The 30 Best Lines from Best Picture Winners
“Great movie quotes become part of our cultural vocabulary. When you consider that any phrase from American film is eligible, you realize this is our most subjective topic to date. We expect nothing less than a war of words as we reignite interest in classic American movies.”
– Jean Picker Firstenberg (President Emerita, American Film Institute)
Love movies? Me too. Really love movies? Suppose, yes if you are still reading this. Love the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences? Now, maybe not so much. The Academy Awards did not have a good year in 2015 and was accused of not being diverse in its nominations so much so it started an #oscarssowhite controversy in Twitter.
Without getting political, let’s just say the nomination process could use some scrutiny and changes to make sure the nominees are as diverse as possible and a good representation of the filmmaking talent around the world.
Having said that, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to celebrate great movies in your own way. Tell a friend or coworker about this great movie you just viewed that they just have to watch. Invite people over to your house for viewing parties so you can spread the movie love around and then have a Q & A afterwards to discuss everyone’s review of it.
The annual nominated films can always just become a springboard for you or encourage cinephiles everywhere to go out and find great movies on their own. Also, the fall seems to always become the time everyone talks about great movies when they should be sought and enjoyed year round.
The Internet is not usually the place to share joy, happiness and common interests; however, this should be done with movies since everyone’s taste is such their own. If you love “Freddy Got Fingered”, own that and don’t be afraid to stand up for it and debate it with others.
These lists for me are a way to share the love of movies for me and try and warm people to great films or aspects of great films which have been forgotten or should be remembered.
One thing people seem to forget is everyone has their own opinions. You have every right to disagree, but be respectful of others and don’t just spew negativity because it’s simple to do so.
Not trying to preach here, but movies should be enjoyed, debated and shared. If my opinion is not the same as yours, that is not a crime and there are far more important things to get mad about than that.
P.S. The word “cinephile” just showed up in my spell check for this article and that made me sad.
30. No Country For Old Men
The Line: “What’s the most you ever lost on a coin toss.”
Context: Roaming psychopath Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) stops off at a gas station in West Texas in pursuit of Llewelyn Moss (John Brolin) and two million dollars and becomes engaged in a slowly tension building conversation with the clerk behind the counter.
Why is it great: Coen Brothers films are filled with scenes which have the slow build in tension or intensity, sometimes without you even knowing it. The way Bardem is able to turn around everything the clerk says in reply to the point where the clerk wants to close his store early and be rid of Bardem is classic.
He does not even realize how high his own personal stakes are when he makes the call of “heads”.
29. The Artist
The Line: “With pleasure.”
Context: During the climax of the film, silent film stars George Valentin and Peppy Miller (Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo) perform a rousing jazz song and dance number on camera for their new musical in which they costar. You can hear their tap shoes tapping away as they dance and perform many spins and twirls dressed to the nines.
Why is it great: After wondering for the entire film what the leading man sounds like, you finally get to hear him speak his line with his French accent while is recovers his breath from his preceding performance.
28. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Line: “Not quite. There’s room for a little more.”
Context: Four years after returning to the Shire from their epic journey filling three films, Sam walks in on Frodo (Sean Astin and Elijah Wood) completing his compendium to the story written by Bilbo an adds his own account titled “The Lord of the Rings by Frodo Baggins”.
Why is it great: After accompanying these familiar characters on their emotional journey, it is satisfying to see how they end up and to know their journeys are not complete as they are still young, full of life and have many adventures yet untraveled.
The Line: “Ma, sooner or later, there comes a point in a man’s life when he’s gotta face some facts. And one fact I gotta face is that, whatever it is that women like, I ain’t got it.”
Context: During one of many conversations with his nosy, Italian mother, middle-aged butcher Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine) contemplates his lot in life and tries to convince her he is not as great as she thinks he is. She is constantly encouraging him to go out and find a nice girl; however, based on past experience, Marty knows the reality of the situation is much more complicated.
Why is it great: The line illustrates the very simple story the film tries to convey perfectly and makes us root for Marty to achieve a romance and become a success in the eyes of his mother.
