Quoting the best lines from movies can be irresistible to fans. But some lines are so profound, so famous, so unbelievably perfect that reciting them goes beyond entertainment. From catchphrases and one-liners to poignant dramatic statements, the greatest sentences ever spoken on the big screen have woven their way into the daily American lexicon.
The best movie quotes transcend the films they were in, the writers who wrote them, and the actors who spoke them. Today, these gems of dialogue are now instantly recognizable parts of America's culture and vernacular. But do you know what these lines are when you hear them —and which films gave them their genesis? Here's a look at the movie quotes that are so universally appealing that they’ve taken on new lives outside of their origins.
In the 1972 mafia classic "The Godfather," Marlon Brando's title character assures his Hollywood star godson Johnny Fontane that he will be able to convince a reluctant studio boss to give Fontane a part in a movie that he desperately wants. The quote implies extortion—that the studio boss will relent or he'll pay a hefty price—and he does, in the form of waking up in bed with a horse's head. Today, the line is a favorite among corporate CEOs and other power brokers who refuse to be denied during a negotiation.
In 1939's iconic "The Wizard of Oz," Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, utters this sentimental favorite when she finally returns from her adventure in Oz. Despite the fact that she's experienced the most magical place imaginable, none of it compares to rediscovering the simple pleasures of her room, her family, and her humble Kansas homestead. The line is now a favorite proclamation for any world-weary traveler who longs for the familiar.
This macho quote is now tough-guy boilerplate. The line, famously spoken by Clint Eastwood's "Dirty" Harry Callahan character in 1983's "Sudden Impact," is now part of the American vernacular. Its use lets someone know they'd be doing you a favor by giving you a reason to pummel them.
Another quote from Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" stands the test of time. She utters the phrase to her loyal dog, Toto, when she realizes the tornado has blown her not just far away from her Midwestern farm, but into a magical land of unfamiliar beauty and danger. It's the perfect quote if you ever end up in a situation that has taken a turn for the surreal.
The original "Star Wars" debuted in 1977; the movie, and its many sequels and prequels, deal with the nature of good and evil. The invisible, but powerful Force governs the entire Universe, and it can be harnessed by both good and bad people—for both good and bad reasons. Many characters utter the phrase "may the Force be with you" throughout the series as they bid farewell to a friend embarking on a difficult mission or journey. It's now become synonymous with saying "good luck."
In the 1976 classic "Taxi Driver," Robert De Niro's lead character, Travis Bickle, entered this phrase into American culture while rehearsing a hypothetical confrontation in front of a mirror. De Niro ad-libbed the line, which is now standard fare for anyone who's eager to escalate an argument into a fight.
The famous courtroom scene in 1992's "A Few Good Men" culminates with an intense cross-examination by Tom Cruise's character, a young lawyer named Lt. Kaffey who is tasked with cracking the iron-willed Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson). When Kaffey demands the truth, Jessup yells out this now-famous line—which implies that the world needs hard men like the colonel to conduct difficult but necessary work, from which lesser men benefit, but are too weak to acknowledge.
In 1996, the world met "Jerry Maguire," the movie whose title character was played by Tom Cruise. When Maguire is groveling to love interest Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger), his long, rambling take-me-back speech is cut off by this line. Now it can be used by anyone listening to a plea that doesn't need to be made because the recipient is already convinced.
Few people have ever said goodbye with more authority than Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day"—and fans of the film have been copycatting the line ever since. After young John Connor (Edward Furlong) gives the now-benevolent Terminator a brief tutorial in Spanish, the cyborg hero remembers the lesson when it's time to bid farewell to the evil T-1000, whom Schwarzenegger’s character then dispatches with a shotgun blast.
The lucky-yet-unlucky drifter Jack, played by Leonardo DiCaprio in 1997's "Titanic," uttered this famous line on history's most famous ship after the character won a ticket for the boat's doomed maiden voyage. The line works for dramatic effect when something goes extraordinarily well—more commonly, it’s a campy way for someone to express oneself should they end up on a deck of a boat’s bow.
You're likely to hear this line from someone who is at the mercy of a situation that has gone hopelessly awry. Tom Hanks' character in 1995’s “Apollo 13,” real-life astronaut Jim Lovell, reports back to Earth with this news when he realizes his space mission has taken a turn for the worse.
This line is appropriate any time you're hoping for a little bit of someone else's joy to rub off on you. This was the case in 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally,” when an older woman (played by director Rob Reiner's mother) said this to a waitress—after witnessing a expertly faked climax from Meg Ryan's character as she sat at a restaurant.
