When the first Shrek movie was released in 2001, it was clear that the animation game would never be the same. With a star-studded cast featuring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow, Shrek took familiar fairytales and totally turned them on their heads, adding in slapstick humor and larger-than-life characters you would never find in any other story, fairytale or otherwise.
The films were clearly meant to follow Mike Myers’ Shrek, a misanthropic ogre who finds himself thrust into the role of a hero as he goes on familiar fairytale adventures. But while Shrek may be the lead character of the franchise, there’s no way to deny that Eddie Murphy’s Donkey, Shrek’s devoted and hilarious sidekick, is the real star of the films. With sharp wit, pop culture commentary, and seemingly endless enthusiasm, Donkey is Shrek‘s secret weapon.
Updated on January 14th, 2023 by Jordan Iacobucci: No matter how much time may pass, the Shrek franchise never truly goes out of style. Even over twenty years after the original film hit theaters, a new spinoff, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, carries on the legacy of the iconic ogre and his myriad of fairy tale friends. As fans wait patiently for any word of a fifth Shrek film, it is all too easy to look back and reminisce on the funniest moments in the original franchise, including several hilarious lines from Eddie Murphy’s Donkey.
“Okay, Let Me Get This Straight…”
“Okay, let me get this straight: you gonna go fight a dragon and rescue a princess just so Farquaad’ll give you back your swamp, which you only don’t have ’cause he filled it full of freaks in the first place. Is that about right?”
Rare as it was, there were times when Donkey made something resembling sense, such as when he said this quote in an attempt to understand Shrek’s reasoning. It’s not a bad argument, all things considered.
The irony wasn’t lost on Shrek either, who became a bit annoyed by his companion’s take on the situation, and uttered the reply “You know what? Maybe there’s a good reason donkeys shouldn’t talk.”
“…And Then There’s That Big Awkward Silence, You Know?”
“I hate it when you’ve got someone in your face, you try to give someone a hint and they won’t leave, and then there’s that big awkward silence, you know?”
Donkey had many things going for him, but self-awareness was clearly not one of them. In addition to being loud, brash, and irritating, he also had trouble taking a hint, especially when Shrek attempted to shoo him away several times and be rid of him upon their first meeting.
That makes the irony of this quote all the more obvious. Hearing these words uttered from the mouth of a character that couldn’t seem to take his own advice would drive anyone mad, and Shrek was certainly no exception.
“There Were Strong Gases Seepin’ Outta My Butt That Day!”
“And then one time I ate some rotten berries. Man, there were some strong gases seepin’ outta my butt that day!”
Some things are better left unsaid, especially in the presence of others. Once again, however, Donkey’s lack of self-awareness came back to haunt him when he uttered this quote about eating rotten berries, and the unfortunate side effects that came along with it.
When it comes to matters of stomach upset and flatulence brought on by eating ill-advised foods, it is better to keep a lid on the situation. However, with Donkey’s lack of inhibition and the nature of the Shrek franchise itself, there was no chance that the character’s more intimate details would be left unsaid.
“I’ve Got A Dragon Here, And I’m Not Afraid To Use It!”
Once Donkey had successfully wooed the fearsome dragon that previously acted as Princess Fiona’s prison guard, he used it to crash her wedding to Lord Farquaad and put a stop to it by swallowing the villain whole. A stunned crowd looked on as Donkey uttered this quote, proving he had the goods to back up his threat.
This moment would also set up a darkly comical plot device involving the slow death of Farquaad in the digestive tract of the dragon, which ended up taking a few films to accomplish, as revealed in the television special Shrek 4-D.
“Me! Me! Oh, Oh Pick Me! Oh, I Know! I Know! Me!”
Shrek found Donkey so irritating that he did his best to ignore him at a gathering to find out where Lord Farquaad was. After asking the crowd where he could find Farquaad, Donkey launched into a “pick me” tirade, only to be ignored by the ogre for as long as possible.
Not one to be counted out, Donkey kept up the begging, leaping into the air while yelling this quote as Shrek did everything he could to pretend he was never there in the first place. Shockingly enough for both characters, this sequence would mark the beginning of a lasting friendship.
“In The Morning, I’m Making Waffles!”
“We can stay up late, swapping manly stories, and in the morning, I’m making waffles!”
As soon as Donkey unexpectedly shows up in Shrek’s life, he proves himself to be a bouncing, endless ball of positivity and enthusiasm, which stands in direct conflict with Shrek’s general air of grumpiness. That, of course, is what makes the two of them such a perfect comedic duo. After Donkey makes it clear that he intends to live in Shrek’s swamp, he details his great plans for their future.
While Shrek isn’t interested in being friends with the talkative little donkey from the get-go, Donkey is basically confirming the two of them are going to be best friends forever from that moment on. Their first night together, according to Donkey, will consist of “stay[ing] up late, swapping manly stories, and in the morning, I’m making waffles!”
“If You See A Long Tunnel, Stay Away From The Light!”
