How do you decide on the most quotable movies of all time? For starters, it is a largely generational thing. We’re certain some films emanating from the dawn of the talkie era struck a chord with their audiences only to be forgotten as movies became bigger and more elaborately put together in the 1950s and ’60s.
As special effects teams put more emphasis on the look of the film rather than the story, dialogue started to become less prominently featured, and with the 1980s and ’90s, we saw the proliferation of the one-liner. “I’ll be back!” “Go ahead, make my day.” “Yo Adrian, I did it!” You get the point.
Amid the confusion and the changing tastes of moviegoers throughout history, we’ve waded into the no-win scenario of picking our 15 Most Quotable Movies of All Time. We’ve tried to focus on films that had at least three or four moments where the dialogue took center stage rather than those movies with simple flashes of quotable brilliance. Now, to paraphrase a thousand cheaply written and quickly forgotten flicks, “Hang on tight, because you’re in for a wild ride!”
15. The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride, based on the beloved William Goldman novel of the same name, tells the story of Princess Buttercup and her verbal punching bag-turned-love interest Westley, who was a hired farm hand she liked to toy with back in the day. Buttercup believes Westley to be dead, the victim of Dread Pirate Roberts; but in reality, he’s very much alive and working his way back to her. Along the way, we get to meet some great characters, who provide us with ample quote ammunition.
Westley’s “as you wish” became a small way of saying “I love you” shortly after the film dropped because that’s what he always said to Buttercup whenever she would order him around. There is also the heartwarming payoff between the narrator and his grandson at the film’s conclusion. Inigo Montoya’s practiced “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die” during the climactic fight sequence is probably the most easily recognizable quote. And any time you ran into someone using a word the wrong way, weren’t you at least a little tempted to say, “I do not think it means what you think it means?”
14. Army of Darkness
Something delightfully odd happened to the character of Ash throughout the course of Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. He went from being an oafish horror movie character likely to die in the first few minutes to a rare heroic icon of the horror genre. Blame the hilarious fight with his own severed hand, or his later replacement of said hand with a chainsaw. By the time the third film in the Evil Dead trilogy, Army of Darkness, rolled around, all he was missing were the lug-headed one-liners. And boy, did that movie deliver!
In Army of Darkness, we’re treated to such awesomeness as “This … is my BOOMSTICK!,” “Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that!?,” “Gimme some sugar, baby,” “Good. Bad. I’m the guy with the gun,” “Groovy,” and “Sure, I could have stayed in the past. I could have even been king. But in my own way, I am king. Hail to the King, baby!” Pure, unapologetic arrogance gone unchecked.
13. The Godfather
The Godfather is one of those rare films that didn’t need a bunch of action set-pieces to prove its quotability. The mob family epic, based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, paints such rich characters and storytelling that we remember what these people say based on the memorability of the events unfolding around us rather than some cheap emotional payoff.
The lines were sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious, and always natural outgrowths of Puzo’s creations. Who wasn’t moved when Vito Corleone breaks down with “They massacred my boy?” Who didn’t find their hairs raise on end when the formerly squeaky-clean Michael looks at Kay with a brutal coldness and says, “Don’t ask me about my business, Kay… Don’t ask me about my business.” Who didn’t crack up when powder-keg Sonny — concerned about his brother Michael’s fate hinging on a handgun hidden away inside a public restroom — said, “I don’t want my brother coming out of that toilet with just his dick in his hands, alright?” Great film, great characters, and its quotability flows naturally with no clunky setup needed.
12. Rocky Balboa
Some may find it sacrilegious to include a Rocky film other than I trough IV — after all, they grossed more money and won more awards than the late-in-the-game part six — but if you take a closer look at the writing here, it really is more emotionally powerful and memorable than anything else in the series. Here, we meet Rocky later in life, his beloved wife Adrian gone, his child distant, and his friend Paulie growing increasingly more insensitive and intolerant of his grief. Rocky has never been one to give up, and living without Adrian presents him with his greatest challenge, which he feels the need to face by stepping back in the ring.
Stallone’s dialogue as Rocky deals with his grief along with his awakening to the fact that there is still more life to live makes the viewer simultaneously sad and hopeful. His “stuff in the basement” speech to Paulie; his dressing down of the Boxing Commission when they won’t allow him to renew his license; and his phenomenal heart-to-heart with his son (“You gotta be willing to take the hits … that’s how winning is done!“) make Rocky Balboa the character’s finest hour.