You might hear this line from someone who is held back from joining friends on a mission or a journey they wish they could take part in. The words were uttered by future President Ronald Reagan in 1940's "Knute Rockne, All American." Reagan's character George Gipp makes this plea to the legendary football coach Knute Rockne as Gipp lay dying in his hospital bed.
Cher's character issues this plea following two hard slaps across the face of Nicolas Cage's character in 1987's "Moonstruck" after he confesses to being in love with her. You might hear this exclamation—hopefully without the violence—from anyone who needs the person they're engaging with to come to their senses.
Anyone who knows the 1987 classic "Dirty Dancing," starring the late Patrick Swayze (Johnny) and Jennifer Grey (Baby), will instantly recognize this line, which Swayze's character lays on the overbearing father, played by Jerry Orbach. You might hear it from anyone who refuses to let someone they love be disrespected.
No one knows for sure the first time someone referred to an unremarkable house a "dump," but Bette Davis immortalized the term. Her character spoke these words in 1949’s “Beyond the Forest,” as she looked around Joseph Cotten's character's place.
The ornery and inebriated baseball coach Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), yelled this famous line at an emotional player on his all-woman team in 1992's "A League of Their Own." Now, people use it any time they need to tell someone to stop whining and toughen up.
In 1931's "Frankenstein," a mad scientist played by Colin Clive exclaims this over and over when he finally realizes his dream of reanimating a dead body. You might hear this said for dramatic effect by anyone who has completed a challenging task, from fixing a car engine to resurrecting a dead stereo.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger's hunter-killer cyborg raids a police station in 1984's "The Terminator," he makes this promise after assessing the building's structural integrity and leaving the room. You might hear this—likely in Arnold's Austrian accent—from anyone seeking to reassure someone else that a confrontation is not over, but just on a brief pause.
In 1975, "Jaws" made America afraid to go back into the water. Roy Scheider's sea-weary and terrified character Chief Brody makes this statement after seeing Jaws for the first time. Now someone might say it when a bad situation is beyond their ability to handle.
Another "Jerry Maguire" line, Cuba Gooding Jr.'s cash-obsessed football player character Rod Tidwell yells this famous phrase at the titular character, who is his agent. It's now used when someone tells a person they're engaging with to cut to the chase or get to what's important.
In 1967, "Cool Hand Luke" pitted a rebellious chain gang convict (Paul Newman) against the merciless Captain, played by Strother Martin. Captain utters this line while attempting to break the spirit of Newman's character; in the modern world, you might hear one parrot this line when dealing with someone who is being disagreeable.
1948's "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" featured a bandit named Gold Hat—who, during a highway robbery, attempted to impersonate law enforcement. When the potential victim calls his bluff and asks to see a badge, Gold Hat responds, "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges." Nearly 30 years later, that line was bastardized into, "We don't need no stinkin' badges" when "Blazing Saddles" parodied the scene—and that's the way it remains in the annals of popular culture.
In the 1995 epic "Braveheart," this battle cry is the final word spoken by Mel Gibson's William Wallace—his executioner expected him to beg for mercy. This final act of disobedience is often parodied by people who finally make it through a difficult endeavor.
Daniel Plainview, a ruthless oil baron played by Daniel Day-Lewis in 2007's "There Will Be Blood," makes this statement just before dispatching a dishonest preacher and failed oilman. You might hear someone sarcastically utter the phrase, which Plainview used as a metaphor for stealing the charlatan preacher's oil while bragging about getting the better of someone else.
These were the first words ever spoken to an ape by a human in 1968's "Planet of the Apes,” when Charlton Heston's character George Taylor is captured in a net. Today, you might hear it from anyone who feels they're being unjustly persecuted by another person.
In 1995's "Clueless," Alicia Silverstone's character Cher Horowitz uttered these two words, which perfectly summed up the concept of indignant disbelief.
Ever since 1993, many people have tried to play it cool while assessing a situation by letting these words roll of their tongues. Few, however, have done it as smoothly as Wooderson, the iconic high school hangaround guy played by Matthew McConaughey in "Dazed and Confused."
Heather O'Rourke spoke these two timeless words when her character Carol Anne announced the arrival of supernatural monsters in the 1982 movie "Poltergeist." You might hear someone imitate the line upon the arrival of unwanted guests.
In the 1990 movie "Goodfellas," Joe Pesci's character gave viewers a window into just how quickly a perceived insult can escalate in the criminal world when he pretends to take offense to a comment made by Ray Liotta's character, Henry Hill. You've probably heard someone parrot this line while jokingly pretending to be slighted by a friend.
The Great and Powerful Oz meekly spits out this famous line when it becomes clear that the jig is up for the charlatan wizard in the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz." Today, it's a metaphor readily used by anyone hoping to draw attention away from an embarrassing mistake or blunder.