Donkey can be a real worrier, and for good reason, given the sheer amount of insane obstacles and violence that he and his friends come into contact with throughout the Shrek franchise. But one of the first times he’s given a real reason to worry is when his new best friend, Shrek, is punctured by an arrow, and Donkey is made to think the injury could be something serious.
While frantically starting to run away and find help elsewhere, an incredibly panicked Donkey exclaims, “Don’t die, Shrek! And if you see a long tunnel, stay away from the light!” His comment just elicits further irritation from both Shrek and Fiona but leads to a real moment of darkly snarky humor for the film that’s never afraid of embracing sarcastic humor in all forms.
“This Would Be So Much Easier If I Wasn’t Colorblind!”
Donkey finds himself being quite the unlikely hero many times throughout the film franchise. One of the first times he does so is when Shrek is hurt by an arrow, and Princess Fiona gives him a quest to find a flower that he thinks will help heal the injury. Little does he know, the flowers were little more than a distraction to get him out of the way so Fiona could tend to the injury herself.
But that doesn’t make Donkey’s attempts at heroism any less heroic – or any less hilarious. While trying to find a blue flower with red thorns, Donkey takes to reciting “blue flower, red thorns” over and over again, and ultimately reveals – when surrounded entirely by those very flowers – that he is, in fact, conveniently colorblind. The entire montage is still hilarious after all these years.
“I Like That Boulder. That Is A Nice Boulder.”
Donkey is a character of very simple tastes and one who is very easy to please. When he finds up in Shrek’s swamp, he’s just about the most positive individual Shrek has ever met, including some amazing color commentary from Donkey, who takes to flattering the ogre in just about every way he can.
While wandering around the swamp grounds, Donkey begins providing hilarious observations on the home decor elements of Shrek’s home: “It is lovely! Just beautiful. You know, you are quite a decorator. It’s amazing what you’ve done with such a modest budget. I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder.” But it’s the boulder comment that really seals the deal, elevating his little monologue to a whole new level of hilarity.
“I Can’t Feel My Toes. I Don’t Have Any Toes!”
Donkey can be quite the over-the-top character when he wants to be, and for that reason, a little bit of him can go a long, long, long way. Shrek and Fiona often get quite tired of him, and as a result, they have a bit more mean-spirited fun with him than they should. In an attempt to get Donkey to leave them alone, so they can go off in search of wood and food for dinner, Fiona and Shrek begin to make Donkey think something is wrong with him.
Of course, at the slightest suggestion of this fact, Donkey begins to spiral. After Shrek and Fiona both abandon him mid-spiraling, Donkey becomes totally dejected, culminating in his realization that, not only does he not feel his toes, he never had any toes to begin with. His sad little “I think I need a hug” makes for one of the film’s most laugh-inducing and aww-inducing moments of them all.
“We Wear Our Fear Right There On Our Sleeves.”
“Well, I have a confession: donkies don’t have layers. We wear our fear right there on our sleeves.”
Early on in the first Shrek film, Donkey fixates on the notion of ogres having layers, like onions and parfaits, as well as countless other things. It’s a metaphor that Shrek and Donkey both refer to throughout the film after that first back-and-forth discussion, but Donkey’s cheekiest reference to it comes at a most unexpected moment.
Donkey and Shrek will go on plenty of dangerous and heroic adventures during the course of the franchise, but Shrek finds the two of them braving one of the most unenviable threats of all. In their attempts to rescue Princess Fiona from the tower, they’re forced to cross a dangerous bridge surrounded by a dragon’s lair and brimstone. And that’s where Donkey makes the revelation that “donkeys don’t have layers. We wear our fear right there on our sleeves” – since, as it turns out, he’s afraid of heights.
“…I Bet You Ain’t Never Seen A Donkey Fly!”
“Now I’m a flyin’, talkin’ donkey! You mighta seen a housefly. Maybe even a superfly. But I bet you ain’t never seen a donkey fly!”
While Donkey may reveal his fear of heights later in the film, when he’s first introduced in Shrek, Donkey is, in fact, shown flying through the air. When fairytale creatures are up for auction, Donkey’s previous owner tries to sell him off as a talking donkey, but a sudden burst of pixie dust makes Donkey able to fly, too.
All of the attendees at the auction are dumbfounded, including the guards and knights involved in the royal auction. But Donkey has never been happier, laughing hysterically as he floats through the air and gloats about being the first ever donkey to fly. Unfortunately, the joy is short-lived, as the pixie dust wears off in mere seconds. But it makes for a truly hilarious moment, and a great few lines, too.
“The Position Of Annoying Talking Animal Is Already Taken.”
Shrek 2 (2004)
Since Shrek and Donkey had really become best friends by the end of Shrek, it was only natural for Shrek 2 to introduce yet another frenemy dynamic for the beloved donkey. That frenemy, of course, came in the form of Antonio Banderas’ Puss in Boots, a pint-sized swashbuckler who would come to rival Donkey in terms of cuteness and snarkiness both.
