A good movie can stick with you long after you leave the theater. How do you know when a movie is a real hit? Forget about Oscars, Golden Globes and all of that nonsense — if viewers are quoting lines decades later, it’s a true winner.
Some of these catchphrases are so ingrained into our daily lives that some of us don’t realize where they’ve come from. Join us as we take a look at some of the best one-liners in cinema history. You might be surprised at what you find.
"I’ll be back." – The Terminator
You don’t have to be a movie fan to know this line. It’s almost as famous as Arnold himself. The simple sentence “I’ll be back” comes from 1984 hit The Terminator. The sci-fi outing proved so popular that it spawned multiple sequels and is now a firm part of pop-culture history.
Arnie utters the dialogue just before he drives a car through a police station. It’s undoubtedly one of the most repeated movie lines to ever exist. Going to the bathroom? “I’ll be back.” Popping out to the store? “I’ll be back.” So many uses, so little time.
"Here’s Johnny!" – The Shining
Jack Nicholson is arguably one of the finest actors of his generation, but critics weren’t initially sure about 1980’s The Shining. Over time, the Stanley Kubrick film gained momentum and is now regarded as a cult classic, largely thanks to Nicholson’s role as writer-turned-lunatic Jack Torrence.
In the movie’s most famous scene, Jack is hacking his way into a room to get to his wife, played by Shelley Duvall. When he makes a hole in the door with his ax, he sticks his head through and yells, “Here’s Johnny!”. Amazingly, the scene was largely improvised by Nicholson, proving just how great he really is.
"Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn." – Gone with the Wind
Gone with the Wind is famous for a number of things — Vivien Leigh’s dramatic arched eyebrow and stoic facial expression, the elegant costume design, and some incredible catchphrases.
While the American Civil War tale offered up many memorable lines, none are more quoted than Clark Gable’s formidable dismissal of long-time love interest Scarlett O’Hara. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” marks the end of their back-and-forth relationship, but it almost wasn’t included in the final cut. The Motion Picture Association lifted a ban on the word “damn” just one month prior to the release of the movie.
“Say hello to my little friend.” – Scarface
Put Al Pacino in a gangster role and you’ve almost certainly got a hit on your hands. In his heyday, Pacino was smashing out blockbusters left, right and center, from The Godfather to Scarface. The latter spawned one of the best lines of all time, which probably haunts Pacino to this day.
When Tony (Pacino) is holed up in his cocaine palace under siege by attackers, he doesn’t go down without a fight. Instead, he picks up an automatic that doubles as a grenade launcher and shouts, “You wanna play rough? Okay! Say hello to my little friend!” The rest is history.
"I’m king of the world!" – Titanic
Love it or loathe it, you can’t deny that James Cameron’s Titanic was a blockbuster hit. Not only did the movie bring the tragic story of the sunken ocean liner back to the forefront of popular culture, but it made stars out of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
Before it all turns disastrous, Jack (DiCaprio) is playing the fool on the bow of the ship with his ill-fated friend. He spreads his arms and loudly shouts, “I’m king of the world!” The line stuck with audiences who have no doubt uttered it in less tragic situations for the last 20-something years.
"May the force be with you." – Star Wars
When most of us think about Star Wars, we think about Princess Leia and her buns, a young Harrison Ford and an extremely hairy Chewy. The franchise has been around for eons and isn’t likely to go away any time soon.
One of the most famous lines comes from the first movie and has been used several times in its subsequent sequels. While some people wrongly attribute "May the force be with you" to Obi-Wan, it was originally spoken by General Dodonna. It’s now become a widespread way of saying goodbye or good luck, even for those who have never seen the movies.
"Why so serious?" – The Dark Knight
The late Heath Ledger made such an impact with his role as the joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight that The Academy awarded him an Oscar posthumously. His portrayal of the maniacal madman was arguably his best work, with his utterance of "Why so serious?" making him the undisputed king of mayhem.
The line was always preceded by a harrowing tale of how the joker got his scars, which varied each time. Each story would terrify his victims before he would finish with the famous line. Heath passed away six months before the movie was released, making it a bittersweet success.
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” – Apocalypse Now
The late, great Marlon Brando was at the helm of this war epic, but it very nearly didn’t make it to theaters at all. The production seemed as doomed as the soldiers, with Harvey Keitel fired two weeks after shooting began and his replacement, Martin Sheen, suffering a heart attack.
While Brando does an incredible job as a crazy AWOL officer, Robert Duvall had the pleasure of delivering one of the movie’s best-loved lines. When he and his squadron drop napalm on the opposition, he takes a breath and simply says, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
"I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore." – The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz has captured the hearts and imaginations of youngsters since being released in 1939. Dorothy remains a common Halloween costume and Wicked has made a pretty penny as a spin-off musical.
The songs are just as memorable as the script, but one line stands out above the rest. When Dorothy (Judy Garland) first lands in Oz after being swept away by a tornado, she grips Toto and gasps, “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” as she observes the surroundings of Munchkinland. The phrase has also been used in popular shows and movies like Grey’s Anatomy and Avatar.
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – Jaws
Jaws was unlike anything cinemagoers had ever seen when it was released in the ’70s, with a giant mechanical shark that scared viewers to death. These days modern audiences watch it for the darkly comic quips and nostalgic magic.