The 1998 cult classic "The Big Lebowski" is one of the most quotable movies in history. You might hear this line—originally spoken by Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges)—dished out by someone who is indicating a willingness to go along with the program.
Often misquoted as "...it's going to be a bumpy ride," this line was delivered by Margo (Bette Davis) in the 1950 multiple-Oscar winner "All About Eve," one of the most celebrated movies in history. You might hear someone repeat these famous words when a dull situation is about to get exciting.
Few gangster movies are quoted more frequently than Scarface, the 1983 classic starring Al Pacino as Tony Montana. In the closing gun battle, a cocaine-fueled Montana blurts out this blockbuster line as he busts out the heavy hardware against a veritable army of marauding gangsters. It's commonly pirated by anyone who's about to reveal something they consider to be impressive.
When Vito Corleone's henchmen murder a turncoat in a car in "The Godfather," caporegime Peter Clemenza (Richard Castellano) gives these instructions to a newly inducted hitman. Long-enshrined as movie quote legend, the line can be used any time you feel like being nonchalant about something that should be taken seriously.
You might hear someone rattle off this timeless line—drawn-out alien vowels and all—when it's time to call a cab or otherwise call it a night. The loveable alien in the 1982 Steven Spielberg classic "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" turns this phrase as he longs for his home on a faraway planet.
Haley Joel Osment used this choice of language when he revealed his character's supernatural power to a psychiatrist played by Bruce Willis in the 1999 blockbuster "The Sixth Sense." Ever since then, people have used the line—often substituting "dead" for whatever adjective suits the situation—to clandestinely make an observation about a group of people.
In a different movie, Humphrey Bogart turned a phrase that's equally as memorable as the one from "Casablanca." This time, the movie was "The Maltese Falcon" in 1941, and the quote can be used to describe anything too good for this side of heaven, from a stack of pancakes to a romantic encounter.
The character played by Joe E. Brown states this simple truth in the 1959 movie "Some Like it Hot," starring Marilyn Monroe. You can use the line anytime you need to absolve yourself of responsibility for a mistake.
This line was delivered by the character Jenny when Tom Hanks' namesake character in "Forrest Gump" was being chased by bullies. It's become the stuff of legend, and it's appropriate to cite anytime you see someone putting one foot in front of the other at a pace that's faster than a brisk walk.
Often truncated to "are you feeling lucky, punk?" this quote was first delivered by one of the greatest tough-guy one-liner masters in Hollywood history: Clint Eastwood. In the 1971 classic "Dirty Harry," Eastwood's character Harry Callahan challenges a bad guy to remember how many bullets he spent during a gun battle before deciding whether or not to pull the trigger one last time. The bad guy relents—but society has never relented from incorporating the line into any confrontation that runs the risk of getting ugly.
The Black Knight utters this comical line after having his limbs cut off in a sword fight with King Arthur in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Since the film gained a cult following after its 1975 release, generations have parroted this phrase—often while trying to find levity after suffering an injury.
You can use this line when saying goodbye to someone who has to leave, but who you don't want to see go just yet. The quote was originally delivered by Tom Hanks' character in the 2000 movie "Cast Away," as he tried to keep his sanity by talking to a volleyball while enduring isolation on a deserted island.
When a rough-and-tumble outlaw cowboy was looking for a fight in 1993's "Tombstone," Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) let him know that he was game for a duel with this quote. This line can be tossed out to anyone who is daring the room for a challenge—whether it's to a game of Trivial Pursuit, pickup basketball, or anything in between.
The perfect line to use on anyone who is entering into a potentially dangerous misadventure with a cavalier attitude, this classic quote was spoken by several adult characters in the holiday classic "A Christmas Story," which was released in 1983. They were warning Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley, against wishing too hard for a Red Ryder BB gun.
Matt Damon's character in "Good Will Hunting" asks this rhetorical question after winning the affection of Minnie Driver's character over the advances of one of her snooty Harvard suitors. It's appropriate to recycle the line any time you come out of a competition on top.
Ham Porter, played by Patrick Renna, serves up this gem when he's frustrated with a pal's inability to chew tobacco in the 1993 coming-of-age movie "The Sandlot." The quote now appears on T-shirts and bumper stickers, and can be whipped out any time you're fed up with the behavior of any friend in any situation.
Clark Gable delivered this line in the 1939 classic "Gone With the Wind" in response to Scarlett's question, "Where shall I go? What shall I do?" You can and probably should use it whenever you're not concerned with the fate of someone who believes that you should be.
Want to become a Jedi knight? Simply swap the front part of any sentence with the back part, put on a pitchy, gravely voice, and poof! You're Yoda. Help you, I will. Late, I will be. Dark, it is getting. You get the point.