erik lundegaard

My Most-Quoted Movie Lines - Intro

In January 2005, I wrote a piece for MSNBC.com anticipating the American Film Institute’s June countdown of the 100 most memorable lines in movie history, and, in it, I included a prediction of their top 10. I wasn’t far off  (AFI’s rankings in parentheses):

1. “There’s no place like home.” (23)
2. “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” (2)
3. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (1)
4. “Plastics.” (42)
5. “Here’s looking at you, kid.” (5)
6. “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender…” (3)
7. “May the Force be with you.” (8)
8. “E.T. phone home.” (15)
9. “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” (19)
10. “You talkin’ to me?” (10)

The point of the piece, though, was less prognostication than analysis. Why did movie quotes matter? What kinds of movie quotes mattered? After the top 10 list, I wrote:

All famous lines, but how many do we really use? Telling a girl, “Here’s looking at you, kid”? Telling a friend, “May the force be with you”? Too corny. Too calcified. Of course this may be a generational thing, in which case these movie lines are like George Trow’s father’s fedora in his book, “Within the Context of No Context.” What the father wore with dignity the son could only wear with irony. The movie lines our parents repeated with sincerity we can only repeat with a smirk.

Let’s face it: Movie lines are only really fun when they’re not part of the national lexicon. Otherwise we risk coming off as the boob at the party saying “Do I make you horny, baby?” one too many times.

Not to get too onanistic here, but... dude’s right. Memorable schmemorable. A good movie-quote should be familiar but not too familiar. It should be like a password to a club. A few years back, I was with my friend Adam and his friend Chris (whom Adam calls “Doc” for absolutely no reason), eating and drinking at a restaurant/bar called The Little Wagon before a Twins game, when, with my attention elsewhere, Doc said, “Takin’ a fry here, boss,” and grabbed one of my french fries. I paused...as the tumblers fell into place.

“’Cool Hand Luke’?” I said.

Doc smiled.
 
Of course nobody on Luke’s chain gang actually says “Takin’ a fry here, boss.” The say: “Puttin’ ‘em on here, boss.” “Takin’ em off here, boss.” They’re letting the guards know every sudden movement so nobody gets jumpy. But the pattern of the line (“Xin’ here, boss”) is heard often enough that we remember it. At least Doc and I did. And that was our password.

Over the next few days I’ll count down my five most-quoted movie lines. These are lines that still feel alive to me. They haven’t been trampled to death by overuse. They still have function and utility. Feel free to post your own most-quoted movie lines below, or make guesses about mine.

Here are some hints. Mine are lines I say when people disbelieve me, or when I’m feeling stupid, or when people complain about their bosses, or CEOs, or Bush/Cheney. Four are from movies made during my lifetime. In two, I imitate (badly) the man saying the line. They’re throwaways — the tenth- or twentieth-most-popular lines in popular films. They’re not for AFI. They’re for me and Adam and Doc.

And you? Baby, you dig it the most.


Posted at 09:41 AM on Mon. Mar 23, 2009 in category Movies  
Tags: , ,

COMMENTS

Mister B wrote:

"Evacuate?! In our moment of triumph?! Surely, you overestimate their chances."

I just used that one yesterday.
Comment posted on Mon. Mar 23, 2009 at 01:32 PM

Roger wrote:

Various lines from Alec Baldwin's monologue from "Glengarry Glen Ross" are choice, often edited slightly to fit the situation. But I don't say those anywhere near as often as the succinct "plate of shrimp" snippet from Repoman, which is shorthand for any situation which seems way to coincidental to be chance.
Comment posted on Mon. Mar 23, 2009 at 01:41 PM

David Hirning wrote:

"You can't name the kid Elliot. No. Elliot's the fat kid in school who eats paste.... You've got to give him a NAME! Like Nick! Nick's a name. Nick's your buddy, Nick's your pal. The kind of guy who doesn't mind if you throw up in his car. Nick."