Most memorable of all is Chief Brody’s line when he sees the shark up close for the first time. Reeling in horror, he looks around at the small boat and realizes that they really aren’t equipped for the task. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” he tells Quint. How long will it be before this classic is remade? That’s some bad hat, Harry.
“Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no stinking badges!” – Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Treasure of the Sierra Madre is widely regarded as director John Huston’s best offering. Starring Humphrey Bogart, it was so well received by audiences and critics that it was nominated for several awards, winning three.
The most famous scene comes when Mexican bandits set upon Bogart under the guise of police officers. When Bogart asks to see their badges, they throw up the line, “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no stinking badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!” Most people believe that Blazing Saddles originated the line, but it’s all down to Huston.
“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – The Godfather
The Godfather is Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, based on the novel of the same name. Boasting big stars like Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, and Marlon Brando, it soon became a canonical piece of cinema.
Brando delivers the famous line as Don Corleone when family friend Johnny Fontane approaches him asking him for help. At a down point in his career, Fontane wants to persuade a director to give him a part that will help put him back at the top. Don tells him “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse,” also known as one of the most memorable death threats.
“You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve?” – To Have and Have Not
To Have and Have Not would prove successful for Humphrey Bogart for a number of reasons, but mainly because it introduced him to his future wife, 19-year-old Lauren Bacall. The chemistry is palpable between the two in the film-noir, so it’s hardly surprising that the pair married the following year, despite the 25-year age gap.
The film made a star out of Lauren Bacall, who oozed sex appeal. In one scene, she looks across at Steve (Bogart) and huskily asks, “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together and…blow.” Quite a risque line for its era that has never been forgotten.
“Here’s looking at you, Kid.” – Casablanca
Casablanca is a classic for a reason, mainly thanks to the performances of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. The two play star-crossed lovers that are doomed to part.
In one of the final scenes, Rick (Bogart) tells Ilsa (Bergman) to get on the plane without him, effectively giving her back to her husband, Victor Laszlo, despite their feelings for each other. After persuading her to go, he looks at her one last time and says, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” The movie has countless other important catchphrases too, like “Play it again, Sam,” and “We’ll always have Paris.”
“You talking to me?” – Taxi Driver
Apparently one of the most famous lines in history was inspired by America’s favorite rock star, Bruce Springsteen. Robert De Niro plays a racist cab driver who is slowly but surely losing the plot in this movie that also features 12-year-old Jodie Foster as an underage prostitute.
In one famous scene, De Niro is talking to himself in front of the mirror, perfecting his aggressive tough-guy routine. As he hashes it out with himself, he utters, “You talking to me?” multiple times. De Niro improvised the scene, apparently inspired by seeing Springsteen turn around to his audience and utter the same line.
“You damn dirty ape!” – Planet of the Apes
Charlton Heston wasn’t exactly known for being quiet and delicate, and his roles usually reflected that part of his personality (remember when he said he would give up his guns when they were pried from his cold, dead hands?). In the original Planet of the Apes, Heston had just as much passion.
George Taylor (Heston) finds himself stranded on a world now inhabited by intelligent apes, who believe humans are the lesser species. As the new kid on the block, Heston is trapped in a net by the apes – and he isn’t happy about it. “Take your stinking hands off me, you damn dirty ape!” The line has lived on throughout the decades.
“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” – Back to the Future Part 2
You didn’t think we were going to leave out one of the greatest ’80s movies of all time, did you? Back to the Future Part 2 sees Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travel back in time with his trusty Doc (Christopher Lloyd) to ensure that his parents meet.
The movie is full of iconic lines and scenes, but toward the end of the film, Doc dolls out one of the best lines of the entire franchise. Marty worries that the DeLorean won’t have enough road to gain the speed needed to get back to the ’80s, but Doc tells him not to panic: “Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”
“Go ahead, make my day.” – Sudden Impact
Clint Eastwood had his fair share of quotable scripts over the course of his career, but none more so than in the role of “Dirty” Harry Callahan. The hard-talking, no-nonsense cop doesn’t take anything laying down.
When Harry is told about a robbery in progress by a waitress who tips him off by putting too much sugar in his coffee, things go from bad to worse. Of course, Eastwood shoots the place up and saves the day, but one bad guy tries to take a waitress hostage. During the standoff, Callahan says, “Go ahead, make my day.” Of course, the perp surrenders and the waitress goes free.
“Hasta La Vista, Baby!” – Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Arnie is back with his second appearance on this list, and it’s hardly surprising that Terminator 2: Judgement Day comes in hot. Playing the good robot, Arnie is trying to fit into society, but can’t seem to get the language down pat.
Young John Connor, played by American History X‘s Edward Furlong, tries to teach him modern-day phrases to help him blend in. “Hasta la vista, baby,” is one of the lines that Arnie later brings up when he destroys the next-gen Terminator by blasting him to death when he’s frozen. What Arnold lacks in talent, he makes up for in one-liners.
“Yippie-ki-yay, [expletive]!” – Die Hard
There’s something about Die Hard that just screams Christmas. All the blood, sweat and tears make for an unpredictable holiday movie, but the 1989 release has become synonymous with decking the halls.
Butch cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is simply trying to get his wife and kids back when terrorists invade her work Christmas party. The German criminals threaten to blow everything to smithereens unless their demands are met, but McClane isn’t about to go down without a fight. When he is called a cowboy by leader Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) his response is outright incredible. If the internet was a thing in 1989 “Yippie-ki-yay [expletive]!” would’ve broken it.