We all know that guy. You know, the one who only speaks in movie quotes — possibly only in movie quotes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Sure, that guy is an annoying jerk, but we all have those bits of dialogue from our favorite movies that stick with us, which catch on to our attention and follow us out into the world. They become part of our day-to-day speech, distilled from the screen into our culture.
For the purposes of this article, we’ve defined a catchphrase as a short piece of dialogue that has become indelibly associated with a particular movie, character, or actor and exists in the public zeitgeist so that an average non-movie fanatic would know the phrase.
Updated on December 2nd, 2020 by Zach Gass: There are certain phrases from famous movies that have become so well-known and so reiterated that they have been permanently ingrained in our collective popular culture. Movie fans everywhere have been uttering phrases like the ones below since the golden age of Hollywood.
25 “This is Sparta!” – 300
Although this rather embellished retelling of King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans might not be what some consider to be red carpet royalty, the entire, bloody, glorious message of the film can be summed up in three little words screamed by the movie’s leading monarch. “This is Sparta!” with this iconic phrase, a new battle cry and a veritable host of memes to come sprung forth like the blood from the Spartan’s Persian enemies.
Part comic book movie, part historical drama, part action film, all guts, glory, and an epic sensation many mythic films can only hope to achieve. Historically accurate it might not be, but 300’s presentation of the Battle of Thermopylae is one that stands toe-to-toe with the likes of Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts.
24 “They’re Here…” – Poltergeist
To say that little kids haven’t become a horror movie staple is a gross understatement. Whether their intents are innocent or not, there are few things more unsettling than a small child bathed in an unnatural glow in the middle of the night and saying something cryptic or unnerving. Carol Ann might be a cute six-year-old kid by daylight, but by the unholy aura of the TV set, she makes the words “They’re here” sound less like an informatory statement and more like a deadly warning.
Once the audience learns who the “They” in question are, things only get creepier and more disturbing from there. Malevolent spirits, evil clown dolls, and skeletal entities living in the closet are just a few of the problems the family has to face in Poltergeist, but no phrase or Phantom from the movie is more quoted than two words from one little girl lost.
23 “With Some Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti…” – The Silence of the Lambs
Before some jump the gun and say “Hello, Clarice” deserves this spot, that line is, in reality, a product of the Mandella effect, and doesn’t appear in this movie’s script at all. But the line “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” Followed by Anthony Hopkin’s improvised hissing noise, it made the character an instant creep.
What makes Hannibal Lecter work is that he can be downright bone-chilling without even lifting a finger. His terror exists by reputation and presence alone at times, and he definitely knows it. With his calm and soothing demeanor paired with that unblinking, hungry stare a friendly hello can be absolutely chilling.
22 “You Shall Not Pass!” – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series is an absolute gold mine of quotes, phrases, and other quips and blurbs that bring to mind thoughts of Middle Earth, swords, daggers, dragons, dwarves, and other fantasy imagery. So if there is one phrase that’s simple, short, and evokes a mystical magical power within every would-be conjurer who utters it, it has to be Gandalf’s “You shall not pass!”
Whether during the weekend session of D&D, out on the soccer field, at the gym, or just in line for a bit of fast food, there is a multitude of opportunities to unleash one’s inner grey wizard and defend their ground. Now if only staves, robes, and pointed hats would come back in style. Quite simply put, it’s one of those magical lines that never go out of style.
21 21 “Bond, James Bond.” – Dr. No
Speaking of things that never go out of style, there are few characters as suave, sophisticated, sensual, and down-right scene-stealing than “Bond, James Bond.” With the recent passing of the original 007, Sean Connery, to not include at least one line from the most famous member of Her Majesty’s Secret Service would be a great discredit to the sensational super spy.
Sure, there are several other spies, secret agents, and members of various agencies trained in the ways of espionage, and there have been many actors and performers to take up the number, the name, and the incredible reputation. but the fact remains that no one is as iconic, dashing, daring, and dangerous as 007. Whether shaken, stirred, or from Russia with love, there’s only one who can deliver this line with just the right charm.
20 “I’ll be back.” – The Terminator
Director James Cameron makes his first of three appearances on our list with this oft-repeated classic from his 1984 sci-fi mega-hit The Terminator. Delivered deadpan by then-evil robot Arnold Schwarzenegger just before he drives a car through a police station, these three words — and their mandatory Austrian-accented delivery — have become an indelible part of the American vocabulary.
