#20. Casablanca (1942)
- Quote: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
- Character: Rick Blaine
- Actor: Humphrey Bogart
“Casablanca’s” producer reportedly wanted an “ upbeat closing line” that also included cynicism. They almost went with “Louis, I might have known you’d mix patriotism with a little larceny,” but the famous line about friendship does a better job of delivering a more optimistic Hollywood ending.
#19. Network (1976)
- Quote: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
- Character: Howard Beale
- Actor: Peter Finch
Not only does enraged news anchor Howard Beale declare this on-air when he veers off-script, he encourages viewers to go to their windows and shout it to the streets. Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay about the merger between news and entertainment proved a harbinger for contemporary media.
#18. White Heat (1949)
- Quote: "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!"
- Character: Arthur "Cody" Jarrett
- Actor: James Cagney
James Cagney plays a desperate gangster particularly devoted to his criminal mother in a final shootout scene to rival them all. The betrayed tough guy goes out in a blaze of glory after delivering this final line with unhinged fervor.
#17. Citizen Kane (1941)
- Quote: "Rosebud."
- Character: Charles Foster Kane
- Actor: Orson Welles
The payoff for the mystery of Kane’s final word comes in the closing shots of the film. The realization of what “Rosebud” was and what it meant to the wealthy tycoon gives the film a tragic overlay for first-time viewers. The line is oft-parodied, including several times in the “Peanuts” comic strip, in particular one from 1973 when Lucy spoils the “Rosebud” revelation for Linus.
#16. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
- Quote: "They call me Mister Tibbs!"
- Character: Virgil Tibbs
- Actor: Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poiter, one of the first black movie stars, plays Virgil Tibbs, a city cop wrongly accused of a crime. The film’s sequel uses this line as its title. Poitier’s intense delivery demonstrates the groundbreaking actor’s strength and dignity in the face of racist injustice.
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#15. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
- Quote: "E.T. phone home."
- Character: E.T.
- Actor: Pat Welsh
Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster became an instant cultural touchstone that delighted audiences and guaranteed tears. E.T. remains a well-known film with its main character both wise and childlike, generating widespread appeal. The simple line captures the longing for home and desire for connection that are the film’s central themes.
#14. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
- Quote: "The stuff that dreams are made of."
- Character: Sam Spade
- Actor: Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart’s hard-boiled detective Sam Spade takes the line from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” and alters it from “the stuff that dreams are made on.” Here, it refers to the emptiness of the titular statue (and the cynicism of romance) at the center of the film.
#13. Love Story (1970)
- Quote: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
- Character: Oliver Barrett IV
- Actor: Ryan O'Neal
This weepy romance was a huge hit in 1970, and though its famous line endures, the film eventually fell out of favor. To contemporary audiences, the line now tends to come across as dysfunctional or trite. Psychotherapists certainly don’t recommend this approach. It’s become a meme as well — for instance, cats who have been up to no good.
#12. Apocalypse Now (1979)
- Quote: "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."
- Character: Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore
- Actor: Robert Duvall
Robert Duvall plays the colonel in “Apocalypse Now” with a war-weary bravado that’s both optimistic and brazen in the face of horror. The line goes on to use a slur to reference the enemy and ends with “smells like victory.” This quip is oft-used in movies and TV to crack a joke about any pungent smell.
#11. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
- Quote: "What we've got here is failure to communicate."
- Character: Captain
- Actor: Strother Martin
A sadistic prison guard says this line to irrepressible prisoner Luke (played by Paul Newman) in this film about rebellion in the face of brutal authority. The audience roots for Luke to escape, but by the end, as he’s surrounded by police, he repeats the line with woeful irony.
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