Lining Up at the Movies

What primarily fascinates me about language is how by simply choosing and ordering words, we can convey something meaningful to someone else. That fact is the foundation of speaking and writing. Sometimes, however, what’s said moves beyond meaningful and becomes memorable.

On Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, there’s probably no better place to consider this than with memorable lines from movies. The best quotations work their way into our collective colloquy and represent concepts or a shared understanding.

Below are my votes for the MOST MEMORABLE lines from movies. (Where I could reasonably determine the specific author of the line, I have cited it.)

Here’s looking at you, kid.” – Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), Casablanca (1942). This line was improvised by Humphrey Bogart. He apparently used it while playing poker in between takes and then brought it to the screen.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” – Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), Gone with the Wind (1939). The line is often misquoted as having “Scarlett” in it; however, Rhett did not say her name. The line was written by author Margaret Mitchell in the novel without the word “frankly.”

I coulda been a contender.” – Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), On the Waterfront (1954). The line came from screenwriter Budd Schulberg. Brando certainly was a contender, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for this performance.

Go ahead, make my day.”– Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood), Sudden Impact (1983), written by Joseph Stinson. This line, along with “Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” from Dirty Harry, are the most memorable from Clint Eastwood.

I’m ready for my close-up.” – Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), Sunset Boulevard (1950). This is one of my best films ever. Yet, when I hear this line, I still find myself picturing Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman as Desmond and Max. Can anyone relate?

May the Force be with you.” – General Dodonna (Alex McCrindle) and Han Solo(Harrison Ford), Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977) and once in every Star Wars film thereafter, written by George Lucas. Since it was said in every film, we can argue who should be pictured here. It was a toss-up for me between Harrison and Obi-Wan (the younger Ewan McGregor), but I went for the original.

Show me the money!” – Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), Jerry MacGuire (1996), written by Cameron Crowe. This line is best said jumping up and down like a crazy person. At least, it worked for Gooding; he snagged the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

I’ll have what she’s having.” – Older Woman Customer (EstelleReiner), When Harry Met Sally(1989), written by Nora Ephron. If you guessed that it’s all in the family, you are correct. Director Rob Reiner gave his mother, Estelle Reiner, perhaps the best line of the film.

You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), Jaws (1975). Often cited as “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” it’s actually “you.” While I’m sure the writers would love to take credit, this movie line was ad-libbed by Roy Scheider.

I’ll be back.” – Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), The Terminator (1984), originally written in the script as “I’ll come back.” Thus began the inside joke for all of Schwarzenegger’s movies going forward, as he repeated this line over and over.


I see dead people.” – Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), The Sixth Sense (1999), written by M. Night Shyamalan. I don’t see dead people, and I haven’t seen this movie. All I know is that people keep saying this line.


I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” – Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), The Wizard of Oz (1939), written by L. Frank Baum. It was rumored that Shirley Temple and Deanna Durbin were also considered for the part of Dorothy, but Judy Garland was destined to wear ruby red shoes and click them while saying another famous line: “There’s no place like home.”

Someof my faves are in the list above. However, I have other FAVORITES that may not be as memorable for others.

Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria!” – Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ghostbusters (1984), written by Dan Aykroyd and/or Harold Ramis. This line is apparently what is meant by a disaster of “biblical proportions.”

You can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.” – President Merkin Muffley (Peter Seller), Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to StopWorrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Irony of all ironies. I just LOVE this line.

I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” -Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Thomas Harris wrote in the original novel, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone.” Do you know what Amarone is? I didn’t. It’s a red wine . . . you know, like chianti.

Face it, girls, I’m older and I have more insurance.” – Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), written by Fannie Flagg. Past-40, it’s true: You just don’t feel like getting pushed around anymore. Towanda, baby!

The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.” – Corey Flood (Lili Taylor), Say Anything (1989), written by Cameron Crowe. If only all of the high school boys I had dated had listened to Corey Flood. Then again, I found a man to marry, so who cares?