How many of us have heard a dude at the office leaving for lunch and whipping out his best Arnold impersonation? Worse, how many of you have delivered it yourselves? Maybe you’ve even inflicted it on your family when making a quick run out to the store. Maybe you’re that person. Maybe we all should knock it off, but until Skynet sends evil future robots back to kill us every time we utter this cliche, we’re going to keep doing it. And, if you’re looking for more Arnold on this list, stick around. He’ll be back.
19 “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” – Gone With The Wind
Victor Fleming’s masterful adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind is one of the most memorable examples of pre-WWII American cinema. With an unheard-of running time of nearly four hours, it chronicles a decade of Rhett Butler’s (Clark Gable) amorous pursuit of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) amidst the backdrop of Southern aristocratic culture during the American Civil War.
This quote, which marks the end of Rhett’s dismissal of Scarlett after many long years of unrequited love almost never made the film. In 1930, the Motion Picture Association passed a code that banned the use of the word “damn” in movies. Despite the fact that silent films and even early talkies had made copious use of the word, censors strenuously objected to its inclusion in Gone With the Wind. It took an amendment to the code only one month before the release of the film to prevent this iconic line from being censored. It didn’t hurt it at the box office, however. The film, with a huge budget of $3.85 million has so far grossed nearly $400 million at the box office, and that’s without adjusting for inflation.
18 “I’m the king of the world!” – Titanic
Nearly twenty years before redefining himself in The Revenant, 2015 Best Actor Academy Award-winner Leonardo DiCaprio changed sailing forever when he starred in James Cameron’s pseudo-historical epic Titanic. Not content with inflicting Celine Dion’s ear-twitching megahit “My Heart Will Go On” on the masses, Cameron made sure there was a line of dialogue in the film which would stick in the public’s mind for all eternity.
Now, every time you want to take a boat out on the water, some jerk has to walk all the way to the bow, spread his arms, and shout “I’m the king of the world.” No, sir, you are not. Now sit down before we all push you in.
17 “Say hello to my little friend.” – Scarface
In 1983, Brian DePalma decided to cast Al Pacino, F. Murray Abraham, Stephen Bauer, Robert Loggia, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Cuban immigrants and gangsters in a remake of a 1932 classic crime film of the same name. The original film starred George Raft as an Italian immigrant gangster. Despite the whitewashing of the casts (a trend that is now single-handedly killing movies), both movies featured intensely violent endings that irked critics and censors of their day.
In a scene that clearly influenced the Crazy-88s restaurant fight scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Tony Montana (Pacino) single-handedly takes on an army of invaders sent to kill him in his mansion. As the invaders close in on his secure room, Montana grabs an automatic weapon equipped with an honest-to-goodness grenade launcher and starts yelling at the attackers. “You wanna play rough? Ok! Say hello to my little friend!” before shooting a grenade their way through his locked doors. The movie, and the line, have hung around for more than thirty years, and are now part of one of the most highly-regarded gangster films of all time.
16 “May the force be with you.” – Star Wars
There is perhaps not a line from any movie better known around the world than this all-purpose “aloha” from Star Wars. Wishing someone luck? Use it! Saying goodbye? Use it! Think you might never see someone again? Break out “May the force be with you!” Even that scoundrel and force-skeptic Han Solo, after Luke turns his job offer down and calls him selfish, uses the line.
In fact, the phrase is so ubiquitous it even has its own day on the calendar. Many attribute the original quote to Obi-Wan, but it was actually the relatively obscure General Dodonna that first uttered the phrase. Still, with the success of last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and at least one Star Wars film on the horizon for each of the next several years, we should all get used to hearing that galactic greeting. It has been around since a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
15 “Why so serious?” – The Dark Knight
In 2008, Heath Ledger single-handedly redefined the way comic book villains could be portrayed on the silver screen. His iteration of the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight could not be further removed from either Cesar Romero’s cartoonish clown or Jack Nicholson’s mean-spirited weirdo. Instead, Ledger brought deep and angry chaos to the character which, for the first time in live-action, made Batman’s greatest nemesis seem like someone who could actually exist in the world.
What most memorably aligned with the “why so serious” quote that Ledger’s Joker so often delivered, however, were the stories he told to go along with how he received his smiling scars. From an angry father to a frightened wife, Ledger’s Joker created the perfect story to scare the pants off of his victims and ingrain himself in the public memory. With Ledger’s death coming just six months before the film’s release, we can now project the actor’s pain onto the character, making this line even more memorable.
