Classic Scene: Up to 11


Up to 11

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

Directed by Rob Reiner

The Scene: Documentarian Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) continues to follow the journeyspinal of the world’s loudest bands Spinal Tap. Marty is discussing a special amp used by band member Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) which has where the knobs go from 0 to a max level of 11 instead of the traditional 10. Most bands turn it all the way up but are limited once they reach 10, but not Spinal Tap. Marty ponders the obvious question of why the band just does not simply make 10 the loudest, to which a clearly confused Nigel explains “it’s one louder isn’t it?”. 

The Breakdown: Part of the genius of This is Spinal Tap is how seriously this mockumentary is presented. So much so, that real life rock stars have frequently remarked just how realistic this movie is. Guest and Reiner are not winking to the audience with tongues-in-cheek they are playing this scene straight making it even more ridiculous. The absurd dry humor that made this movie a cult favorite is on full display with this iconic scene. The idea of turning something to 11 has even spread beyond This is Spinal Tap and has become a part of our pop culture lexicon.

Best Bit: How genuinely puzzled Nigel comes across when asked why he does not just set the 10 notch to be the loudest. His response is a blank stare followed confused answering of “these go to eleven”.