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Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Casual Critic — Top 5 Memorable Lines in Film

Last week the American Film Institute put out its 100 Most Memorable Lines in film history. While “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn” from Gone with the Wind predicably took the top spot, and guys just a touch older than me love saying how much they “. . . love the smell of napalm in the morning,” (Apocalypse Now) neither means much to those of us who still insist middle age is down the road even though our 20s are a memory. So, I came up with my own Most Memorable Lines list, which AFI no doubt intended every blog even partially related to movies to do. Of course, my generation is accused of starting the trend of smaller and smaller attention spans, so I (predictably, I guess) kept it to a Top 5 List.

“E.T. phone home” only reached number 15 for AFI, but I think it's worthy of my number 5. This is the turning point in E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), one of the best movies ever. What kid didn't want to find E.T. in his back yard and keep him forever? But this simple line made us love the little guy even more. He had some fun, even kicked back a few, and now he was ready to head home. He really was one of us!

“I'll be back” was as quotable as it got in its day. You could even toss it out to a teacher in the right moment with just a hint of being flip and never get caught. Hell, you were being obedient if you did it right. The Terminator (1984) line came in at number 37 for AFI, but gets my fourth spot.

“Five minutes to Wapner” doesn't make AFI's list, but I just can't leave it off. Its quotability didn't last long, but it almost wraps up this great film in one line. Raymond's life is a routine, and absolutely nothing is going to change that. This line from Rain Man (1988) takes third on my list.

“You can't handle the truth!” This is the classic Jack line for our age from A Few Good Men (1992). “Here's Johnny” (from The Shining, 1980) is decent, but it's a second-hand line. “Truth” is original, has a very good build-up that sells it, and leads to possibly the only quotable modern-day soliloquy that acts as a climax of a movie. This reached number 29 for AFI, but hits second in my line-up.

“Yo, Adrian!” may be a bit of a homer pick from a Philly guy, but it's topping my list. In the midst of total chaos after the best fight of his career, this no-name Philadelphia boxer just wants to find his woman. It's one of the last lines in the 1976 film, Rocky. Number 80 for AFI, the line and movie are no doubt devalued by the predictable sequels that followed. Watch this movie again, and you'll be shocked at the depth of actual character development offered up.

Honorable mention goes to Meg Ryan's fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally (1989). AFI wusses out by putting the proceeding “I'll have what she's having,” but that's not what anybody remembers about the scene. It may not be a line, but it's funny as hell, and Freudians would have a ball picking its meaning apart in terms of the couple's relationship.

In closing, I offer apologies to fans of “Go ahead, make my day” (Sudden Impact 1983), “May the Force be with you” (Star Wars, 1977), and “You talking to me?” (Taxi Driver, 1976). All great lines, but just a bit before my movie-going days and flics I've never caught on cable or DVD.

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