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).