Backdraft (film)

1991 film by Ron Howard

Backdraft is a 1991 American film about two Chicago firefighter brothers, who don't get along, who have to work together while a dangerous arsonist is on the loose.

Directed by Ron Howard. Written by Gregory Widen.
In that instant it can create a hero... or cover a secret.

Stephen "Bull" McCaffrey

  • How do you do it, man? How do you manage to keep coming up with new and amazing ways to fuck up? I mean, that Scotch bullshit? Am I really supposed to believe you came crawlin' home because you felt heartstrings moan for the family biz? You were bankrupt, man! The scary thing is, you probably coulda got away with it for awhile.
  • One case of scotch, Brian? Man, you're getting cheap in your old age!
  • You go, we go.
  • I told you to stay right be-fucking-side me, Brian!
  • Well, I thinks its union bylaw that if you get your picture in the paper, even if it's bullshit, that you gotta buy the whole company a drink.
  • The only problem is that in this job is there's just no place to hide. It's not like having a bad day selling log cabins. You have a bad day here and somebody dies... and that's just not fucking good enough.
  • You're doin it wrong.
  • Look at him. That's my brother, Goddamn it.

Brian McCaffrey

  • I'm not gonna quit, Stephen. You hear me?

John "Axe" Adcox

  • Jesus, Stevie, you never know when to quit, do you? Do you ever wonder why you're stuck a fucking lieutenant for life?

Donald 'Shadow' Rimgale

  • [Rimgale and Brian crash Alderman Swayzak's press conference] These detectives would like to question you on how come you paid Donald Cosgrove, Jeffrey Holcomb and Alan Seagrave to create a phony manpower study! Ask him who made money off firemen dying!


  • Ricco, Pathologist: [to Brian about picking up the burned body] Jesus Christ! He's not going to sell you insurance, pick him up!
  • Ronald Bartel: The funny thing about firemen is... Night and day they are always firemen.


Schmidt: Yeah, it's jumping floors, Lieutenant!
Stephen: Well, where's the second-in companies, huh?
Schmidt: Sorry, man, John Wayne time. You're on your own, boss.

Tim Kizminski: How do we know if the floor’s gonna be on fire on one of these?
Stephen: Well, when the doors open, if it's hot, don't get out.

Axe: Gentlemen, gentlemen, gentlemen. As 17's official toastmaster...
Ray Santos: ...and bullshitter.
Axe: Thank you, Santos. Did I happen to mention you're cut out of my will? I think it appropriate that we recognize the two asswipes... Probationary Firemen... among us today who were officially baptized into the world of Old Man Fire. First, to Tim. Despite the fact that he was born with a rather dull expression, and a really hideous pair of ears, he not only took on the beast but pulled from its clutches, assisted by a more famous and brilliant firefighter, me, a kicking and screaming civilian who will probably wind up suing us for breaking her fingernails. And to Brian... [reveals mannequin] ...whose own contribution was both more beautiful and less likely to sue. You know, when I learned that both McCaffrey brothers would be assigned here at this station together at the same time, my heart was filled with... a sudden desire to transfer. So raise a glass, lads. To funny-looking Tim, and the McCaffrey brothers, who, despite the fact that they have gotten on each other's nerves for years, have managed with great effort to still be pissed off at each other... Gentlemen.
All men in the firehouse: Fuck you! [laughter]

Brian McCaffrey: [Tim Krizminski, a candidate, was severely burned by a backdraft] You had to do it, didn't you? You had to be myth man again, taking on another fire bare-handed instead of looking out for your probie?
Stephen McCaffrey: I had that fire! He just didn't listen to me!
Brian: He's a candidate! Your responsibility! You shouldn't have had him up there in the first place! You burned him, Stephen!
Stephen: Fuck you!
Brian: Don't you walk away from me!

Stephen: Hey, Swayzak! You missed it, buddy! Oh, you should have been there, man! Really, it was fuckin' great. I mean, we almost lost it. We almost lost a whole goddamn company for you just because, well, you know, since you shut down Thirty-Three. Well, there's no fuckin' backup, right? And we do, we appreciate it. I mean, I don't know about the rest of the guys, but you got my vote for mayor!
Swayzak: Look, Lieutenant, if you have a problem, why don't you help us? Why don't you work with the task force...
Stephen: Task force? Three guys have died already this year because of the cuts made by your FUCKIN' TASK FORCE!

Stephen: Who's your brother, Brian?
Brian: You are, Stephen.

Rimgale: So stop me if I got this wrong. Now the fire is almost out, you're upstairs on the unburned floor checking for heat, is that correct? And you've been told by your Battalion Chief, your Captain and by me not to do nothin', right? Not to do nothin' until ordered. That's correct, right?
Candidate: Yes, sir.
Rimgale: Ok. But now the itch starts. The 'Glory Boy' flash starts. 'Hey, I'm a hero. Heroes don't just stand around.' You can tell me, that's what it was, wasn't it?
Candidate: Yes, sir.
Rimgale: So you punched out a window for ventilation. Was that before or after you noticed you were standing in a lake of gasoline? WAS THAT BEFORE OR AFTER YOU NOTICED YOU WERE STANDING IN A LAKE OF GASOLINE, YOU IDIOT?!
Candidate: Before, sir.
Rimgale: You could have burned or killed or crispened half that company! To say nothing of the fact that you wrecked the physical evidence that I use to prove that it's arson, and you know how goddamned hard it is to determine the cause of these fires! Now you go home and you think about that!