14 “Yippie-ki-yay, motherf*****!” – Die Hard
Ah, Christmas time. A time for families to come together, take in a little holiday cheer, greet friends new and old, and exchange bullets with German terrorists.
In the greatest Christmas movie of all time, Bruce Willis travels from New York to quintessential 1980s LA. It’s the middle of the yuppie craze, and Willis’ stereotypically macho NYC cop John McClane has a hard time dealing with the yuppies and their baloney when all he wants to do is get his wife and kids back. Then German terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) attack his wife’s company’s Christmas party. The movie brought us tons of great lines (“Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho!”), but there is nothing that beats this his NSFW response to being called a cowboy. The mic drop-ingly awesome line is repeated in each of the film’s sequels, justifiably so.
13 “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” – The Wizard of Oz
There have been lines that originate in one film and become popular enough to show up in other pieces of art or entertainment. Sometimes lines from films end up in songs, or books, or TV shows as a nod to the fans of the original. And then there’s “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
This phrase is so commonly used that it has appeared in movies and television shows from Married…With Children and Grey’s Anatomy to Sailor Moon and Avatar. In fact, it is so common that viewers could be forgiven for forgetting its original utterance: when Dorothy first arrives in the technicolor Oz in The Wizard of Oz. At the time, it was a breathtaking scene — the beginning of the film had been rendered in black and white, and the brightly colored Oz would have been a novelty to 1939 moviegoers. This one line of dialogue has become a universal shorthand to mean things have changed, and they might never be the same again.
12 “Here’s Johnny!” – The Shining
Say you’re a homicidal maniac, driven insane by isolation and supernatural occurrences in the giant, empty hotel where you have been hired as the winter caretaker, and you’re stranded with your family. It could happen to anybody, right?
The thing you’d be most concerned about is “What do I say when I finally corner my wife in the bathroom?” It’s a big moment, and it’s an important phrase to get right in that particular situation! Too long, and she’ll escape and thwart your plans while you are speaking. Too detailed, and you’ll mistakenly reveal your entire plan to her, as so many bad guys have done before you. Too cliched a reference and she’ll just feel embarrassed for you. If you’re Jack Torrance of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, what you say is “Here’s Johnny!” Nicely dovetailed with The Tonight Show’s introduction of Johnny Carson, it takes on a sinister tone due to your maniacal face peering through the splintered door and that axe in your hand. Nailed it.
11 “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – Jaws
Steven Spielberg’s nautical horror masterpiece Jaws is a veritable cornucopia of memorable quotes. From Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) growling “Smile you sonofabitch” before shooting the oxygen tank which blew the shark to kingdom come, to “That’s some bad hat, Harry,” (the slogan of Bryan Singer’s production company) there is almost no dialogue in the film which is not quotable. We still find ourselves singing “Show Me The Way to go Home” from time to time.
Most memorable, though, is Chief Brody’s fearful claim after seeing the shark for the first time. Looking around at the Quint’s small fishing vessel and then back at the enormous shark, Brody proclaims “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” This one line has come into common usage any time we find ourselves in over our heads, with insufficient tools to get us back out safely.
10 “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” – Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is the greatest movie that almost didn’t happen. The notoriously jinxed production featured a typhoon which nearly destroyed the set, a lead actor (Harvey Keitel) who was fired two weeks into production, a heart attack which nearly killed replacement lead actor Martin Sheen, a star (Marlon Brando) crazier than the crazy AWOL officer he was portraying, a production designer who brought actual human cadavers to be part of a set, and a suicidal writer/director.
What all this insanity produced, however, was perhaps the greatest war film ever made. There was an authenticity to the production that has never been matched, the madness behind the eyes of the actors was too close to being real. And in this insanity, Robert Duvall and his helicopter squadron dropped out of the sky like Valkyries, blaring Wagner, surfing in the middle of a firefight, and dropping napalm like the fires of Hell itself from the sky. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” his character declares, and we believe every word of it.
9 “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” – Back to the Future
“Hello, McFly!” In the greatest film featuring near-incest made in the 1980s, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) becomes a paradox when he travels to the past in a stolen souped-up DeLorean, where his mother quickly gets the hots for him.