Marty is the first American film to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and audiences of the time were taken by its simple, relatable story.
The Line: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
Context: The first line of the film said in voiceover.
We just finished viewing the opening credits and seeing the name of the director Alfred Hitchcock against a backdrop of a cloud-covered moon in the night sky while listening to the score of Franz Waxman.
Why is it great: This one is unusual.
Since it is the first line of the film, you don’t yet know anything about Mr. or Mrs. de Winter (Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine) and their downhill relationship when Mrs. de Winter starts learning about the mysterious life of her husband’s newly deceased first wife, Rebecca.
The line is great only because it puts us in the mood for what’s to come as only Hitchcock could do. It opens our minds to the possibilities of a complex woven story which interests us from the moments it begins.
25. Lawrence of Arabia
The Line: “No prisoners! No prisoners!”
Context: A soldier from the recently ravaged village of Tarfas makes this battle cry before riding to his death before the Turkish army. British office T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) uses the martyrdom of this soldier as his motivation for the exclamation to incite the rest of the army against the Turks.
Why is it great: The emotion Lawrence shows at the death of his soldier and subsequent charge forward is epic and a very important part of the 2nd half of the film.
24. Rain Man
The Line: “I’m gonna let ya in on a little secret, Ray: K-Mart sucks.”
Context: During one of his frustrating conversations with his newly discovered autistic brother Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman), Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) has finally had enough of Raymond’s professed love for the discount retailer.
Why is it great: Many of the conversations between Raymond and Charlie are poignant, educational and hilarious. The references to K-Mart are throughout several parts of the film including the ending where Raymond also states “K-Mart sucks!”
The cross-country journey the brothers have with each other is filled with growth and understanding as well as a pair of underwear left on the highway.
23. Schindler’s List
The Line: “This list… is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.”
Context: During the implementation of Hitler’s “final solution” toward the end of World War II, German businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) decides to attempt to “rescue” as many Jewish residents as possible by putting them to work in his munitions factory.
He and his accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) begin forming a list of Jewish names of people they know to include. They go back and forth recalling the names as they are transposed to the typewriter to make it permanent.
Why is it great: The formation of the list gives you the slightest bit of emotional relief after watching gut-wrenching sorrow for the past two hours. If you don’t know the story of the “Schindler Jews” going in to the film, the list gives you the first glimpse of one man’s quest to do something good during the most desperate times.
The Line: “Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”
Context: Before the Battle of Stirling Bridge, a rebellious Scottish warrior, William Wallace (Mel Gibson), leads his Scottish army against England at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. He rides his horse back and forth ahead of his troops hoping to motivate them with rousing words of persuasion.
Why is it great: The back and forth quips between Wallace and his grunts are successful in staging the battle to come. He is successful through his words to bring about victory for his forces and the battle sequences in the film are intense and brutal.
Whatever your opinion of “Braveheart” as a whole with its wild historical inaccuracies, it is an entertaining historical action/drama at the very least with an extremely heroic character at its core.
21. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Line: “She was fifteen years old, going on thirty-five, Doc, and she told me she was eighteen, she was very willing, I practically had to take to sewing my pants shut. Between you and me, uh, she might have been fifteen, but when you get that little red beaver right up there in front of you, I don’t think it’s crazy at all and I don’t think you do either. No man alive could resist that, and that’s why I got into jail to begin with. And now they’re telling me I’m crazy over here because I don’t sit there like a goddamn vegetable. Don’t make a bit of sense to me. If that’s what being crazy is, then I’m senseless, out of it, gone-down-the-road, wacko. But no more, no less, that’s it.”
Context: During his arrival at the Oregon State Mental Hospital, prisoner Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) hopes to avoid a lengthy prison sentence after his conviction of statutory rape by convincing the admitting physician he suffers from mental illness.
Why is it great: Classic Nicholson delivery combined with uncomfortable words makes for a memorable scene and sets up the character of McMurphy ahead of his arrival within the psychiatric ward and his coming battle with Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) over ward supremacy.