Famous Lines from Movies and TV

Where would we be if we didn’t have stuff to quote? Pulling lines out of movies and TV is as important a part of human interaction as shaking hands and ignoring homeless people when they ask you for cash. Without quotes, there’s no way of knowing if the person we’re talking to likes the same things we like. And if we don’t know that, how can we be expected to form an opinion about them?
We quote things because we want to show that we’ve seen things, and we get things, and we hope that you see and get things too. If you don’t, at the very least we expect you to laugh, nod, and give a knowing “nice.”
But maybe you’re not the most media savvy person on the planet. Maybe you devote your time to more important things, like building houses for disaster victims, or writing a ten-tome series of Swedish detective novels. Not everyone has a chance to see the newest movie every Friday or digest an entire season’s worth of television. In this day and age, with the amount of media saturation we’re all soaking in, it’s simultaneously understandable and inexcusable to remove oneself from the cultural conversation. Understandable because there’s just no way one person could possibly stay updated on everything that’s out there. Inexcusable because it’s everywhere.
Even if you’re some kind of hermit, or undercover space alien, there are a few quotes that you should know by heart. The fifteen listed are the kind of universal ubiquity. If someone were to say these in polite conversation and you tilted your head, you better have a damn good excuse for not paying attention your entire life.
1. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
(Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind)
When Gone with the Wind was released, it was a huge deal to use profanity. The fact that Rhett Butler says damn at all is a miracle. The only reason that the Hays Office – which dealt with film censorship before we created the “perfect” system we have in place today – allowed it was because of a bylaw that stated profanities could be uttered if they were quoted from literary works. Since Gone with the Wind is based on a book, the profanity stayed, and Rhett’s anger and resoluteness was adequately honored.
2. “One of these days, Alice. Straight to the moon!”
(Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners)
Does Ralph Kramden’s empty threat that he’s going to hit his wife so hard that she’s going to soar out of the atmosphere and crash land on the moon actually promote spousal abuse? Only if you believe Ralph Kramden is some kind of superhuman bus driver. The truth is, Ralph loves Alice to death, despite how sarcastic she may be. His frustration with her stems from her inability to understand just how good this week’s get rich scheme is.
3. “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
(Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather)
What makes this quote so great is its verbal simplicity matched with its visual execution. Hint: it involves sawing the head off a man’s horse and putting it in his bed. So whenever someone says this line, you can be sure that they’re thinking of playing real dirty to get what they want. That might be a good time to lock the cats in the laundry room and suggest a nice, quiet game of Apples to Apples.
4. “(Annoyed Grunt)”
(Dan Castenella as Homer Simpson in The Simpsons)
By (annoyed grunt), we obviously mean (“Doh!”). Why not just call a “Doh” a “Doh”? Because that’s the way it’s written in the scripts. That’s the way it’s always been, ever since it was given to the voice of Homer Simpson, Dan Castanella. He interpreted it as he pleased. The result was the “Doh” you hear today – the ”Doh” that launched a yellow-skinned empire and sold a thousand t-shirts and Butterfinger bars.
5. “I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
(Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront)
A few years before the events of On the Waterfront, dockworker Terry Malloy was a promising young boxer. His brother forced him to throw a fight he easily could have won because it was going to make his mob-connected union boss a thick grip of cash. When Terry becomes involved with the daughter of a dead informer, he’s targeted by the very same boss who ruined his boxing career. His brother asks him to listen to reason, but the time for reason has passed. Bummer.
6. “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
(Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz)
Call it a ‘No Duh’ moment, but you can’t blame Dorothy Gale for being utterly confused when she wanders out of her little twister-torn farmhouse into Munchkin Country. Not only did she survive a Category 5 tornado, but she crash landed in Technicolor. How confounding would it be if you survived a natural disaster only to learn that there were more colors than you ever knew existed?
7. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
(Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca)
Rick has to make a choice: love or virtue. It all comes down to the final moment on the tarmac, as the love of his life and her husband are about to board a plane out of Casablanca. Rick takes Ilsa’s chin and tells her “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Part of the line’s popularity has to be our confused interpretation of it. We know it means he admires and loves her, but we’re not quite sure if he’s toasting her or what.