The movie itself is memorable for its portrayal of the dichotomy of small-town America in the red scare 1950s and the tech-centric, anything-is-possible 1980s. The quote that lingers, however, comes after the paradox is neatly resolved when Marty follows the advice of his pair of Docs (1950s Doc Brown and 1980s Doc Brown, both played perfectly by Christopher Lloyd) and get his parents together before he ceased to exist. Just before the credits roll, the DeLorean turns up and a manic Doc Brown pops out from the future, complaining about Marty’s kids. The DeLorean revs up, and Marty worries that there isn’t enough road to get them to the 88mph they need to time travel. As the car lifts gracefully into the air, sporting its garbage-fusion clean-burning engine, the Doc utters his famous line, and they shoot off into the future.
8 “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Robert Duvall each make their second appearance on this list in the 1972 masterpiece The Godfather. In what might be the best film ever made, the story of two generations of an Italian immigrant crime family plays out, with all the inherent drama and intrigue one could ever ask for.
Early in the film, Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) plays a Sinatra-esque actor/singer who, like Sinatra in the 1940s, is facing a challenging time in his career. His voice is weak, he’s boozing and drinking too much, and a film producer is refusing to cast him in a role that will make him an A-list film star. Don Vito Corleone (Brando), head of the family, begins the film receiving guests in his study. Tradition states that no Sicilian can refuse requests on his daughter’s wedding day, and the reception is in full swing in the yard. Fontane comes to the Don, crying about the state of affairs he finds himself in. Corleone slaps him around a little bit, but then promises Fantane he’ll take care of the producer, stating he’s “going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Later, his son Michael (Pacino) tells his girlfriend Kay (Diane Keaton) a similar story, wherein the offer was revealed to be a death threat. In this, we see both the loyalty and ruthlessness inherent in the Corleone family.
7 “Here’s looking at you, kid.” – Casablanca
Like some of the earlier films in this list, there is little about Casablanca that is not quotable. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” “If that plane leaves and you’re not on it, you’ll regret it – maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” “The problems of three people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world,” and “we’ll always have Paris” are all indelibly inked on the American consciousness.
But it’s in the final goodbye, the selfless sacrifice Rick (Humphrey Bogart) gives to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), and to the world, in giving her away to Victor Laszlo. “Here’s looking at you, kid,” sums up their lost love, and the lost loves of so many during the war. Interestingly, this movie has, perhaps, the most misquoted catchphrase in movie history as well. “Play it again, Sam,” uttered in the speaker’s best Bogie impersonation has become shorthand for Casablanca. The only problem is that nobody says “Play it again, Sam.” Rick, in lamenting Ilsa’s return to his life shouts at Sam (Dooley Wilson) to play their song As Time Goes By. “Play it,” he commands. Earlier, Ilsa also implores Sam to play the same song, “Play it once, Sam, for old time’s sake.”
6 “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no stinking badges!” – Treasure of the Sierra Madre
While many people would attribute this quote (in it’s most widely-known form) to Mel Brooks’ brilliant western parody Blazing Saddles, it in fact originated in John Huston’s classic treasure-hunting western Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Marked by many as director John Huston’s best work, the film stars Humphrey Bogart and was nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (for Huston’s father Walter Huston), and Best Adapted Screenplay. It won the latter three.
Treasure of the Sierra Madre is notable for being one of the first Hollywood feature films to shoot on location outside of the United States. Principal filming took place in Mexico, although many scenes were also shot on soundstages back in the states. The notable scene comes when Mexican bandits come upon Bogart and identify themselves as federales. When Bogart demands to see their badges, they respond “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!” It’s actually the minor rewrite featured in Blazing Saddles that achieved worldwide fame, but we’ll credit the originators of the phrase.
5 “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve?” To Have and Have Not
The third consecutive Humphrey Bogart film on our list has perhaps the single sexiest line in American cinema, delivered by the then-nineteen-year-old Lauren Bacall. She would marry forty-five-year-old Bogart the following year. The two collaborated on six films between 1944 and 1948 and helped define film noir in their performances together.
While To Have and Have Not is sometimes regarded as a low-rent Casablanca, it is notable for a number of reasons. First, it is based on a novel by Ernest Hemingway, but the screenplay was co-written by his rival author William Faulkner. Noted bandleader and composer Hoagy Carmichael played the bandleader “Cricket.” And, of course, it introduced Lauren Bacall. There is not a person alive whose heart doesn’t beat a little faster when Bacall turns at the door, tilts her head down to look across the room at Bogie, and throatily purrs, “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together and…blow.” The silent blinking performed by Bogart after Bacall delivers this line says all that needs to be said.
