There are many memorable things about the movies you’ve seen through the years that stay with you like an ear worm of a song. So what makes a good quote? For one thing, it should be so impactful that it resonates to your very core, or at the very least it serves as a one-liner summation of what a movie or even a franchise is all about. Let’s take for example the James Bond series. From the 1962 Dr. No to the 2012 Skyfall, the iconic phrases, “Shaken, not stirred” and “Bond. James Bond,” is known as everyone’s most favourite movie quotes, even by those who’ve never watched a James Bond film or, at best, have watched Austin Powers. Another good memorable quote that gives a feel good message is “Look, Daddy. Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings,” from It’s a Wonderful Life, spoken by Carolyn Grimes.
Great Quotes Come from Great Films
Nostalgic and Memorable:
The best, most inspirational movie quotes are those that summarize what the movie it came from is all about or reveals one of many life’s truths. Let’s again look back at the It’s a Wonderful Life quote. The quote harkens back to George Bailey and how a wingless angel is able to get his wings by showing him what his life would be like if he were never born, giving him hope and a better perspective of his self-worth.
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Iconic Scenes Make for Iconic Quotes:
When shy Robert De Niro transforms himself into Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, he’s known for the quote “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well, I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to? Oh, yeah? Okay?” This is an iconic quote and that it gives people in the insight of Bickle’s mind while at the same time gaining appreciation of De Niro’s ability to get into character (the mirror scene is actually an acting exercise of sorts).
Filled with Life Lessons:
Who can forget something like this? “My mother always said, life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get,” says Forrest Gump as played by Tom Hanks. This is certainly one of my favourite movie quotes exactly because it has an unambiguous message. People who don’t get it might joke, “A box of chocolates contains chocolates, so how are you saying you won’t know what you’re going to get?” but it’s more than that. Life is as predictable and unpredictable as you make it be, like wondering how delicious a box of chocolates can taste.
Cheesy but in Good Fun:
Not all movies are supposed to have a long-lasting, artistic impact. As such, not all quotes from movies should have serious gravitas. Something as simple yet humorous as “I’ll be back,” from the Terminator as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the eponymous film isn’t something that’s impactful on a personal level, but it has become iconic in its own cheesy but fun way. Although the Terminator itself isn’t necessarily a cheesy movie and has its own instances of seriousness.
Sometimes a Quote Simply Makes the Whole Movie Work:
Remember Colonel Nathan R. Jessep’s line in “A Few Good Men”. It was so memorable that people who’ve never seen the movie can recite it themselves. It has made an indelible mark on pop culture when people who’ve never watched the movie know the line, “You can’t handle the truth!” It’s particularly stirring how even in his advanced age, Jack Nicholson is able to command an incredible performance.
Quotes That Serve as the Crux of the Plot:
While one might think the spoiler for Citizen Kane and his quote “Rosebud,” (that is, what is Rosebud?), which was his childhood sled, is underwhelming, the whole crux of the film (wherein we get to see the life and times of Charles Foster Kane, from his greatness to his folly and arrogance, because a reporter wanted to know the mystery behind his words) is what makes the film. This is a great quote because it’s the spark that allowed us to gaze into the life of a millionaire who had everything but the thing he most wanted.
Understatements Produce the Greatest Impacts:
Just as exaggeration can dull the impact of what’s happening, understatement in not so many words can bring out the true impact of a given moment like a compact punch to the jaw that short circuits your brain enough to knock you out. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” quote from Police Chief Martin Brody (played by Roy Scheider) in Jaws is one such surgically precise yet understated quote.
What’s your most favorite movie quote? Feel free to fill in to keep the list going.