Shutter Island: 10 Most Memorable Quotes

Svetlana Sterlin
6 min readApr 12, 2022

Shutter Island is a memorable movie with some incredible cinematic moments, along with quotes that have stuck with viewers over the years.

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island is a 2010 film directed by Martin Scorsese. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshall sent to a remote island that serves as a mental institution for the criminally insane. Accompanying him is fellow Marshall Chuck Aule, portrayed by Mark Ruffalo.

They must investigate the disappearance of a patient named Rachel Solando, but Teddy is too preoccupied with memories of his troubled past. His wife and children died under tragic circumstances, and he also served in the war, leaving him with far too many memories he wishes he could forget. Here are ten of the most memorable quotes from this haunting thriller.

10. "That’s The Spirit.”

Teddy is picked up by the warden on his way back from the lighthouse. At this point, he believes he’s figured everything out about Cawley and the island. As the warden drives him back to the wards, they start talking about violence. The conversation is a reflection of the memories Teddy still allows to haunt him: those of violence in the war.

The warden says that God loves violence and that Teddy is “as violent as they come.” As he lets Teddy out, he asks, “If I was to sink my teeth into your eye right now, would you be able to stop me before I blinded you?” Teddy responds that he’d try, to which the warden responds, “That’s the spirit.”

9. "You’re Smarter Than You Look, Marshall. That’s Probably Not A Good Thing.”

At the climax of the film, Teddy finds Rachel Solando — or so he thinks. Down by the sea, in the caves, he discovers that someone is living in there alone. This is actually a former doctor from the hospital who threatened to expose the island’s horrors to the outside world.

Portrayed by Patricia Clarkson, the doctor helps Teddy realize the effects the island is having on him. They discuss insanity and how sane people perceive it, and Teddy starts to fill in the gaps when she asks whether he’s been eating their food and smoking their cigarettes.

8. "You Act Like Insanity Is Catching.”

When the Marshalls are first let in through the gates to the island, they’re given a rundown of the facility. They’re strongly warned against getting too close to the patients without professional supervision.

In addition, the staff gives them a very strict set of instructions about where they are and aren’t allowed to go, which weapons or tools they are and aren’t allowed to carry, and more. Teddy starts to feel a little uncomfortable and nervously jokes, “You act like insanity is catching,” which foreshadows the ending.

7. "It’s An Island, Boss. They’re Always Gonna Find Us.”

For most of the film, Teddy believes that Chuck is his partner in the investigation into Cawley’s operations. They go around the wards, interviewing staff members and patients, and it seems that they’re truly a team working towards the same goal.

Chuck even accompanies Teddy to the cliffs, but then seems to fall off the edge. When Teddy goes down to find the body, it’s gone. During a particularly rough storm, the two are stranded out in the woods. Teddy worries that the orderlies will find them, but Chuck thinks this is obvious, echoing Teddy’s paranoia and voicing what the audience already knows is inevitable.

6. "You Don’t Have A Partner, Marshall. You Came Here Alone.”

One of the more chilling parts of the movie is when Teddy talks to Cawley towards the end. By now, viewers have probably figured out Teddy’s true role in all of this, and Cawley’s words only confirm these suspicions.

At first, Teddy’s mistake could be attributed to the strange effects of the island’s environment, but it soon becomes clear that Teddy has been inventing much of his reality for some time.

5. "Been Alone Much Since You Got Here?”

Teddy begins to face reality when he meets the woman he believes is Rachel Solando. In the cave, she prods him to reflect on his time on the island, but he doesn’t quite put the pieces together until he meets George Noyce in the lighthouse.

Noyce accuses Teddy of hurting him, but it’s not really Teddy he’s accusing — it’s Laeddis. Teddy hasn’t yet “remembered” that he is Laeddis, but Noyce makes him realize that Cawley and his men have been monitoring him as if he’s one of the patients. The truth is they’ve been helping Teddy/Laeddis create his narrative.

4. "Marshall, You Have No Friends.”

Though they only meet on the boat in the first scene, Teddy and Chuck quickly bond and find a rhythm as they work together. Teddy comes to rely on him and thinks of him as a partner. Even in the last scene, the two men are together and seem to know each other’s motives.

But when Teddy talks to the woman in the cave, she tells him the truth: that nobody on this island — or probably anywhere in the world — is his friend. Nobody is going to help either of them. They’re left to their own devices. Teddy’s isolation is possibly the scariest thing about the story.

3. "Crazy People — They’re The Perfect Subjects. They Talk, Nobody Listens.”

Insanity is obviously a major topic in this movie, and it seems that no matter how far or how hard Teddy tries to run, he can’t escape it. All along, it’s clear that something is seriously bothering him, and it’s not just memories of the war and his wife.

He remarks early on that “crazy people” are the perfect subjects because nobody ever takes them seriously. Several other characters comment on the fact that the label of insanity itself is enough to justify any of the patient’s words or actions.

2. "That’s The Kafkaesque Genius Of It.”

Rachel Solando’s wisdom helps Teddy reflect on everything that’s happened on the island, as well as face the truth of his dark memories. The two discuss insanity and how, in being unable to escape the island, they can never escape their labels of insanity.

“People tell the world you’re crazy and all your protests to the contrary just confirm what they’re saying.” What Rachel is saying is that every action will be deemed a defense mechanism, paranoia, or something else that is shoehorned into the funnel of “crazy”.

1. "Which Would Be Worse: To Live As A Monster, Or To Die As A Good Man?”

Without a doubt, the most memorable quote of the film is something Teddy says in the final moments. He’s sitting on the steps with Chuck the morning after his great revelation with Cawley.

In this single line, Teddy sums up his entire journey throughout the film. He lets Chuck know that he does remember the truth, but is choosing to free himself of the memories. He wonders whether it’s better to accept who he is or to get the lobotomy and continue living as a shell of himself.

Originally shared with ScreenRant.



Svetlana Sterlin

Svetlana Sterlin lives and writes in Brisbane, Australia, where she completed a BFA. Her work appears in several online and print publications.