHT I’M LIVING IN THE F***ING PAST;” “F***ing Germans. Nothing changes. F***ing Nazis;” “Nihilists?! F*** me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos;” “Saturday, Donny, is Shabbas, the Jewish day of rest. It means I don’t work, I don’t drive a car, I don’t f**ing ride in a car, I don’t handle money, I don’t turn on the oven, and I sure as s*** DON’T F***ING ROLL! SHOMER SHABBAS! …Shomer f***ing Shabbas.”

Why he’s Jewish: “I’m Jewish as f***in’ Tevye.”

Why he’s here: As you can probably tell from the amount of quotes up there, Lebowski is one of my all-time favorites. And Walter’s character is just brilliant. He combines the stereotype of an angry Vietnam vet with that of an angry Jew—something you’d never think possible before seeing this movie. If there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t seen the movie yet, I envy you, because you have yet to experience this incredible work of art in all its glory for the first time. And, if you need a toe, you know where to go.

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