11. Napoleon Dynamite
Napoleon Dynamite was not the kind of film a major Hollywood studio would ever touch, so filmmaker Jared Hess and wife/co-writer Jerusha took it upon themselves to turn their wackadoodle concept into a reality. In the process, they made a star of Jon Heder (playing the title character) along with a boatload of money ($44.5 million on a budget of just $400,000).
How did they do it? Mostly through dialogue. If you’ve ever sat down with a hardcore fan of Napoleon Dynamite and witnessed their lips moving to the lines or, worse, reciting the dialogue aloud before the character does, then you know just how annoyingly quotable this film can be. Talk of “ligers,” “hunting wolverines,” “quesa-dilluhs,” the importance of mustaches, and “chatting online with babes,” made it a bizarre hit and inspired a shortly lived animated series.
During the 1970s, disaster movies like Towering Inferno, Rollercoaster, The Poseidon Adventure, and Airport reigned supreme. It seemed like if there was a way to endanger large groups of people through a building or some form of transportation, audiences ate it up. Jim Abrahams and David Zucker mined the genre for even more gold with their 1980 comedy Airplane! starring Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Julie Hagerty, and then-serious actor Leslie Nielsen.
Audiences were used to seeing Nielsen play heavies on television, but his comic timing and deadpan delivery were so perfect they stole the show and inspired further Abrahams-Zucker team-ups (mainly the television series From the Files of Police Squad! and the follow-up theatrical trilogy of Naked Gun movies). The only down side of Nielsen’s performance: it was so quote-worthy — (“Surely you can’t be serious.” / “Yes, I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.“) — that modern audiences tend to forget how funny the rest of the movie is, particularly the unexpected dialogue in several different character exchanges.
Examples: the little white girl who likes her coffee like she likes her men — black; the airplane pilot’s disturbing fascination with gladiators and Turkish prisons; and an update on the classic who’s-on-first routine between Captain Oveur, Murdock, and Tower Control.
9. Fight Club
“The first rule about Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.” “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” “This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”
These are just a few of the nuggets of wisdom that first Fight Club the book (by Chuck Palahniuk) and later Fight Club the movie (starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton) dropped on an increasingly-frustrated (mostly) male demographic that was becoming more disenfranchised and anti-social with each passing day.
The movie is incredibly faithful to the novel with Jim Uhls’ screenplay hardly missing a beat or even a line. At 8.9 out of 10 on 1.324 million ratings, it is also one of the most highly rated flicks on IMDb close to 20 years after its initial release.
8. They Live
Tough guys and action heroes didn’t get much cooler during the 1980s than anti-hero “Rowdy” Roddy Piper of the World Wrestling Federation. While all the kids were raving about Hulkamania, prayers, and vitamins, a growing number of us were digging the antiestablishment vibe that Piper put out into the world. Director John Carpenter saw something in the act and ended up casting Piper as the lead in his sci-fi flick They Live.
This was during a time period when wrestlers must have had it in their contracts that any movie they acted in had to be terrible, so when They Live ended up the 180-degrees-opposite of that, the movie world took note. Today it is a cult classic thanks in large part to lines about chewing bubble gum and kicking ass; a rewrite of “The Golden Rule” (“He who has the gold, makes the rules.”); and the ominous message of the film, “They Live. We Sleep.” If you haven’t seen it in a while, revisit. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much foresight it has to 21st Century America.
7. This Is Spinal Tap
Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) is a filmmaker with no clue what he’s about to experience when he tours with England’s loudest band. This mockumentary spoof pretty much birthed the one-camera sitcom, but it was so much more uproarious in doing so than 90% of the stuff you see on TV today, and it still holds up after 32 years.
DiBergi’s discussion of amps that go up to 11; Nigel Tufnel’s helpful description of the various shades of black; “Big bottom, big bottom / Talk about mud flaps, my girl’s got ’em!“; and the touching hit in D minor, “Lick My Love Pump,” are among the various quotable moments, but This Is Spinal Tap excels on the backs of its cast, its attitude, and overall direction.
