One of the few, albeit minuscule, pleasures we as human beings have had over the past year amid the Covid- pandemic and lockdowns, restarts, and subsequent lockdowns has been the ability- thanks to today’s streaming services and technology- to watch practically any film ever created instantaneously on a variety of interconnected devices. Below are 25 of the most famous movie quotes of all time, spanning the last 5 decades of film (the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00’s, and 2010’s) with 5 quotes from each decade. Some of the sections are profound, others head-scratching, some have taken on a life of their own, one thing they all share is that they are all memorable with the power to transport you to a different time and place each time they are uttered or even read aloud. Here are 20 of the most famous movie quotes of all time.
A great decade for the film and, of course, film quotes, the 70s saw the rise of directors and producers like George Lucas, Steven Speilberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and legendary actors like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Burt Reynolds, among many others.
Marlon Brando portrays Don Corleone.
Marlon Brando has uttered many well-known quotes in several excellent movies throughout his long and often mysterious film career, including- On the Waterfront, A Street Car Named Desire, and Apocalypse Now. The quote above, however, is by far Brando’s most famous and oft. Parodied section, one that has been spoofed so often (much like the Godfather itself ) that it’s lost its original grit and intent. In the scene in question, Mafia boss Don Corleone is speaking to his godson Johnny Fontane who is a struggling singer that has just been rejected for a part in an upcoming movie due to the fictional studio head- Jack Woltz’ disapproval. Corleone then utters his famous line reassuring his godson that he will get the part, speaking the most famous gangster line of all time, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
Travis Bickle, portrayed by Robert Deniro.
With just 4 simple words, Robert De Niro launched himself into superstardom along with the director of the film, Mr. Martin Scorcesse. Taxi Driver is a great, weird little movie that seems to capture the seediness and gritty people that populated 1970’s New York City. De Niro’s character Travis Bickle is down on his luck, probably mentally ill, a late-night taxi driver in NYC who is disgusted by the things he sees. The society all around him goes on an avenging spree taking on pimps and politicians. Like The Godfather quote above, this simple line has become a huge part of pop-culture in the United States and, as such, has become a heavily parodied, almost frequent part of our (Americans) vocabulary. In the scene in question, Bickle preparing to go out and become a vigilante, practices his tough-talk and quick draw with a pistol in front of the mirror, talking to himself the whole time. De Niro, like Bickle, does a great job looking wild-eyed and crazy as he stares into the camera, repeatedly asking the non-existent person/people, “You talkin’ to me?“.
Chief Martin Brody played by Roy Schneider.
It makes sense that the movie that coined the term “blockbuster” after its enormously successful and popular release in the summer of 1975 is full of endlessly quotable lines, moments, and a fantastic score. Telling the tale of a vicious, man-eating shark off the coast of the fictional Amity Island, New York, police chief Brody must attempt to take out this devastating shark, which has shut down the tourism-based island after eating a few people in the movies first half-hour. In the scene which produced the quote above, Chief Brody is chumming (throwing fish guts and blood in the water) to attract the man-eating shark; while talking with the other members of the boat, the gigantic great white shark breaches its head above water, terrifying Brody with its size and stealth causing him to tell the shark expert on the boat Quin that- “you’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Alec Guinness.
It isn’t easy to understand now how innovative and original the first Starwars film, and indeed the original trilogy was at the time. Upon its release, the film took over mainstream pop-culture, causing a revolution that’s still being felt today. The visual effects and mythos that George Lucas created were so extraordinary, detailed, and unique that it was and still is hard not to get sucked into the first film. The film’s pivotal scene involves young Luke Skywalker piloting an x-wing fighter craft to destroy Darth Vader’s death starship. Luke’s mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi speaking to him, utters the famous line “Use the force, Luke,” attempting to get Luke to fulfill his destiny and use his Jedi-powers.
Marlon Brando plays Colonel Kurtz.
