8. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977)
Drawing inspiration from a wealth of sources, from Flash Gordon and WWII films to Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, Star Wars is a wondrous mix of proven components. Together with its ingenious presentation, combining science fiction with mystical fantasy, Star Wars has had an impact on popular culture that is arguably unrivalled by any other film before or since.
It is no surprise, then, that several lines from the films have become hallmark quotes that are near universally recognizable. Even limited to the first film, there are several lines that have become connected to the franchise to the point where they are repeated in practically every entry, such as “I have a bad feeling about this” and “May the force be with you.”
It is in part thanks to a witty script, but in truth it is the charisma and likeability of its character that lend the dialogue its remarkable appeal. Alec Guinness plays Ben Kenobi with such calm authority that close to every word he says is worth repeating. Harrison Ford, today practically synonymous with Han Solo, has the roguish demeanour to give audacious undertones to even his most mundane lines. In fact, each character is given an actor so suited for the role that the lines come alive in a remarkable way.
It should not be neglected, though, that the film’s enormous popularity and devotion of its fanbase has played a huge part in making so many of its lines (at time, entire dialogues) so well-known that they can be used virtually anywhere and be recognized.
7. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
One of the most warm-hearted films ever made, Forrest Gump, combines drama and comedy in a masterful way and contains countless quotes of various emotional nuances. From the monumental ”Run, Forrest, run” to ”Lieutenant Dan, ice-cream!”, its lines are not only hilarious but so strong that they create images from the scenes of the film inside the viewers’ mind.
The hero’s life, marked by unbelievable coincidences and events, is ripe for memorable utterances. Forrest may not be the brightest man, but his experiences and relationships have made him wiser than most of us. ”Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get” says the protagonist, reciting his sweet mother’s words.
Most of the people who cross his path, scorn him and underestimate him because of his mental condition. That hardly bothers him as he replies with confidence ”Stupid is as stupid does.” Some of the funniest lines of the film come from the conversations between Gump and Lieutenant Dan.
Their completely opposite personalities make them collide repeatedly as the hardened military man gets annoyed by Forrest, even if he secretly acknowledges and admires his optimism and dedication. ”Have you found Jesus yet, Gump” the atheist lieutenant asks. ”I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir” replies our hero in confusion. Robert Zemecki’s film has some of the funniest quotes, perfectly balancing the sadness of its dramatic instances.
6. The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)
The Shawshank Redemption is a film about hope and friendship, filled with quotes that echo its optimistic spirit. It also features two heroes, Andy and Red, who are sharp-witted, warm-hearted and true humanists. ”Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies” writes Andy in a letter that he sends to his dear friend.
Andy is an educated, emotional and sensible person who hardly fits inside the prison’s framework. Red, having a personality that is less soft but much wiser will become his companion and their relationship will help both of them find some light inside the cruel institution.
”Get busy living or get busy dying. That’s goddamn right” pronounces Red, knowing that letting yourself go inside the prison could cost your life. The two inmates may be criminals in the eyes of society but inside the institution’s walls they are revolutionists, fighting for their rights and for a better system.
The Shawshank Redemption is undoubtedly sorrowful and dramatic to a large extent, but it also contains comedic elements that make it pleasant and joyful. In one of his humorous quotes, Red narrates that ”Andy Dufresne – who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side,” giving his audience the chance to smile in content.
5. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
Casablanca exhibits all of these attributes that elevate a film into been regarded as a masterpiece. Dazzling cinematography, captivating music, a legendary cinematic couple and lots of romance and action.
In the centre of the plot lies the passion between the iconic Humphrey Bogard and Ingrid Bergman, whose genuine love for each other gets obstructed by various complications that don’t allow their intimacy to flourish. Their feelings and emotions, however, find their expression in various instances of heart-felt tenderness and pathos that is revealed as much through their actions as through their words.
”We’ll always have Paris” and ”Play it Sam” may be the most quotable lines of the movie but they are hardly the only ones, as the heroes’ charm is not only based on their looks but also on their eloquence. ”Where were you last night” Bogard’s soon to be ex-girlfriend interrogates him. ”That’s so long ago, I don’t remember” replies the protagonist and when the girl insists on her inquiry by asking ”Will I see you tonight?”, the man answers ”I never make plans that far ahead.” Casablanca indubitably has some of the most well-written lines of film history, delivered in a masterful manner by its actors and actresses.
4. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)
”The first rule of Fight Club is: you don’t talk about Fight Club” and its members may be secretive and protective about its identity and structure but they gladly share their opinions about modern society and its problematic foundations. Tyler Durden, the mastermind behind Project Mayhem and its execution, spontaneously preaches his anarchic views throughout the whole film, attacking the normative way of thinking and the obsolete conventional social and political status-quos.
Quotes like ”The things you own end up owning you” and ”It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything” demonstrate Tyler’s revolutionary anti-capitalist and and anti-materialistic spirit.
Durden may be the strongest voice in Fight Club but his lines are not the only worth-quoting ones. Marla Singer, the catatonic borderline suicidal heroine of the film, also shares her cynical philosophy with the audience. ”Condom is the glass slipper of our generation” says to Edward Norton and when he treats her in an unpredictable and unstable manner, the woman yells at him ”You’re Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Jackass!”
Finally, Norton’s nameless character, soon engages the sceptical and vitriolic spirit of his friends, ironically saying when he sees his apartment burning to ashes ”I had it all. I had a stereo that was very decent, a wardrobe that was getting very respectable. I was close to being complete.”
3. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
Another cornerstone of American cinema, the first instalment of the Godfather trilogy is filled with clever quotes befitting the film’s exceptional direction. The Corleones are not the average gangsters, indiscriminately killing for the sake of money and glory.
Their empire is built on a series of solid values and principles that help the family maintain its authority and respect and guard each other. These ethical rules are portrayed through the sayings of the heroes of the film who are as eloquent as their actions. Don Corleone is undoubtedly the father of quotes, with a tongue only as sharp as his mind.
”I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” is probably one of the most quotable lines in the history of cinema, uttered by the mighty, strategic and canny Don. But Corleone is also a man with emotions, who realises that a gangster should find his balance between his personal and professional life and therefore preaches that ”A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
Last, but not least, one should not forget that the crime dynasty is of Italian origins, loving food as much as family and wealth. This fact is echoed in another memorable quote of the film ”Leave the gun. Take the canolli.”
2. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
Scorsese’s iconic vigilante film basically narrates the story of a Vietnam war veteran who goes berserk when he realises and internalises the futility of the modern urban existence. Taxi Driver’s intensity is established by the fierce performance of Robert De Niro who perfectly personifies the psychologically unstable man in search for some inner-peace.
The hero may be blunt and violent but he regularly verges into philosophical interrogations that lend the film with some of the most compelling quotes that American cinema can boast.
”I think someone should just take this city and just flush it down the fucking toilet” proclaims the taxi driver, whose occupation has made him witness the corruption and profanity that rules the mean streets of after night New York. It doesn’t take long before he starts training himself to take the law into his own hands, confining to his co-workers ”I got some bad ideas in my head.”
These bad ideas soon take shape and the hero is unstoppable, replying to anyone who dares get into his way ”you talkin’ to me?” with a gun in his hand and the flaming gaze of a madman.
1. The Big Lebowski (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1998)
Coen brothers are proficient at writing witty lines, giving their characters unique and hilarious personalities. No matter if their films are dramas, noirs or comedies, they all feature funny quotes that construct originally humorous scenes and sequences.
The Big Lebowski is marked by the presence of one of the most iconic cinematic heroes, The Dude, who generously propagates his world-view of idleness and sloth. The beloved hero is wrongly and ironically thought to be a millionaire, named Lebowski, and his simple routine life takes an unexpected drastic turn that is, however, not enough to make him lose his tranquil temper.
”Life does not stop and start at your convenience you miserable piece of shit” The Dude warns one of the people who violently disturb his nirvana. The hero is an unlikely philosopher, certain of one and single thing; life is too short for unwanted disturbances. ”I can’t be worried about that shit. Life goes on, man” he says with an expression of calm confidence painted on his face.
The Dude’s eloquence is perfectly supported by Jeff Bridges, whose performance seems, in an almost unbelievable way, to be so natural and personal as if he was playing himself.
Author Bio: Angeliki is currently a student in the Master’s Programme in Cinema Studies in Stockholm’s University. She spent hundreds of hours watching Asian films but at the same time she keeps herself up to date with new releases of European and American Indie movies.