What are some of your favorite movie lines? What memorable lines would you add to my list?

Sources: American Film Institute, Internet Movie Database, AMCFilmsite, Wikipedia (as a starting point; I double-check any information I glean from Wikipedia).

14 thoughts on “Lining Up at the Movies

  1. Great list! I would add "There's no place like home." Also from The Wizard of Oz. And one that we laugh at quite often in my house is "Get off my plane." Harrison Ford says it in Airforce One. And then it's doubly funny when you compare it with a Samuel L. Jackson line from Snakes on a Plane, which is too vulgar to type on this blog, but good for a grown-up laugh :). But my husband has his pilot's license, so we laugh at cheesy aviation lines.

  2. Hi Julie! We have a theater room in our house and just outside it I have a plaque that has the top 100 most famous movie quotes of all time and I think all of those are on there! I'm a big movie buff! I like all the funny lines from silly movies like Anchorman.

  3. How about, "You can't handle the truth!" spoken by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. Or my fave, The Blues Brothers: "We've got a tank of gas, a half pack of cigarettes, it's night, and we're wearing sunglasses." And "We're on a mission from God."

  4. From Natural Born Killers. Woody Harrelson as Mickey tells his new wife Mallory:"We're not killing anybody on our wedding day." From Wild at Heart. Nicolas Cage as Sailor Ripley says:"I'd like to apologize to you gentlemen for referring to you all as homosexuals. You taught me a valuable lesson in life."This last one had foul language, so I've had to paraphrase. I thought about leaving it out, but I love it.From The Devil's Rejects. Bill Moseley as Otis B. Driftwood says:"Boy, the next word that comes out of your mouth better be some brilliant Mark Twain stuff. 'Cause it's definitely getting chiseled on your tombstone."

  5. I think everything from Back to the Future is quotable and my favorite is "Now make like a tree . . . and get outta here." Ah, Biff Tannen, you still get me with that one.

  6. Erin – I had to look up that Snakes on the Plane quote. Goodness! I bet there are lots of cheesy aviation lines.Tracey – What a cool thing to have!Jennette – I never saw the Blues Brothers. Can you believe that?Catie – Good ones! I figured you would have some to share.M.E. – Love that quote too!Andrew – You're so right: Back to the Future is absolutely quotable throughout.

  7. Oh, you got my #1. "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." Classic. Forever. I love it.You also listed some great ones, what a fabulous post!! "Go ahead, make my day." "Show me the money.""You had me at hello."But, here is one of mine that you may not know…"Lick me, all of you." It's from Dazed and Confused. So is this one, "Wipe that head off your face, bitch." Sorry to cuss, but they are my mottos. Ah-hahahahaha. GREAT post!!!

  8. Tiffany – "Wipe that head off your face?" Okay, now I have to see that movie just to know where that line gets inserted! LOL."You had me at hello" is really good. Zellwegger delivered it perfectly too.

  9. You hit all the good ones, Julie. "May the force be with you" and "frankly, my dear" and "go ahead, make my day" – all of those are lines I'll never forget. You did a great job on this post.Patti

  10. Wonderful post, Julie! I think you got all of my favorites in there. I'd add:"Be excellent to each other." From Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. I know…cheesy movie. But, it had Keanu and we all know how I feel about him, plus this line is just a great motto for life. Don't you think? 🙂

  11. What a great post! And now I have to go searching for that poster that has the 100 greatest movie lines ever. I think the one we quote the most is "There's no crying in baseball." in A League of Thier Own and "I'll get you my pretty. And your little dog, too." We even cackle after we say that one. :)So many good movies out there! So little time!

  12. Forgot to mention…LOVE LOVE LOVE the Carol Burnett skit when she said "I'm ready for my close-up." Can we do Favorite Carol Burnett skits sometime? She and Tim Conway (who was from my hometown) crack me up just thinking about them.

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