As far as most famous movie quotes go, this one seems to be subconsciously within our pattern of everyday speech and vocabulary and is often used as a joke or in a mocking manner; the quote in the original film, however, is a gut punch, truly emotional as is the whole scene/montage where Captain Willard (played by Martin Sheen) meets the mysterious and traitorous Colonel Kurtz. Apocalypse Now has many other famous quotes, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” and scenes that bring home the horrors of war, especially the Vietnam War, with stunning clarity. A terrific albeit long-running film, the quote above is uttered towards the end of the movie after Captain Willard, and his team have finally reached Kurtz’s compound bunker. Willard and his crew are mystified by Kurtz’s cult-like following and rule, a formerly dedicated soldier who went mad during the war and absconded with his small following into the jungle. While giving a monologue to Willard about the horrible things he’s seen and done, and the true nature of horror, including according to himself, the beneficial nature of horror and its potential as a tool, Kurtz utters the startling phrase “the horror, the horror.”
The decade of big action stars and even bigger budgets in the 1980s was a pivotal decade for film that saw the rise of actors like- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sigourney Weaver, Harrison Ford, and Molly Ringwald, and many others. Directors that dominated the decade include- John Hughes, James Cameron, and Robert Zemeckis. Here are five of the most famous movie quotes of the decade.
Indiana Jones played by Harrison Ford.
The movie that introduced us to action-hero archaeologist Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Arc, is a great early 80’s action movie that deals with the occult and nazis. Harrison Ford became possibly the biggest movie star of the entire decade thanks largely to his role as Indy, a hero with a few particular quirks, including a devastating fear of snakes. While inside a dark temple with no light, Indy asks his companion Sallah for a torch, revealing Indy’s greatest fear and one of his most memorable quotes- snakes. Why’d it had to be snakes?.
Pat Welsh, the voice of E.T.
Mr. Blockbuster himself, Steven Speilberg, was back at it in 1982 with the family-friendly alien movie E.T. the extraterrestrial now an iconic, pop-culture influencing film. At the academy awards that year, E.T. took home 4 Oscars, and it is widely considered one of the best films of all time. Having learned English from the children of the family where he crash-landed, in the quoted scene, E.T. can be seen pointing out the window into space while saying the famous line- “E.T. Phone Home.”
Doctor Emmit Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd.
The iconic 1980’s sci-fi adventure trilogy, Back to the Future, starred Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd and has firmly entrenched itself as a cornerstone of 80’s movies. Interestingly enough, this quote takes place during the last scene of the movie during which Marty Mcfly (Fox’s character) tells Doc Brown, who is driving the souped-up, time-traveling enabled Delorean, that he does not have enough room to reach the required 88 MPH for time-travel, Doc replies with the classic line- “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads” before the screen fades to black. This is perhaps the best example of using a terrifically memorable quote to help set up a sequel.
Al Pacino plays Tony Montanna. Indeed, one of the most famous movie quotes in history, this line is delivered by Al Pacino perfectly, and it is his vocal inflections and tone that really make this quote. It has become a popular refrain for everyday people while being widely parodied in the media. His character Tony Montanna, a Cuban immigrant, has worked, killed, and schemed his way to the top of Miami’s cocaine trafficking business. Unfortunately for Tony, he begins to use his own product, becoming paranoid and suspicious but not necessarily of the right people. In the quotable scene, Tony Montanna and his men battle another drug lord who intends to Kill Tony. As the other drug lord’s men enter the compound, Tony Montanna holding a rocket launcher offers the famous line before blowing away his competition- “So you wanna play huh, say hello to my little friend here.”
Pat Morita as Mr. Myiagi.
With the recent popularity of Youtube’s original series Cobra Kai an updated take from the other perspective of the Original Karate Kid, it is fun to go back to the movie that started it all and looks at its most famous quote. Daniel Larusso is a struggling teen who recently moved into an upper-class area of Southern California where the kids are privileged and mean, struggling with his transition and fatherless Daniel begins to gain confidence and self-respect with the help of an elderly Japanese man who begins training him in his own very unique way in karate. Daniel’s first assignment from his sensei, who runs a junkyard, is to wash and wax all of the cars, uttering his instruction with the now-famous “wax on, wax off.”
The ’90s featured a bevy of quality indie movies to go along with some top-heavy major studio productions. Actors and comedians like Jim Carey, Mike Meyers, and Dave Chapelle made films and did well for themselves, while directors like Gus Van Sant, Kevin Smith, and Harmony Korine made their own unique marks. Below you’ll find 5 varying quotes that give a flavor and feel to the 90s in film.