Jennifer Vaitkus: We believe you're holding back on us, to embarrass the Alderman because of his fire department cutbacks.
Donald: Alderman, I have an uncomplicated job: To determine if a fire is arson or not, and if so, to catch the son of a bitch doing it. And if my investigative methods happen to muck up the campaign of certain mayor wannabes, I gotta tell ya... I'm not gonna go losing any sleep over it.

Ronald: I sent away for the copy of Life magazine. The one with your picture on the front. It's a collectible.
Brian McCaffrey: Who's doing this, Ronald?
Ronald: Wrong question. Who isn't? It's not a spark because there's not enough damage. He wouldn't have had any fun. It's not an insurance scam because there isn't any profit.
Brian: Do you know who's doing this?
Ronald: Yes.
Brian: Then tell me.
Ronald: You want to know who? I want to know if this kid really wanted to be just like his dad.
Brian: I wanted to be him. I wanted to be him more than anything else in the world.
Ronald: And you loved him?
Brian: Yeah.
Ronald: And you watched him dance with the animal. You saw your dad burn.
Brian: Fuck you, Ronald! Who's doing this, huh?
Ronald: Did it look at you? Did the fire look at you? It did. Whoa. Wow! Our worlds aren't that far apart after all, are they? So, whoever did this this knows the animal well, doesn't he? He knows him real well, but he won't let him loose. He won't let him have any fun, so he does not love him. Now who doesn't love fire? And is around trychtichlorate all day long?
Brian: Oh, my God!
Ronald: See... that wasn't such a long walk after all.

Rimgale: What about the world, Ronald? What would you like to do to the whole world?
Ronald Bartel: Burn it all.
Rimgale: See you next year, Ronald.

Rimgale: In a word, Brian, what is this job all about?
Brian: Fire.
Rimgale: It's a living thing, Brian. It breathes, it eats, and it hates. The only way to beat it is to think like it. To know that this flame will spread this way across the door and up across the ceiling, not because of the physics of flammable liquids, but because it wants to. Some guys on this job, the fire owns them, makes 'em fight it on it's level, but the only way to truly kill it is to love it a little. Just like Ronald.

Swayzak: You know that little glow that’s starting to blink in the corner of your eye? That's your career dissapation light. It just went into overtime.
Stephen: If anybody's lights are about to go out, believe me they're yours.

Stephen: Jesus Christ, Axe!
Axe: You don't understand. My cousin, my cousin, Sally, used to work at Swayzak's office. She saw the files, Stephen. She saw what he did!
Stephen: You set me up with those chemicals on the boat?
Axe: I'm trying to explain.
Brian: Stephen!
Axe: You back off!
Stephen: Axe...
Axe: Somebody had to stop these pricks, Stephen!
Stephen: Would you look at me, Axe?
Axe: Would you please listen to me?
Stephen: What were you thinking? You burned people!
Axe: You didn't see.
Stephen: You're a fireman!
Axe: When Sally showed me what was in Swayzak's files...
Brian: You saw Swayzak's files?!
Axe: I should've told you. I should've let you on it.
Brian: Let him in on what, John? Murder?
Axe: Swayzak and those assholes were closing firehouses. They were getting our friends killed for money! I had to, Stephen! I had to do it for the department!
Brian: Did you do it for Tim, John?
Axe: That was an accident!
Stephen: Did you start that fire?
Axe: Jesus Christ! Why'd you have to go in there so fucking early?
Stephen: That's why you wanted me to wait.
Axe: Let me finish Swayzak!
Brian: No, John! It's over!
Axe: You shut up! Your dad would fucking puke if he saw how you shit on his department!
Brian: What would he say about what you're doing, John?!
Axe: Your dad died saving my life. Died saving my life, and these people were killing firemen for money.
Stephen: Swayzak?
Axe: He killed our friends for money! What the fuck would you do?
Brian: Look, you're his lieutenant, Stephen! You've gotta handle this!
[The roof starts weakening]
Axe: It's going!
Stephen: Get to the side, Brian! It's gonna go!

[Rimgale and Brian crash Alderman Swayzak's press conference]
Rimgale: These detectives would like to question you on how come you paid Donald Cosgrove, Jeffrey Holcum and Allan Seagrave to create a phony manpower study! [throws the files at the media, resulting in a barrage of questions] Ask him who made money off firemen dying!
Brian: [in Swayzak's ear] You see that glow flashing in the corner of your eye? That's your career dissipation light. It just went into high gear.


  • One breath of oxygen and it explodes in a deadly rage.
  • Silently behind a door, it waits.
  • In that instant it can create a hero... or cover a secret.


Wikipedia has an article about: