Legendary Lines: How Famous Movie Quotes Can Inspire Writers

Samantha Mason, Fiction Panelist and Fundraising Co-Manager

While a wide variety of revered film institutes and movie database web pages have their personal opinions on which movie quotes stand the test of time in eternal fame, many of these lines often reappear on multiple lists. Thus, it should be taken into consideration that there is probably a reason for why said quotes are seen as timeless by so many  people. Of these recurring famous movie quotes, I believe there are eight that stand out among the rest for being truly representative of American artistic culture. Furthermore, these quotes successfully endure because they represent what was once considered wildly innovative in the cinematic writing. These eight famous movie quotes can easily aid writers who are looking to establish a fresh voice in their writing.

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

Excellently ending an epic story, this line was the very first time crass language was heard on the silver screen. The King of Hollywood, Clark Gable, shocked audiences with the refreshing sound of a swear word–where it was very much needed. While in the modern world foul language is commonly used, this infamous line could act as inspiration for a completely new voice.

2. “Here’s looking at you, kid.” – Casablanca, 1942

With affection pooling in his voice, Humphrey Bogart’s Rick fell more in love with Ingrid Bergman’s Elsa each time he laid eyes on her. This phrase, which he often said to her, embodied his true love and great sorrow to their great affair that could never be, making this the newest love story of its kind. While many love stories these days follow a very cookie-cutter format, this specific quote can help show writers that there are very revolutionary ways to spin a classic genre.

3. “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.” – Sunset Boulevard, 1950

The Golden Years are often referred to as a period of time in the past people remember as more rosy than they were. This sentiment was heavily woven into the theme of Sunset Boulevard, as former silent film queen Norma Desmond struggles to live in a world that no longer exists. Capitalizing on this universal feeling was never done before, especially with such a line that truly captures those sentiments.

4. “There’s no place like home,” – The Wizard of Oz, 1939

We often hear the phrase “the grass is always greener on the other side,” which speaks to how people neglect the greatness of their current life when they compare it to what only seems better. This quote was simple yet spoke volumes, a  concise technique that was brand new.

5. “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” – To Have And Have Not, 1944

In 1944, a line packed full of sexual innuendos was beyond risque. Coupled with the fact that the woman who introduced it was the sultry Lauren Bacall, this quote was quite crisp in that sex had never before been so blunt. Today, there are still many taboo subjects that writers haven’t yet touched on. This line can provide aid to writers who want to classily write about something that is still seen as unmentionable.

6. “Well, nobody’s perfect.” – Some Like It Hot, 1959

Even screwball comedies can be innovative with their writing. With a plot as absurd as two men posing as women, implementing an even crazier story line of a man being in love with another man was a great way to play around with fresh language. This quote puts a perfectly inventive end to a perfectly inventive movie. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to be different.

7.  “My mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get,” – Forrest Gump, 1994

It would be shocking if grandiose story like Forrest Gump didn’t crank out a classic line. This quote flawlessly melds the simpleness of the leading character and his astonishing ability to be so perceptive of the world around him. Creating a unique twist on a moral that highlights a story’s character was a very original idea in writing.

8. “Show me the money!” – Jerry Maguire, 1996

Sometimes it only takes a light-hearted phrase to make a story resonate with readers or audiences. The heart-warming story of Jerry Maguire redefining his life with meaning is seen through the people around him. Cuba Gooding’s spunky character epitomizes a true friendship all through a silly line that has and will be eternalized in cinematic history.

Acclaimed movie quotes ultimately make cinematic history because they emit a newfangledness that audiences had never previously knew. At times it only takes one or two very sharp lines to make a story. Often, writers for any genre are looking for that same effect. By examining how some of the greatest screenwriters of all time successfully did so can definitely galvanize a writer into understanding what risks need to be taken in their writing style.

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