“A CENSUS TAKER ONCE TRIED TO TEST ME. I ATE HIS LIVER WITH SOME FAVA BEANS AND A NICE CHIANTI.” - The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lector.
A truly chilling yet somehow hilarious quote that succinctly some up one of the best villains from any movie in history. Dr. Hannibal Lector is a brilliant psychologist imprisoned for his nasty habit of eating humans when Clarice visits him Starling (played by Jodie Foster), a young FBI agent who has been tasked with getting Lector’s help on profiling another. a serial killer who goes by the alias of “buffalo bill.” Inside the mental asylum/prison where he is being held in a specially designed cage, Dr. Lector is evasive when it comes to Clarice’s questions in an attempt to size her up. However, he does tell her that he ate a census taker once with a side dish of fava beans and a bottle of Chianti wine.
Robin Wright as Jenny Curran.
One of the most widely yelled and overly-quoted pieces of movie history, “run Forrest, run,” has taken on a life of its own and, in many ways, overshadowed the excellent movie. In the titular role as Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks does an excellent job playing a mentally disabled man from the south who seems to participate in many of the most important events of the second half of the 20th century. In the quoted scene, Forrest, who, due to physical ailments and an overprotective mother, wears leg braces, is being chased by a group of mean, local kids. Jenny, the love of Forrest’s life, which plays an important role in the film, utters the famous line, urging Forrest to get away, which he can do thanks to a miraculous moment during which his legs are corrected. He runs, sprinting out of his leg braces away from the bullies.
Rod Tidwell, who is played by Cuba Gooding Jr.
Starring Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Renee Zellweger, Jerry Maguire is an excellent movie that blends the world of sports with romance. Tom Cruise plays a formerly hot-shot agent looking to work his way back into the industry after being ousted. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Rod Tidwell, a good receiver with an ego and an attitude problem that affects his play and perception as a player. During the quoted scene, Tidwell and Maguire are talking on the phone with each other, Cruise trying to gain Tidwell’s business, to which Tidwell replies- “show me the money,” which he eventually gets Tom Cruise to chant with him over the phone in one of the films most famous scenes.
Jeff Bridges is playing Jeff “the dude” Lebowski.
A cult-classic and one of the most irreverent and funny films of the entire decade, the film stars Jeff Bridges as “the dude,” a stoner/slacker who gets involved with kidnapping and murder due to a lot of mistakes and misunderstandings. Directed by the Coen brothers, The Big Lebowski is full of wonderfully unique characters and an original plot. The scene in question occurs at the beginning of the movie, during which a couple of thugs mistake “the dude” with a millionaire of the same name. Whilst trying to get him to give up the money, the thug’s dunk “the dude” in a toilet, to which he calmly replies- nobody calls me Lebowski. You got the wrong guy. I’m the dude, man.
Anna Scott, played by Julia Roberts.
Two of the 1990’s biggest stars, Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, star in this rom-com, which follows London bookstore owner William Thacker (Grant) and movie star Anna Scott (Roberts) and their subsequent courtship, including its trials and tribulations. After Anna has messed up her chances with Will, she delivers the famous line to him, which eventually changes his mind. By the end of the film, they are married and have a child.
The decade that revived the superhero film brought us big-time franchises like Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, and The Fast and Furious franchise. Stars included- George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and many more. Influential directors like Peter Jackson, Christopher Nolan, and Ang Lee.
Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland.
Another Hanks quote, this movie tells the tale of Chuck Noland, a fed-ex employee whose plane crash lands, leading him to spend several years by himself on a deserted island. While on the island, Noland befriends and personifies a volley-ball that washed up on shore with him, a Wilson brand volleyball hence the name. During the quoted scene, Noland awakens to find that the tide washed Wilson out into the ocean, too far out of reach to be retrieved, sad, lonely, and broken Hanks delivers his famous cry, “Wilson… I’m sorry Wilson”.
Russel Crowe as Maximus Meridius.
Gladiator is one of the best films of the 2000’s a classic filled with many memorable battle scenes and quotes. The story begins with Hispanic-roman soldier Maximus leading his soldiers into battle against the germanic tribes. The aging emperor is dying and commits his command to Maximus over his own son, that same son attempts to Kill Maximus and do away with him forever. Although not killed, maximum becomes a slave and eventually a gladiator who must fight to the death at Rome’s infamous coliseum. The quote comes from the beginning of the film, during which Maximus prepares his troops for battle. After a headless messenger is sent back to their lines, he utters the quote before leading them into action.
King Leonidas played by Gerard Butler.
A heavily parodied and spoofed quote, it felt like you couldn’t go anywhere in the late ’00s without hearing someone say or yell jokingly, “this is Sparta.” The film stylized the Spartan defense against the Persian invasion during the battle Thermopylae. In the quoted scene, a Persian messenger of the king tells Leonidas that he and his men must surrender or they will be slaughtered, to which Leonidas responds by kicking the messenger down a large wall while screaming, “this is Sparta,” motivating his men a great deal.
“IT’S PRETTY MUCH MY FAVORITE ANIMAL. IT’S LIKE A LION AND TIGER MIXED… BRED FOR ITS SKILLS IN MAGIC” - Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite. An indie classic, Napoleon Dynamite features weird characters, including- Napoleon, Pedro, Uncle Rico, and Napoleon’s brother Kip. Weir, funny, irreverent Napoleon Dynamite helped launch actor John Heder’s career. The quoted scene features Napoleon talking to his potential love interest Deb, who asks him what he’s doodling in his notebook, Napoleon without hesitation, he replies that he is drawing a made-up creature, a “liger. What makes this even better is that throughout the scene, the actors are straight-faced and serious.
“DO YOU WANNA KNOW HOW I GOT THESE SCARS? MY FATHER WAS A DRINKER…AND A FIEND. AND ONE NIGHT, HE GOES OFF CRAZIER THAN USUAL. MOMMY GETS THE KITCHEN KNIFE TO DEFEND HERSELF. HE DOESN’T LIKE THAT. NOT…ONE… A BIT. SO, ME WATCHING, HE TAKES THE KNIFE TO HER, LAUGHING WHILE HE DOES IT. HE TURNS TO ME, AND HE SAYS, “WHY SO SERIOUS?” HE COMES AT ME WITH THE KNIFE - “WHY SO SERIOUS?” HE STICKS THE BLADE IN MY MOUTH - “LET’S PUT A SMILE ON THAT FACE!” AND… WHY SO SERIOUS?” - The Dark Knight (2008)
Heath Ledger as the Joker.
R.I.P. Mr. Heath Ledger, in his final role before his tragic death Ledger, gave the most iconic performance of his career. He won a posthumous Oscar. His portrayal of the Joker was funny, exciting, frightening, and depressing at the same time. The above quote takes place early in the movie after the Joker has made his way onto the scene, garnering the local organized crime figures’ attention. At a meeting with some gangsters, after they attempt unsuccessfully to take him down, the Joker holds one of the gangster’s hostage with a knife while delivering the famous quote. The “why so serious” portion of the quote has become incredibly famous, and around the time of the movie’s release could frequently be heard the phrase is firmly a part of the pop culture lexicon.
The recently completed 2010s featured a great mix of major-motion pictures and quality indie films. Stars like Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Chriss Pratt, and Brie Larson burst onto the scene, becoming major stars. Simultaneously, directors like Alfonso Cuaron, Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele, and Damien Chazelle inspired us with their wonderful films.
“WHAT IS THE MOST RESILIENT PARASITE? BACTERIA? A VIRUS? AN INTESTINAL WORM? AN IDEA. RESILIENT… HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS. ONCE AN IDEA HAS TAKEN HOLD OF THE BRAIN, IT’S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO ERADICATE. A PERSON CAN COVER IT UP, IGNORE IT- BUT IT STAYS THERE. AN IDEA THAT IS FULLY FORMED - FULLY UNDERSTOOD - THAT STICKS; RIGHT IN THERE SOMEWHERE.” - Inception (2010)
Leonardo Dicaprio as Dominic Cobb.
