In coming up with a list of my favorite quotes from movies, I tried to go that have stayed with me the longest. Whether or not they were the best movies saw doesn’t matter, but they were excellent movies at the very least.
The quotes will probably reflect me as a person as well in that they probably say more about me than I would ever care to admit. There is something to be said about the movies or quotes you like the most, and what they can say about you as a person.
Here are ten of my favorite quotes, and they are presented in no particular order:
“Dazed and Confused”
“All I’m saying is that if I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life – remind me to kill myself.”
-Jason London as Randal ‘Pink’ Floyd in “Dazed & Confused.”
I remember watching this movie with my dad and, after Jason London said that line, he looked at me and said:
Suffice to say, my high school experience could have been a lot better, but how tragic would it have been if I looked back on it (or college for that matter) as the best times of my life? I fear using the term “best years of my life” because it basically spells out that I have reached my peak in life and everything is downhill from there (that’s what was told to me when I turned 18 anyway). Jason’s line from “Dazed & Confused” is the one line from a movie that is filled with so many great ones that has stayed with me the longest. Whether or not you had fun during your high school years, don’t ever look at them as the best years of your life. They are a time of uncontrollable hormones and emotional scars that will never completely heal.
“This job would be great if it weren’t for the fucking customers.”
-Jeff Anderson as Randal Graves in “Clerks”
OK, I dare you to give me a job, any job, where you cannot apply this quote to. For me, this is one of the most universal lines in any movie, and you don’t have to work in a convenience store to appreciate it. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a job where we didn’t even have to deal with the customers, be it in person or on the phone? That’s a job we all dream of and we are lucky to get it after years and years of toil and sweat. We are there at our desks, minding our own business or talking with our colleagues, and then something comes along to brutally remind us that we are being paid by the hour for a reason, and it’s not to fool around. We have all been stuck at jobs we cannot stand, but sometimes we don’t do enough to change our situation. So in the end, who is to blame?
“I thought we were gonna get television. The truth is… television is gonna get us.”
-Rob Morrow as Dick Goodwin in “Quiz Show”
“Quiz Show” was Robert Redford’s brilliantly conceived film on the scandals that rocked television audiences in the 1950’s. The investigation of the show “21” led to the truth being revealed that the contestants were given the answers long before they went onstage. Morrow’s character of Dick Goodwin is out to expose the television industry for perpetrating a blatant fraud on the American public. However, the blame instead fell on contestants Herbert Stempel and Charles Van Doren while NBC and the producers got off pretty much scot free.
What I love about this line is the sheer irony of it. Fifty years later, television has gotten worse and more exploitive than anyone could ever have imagined (and I’m not just talking about the Fox News). Shows like “Survivor” or “American Idol” urge everyone to get their fifteen minutes of fame while the studios and the producers reap the benefits. The people on the television screen will have to live with the infamy of what they did, and it will serve to define them for the rest of their lives whether they like it or not.
After all these years, TV is still out to get us.
“Pump Up The Volume”
“We’re all worried, we’re all in pain. That just comes with having eyes and having ears. But just remember one thing – it can’t get any worse, it can only get better. High school is the bottom, being a teenager sucks, but that’s the point, surviving it is the whole point. Quitting is not going to make you stronger, living will. So just hang on and hang in there.”
-Christian Slater as Mark Hunter in “Pump Up The Volume”
This line comes from my all-time favorite movie about being a teenager, and that’s mainly because I related so much to Slater’s character. The line cuts at the utter truth about what it’s like when you’re young; it really sucks to be a teenager. For anyone having a truly crappy time in high school right now, please don’t hesitate to watch this movie. Not only does writer/director Allan Moyle get at the truth of being a teenager, but he also succeeds in convincing you that there is a tomorrow and that things can only get better. I’m so glad I had this movie to turn to as it made me realize that I was not the only one on this planet going through what I was going through at that time.
“It seems to me that if there were any logic to our language, trust would be a four letter word.”
-Tom Cruise as Joel Goodson in “Risky Business”
This line comes about when Joel gets a call from his parents who are away from home, and his dad is surprised that his son is having a party. Joel’s mother assures her son that she and his father trust him to use his best judgment. Little do his parents know that their only child has turned the family home into a brothel for his friends who they finally have a chance to lose their virginity. Hence, this line is brilliant because it’s so true!
Parents are not stupid because they know their kids are up to something, but when they are on the cusp of adulthood, that somehow changes. The fact Joel Goodson’s parents have implicit trust in him to where they believe he’s not going to drive the Porsche or mess around with the stereo system is almost crazy, but when your son is busy applying for college or retaking his SAT’s, I guess they figure he’s got better things to do than fool around. Still, it’s that trust that young adults just love to manipulate to their advantage.
