10. In the Heat of the Night
The Line: “They call me Mister Tibbs!”
Context: Philadelphia police detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is waiting at the Sparta, MS train station when he is mistakenly brought in for a murder he did not commit. Once his true identity is revealed, the local sheriff (Rod Steiger) asks Tibbs to assist them in their investigation once his expertise tops local police levels.
The sheriff then says that Virgil is a funny name for a man like him and Tibbs does not reply in kind.
Why is it great: The line establishes Tibbs as a character who is sure of himself and his police investigative talents and the fact he is not going to take any grief from these southern hick police officers.
After joining the investigation, it takes several twists and turns involving even some high profile local residents until the real murderer is identified.
9. Forrest Gump
The Line: “My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Context: Sitting around waiting at a southern bus stop, simple-minded resident Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) could open up to you about many of his life stories including playing college football, meeting various historical figures and having his own shrimp boat.
He may also randomly recite one of his mother’s (Sally Field) random bits of wisdom to you in just making conversation.
Why is it great: While not particularly profound, the words seem to stay with you in their simple majesty. Gump seems to be the kind of person everyone would want to be their friend as events in his life always seemed to work out for him except for his one true love, Jenny (Robin Wright).
Tom Hanks won his second of two Academy Awards in a row in 1994 with this character.
8. All About Eve
The Line: “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Context: Eve Harrington (Ann Baxter) is desperate to gain friendship with her idol, aging Broadway actress Margot Channing (Bette Davis) and her “circle of friends”.
Things are not as innocent as they seem as Harrington’s motivations are revealed and things begin to unravel for her.
Why is it great: Davis always had such a dry delivery and this classic was no exception. The line implies bad things to come and everyone should be worried about the events now in motion.
“All About Eve” ended up receiving 14 Academy Award nominations in 1950 tied with “Titanic” as the only other film to achieve this level of accolade.
7. Annie Hall
The Line: “La-dee-da, la-dee-da.”
Context: After playing a doubles tennis match with friends, Annie and Alvy (Diane Keaton and Woody Allen) strike up an awkward conversation afterwards to try and get to know each other better.
Annie tries to return the complement, but stumbles over her words and tries to end the conversation quickly as a result.
Why is it great: The awkwardness of the situation is there and the line is meant to try and fill in the gaps when Annie doesn’t know what else to say. It works because you feel her anxiety and want her to be able to express her own words with ease.
It’s ironic Woody Allen wrote a wonderful, witty screenplay for the film and this random line is the one which is most remembered.
6. Silence of the Lambs
The Line: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
Context: After being sent to visit with convicted murderer and cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), unseasoned FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) attempts to solicit his cooperation in the manhunt for a new serial killer “Buffalo Bill”.
In their first awkward meeting, Lecter sizes up Starling and tries to decide if he will release any information or just toy with her and be offended a trainee was sent to meet with him.
5. On the Waterfront
The Line: “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
Context: Over-the hill boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) regrets what his life has become, doing jobs for mob bosses in the longshoreman business along the docks. He thinks his life could have been very different if it wasn’t for a fixed prize fight he was involved in which ended that career option.
Why is it great: Brando delivers the line with such desperation and longing it makes you pity and feel sorry for him. He really makes you believe in what he is saying that his life could have been elevated if he had just made different decisions.
Only at age 30 when he appeared in the film, Brando was already a major screen star with “Waterfront” coming right on the heels of “The Wild One” which established Brando as a leading man and a sex symbol.
The Line: “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Context: One of the most famous love triangles in film history, the story of “Casablanca” involves nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), Czech underground officer Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid) and Lazlo’s current wife Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Berman) who also happens to be Blaine’s former love.
During the beginnings of World War II, two letters of transit are in play to escape Morocco to safety. Blaine ultimately sacrifices his own freedom so the married couple can escape even though there are still mixed feelings by all three parties.
Why is it great: The last line of the film sums up the love story perfectly as it infers Blaine will be just fine on his own without Ilsa as he is already planning his next adventure. It is bittersweet for sure.
“Casablanca” has more classic movie quotes on the “AFI’S 100 GREATEST MOVIE QUOTES OF ALL TIME” list with six entries. That has got to mean the film, characters and dialogue have endured more than almost any film ever made.
3. The Godfather
The Line: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
Context: At the beginning of the film, family friend, singer and amateur actor Johnny Fontaine (Al Martino) seeks advice and counsel from Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) and complains about not getting a movie role he really wanted.
Corleone assured Fontaine he would get the role just by using his powers of persuasion.
Sometime later, the studio chief had a change of heart when he found the severed head of his prized stallion lying next to him in bed as he woke!
Why is it great: As with several other quotes from “The Godfather”, lines this good transcend the film they belong to and become a part of everyday speech. Such is the case with this one.
For the film in particular, it also demonstrates very early on that no one should mess with the Corleone family as get usually get what they want.
2. The Godather Part II
The Line: “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!”
Context: After being passed over for head of the Corleone family, Fredo (John Cazale) assists others in the plot on brother, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), or, at the very least, knows about it and does not warn his brother.
Michael becomes aware and disowns his brother. Later, he appears to forgive his brother until he orders his death on the lake.
Why is it great: Emotions runs high throughout “The Godfather Part II”. So much so, this quote seems to have more intensity behind it especially with the kiss on the mouth the brothers exchange right before the line is said.
Any man who could order the death of his own brother must have felt the ultimate betrayal in order to do so.
1. Gone with the Wind
The Line: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Context: After watching nearly four hours of film featuring the burning of Atlanta, the destruction of her childhood home, the death of her child, pining for a lover who never really loved her back, pouting southern lady Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) is finally put in her place by her longtime companion and the only man who would tolerate her whining, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). He has had just about enough of her mood swings and decides to walk out on her.
Why is it great: Even though it is the most famous line ever and you know it’s coming, it gets you every time!
No fairy tale ending with this one, although it isn’t really stated where everyone ends up. Will Scarlett and Rhett reunite? Will Scarlett eventually find another gullible soul to execute her every whim? I guess we’ll never know.
Author Bio: Andy Kubica is a life-long cinephile. Having spend time as a video store manager, movie theater manager and the first DVD buyer for a former rental chain he now spends every waking moment reducing his film “bucket list”.