-The Sure Thing (said by John Cusack)

No surprise that my son is named... Nick. His mother and I use it all the time ;-)
Comment posted on Mon. Mar 23, 2009 at 01:46 PM

Uncle Vinny wrote:

"You know... for kids!" from the Hudsucker Proxy

"Danny's not here, Mrs Torrance" from The Shining

I hear "Let the Wookiee win" a lot, but never use it myself.

Variations on "Asps... very dangerous... you go first" from Raiders
Comment posted on Mon. Mar 23, 2009 at 03:01 PM

Erik wrote:

Vinny, when do you use those first two? In what circumstances?
Comment posted on Mon. Mar 23, 2009 at 03:24 PM

Uncle Vinny wrote:

On the first one, it's when handling something dangerous (my friend David uses a massive cleaver in the kitchen way more than you'd expect), or when watching someone ride/use a jury-rigged device. Definitely black humor.

I use "Danny's not here" about someone who seems spaced out or who acting in an uncharacteristic manner, but I'll say it about myself if I'm completely confused by something that got said.

Now that I've thought so much about 'em, I'm going to be saying them even more often.
Comment posted on Mon. Mar 23, 2009 at 04:02 PM

Mike Smith wrote:

"You're a regular nuclear meltdown, you better just cool off!" - Bull Durham (when someone gets too excited)

"Daddy, is it true what they say about vitamins?" - misquote from Empire of the Sun, and pronouncing vitamins with a short i in the first syllable (used whenever the subject of vitamins comes up in our house).
Comment posted on Mon. Mar 23, 2009 at 04:49 PM

Tim wrote:

As with Mr. B, Star Wars lines seem to crop up often. "I don't care what you smell," usually said to cats who won't go in their travel cages; "No reward is worth this," generally when grumbling about work.
Comment posted on Mon. Mar 23, 2009 at 06:58 PM

Mister B wrote:

I use this one from "Bull Durham" a lot during softball games: "Get a hit, Crash!"

And, yeah, the Star Wars movies are good for so many quotes other than the really well-known ones:

"Punch it, Chewie!

"That's no moon. That's a space station." (and that was also a line in "Twister")

And then from "Toy Story 2":

"Fly like the wind, Bullseye!" (almost every time Dawn and I are in the car and about to go someplace in a hurry because we're usually late)

And this line of Data's from "Star Trek: Generations" (although Dawn uses this one more than I do):

"It is...green."
Comment posted on Mon. Mar 23, 2009 at 10:33 PM

Mister B wrote:

And there are, most likely, more than a couple popular ones from "The Princess Bride":

"Inconceivable!"

"I am not left-handed"

"Have fun storming the castle!" (which sounds like it's from something earlier)
Comment posted on Tue. Mar 24, 2009 at 09:12 AM

chris werle wrote:

Oddly enough, the two lines I seem to use most often both involve Paul Newman. Oddly, because I would never list him as one of my favorite actors unaided.

First (and I may be mangling it) is from Butch Cassidy when Sundance says, "You just keep thinkin Butch, that's what you're good at."
You can obviously see where this gets used. Beauty of it is, you cna use it after someone throws out either a very good or very bad idea.

The other is Cool Hand Luke and it's the classic, "Sometimes nothin's a real cool hand."
Again, I don't need to spell out where this gets used.

Enjoying this thread.
Comment posted on Thu. Mar 26, 2009 at 12:37 PM

Erik wrote:

Chris, in the follow-up to this piece, I mention some other lines I use a lot, and one of them is, yes, "You keep thinking, Butch..." Usually with Patricia. Usually when she's laying out her plans for us.

No. 2 on my list is a William Goldman line as well.
Comment posted on Thu. Mar 26, 2009 at 12:48 PM

chris werle wrote:

just read your number 2 and I think i was using that same line in the very same place at the exact same time you were. Only difference is, there's a good chance you were using it in reference to me.
Comment posted on Fri. Mar 27, 2009 at 11:15 AM

Erik wrote:

Chris: Never.
Comment posted on Fri. Mar 27, 2009 at 11:37 AM

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