8. “Go ahead, make my day.”
(Clint Eastwood as ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan in Sudden Impact)
Not many people stop to think what this line really means. Batshit crazy police investigator Harry Callahan has just cornered a criminal in the streets and is pointing a .44 magnum, “the most powerful gun in the world,” in the guy’s face. When Harry says “Make my day,” he’s essentially challenging the guy to make a move. Why? So Harry has an excuse to blow his head off, which apparently would be the only enjoyable moment of his day.
9. “Ayyyyyyy.”
(Henry Winkler as Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days)
Arthur Fonzarelli wasn’t supposed to be a big character when Happy Days first launched. He was just supposed to add a little Italian-American cool guy Grease juice to the melting pot. But as the first season went on, and more and more jukeboxes were smacked into submission, the world stood up and proclaimed, “We want more of the guy that puts his thumbs up and says Ayyyyyy.”
10. “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
(Assorted Cast Members from Saturday Night Live)
Saturday Night live gets a lot of crap for its wild inconsistency. Hosts change on a weekly basis, cast members come and go with little to no fanfare, and the whole thing can be riotously funny one season and please-kill-me-now awful the next. One thing that hasn’t changed over the past thirty years is the last line of the first sketch, in which a character turns to the camera and announces that what you are watching is, indeed, live (on the east coast) and streaming from the greatest city in the world.
11. “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.”
(Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard)
Norma Desmond has lost her mind by the time she utters the chilling final words of Sunset Boulevard. She’s detached from reality, completely disconnected from the system she both adores and abhors. All she wants is to work with the greats again. So when a story-hungry press arrives at Desmond’s mansion to cover her arrest for murder, Desmond does a show for the cameras. She believes she’s on the set with the great Cecil B. Demille and moves closer and closer to the camera until she becomes nothing more than a blur – just like her career.
12. “You just crossed over into The Twilight Zone.”
(Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone)
The opening to The Twilight Zone is like falling down the rabbit hole. We’re bombarded by images we don’t quite understand while our narrator informs us that we’re using the key of our imaginations to travel through a door, going to a place of both shadow and substance, of both sight, sound, and mind, of things and ideas. By the time those final words are uttered, we’re transported to a different place. A place where the world is completely upside down. And we love it.
13. “Oh my God, they killed Kenny!”
(Stan, Kyle, and Cartman from South Park)
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker love to toy with conventions. From the beginning of South Park’s run, it’s been a sort of anti-show. Only recently have they become interested in explaining things that previously needed no explaining, such as how Kenny could die every episode and be back to life in the next. It showed that you weren’t supposed to take the show seriously, which made some of its later preachiness easier to swallow.
14. “Did I do that?”
(Jaleel White as Steve Urkel from Family Matters)
There was a brief period in the nineties where one could do anything they wanted and get away with it scott free if they said four magic words: “Did I do that?” Alright, maybe it wasn’t actually like that, but it sure seemed like everyone we knew was spouting next-door neighbor nerd-tastrophe Steven Urkel’s signature catchphrase like it was going out of style. (It was.) To pull it out today would be comic gold, a winking acknowledgement of what a silly sitcom character Steve Urkel was, and how much fun he was to watch.
WATCH: Road to the Altar (2009) – A mockumentary starring Jaleel White
15. “May the Force be with you.”
(Harrison Ford as Han Solo in Star Wars)
A gentle wish for good fortune. When Han Solo tells Luke Skywalker that he hopes the Force is with him, it’s an acknowledgement that there are powers in the universe that dictate our fates. Maybe he doesn’t believe in all that magic mumbo jumbo, but he’s willing to pretend if it means his friend comes home safe and sound. This quote has no expiration date and is as useful in conversation as “good luck” and “break a leg.”
Chris Littler lives in Hollywood. He has a degree in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, one of the most prestigious writing programs in America, which he totally plans to hang on the wall when he has a Study. Chris currently covers video games at UGO.com when he’s not performing improv at iO, and is currently writing a one-hour TV pilot with his friend Wes. Like everyone else you know, he has an album available to purchase on iTunes and has lots of things to say on his blog: chrislittler[dot]com.