6. Pulp Fiction
There is a reason Quentin Tarantino’s movies have gotten talkier and talkier over the years. People watched Pulp Fiction when it came out and were (rightfully) blown away by the script, which told several different “pulp fiction”-style stories in a tapestry of disjointed vignettes that somehow pressed together for one coherent narrative.
Not only does QT’s masterpiece have several great lines, it has a number of memorable speeches, and rather than being concentrated on a single character, they come from all directions. The Bible-quoting hitman. The war buddy and his disturbing tale of watch retrieval. The royale with cheese. So much good stuff came out of Pulp Fiction that it’s easy to see how a young director could attract the talent level he did for it — Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, the list goes on.
5. Star Wars
George Lucas gets a lot of grief for his prequel trilogy scripts, particularly those godawful exchanges between Padme and Anakin, but his original script for Star Wars in 1977 was actually pretty good. The relatable characters, sense of wonder, and lightning-quick pacing made the film stand out, but it also delivered more than a few memorable lines that would continue to follow the series in film, television, comics, and novels.
“I have a very bad feeling about this.” “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” “Use the Force, Luke.” “The Force is strong with this one.” “Wonderful girl. Either I’m going to kill her or I’m beginning to like her.” “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you’re my only hope.” In almost every line of dialogue, Lucas does a wonderful job of either revealing bits of his world or ingratiating the characters to us (or both). That’s why after seven films, multiple TV incarnations, and a whole lot of other ancillary media, it remains the best of the best as far as the franchise is concerned.
Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walked into Humphrey Bogart’s. So begins the journey of Rick Blaine as he wrestles with his cynicism and rekindled feelings for the girl that got away, against the backdrop of World War II, Morocco 1941. Blaine (Bogart) runs a nightclub and finds himself torn between the comfortably empty life he has created for himself and a cause he can no longer avoid.
Along the way, Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch’s script gives us quotable bits like “What is your nationality? / I’m a drunkard“; “Will I see you tonight? / I never make plans that far ahead”; “Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake“; “Here’s looking at you, kid“; and, of course, “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” and the end of a beautifully written movie. Film doesn’t get much better.
3. Dirty Harry
“Dirty” Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) may be the strong silent type, but that does not stop him from getting in several memorable deadpan bits of dialogue throughout the course of this action-thriller. The most famous is his speech in the first and last acts of the film where he questions two different perpetrators (with two very different outcomes) on how many bullets he has left in his .44 Magnum.
“Uh uh. I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
Aside from that legendary speech, there are other great bits where Callahan talks about how he established intent to commit rape, thus justifiably splattering a would-be deviant all over the concrete; Callahan’s willingness to endure a little extra pain to save a $29.50 pair of pants; and his alibi proving he couldn’t have attacked a stretcher-bound Scorpio (Andy Robinson), the film’s primary villain: “Cause he looks too damn good, that’s how!”
2. The Big Lebowski
When it comes to crime capers, we can think of much better motivations for our main characters than taking on a ruthless gang for restitution over a ruined rug; however, we’re not really sure if a more understandable motivation would have turned out better than it does in The Big Lebowski. “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is a simple-living hippie who finds himself the victim of mistaken identity. When the chance encounter damages his beloved rug, he enlists the aid of his bowling buddies to make things right.
The Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan) write a very smart script around a stupid idea, and the results speak for themselves. Some of the most quotable lines include: “Shut the f*** up Donny!,” “This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man,” and the repeated refrains of “That rug really tied the room together” by a litany of characters. It is a hilarious film that is as ridiculous as it sounds, and exactly why you should add it to your watch queue.
1. Office Space
While the rise of virtual office spaces could one day make this film obsolete, those of us who have experienced the inane incompetence of the typical corporate office work environment will always be able to relate to Office Space. You can tell from the script that Mike Judge lived in those soul-sucking cubicle villages right along with you long enough to get a sense of the pain and monotony.
The characters are given some of the funniest lines of dialogue in comedy history and each one adds the requisite emotion in the delivery. Our favorites usually come from the next door neighbor Lawrence (Diedrich Bader), the various underling characters’ interactions with corporate elite, and this little truth bomb from Joanna (Jennifer Aniston): “Lots of people hate their jobs; you’ve just gotta go out and find something that makes you happy.”
Now that you have our picks for the most quotable movies of all time, it’s your turn. What did we leave off? What should we not have included? And what are some of your favorite movie lines? Sound off in the comments section below!
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