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Movie lines that have become a part of our popular culture

People have always enjoyed quoting poetry, lines in Shakespearean plays, and famous oratory. “For he that sheds his blood with me this day, shall be my brother,” from Henry V is stirring. And of course, Lincoln’s “…government of the people, by the people and for the people” from the Gettysburg address is legend. But, those of us who are products of the 20th and 21st centuries have yet another source of famous and memorable quotes. It’s hardly Shakespeare, some would say it’s the height of triviality, but movie lines, those snippets of wisdom and humor, whether said by Clark Gable or Sandra Bullock, have a way of making themselves a part of our popular culture.  

No one really knows how many feature length films have been made. A good guess is over a million.   Many don’t generate a single line that audiences remember and repeat. And not all great movies are known for a particular line or phrase.

But there are a few, where these snippets have taken on a life of their own. Some people quote them never even having seen the movie. Perhaps the most famous movie line ever is from Gone with the Wind, when Rhett Butler, after being plaintively asked by Scarlett what she will do without him says, “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn.”

John Wayne was a constant source of memorable lines. His famous, “Never say you’re sorry, it’s a sign of weakness,” from She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is one an old boss of mine used to quote constantly. That’s one of the reasons I don’t work for him anymore. And then, summing up the Duke’s philosophy of life, from The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, is “…out here a man settles his own problems.”

Casablanca is one of the most quoted films ever. Humphrey Bogart’s, “…of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” captures the spirit of the film. Although it was used in the title of another movie - “play it again Sam,” - the line was never actually used on the movie.

Most movie line recollections seem to be a bit male oriented, but not always. One line, from the movie Jerry Maguire is more romantic. When Tom Cruise is making his plea to get his girl back her response, after his long winded speech, is simply, “You had me at hello.” One of my personal favorites is the Baroness, in the Sound of Music, telling the Captain, just after the two have broken off their engagement, “…and somewhere out there is a young lady who I think will never become a nun.”

Science fiction offers no shortage of lines. “The force will be with you,” has been a staple for decades, as has the tag line for Aliens, starring Sigourney Weaver, “in space no one can hear you scream.” Now, that’s scary.  

In terms of the scope of literature movie lines are short lived. Unlike Shakespeare, or Keats, or Browning, they won’t be quoted hundreds of years from now. But, they still sum up a feeling, bring to mind an emotion, or recall a larger story. In that regard, they have earned a place in our culture.

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