“The Third Man”
“Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”
-Orson Welles as Harry Lime in “The Third Man”
A brilliant line from a classic movie that Welles himself improvised on the set. A fascinating juxtaposition on war and peace and what they ended up producing, it breaks through our perception of how we see both. As destructive as war is, it somehow appears to produce more artistry than we could ever realize at first. Peace and democracy should never seem overrated, but if the best thing it can produce is a frickin’ cuckoo clock, then we have to wonder if we would have such awe inspiring art without the conflicting virtues of love and war. Where else can truly great art come from than the destruction being committed around the world? Plenty probably, but none will stand out like this.
The line shows how Harry Lime shows no guilt in working in the black market, and he doesn’t seem to care at all about the effects of what he does. Many people die because of his evil deeds, but he treats humans as though their existence barely had any meaning. One of Welles’ best performances ever, Harry Lime is one of the most amoral characters ever to grace the silver screen.
“The Empire Strikes Back”
“No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”
-Yoda (performed and voiced by Frank Oz) from “The Empire Strikes Back”
I wonder if anyone in this world has gotten around to writing a book entitled, “Everything I Have Learned from Life, I Learned From Yoda.” If no one has, then I get first dibs!
Yoda remains one of the greatest characters in any movie ever made simply because he is so full of wisdom that you would be foolish not to listen to him. A glowing beacon of infinite wisdom, Yoda works at erasing your inner doubts, and he is always reminding you of the dangers in the world around you. But with this specific quote, he basically says not to half-ass anything, and that you cannot give less than a hundred percent in all that you do. Of all the advice he gives Luke Skywalker, this is the one that stands out as the most important to me.
The truth behind this line of dialogue can be heard in so many movies. One that comes to mind is “Dead Again” and the scene between Kenneth Branagh and Robin Williams where he encourages Branagh to be either a smoker or a non-smoker:
“I’m trying to quit.”
“Don’t say you’re trying to quit. People who say they are trying to quit are basically pussies who cannot commit. Someone is either a smoker or a nonsmoker. There’s no in-between. The trick is to find out which one you are, and be that. If you’re a nonsmoker, you’ll know.”
“My name is Robert. And my wife, Barbara and I are here to support our daughter Caroline. And we’re here to listen.”
-Michael Douglas as Robert Wakefield in “Traffic”
Douglas speaks this line after his daughter speaks at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting as she continues down a road of recovery from drug addiction. His character has been preparing all throughout the movie for his role as the American drug czar, the one who will put an end to the war on drugs. As he prepares to accept this role, he comes to discover that his daughter is hooked on some of the hardest drugs anyone can take, and she is quickly spiraling down into a black hole she may never be able to climb out of. Throughout the movie, he tries to make a difference in this war and in his daughter’s life, but he soon comes to find that this role he is about to play is largely a futile one that won’t solve much of anything.
What I love about this line, and why it stays with me after all this time, is that it gets at the one thing we need to do more in life which is listen. We can talk all we want about what we think people should do to better themselves in life, but if we don’t listen to others and take in their knowledge and understanding of what they have been through, how will we learn anything? Listening is quite an active exercise and it does not mean that you’re doing nothing. I have learned so much from listening to others around me and their opinions and I continue to learn so much in the process.
“So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’t you know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well, I just don’t understand it.”
-Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson in “Fargo”
One of the best Coen Brothers’ movies ever made, this quote comes from the talk Marge has with Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stomare) as she drives him off to jail. You can look at what Marge says as showing her to be very naïve of the human condition and why people end up doing the things they do. But despite seeing some horrible crimes while being very pregnant, she still manages to remain innocent in some ways. Marge sees the goodness in life and in people, and she never seems burdened by the cynicism in life that gnaws away at everyone else. You have to be thankful for people like her for soldiering through life with a tough and positive attitude to most things, and Frances McDormand embodies the character perfectly in one of the all-time great performances by an actress in a leading role.
“The Silence of the Lambs”
“I do wish we could chat longer but… I’m having an old friend for dinner. Bye…”
-Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence Of The Lambs”
One of the best final lines for an unforgettable film character. As Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) speaks with Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), he eyes his next victim in Dr. Chilton (Anthony Heald) as he gets out of a plane in another country, completely unaware as to who is watching him closely. The line sums up Lecter perfectly at that point in that he is as depraved a human as he was at the movie’s beginning, and yet he still has a brilliantly dark sense of humor you cannot deny. What makes Lecter so appealing despite his utterly psychotic state of mind is that he represents the bogeyman in all of us; the one who wants to get away with everything and to do away with those who constantly annoy us. But unlike Lecter, we are blessed with common sense and other outlets for our aggression. We know that someone like Lecter should never get away with what he does, but there is a certain undeniable glee in seeing him do so.
So that’s the list of some of my favorite quotes. Please feel free to add to your own in the comment section below because frankly my dear, I do give a damn!