ten best!: Movie lines of all time

by Lindsay Craven

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” — Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, 1939 Clark Gable’s famous retort to Vivien Leigh’s question, “Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?” created quite a bit of controversy upon the film’s release in 1939. The Civil War-era story about a pampered Southern belle, Gone with the Wind was not the first film in which actors cursed but it certainly was the most famous example of Hollywood challenging the social norms of the time. Perhaps the biggest controversy surrounding Gone with the Wind’s release was the exclusion of Hattie McDaniel and other black actors from the film’s world premiere in Atlanta due to Georgia’s Jim Crow laws. In a touch of poetic justice, McDaniel went on to earn an Academy Award for her performance as Mammie, becoming the first African American to win an Oscar.

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” — Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in The Godfather, 1972 The opening sequence of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 classic, The Godfather, is quite possibly the best opening of a film in cinematic history. Don Vito Corleone, otherwise known as “Godfather,” respects the Sicilian tradition of granting any request made of him on his daughter’s wedding day. As the queue lengthens for an audience with Don Corleone, Johnny Fontaine makes an appearance and the women swoon. When Johnny gets a moment with his Godfather, he asks for help getting a part in an upcoming Hollywood film. Don Corleone assures Johnny he will get the part, because he’s going to talk to the big-shot director and “make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

“Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” — John Heder as the title character in Napoleon Dynamite, 2004 Jared Hess’ brilliant debut film included dozens of great one-liners, including several from a conversation between Napoleon and his friend Pedro about how to get a date for the school dance. Pedro decides to “build” a cake for Summer Wheatley, while Napoleon decides to sketch a portrait of the girl he’d like to ask to the dance.

“You complete me.” — Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight, 2008; Tom Cruise as the title character in Jerry Maguire, 1996 Heath Ledger uttering this phrase to Batman during the interrogation sequence in The Dark Knight elicited laughter from audiences. That laughter was based on the collective memory of viewers who remember Tom Cruise saying it to Renee Zelwegger in Jerry Maguire. Granted, it’s one of the corniest movie lines ever but it’s held up over time for a good reason.

“May the force be with you.” — Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars 1977 The intergalactic success of George Lucas’ masterpiece Star Wars was borne out of a phenomenal story with the hero’s journey at the heart of the film’s narrative. The incomparable Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi speaks the famous line of dialogue to Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, before he confronts Darth Vader. Luke watches the duel unfold, and later realizes Obi-Wan, like the force, will always be with him.

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” — Strother Martin as Captain in Cool Hand Luke, 1967 In a tour de force performance, Paul Newman stars as Cool Hand Luke — a member of a Southern prison chain gang who has a habit of bucking authority. In one of the most memorable scenes, Strother Martin as Captain addresses the inmates after Luke has been caught once again trying to escape. “Some men you just can’t reach,” Martin continues. “So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.” The unbelievable performances and the biblical underpinnings of the film make it one of the best movies ever made.

“I’m walkin’ here! I’m walkin’ here!” — Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy, 1969 Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman shared the Oscar for Best Actor in this classic film by director John Schlesinger. Midnight Cowboy helped usher in a new hyper-realistic era of cinema in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Gritty and depressing, Midnight Cowboy featured incredible performances and unscripted moments like the scene where Voight and Hoffman are crossing a busy New York street and almost get hit by a cab. Hoffman shouts the famous line, pounds his fast on the car’s hood and gets cussed out by the cabbie who had no idea a camera was rolling.

“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” — Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network, 1976 Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant script has been called one of the best ever written and with good reason. Network is satire at its best. When newscaster Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, begins to slowly lose his sanity, network executives see an opportunity to exploit his illness to improve ratings. The first sign of Beale’s mental illness comes during a newscast where he rambles for several minutes before telling every person within the sound of his voice to get up, open their windows and shout at the top of their lungs, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

“I coulda been a contender.” — Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, 1954 Brando burst onto the scene with his fantastic performance as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951. In Waterfront, Brando plays a washed-up boxer who provides muscle for a local mob boss. In a great scene with Rod Steiger, who plays his brother Charley, Brando laments that he let Charley talk him into taking a dive in a big match to make a quick buck. “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley,” Brando says.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.” — Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, 1942 In one of the best final scenes in Hollywood history, Humphrey Bogart tells Ingrid Bergman that he’s not going to leave Casablanca with her. Instead, he’s going to give his letter of transit to her husband, Victor Laszlo, so he can continue his fight against the Nazis. Ilsa is crestfallen, but Rick lifts her chin and smiles before uttering the famous line.