From the moment they meet, Donkey doesn’t hesitate to make his dislike for the little feline known. When Puss in Boots tries to pledge his loyalty to Shrek, the clearly jealous Donkey immediately remarks that “The position of annoying talking animal has already been taken.” Of course, time would show that there’s plenty of room for two annoying talking animals in Shrek’s life.
“…Fiona’s Father Hired A Sleazy Hitman To Whack You…”
Shrek 2 (2004)
“Don’t worry. Things seem bad because it’s dark and rainy and Fiona’s father hired a sleazy hitman to whack you. It’ll be better in the morning.”
Donkey truly has a unique way of putting a positive spin on things, even in the most uncomfortably depressing of situations. Of course, his innate positivity often doesn’t help at all, considering the dry manner in which he delivers and recaps news. But the effort counts, just as it does in Shrek 2 when he and Shrek find themselves on the run.
After meeting Fiona’s royal parents, it’s apparent that Shrek is now a wanted man, as he’ll never earn their approval. In fact, things become so dire that Fiona’s father enlists an assassin to put an end to Shrek’s life altogether. And how does Donkey summarize their situation? “Don’t worry. Things seem bad because it’s dark and rainy and Fiona’s father hired a sleazy hitman to whack you. It’ll be better in the morning.” He really did make an attempt there, no matter how unsuccessful it may have been.
“How In The Name Of Hans Christian Andersen…”
Shrek The Third (2007)
“How in the name of Hans Christian Andersen… am I supposed to parade around in these goofy boots?”
Body swapping and unexpected transformations are the bread and butter of fairytales, and the Shrek franchise is certainly no different. But far and away the most unexpected and most hilarious example of this familiar trope occurs in Shrek the Third when Donkey and Puss in Boots find themselves suddenly swapping bodies as a result of Artie and Merlin’s magic.
Since Donkey and Puss in Boots are still the series’ resident love-hate friendship at this point, the realization that they are now inhabiting each other’s bodies leads to some wonderfully snarky barbs. But none of them are more wonderfully meta and hilarious than Donkey’s quip that he couldn’t possibly ever walk in Puss’s ridiculous boots – a remark he makes “in the name of Hans Christian Andersen,” the master of fairytales himself.
“[I’m] A Fancy Feasting Second-Rate Sidekick!”
Shrek The Third (2007)
“I’ve been abra-cadabra’d into a Fancy Feasting second-rate sidekick!”
Puss in Boots and Donkey have one of the best friendly rivalries in the Shrek franchise, which continues in Shrek the Third. In the film, the two accidentally switch bodies after Merlin casts a spell to teleport them back to Far, Far Away. Upon realizing his new physical state, Donkey takes the opportunity to take a jab at his friend.
Donkey’s disgust and horror at having been turned into a cat are only elevated by his sheer distaste for Puss in general. This would also mark the beginning of a fantastic running bit between the two characters as they continue to express their hatred for one another while inhabiting the opposite body.
“Look Out! They Got A Piano!”
Shrek The Third (2007)
The character of Donkey is undoubtedly one of Eddie Murphy’s most iconic performances in part because it allows him to utter lines that would make sense in few other films. One such line comes during a fight sequence in Shrek the Third, as the villains reveal that they have brought a piano to the battle.
Donkey’s sheer fear at the arrival of a piano is bizarre and incredibly random but works perfectly in the context of the Shrek franchise. However, he turns out to be correct in his prioritization of the piano, as the villains all retreat once the instrument is destroyed.
“Are My Kids Cute Or Do They Make People Uncomfortable?”
Shrek: Forever After (2010)
One of the most bizarre elements of the ongoing Shrek franchise is the romance between Donkey and Dragon, who have a litter of half-donkey half-dragon hybrids, called “Dronkeys,” at the end of the second film. However, when Shrek tells an alternate-reality Donkey about his children, the character responds with an appropriate question about their appearance.
In truth, Donkey and Dragon’s children are horrifying creatures that have haunted the Shrek fanbase for decades. Donkey was absolutely right to question the merit of these creatures, whose exploits are certain to take center stage if a fifth Shrek film ever hits theaters.
“And I Thought The Waffle Fairy Was Just A Bedtime Story!”
Shrek: Forever After (2010)
Donkey is known for his fascination with waffles, which is a running bit that stretches from the very first film all the way to Shrek: Forever After. During the latest film, Donkey is surprised to find a stack of waffles sitting in a forest clearing, remarking that the Waffle Fairy is real after all.
As lovably dense as Donkey is, it is difficult for fans not to find the notion of a Waffle Fairy utterly hilarious. Of course, given the franchise’s fairy tale setting, it isn’t impossible to rule out the existence of such a creature, making Donkey’s greatest wishes come true after all.
“I Go Down Smooth But I Come Out Fighting!”
Shrek: Forever After (2010)
When Donkey is very nearly cooked and eaten by the ogre resistance in Shrek: Forever After, he had some choice words for the cook, revealing that he may go down smooth, but he’ll come out fighting.
This quote is quite indicative of Donkey’s character, who was more concerned with how he’d be digested than being eaten at all. Murphy’s hilarious delivery also goes to show just how perfect his casting was as this lovable cartoon donkey.