Inception is one of the most fun, mysterious, and downright enigmatic films of all-time, let alone the last decade. Directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, the film has punching power from the get-go. Beyond the previously-unheard plot and the dazzling special effect, Inception tells the story of a group of “extractors” who perform corporate espionage and deception by entering the dreams of their target’s subconsciousness. The whole film, the audience is unsure whether they are seeing characters living in reality or a dream world. In the quoted scene, Dominic Cobb, the tortured lead-extractor, is speaking with Saito (played by Ken Watanabe) in a flash-back discussing the role of their work and how they can influence others. Cobb trying to convince Saito uses the descriptive quote above to try and gain his business.
“YOU KNOW I’VE LEFT SO MUCH BEHIND: MY FAMILY, THE ZOO, INDIA, ANANDI. I SUPPOSE, IN THE END, THE WHOLE OF LIFE BECOMES AN ACT OF LETTING GO. BUT WHAT ALWAYS HURTS THE MOST IS NOT TAKING A MOMENT TO SAY GOODBYE.” - Life of Pi (2012)
Irrfan Khan as Pi.
An adaptation of the excellent 2001 book of the same name, Life of Pi, follows the titular character Pi’s life as he prepares to leave his home in Southern India with his family to head to Canada. A horrific storm sinks the ship killing everyone aboard except for Pi and the Bengal tiger Richard Parker. The majority of the film is a great adventure, “lost at sea” story as Pi and Richard Parker attempt to co-exist with one another abroad on a small dinghy. The quote comes from a scene late in the movie after Pi and his little boat washed ashore on the coast of Mexico. Profound and heart-stirring, the quote tells the story of the character’s life- those who are gone but not forgotten.
“WHY DO I AND EVERYONE I LOVE PICK PEOPLE WHO TREAT US LIKE WE’RE NOTHING- WE ACCEPT THE LOVE WE THINK WE DESERVE” - The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Emma Watson as Sam and Logan Lerner as Charlie.
Another film based on a novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is a great indie, coming-of-age film that covers the life of Charlie, who at the film’s beginning has just been released from a mental hospital due to clinical depression and his triumphs and tribulations as he goes through high-school making friends with Sam (played by Emma Watson) and Patrick (played by Ezra Miller). In the quoted scene, Sam discusses her relationship problems with Charlie, who she treats as a friend but is in love with her, railing against her former boyfriend Craig before Charlie replies with the sincere and honest reply, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
Terrence Fletcher played by J.K. Simmons.
Whiplash chronicles the relationship between a young jazz drummer at Schaffer Conservatory- Andrew Neiman (played by Miles Teller), and his abusive, maniacal instructor Terrence Fletcher. The film delves into Fletcher’s “methods of motivation,” which include- screaming and berating and throwing things at his students and even physically slapping them. The quoted scene occurs near the end of the film, after Neiman and Fletcher’s relationship has ended and they meet each other at a bar, Fletcher admitting his tough, sometimes cruel methods goes on to explain his reasoning, saying this (an expanded quote from the snippet above) “I mean look around you. $25 drinks, mod lighting, a little shrimp cocktail to go with your Coltrane. And people wonder why jazz is dying. Take it from me, and every Starbucks jazz album only proves my point. There are no two words more harmful in the entire English language than “good job.”
“ARE YOU AFRAID NOW? PARALYZED LIKE THAT DAY? GOOD. NOW SINK INTO THE FLOOR. SINK! NOW!” - Get Out (2017)
Catherine Keener playing Missy Armitage.
One of the best, most thought-provoking, and straight-up scariest films of the past decade, Get Out, written and directed by the usually funny Jordan Peele, covers the story of a black man, Chris (played by Daniel Kaluuya) who visits his white girlfriend Rose’s (played by Allison Williams) family home for a weekend. Something is off, but Chris is not quite sure what until over a third of the way into the movie. In the quoted scene, Chris is caught smoking late at night and is offered hypnosis by Rose’s mother, Missy. Instead, she hypnotizes him into remembering the details of the night his mother died, and he did nothing, gaining control of his mind. Missy utters the frightening words that has become one of the most famous movie quotes in recent history, “Now sink into the floor. Sink! Now!” which Chris does into a place of paralyzed Limbo from which he can see out of but not move or communicate in any way.