4 “You talkin’ to me?” – Taxi Driver
One of the most iconic lines in movie history — Robert De Niro’s rehearsed tough-guy-in-the-mirror scene in Scorcese’s Taxi Driver — was completely improvised. Not only was it improvised, it allegedly was inspired by none other than The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. The story goes that DeNiro had been to see Springsteen in concert. The crowd, as crowds are known to do at Springsteen concerts, was chanting “Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!” Springsteen, pretending he was unable to hear the crowd, replied: “You talking to me?” And thus, movie magic was born.
In this wall-to-wall disturbing movie, De Niro plays a vehemently racist cabbie slowly being driven mad by what he sees as the depravity of modern society. Featuring an underage prostitute (twelve-year-old Jodie Foster) as the “love interest,” it’s hard to disagree with his reasoning, but harder still to watch the murder heating from a simmer to a roiling boil behind the disintegrating actor’s eyes. Another particularly memorable — but completely unprintable — quote comes from a Scorsese cameo, in which he plays a disturbed passenger DeNiro’s Travis Bickle picks up.
3 “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” – Planet of the Apes
Charlton Heston was known in movies and in life as a man who delivered one-liners with panache. From his cries of “Soylent Green is people” in the 1973 sci-fi classic Soylent Green to his vitriol-inspiring cries of “They can have my guns when they take them from my cold, dead hands” as president of the National Rifle Association, Heston knew how to deliver a line that would stick in the mind, and sometimes the craw, of his audience.
In the movie, Heston’s George Taylor is an astronaut who awakens from a long hibernation to find his ship crashed on an unknown planet inhabited by sentient, English-speaking simians. In a reversal of the contemporary snapshot of the evolutionary process, Apes are viewed as the apex species, and humans and other primates are inferior. Heston, caught in a net, growls “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
2 “Hasta la vista, baby!” – Terminator 2: Judgement Day
James Cameron makes his final appearance on our list with his sequel to 1984’s The Terminator. In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back, as promised, and this time he’s the good futuristic cyborg. Robert Patrick plays the newly redesigned futuristic cyborg bent on destroying the past and ensuring the rise of Skynet.
As a robot from the future, Schwarzenegger’s Terminator has a difficult time passing as a human for a number of reasons, one of them being his speech. John Connor, played by a very young Edward Furlong, tries to teach him some of the cool lingo of the day, including “Hasta la vista, baby.” Needless to say, the phrase came back when it was Ahnold’s turn to destroy the next-gen Terminator, blasting the line out just before shooting the liquid-nitrogen-frozen bad guy into space-dust. Schwarzenegger made a career out of spouting out intimidating one-liners, and this was his finest work.
1 “Go ahead. Make my day.” – Sudden Impact
There is probably not a more well-known catchphrase in all of American cinema than that of “Dirty” Harry Callahan. This supercop, perfectly portrayed by Clint Eastwood, is the epitome of the “Shoot-first, ask questions later” cowboy cop that inspired so many movies, TV shows, books, and video games. The squinty, gravelly-voiced western star was able to make the leap to gritty city cop in a way few others had done before or since.
In 1983’s Sudden Impact, Callahan is tipped off to a robber in progress by a waitress who dumps about seven pounds of sugar in his coffee while he’s not looking. Coming back to complain, he discovers the situation and blasts the restaurant and robbers to holy Hell. In the end, there’s one bad guy left standing, and he’s made the poor decision of holding a waitress hostage. After several seconds of a tense standoff, Callahan grumbles to the unfortunate punk looking down the barrel of his Smith and Wesson, “Go ahead. Make my day.” The lucky punk surrenders, and lives to potentially make someone else’s day.
Another Harry Callahan quote would have made the top of this list, if only it wasn’t so often bungled. In Dirty Harry, 1971’s inaugural film in the Dirty Harry franchise, Callahan gets into a shootout in the streets. He takes out a number of bad guys with his revolver and finds just one wounded man left alive at the end, his hand dangerously near to his discarded shotgun. Callahan approaches the criminal and says “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” More often than not, though, that masterful little bit of ballsy intimidation is boiled down to the following misquote: “Do you feel lucky, punk?”
Which catchphrases are the most memorable to you? Did we forget any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
NEXT: Dirty Harry: 5 Ways He’s Clint Eastwood’s Best Character (& 5 Alternatives)
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