Monday March 23, 2009
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.
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.