“We don’t need no stinking badges!” is one of the few famous lines that is both a famous quote and a misquote. It’s also the source of many variations about stinkin’ things we don’t need.
The evolution of this line began in 1927 with the publication of the novel The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a tale of greed, betrayal and madness written by the mysterious author and leftist/anarchist B. Traven (c. 1890-1969).
The main characters are three American prospectors searching for gold in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains: Fred C. Dobbs, Bob Curtin and an old-timer named Howard.
In a scene later made famous by the movie version, the prospectors run into a group of shady-looking, heavily-armed Mexicans, who they suspect are bandits.
Indeed, they are bandits. But, initially, just before the confrontation ends up in a gunfight, the bandit leader claims that he and his men are federales — the local “mounted police.”
Dobbs says skeptically: “If you are the police, where are your badges?”
In Traven’s book, the bandit leader replies angrily (and colorfully):
1948 film version of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which most sources say was released in the U.S. on January 7, 1948. (Some sources say January 6, 1948, but I think that is either the premiere date or simply wrong.)
“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabron and ching’ tu madre!”
In the movie, Dobbs is played by Humphrey Bogart. He asks the same question as in the book: “If you are the police, where are your badges?”
The bandit leader, called “Gold Hat” in the script and played by actor Alfonso Bedoya, responds sneeringly:
“Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges!
I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of the greatest and most popular movies ever made. So, it’s no surprise that Bedoya’s famous “no badges” quote spawned some humorous parodies.
What is unusual is that one of the parody versions became far better known than the lines in the classic film. In fact, many people mistakenly think it comes from the 1948 movie.
This renowned version is, of course:
“Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!”
If you’re a Mel Brooks fan, you know those lines are in his hilarious movie, Blazing Saddles, which was released on February 7, 1974.
What you may not know is that the same lines were first spoken by Mickey Dolenz in 1967, in the comedy TV show The Monkees.
Mickey says it in the episode “It’s A Nice Place To Visit,” originally aired on September 11, 1967.
In that episode, Mickey and two of his Monkees bandmates, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, dress up as Mexican bandits to save their singer Davy Jones from a “real” Mexican bandit.
Before they leave to find Davy, Michael Nesmith says: “Wait a minute, don’t you think maybe we oughtta take something out with us, like a club card or some badges?”
Mickey replies with a heavy Mexican accent: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”
I don’t know if Mel Brooks was a Monkees fan, but seven years later he made those words immortal by putting them in the script for Blazing Saddles.
In a now famous scene in that movie, the corrupt State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr, played by Harvey Korman, has a sheriff’s badge given to one of his Mexican bandit henchmen, played by Rick Garcia.
Hedley tells the bandido: “Be ready to attack Rock Ridge at noon tomorrow. Here’s your badge.”
The Mexican bandit throws the badge away and replies: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”
After Blazing Saddles became a hit, humorous uses of “We don’t need no stinking badges” (or stinkin’ or steenking badges) multiplied and continued.
Today, it’s common for people to say “we don’t need no stinking [whatever]” as a joking comment about almost anything.
To read some funny variations on the famed “stinking badges” line (like the cult favorite “We don’t need no stinking badgers!”) see this post on my Quote/Counterquote blog.
You can also click this link to see some recent examples from news stories and blogs — unless, of course, you don’t need no stinking examples.
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Further reading and viewing…