One of the many ways to measure a movie’s impact is to see how many iconic quotes they produce. The all-time best movies – Gone with the Wind, Titanic, Casablanca – all have multiple lines that have transcended their narratives, becoming indelible parts of pop culture, synonymous with the film industry as a whole.
As part of its annual celebration of movies, the American Film Institute compiled a list of the 100 best quotes in film history. Released in 2005, the list, accurately titled 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes, gathers some of the most iconic and beloved lines, acknowledging them as the all-time best.
10 “You talkin’ to me?” – ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976)
Martin Scorsese directs Robert De Niro in the 1976 psychological thriller Taxi Driver. The film follows Travis Bickle, a war veteran and loner dealing with insomnia, who roams a morally corrupt and decadent New York City in his taxi at night. Obsessed with a beautiful young woman working on a political campaign, he becomes increasingly disturbed and paranoid.
Taxi Driver‘s most iconic line comes courtesy of a genius improvisation by De Niro. The quote, spoken by Travis to himself while staring into the mirror, is disquieting and menacing, an eerie hint at the violence to come. De Niro packs so much meaning in those four words, turning them into one of cinema’s most disturbing promises.
9 “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” – ‘All About Eve’ (1950)
Named as the Golden Age’s greatest female by the AFI, Bette Davis is a cinematic giant with a career full of timeless classics. However, Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s drama All About Eve could possibly be her best movie. The film follows Margo Channing, a revered but aging stage actress who becomes prey to the ambitious and ruthless Eve Harington, who slowly creeps into her life.
Davis’ Margo is a spitfire, a firm and straightforward woman who developed a thick skin to survive in the cutthroat Broadway world. Margo delivers her most iconic quote during a party, with Davis’ dry, confident delivery making it unforgettable. The quote is universal, applying to possibly every situation with as much ease as it fits in this witty and masterful drama.
8 “May the force be with you.” – ‘Star Wars’ (1977)
George Lucas‘ wildly creative, game-changing space opera, Star Wars, was a monumental cinematic achievement with an influence still felt today. The plot follows young Luke Skywalker, who becomes involved in the Rebel Alliance’s fight against the Galactic Empire while discovering the secret of the powerful metaphysical entity known as “The Force.”
Star Wars introduced the now-legendary line, “May the force be with you.” The quote has become synonymous with the franchise and a universal way to wish good fortune. It might be more common in the geekiest corners of pop culture, but the line is iconic enough to transcend its genre’s barriers and enter the mainstream lexicon.
7 “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” – ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (1950)
Possibly the best noir movie in Hollywood history, Billy Wilder‘s Sunset Boulevard is a cinematic triumph of acting, writing, directing, and scoring. The plot centers on struggling writer Joe Gillis, who forms a manipulative and increasingly unstable relationship with Norma Desmond, an aging former silent star convinced she can make a successful comeback.
Brilliantly played by the outstanding Gloria Swanson, Norma Desmond is a cinematic monster of epic proportions. Dangerously deluded but tremendously compelling, Norma is a fascinating creation, a character study of loneliness, regret, bitterness, and pain. Her final words, spoken with melodramatic gusto by Swanson, represent her complete descent into madness, with the actress imbuing each word with poignant and chilling determination.
6 “Go ahead, make my day.” – ‘Sudden Impact’ (1983)
Clint Eastwood starred in many great movies, although his major cinematic contributions are in the Western and crime genres. 1983’s Sudden Impact sees Eastwood reprising the role of Harry Callahan, a brutal police inspector tasked with capturing a serial killer.
Although not the best of the Dirty Harry movies, Sudden Impact has the distinction of including one of cinema’s coolest and most memorable lines. Delivered by Eastwood’s trademark gritty, raspy voice, the line is a threat that has far surpassed the movie’s legacy to the point where politicians have used it during formal speeches.
5 “Here’s looking at you, kid.” – ‘Casablanca’ (1942)
The sweeping romance Casablanca stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Set during World War II, the film follows Rick Blaine, an American expatriate in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. Surprised by the sudden arrival of his former lover, Rick must choose between being with her and helping her and her husband escape to Lisbon.
Casablanca has the distinction of having the most lines in the AFI’s list, with six. Its highest entry is the classic “Here’s looking at you, kid,” delivered by Rick during his goodbye to Ilsa. In a scene packed with more iconic quotes than most movies have in their entirety, this line stands out for its simplicity and its surprising ability to still pack an emotional gut punch.
4 “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” – ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ (1939)
Released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz is the best classic fantasy movie and a timeless masterpiece that continues charming audiences today. Judy Garland stars as Dorothy Gale, a young girl transported to the magical land of Oz, where she must seek the Wizard’s help to return home.
Dorothy’s line upon arriving in Oz has become a classic, often used to describe any unfamiliar place or situation. Garland’s surprised, naive performance turns what could easily be a throwaway line into a universal description of uncertainty, fear, and wonder while encapsulating the film’s main themes of identity, belonging, and coming-of-age.
3 “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am.” – ‘On The Waterfront’ (1954)
Marlon Brando won his first Oscar for portraying the brooding dockworker Terry Malloy in the groundbreaking crime drama On the Waterfront. The plot centers on Malloy, a former boxer who struggles to stand up against the corruption and violence permeating the longshoremen and their union.
Malloy was a groundbreaking character in cinema, and Brando’s portrayal stands as one of the greatest acting achievements in American cinema. The actor’s raw, uncompromising, all-consuming performance is perfectly summarized with this powerful line, spoken by Terry to his brother, Charlie. Brando’s Terry is an open wound, and this line is the blood overflowing, a thousand emotions flashing through his face with every new word.
2 “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – ‘The Godfather’ (1972)
Named by the AFI as the all-time greatest gangster movie, Francis Ford Coppola‘s crime masterpiece, The Godfather, is a cinematic institution. The film chronicles the tumultuous life of the infamous Corleone crime family, led by Don Vito Corleone, who is preparing his older son, Michael, to take over.
Marlon Brando is a giant of the silver screen, and his performance as Vito Corleone ranks as one of his finest. Dry but richly affecting, Brando’s work in The Godfather is stellar, a triumph of contradictions, with the actor deftly blending warmth with ruthlessness. Nowhere is this lethal combination more apparent than in his delivery of this line, which has become synonymous with the entire gangster genre. Disquieting and foreboding, the line isn’t supposed to be a threat, yet Brando imbues it with a vague hint of danger, making it all the more memorable.
1 “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” – ‘Gone With the Wind’ (1939)
Widely considered among the all-time best movies, Gone with the Wind stars Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in two of their most iconic roles. The film chronicles the life of the spirited Scarlett O’Hara, her unrequited love for Ashley Wilkes, and her subsequent marriage to the devilish Rhett Butler during the last days of the Antebellum South.
The film’s final quote, spoken by Rhett as a final goodbye to Scarlett, has become a timeless part of the cinematic vocabulary. Controversial at the time due to its inclusion of a swear word, the line is delivered with assured gusto and barely-hidden contempt by Gable as the perfect ending to the magnificent three-hour epic.
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