AFI: 100 Quotes

What is it about certain filmi dialogues that so catches the ear? Why do certain words strung together and spouted by a performer capture our imagination? Why is one “Luke, I am your father” more potently profound than the entire scripts of all three Star Wars prequels put together? Well, the reasons are mysterious, inexplicable, or, at the very least, probably mundane and not worth getting into. Suffice to say that everyone has their favourite movie quote(s), and even for the most casual of movie buffs ‘Guess the quote’ can be quite a neat parlour game. The folks over at the American Film Institute (AFI) have made a nice little business out of sitting around talking movies. Initially, they used to come out with a 100 Greatest Films list every ten years or so, but lately they have really started going to town with these lists, coming up with things like Greatest Movie Heroes and Villains, Greatest Musicals, Comedies, Greatest Movie Songs, etc., etc.. So really, could Greatest Movie Quotes be far behind? Voted on and selected from a list of 400, they were whittled down to a 100, and include many of the usual suspects, as well as some new pretenders. Why, one could make a whole new parlour game of arguing over which ones were left out (what?! No “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” from The Princess Bride?! Sacrilege!) and which ones should have been left out (if I hear one more moron shriek “I’m the king of the world!” out of a car sunroof, I’ll vomit). Here’s a gander at the top ten, in ascending order:

10. “You talking to me?” – Taxi Driver (1976)

The mantra of choice for every paranoid urbanite with a sociopathic streak, Robert DeNiro’s chilling challenge to an imagined opponent is also the go-to monologue for just about every aspiring actor out to impress a prospective benefactor.

9. “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night” – All About Eve (1950)

Poor Anne Baxter. She played the title role in the Joseph L. Mankiewicz classic, but it was grande dame Bette Davis, making one of her umpteen comebacks, who got to say this immortal line, delivered at the start of what would indeed turn out to be an eventful cinematic soirée.

8. “May the force be with you” – Star Wars (1977)

What is the force? A mystical energy field that binds all the blah, blah, blah – it doesn’t really matter. Alec Guinness may have rolled his eyes at all the babble he had to deliver with a straight face as Jedi master/sage Obi Wan Kenobi, but the fact remains that the sum-up line of that blather is the mother of all movie quotes, and, if you ask me, should have been much nearer the top spot.

7. “Alright, Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up” – Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Billy Wilder’s cautionary tale about the perils of stardom and the moviemaking business itself, Sunset Boulevard also saw one of the most spectacular comebacks in film history, that of silent movie siren Gloria Swanson, who, at age 53 still looked like a million bucks. As the deluded and quite possibly insane Hollywood has-been Norma Desmond, Swanson delivers what is probably one of the creepiest, and most poignant, lines on celluloid.

6. “Go ahead, make my day” – Sudden Impact (1983)

Who cares that Clint Eastwood is Republican? He is still one of Hollywood’s smoothest elder statesmen, and his trigger-happy cop Det. ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan, still one of the screen’s most intriguing tough guys. As for Harry’s famous line, don’t tell anyone, but it was originally used a year earlier by actor Gary Swanson in the movie Vice Squad. Swanson, who played a Hollywood vice cop, said the line, “Go ahead scumbag, make my day,” to actor Wings Hauser, who played a pimp, during a bust.

5. “Here’s looking at you, kid” – Casablanca (1942)

Legendary screen toughie Humphrey Bogart was not exactly considered a romantic star, but looking at him pine for Ingrid Bergman in Michael Curtiz’s wartime classic, one really has to wonder. When he raises his champagne-filled glass to Bergman, and gazes at her for an instant before uttering the famous toast… there has rarely been a more achingly tender moment captured on film.

4. “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” – The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Anyone not thoroughly beguiled by the ageless charms of this paean to the innocent wonder of childhood, well, their inner child must have gone the way of the dodo. Farm girl Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland)’s bewilderment at finding herself (and her little dog, too) somewhere definitely not in the American mid-west, has to be one of the most understated reactions to arriving ‘over the rainbow’ by way of twister.

3. “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am” – On the Waterfront (1954)

Lunk-for-hire Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando)’s anguished outburst to his elder brother (Rod Steiger) who has been selling him out to the local hoods, remains one of the screen’s most potent and heartfelt lamentations at an act of betrayal. As it turns out, of course, Terry may be a bum, but a noble and courageous one.

2. “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” – The Godfather (1972)

…either his signature or his brains will be on the paper. With an offer like that on tap, is it any wonder that every Mafioso movie worth its salt since, has paid homage in ways major and minor, to the mother of them all?

1. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” – Gone With the Wind (1939)

The true grit of this zinger really only becomes obvious when seen and heard in its context: weeping, defeated jezebel Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) tearfully begs über cool Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) – “If you go, where shall I go, what shall I do?” Hubby dearest smirks and lets fly…

One Response to “AFI: 100 Quotes”

  1. M. Hassan Says:

    I love that Casablanca quote just as much as I don’t understand it.

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