In its depiction of the complex relationships among an extended family contending with the introduction of new, non-Greek members, My Big Fat Greek Wedding mines comedy gold and produces many iconic quotes that fans, Greek and non-Greek alike, are still quoting all these years later.
With all the commitment of a very insistent language teacher, Gus Portokalos takes every opportunity that he can to quiz people on whether they know the origins of the words they use every day. From "kimono" to "arachnophobia," Gus finds ways to tie everything in the world back to that which he is most proud of: his Greek heritage.
Gus is given more recurring quotes and motifs than any other character in the film, so it's no surprise when he says on multiple occasions, "Give me a word, any word, and I'll show you that the root of that word is Greek." He might not always be correct, but he makes the best case he can.
The romantic comedy meet-cute is one of the most important elements of any film in that genre. My Big Fat Greek Wedding has a unique spin on the meet cute: the meeting isn't all that cute at all, but it leaves just as significant an impression on both parties as the standard romantic comedy fare does.
Toula, in full "frump girl" mode as she later calls it, is stunned speechless when she first lays eyes on her future husband Ian at her family's Greek restaurant. So when she snaps back to attention, she tries her best to play off any awkwardness when she jokes, "Here I am, standing here, your own personal Greek statue."
My Big Fat Greek Wedding showcases the Portokalos family and the many dynamics within it, but it also provides a great examination of the ways in which romantic relationships and marriages work and have changed over the years. As it establishes the love story between Toula and Ian, the film also introduces viewers to the established marriage between Gus and Maria.
In particular, Gus and Maria's marriage is one defined by dated gender expectations on Gus's part, and Maria's refusal to give into those demands. She summarizes this ever so eloquently to Toula after one such disagreement: "The man is the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants."
In keeping with his love for explaining the Greek origins of any word, Gus even incorporates this unique quirk of his into the poignant speech he delivers at Ian and Toula's wedding. Ian's family surname is Miller, which Gus attributes to the Greek word milo (apple), while the Portokalos family name comes from portokali, meaning orange.
There are far greater cultural differences between the Miller and Portokalos family than there are between apples and oranges, but Gus summarizes their relationship as so: "We all different, but in the end, we all fruit."
Romantic comedies are often known for their hilarious casts of supporting characters, whether in the role of the best friend or sibling. But one of the best characters in My Big Fat Greek Wedding is Joey Fatone's Cousin Angelo, a mischievous and snarky character who exists to purely cause trouble.
As Toula's brother Nick playfully threatens and hazes Ian as a way to welcome him into the family, Angelo gleefully joins in on the fun, proclaiming, "Hey, Ian? We're gonna kill ya! Opa!" as he dances around the Dancing Zorba's restaurant.
Every great romantic comedy has a quote or two that stand the test of time as some of the most romantic proclamations a love interest could make, such as "You had me at hello" or "As you wish."
The romantic moment of this sort is more understated in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, given that it comes in the chaos of wedding planning as Toula begins to worry that Ian will regret wanting to marry her. But Ian's most romantic profession is one of steadying, assurance, and unwavering support: "I came alive when I met you." There is no Ian without Toula anymore, no matter how intense her family may be.
Gus is a very consistent character throughout the entire movie. Even though he does develop (grudgingly) to come to accept Toula's relationship with the non-Greek Ian, Gus's defining arc in the film relates to his need to assert his belief in Greek culture being the most important culture at every opportunity he can.
Even when just sitting around the Portokalos family home in his pajamas, Gus is always lecturing about Greekness: "Toula, there's two kinds of people: Greeks, and everybody else who wish they was Greek." And nobody ever disagrees with him.
Movies that explore the relationship between immigrant parents and their first-generation children reliably incorporate themes of intergenerational expectations and, often, parental guilt. When Toula expresses a desire to attend school and further her career goals, Gus immediately launches into a memorable guilt trip.
Bursting into tears, Gus asks, "Why you want to leave me?" in an exaggerated, shrieking tone. It's one of the most quoted moments in the film, and one that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 returns to when Toula finds herself expressing shock that her daughter wants to attend college away from home.
Andrea Martin's Aunt Voula is one of the film's strongest sources of comic relief. She is perhaps the loudest character in the film, overbearing and oversharing at every opportunity.
When Toula and Ian encounter her at the family Easter party, Voula has her most memorable moment in the entire film. She expresses a desire to cook for Ian now that he is part of the family, and Toula explains that Ian is a vegetarian. Voula's reaction, quickly shifting from horror to willful and gleeful ignoring, is absolutely hilarious: "What do you mean he don't eat no meat? That's OK, that's OK. I'll make lamb."
If there's one thing that people know about My Big Fat Greek Wedding without ever even having seen the movie, it's the Windex connection. The marketing campaign for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 even included a Windex cross promotion, and for good reason.
Gus believes, in all his lovable sincerity, that Windex is truly the cure for everything from dry skin to acne to poison ivy. Multiple times throughout the film he makes the suggestion to "put some Windex on it" whenever a character has something in need of clearing up. And any time they try, it works.