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).

Friday Fiction: My Best Movies of All Time

I grew up in a movie-going family. We drove 30 minutes to the nearest theater to see the latest movies, watched films at home whenever they came on TV, and rented videotapes for viewing as soon as that technology became available.

The Paramount, Abilene, Texas

In college, one of the very best things about going to school in Abilene, Texas was the Paramount Theatre, built in 1930, renovated, and showing a classic film almost every weekend. It was there that I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.

Seeing that my family is full of list-makers, from time to time we would ask one another: “What are your 10 Best Movies of All Time?” I’ve probably given more thought to this complex and challenging question than figuring out who gets my stuff when I die someday. You can dispute the reasonableness of my priorities, but it’s an interesting line of inquiry nonetheless.

As usual, I can’t settle on a Top 10, but I have 12 movies that would make the list. My standard is that they are perfect films; I can’t think of anything to change to make them better. Here they are (in no particular order and with descriptions provided by the Internet Movie Database).

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Archeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Black. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

When Harry Met Sally (1989). Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship. Starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby. Directed by Rob Reiner.

Ordinary People (1980). The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son. Starring Timothy Hutton, Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland. Directed by Robert Redford.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952). A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound. Starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen. Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.

Sunset Boulevard (1950). Gloria Swanson, William Holden. A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity. Directed by Billy Wilder.

Rear Window (1954). A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. Starring Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

All About Eve (1950). An ingenue insinuates herself in to the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends. Starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Roman Holiday (1953). A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome. Starring Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert. Directed by William Wilder.

Schlinder’s List (1993). In Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis. Starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

A Room with a View (1986). When Lucy Honeychurch and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett find themselves in Florence with rooms without views, fellow guests Mr Emerson and son George step in to remedy the situation. Meeting the Emersons could change Lucy’s life forever but, once back in England, how will her experiences in Tuscany affect her marriage plans? Starring Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Simon Callow.

Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 (1998). Four guys, best friends, have grown up together in Dancer, Texas Pop. 81, a tiny town in West Texas. Years ago, they made a solemn vow to leave town together as soon as they graduate. Now, it’s that weekend and the time has come to “put up or shut up.” The clock is ticking and as all 81 people in the town watch, comment, offer advice and place bets, these four very different boys with unique backgrounds struggle with the biggest decision of their lives . . . whether to stay or leave home. Starring Breckin Meyer, Peter Facinelli, Eddie Mills, Ethan Embry. Directed by Tim McCanlies.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980). While Luke (Skywalker) takes advanced Jedi training from Yoda, his friends are relentlessly pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke. Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford. Directed by Irvin Kershner.

I wavered on whether to include a Star Wars flick, but I truly believe that episode was the best and could not have been improved in any way. As for the other selections, my taste runs from drama to suspense to humor.

So what movies would you deem to be the “Best of All Time”? Could you get your list down to a Top 10? Which of my movies do you agree with? Which ones do you disagree with? Are there movies on my list you haven’t seen? Doyou enjoy making Top 10 lists?