"ET phone home."
ET was undoubtedly one of the biggest movies of its generation. Appealing to children and adults alike, this was square in the middle of Steven Spielberg’s launch into becoming one of the best known directors in cinema history. AfterJaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Just about anything Spielberg touched was golden. ET was one of those movies that likely should have failed, but a combination of Spielberg’s name, the debut of an adorable neigh-toddler Drew Barrymore, and a friendly-looking alien that only had a handful of lines at best in the entire film. The most notable being this one.
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"
Clark Gable was one of the most prolific actors in his day. His turn as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind was phenomenal; a suave gentlemanly fellow who was finished swooning over the indecisive Scarlett, so that at the end when she asks if she should leave or not he utters this unforgettable phrase, proving that not every love story is about people so lovesick that they would do absolutely anything to get the love of their life. While the expletive is common on modern television, back when this was made it was shocking to hear such an utterance in cinema, which may be why it had such a profound impact.
"Go ahead, make my day."
Back before the movie scene was suffused with movies about middle-aged cops riding the edge of the law to get things done even if it meant doing morally objectionable things, Clint Eastwood’s turn as Harry Callaghan in Sudden Impact—a character who would later go on to be more publicly known as Dirty Harry—uttered this phrase that made it clear that violence was not only something he could withstand but that he relished, especially when inflicted on those he felt was deserving of some sweet street justice via his .44 Magnum. He repeats the phrase at the end of the movie with a slight alteration, saying “Go ahead, make my day.” To this day it’s one of the favorite catchphrases of the rough-and-tumble men who make it clear they will not run from a fight.
"I see dead people."
Like or hate M. Night Shyamalan’s directing and writing style, it’s commonly considered that one of his best works was 1999’s The Sixth Sense. A breakout role for young Haley Joel Osment, this horror film, while not openly violent in any way, has several gruesome depictions that would leave chills in viewers bones, especially when they understand that this young boy is the only one who sees them and everyone else tends to think he’s crazy. The one who listens is Bruce Willis’s character Dr. Crowe, a child psychologist. While the ending was only moderately satisfying, it contained what is still considered one of the biggest twists in modern cinema.
"I'll be back."
There are several quotable lines from The Terminator that seems to have suffused into pop culture history, but the most prolific seems to be this one, uttered by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character. It would then continue to be used at least once in every subsequent Terminator movie, and in some form or another in a majority of Arnold’s other films, cashing in on the line that made him a star at least a dozen times, and then further still during several of his public speeches as California’s governor.
"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."
The Godfather was, despite its brutality, a breathtaking piece of cinema making it a guy-favorite film, though many of the ladies have professed a love for this movie as well. This line spoken by Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone was so beloved it was used in the following two entries into the series though none were as highly revered as the original. While on the surface the phrase seems benign, perhaps even generous, this was the first time it was used to denote a laden threat suggesting that if they did not do as they were told something very bad would happen.
"Life is a box of chocolates, Forrest. You never know what you're gonna get."
Forrest Gump was a movie that despite being about a mentally handicapped person, showed that there can be beauty in an innocent soul. This phrase was one that the title character uttered and credited to his mother, suggesting that one never knows what is in store for their life. As credit to that idea, the main character met many influential people and was present for or even played a part in several important national and world events throughout his life without understanding how important they were, and consequently how important he really was.
"May the Force be with you."
Especially in today’s society where the Star Wars franchise has made a very sudden and strong resurgence, this phrase is all the more poignant. Though several variations of this have been uttered in every iteration of the series, this is the most commonly repeated version. While it was basically this movie’s version of “Good luck!” it caught on quickly because, just like luck in most cultures, the Force was the personified influence of the universe acting upon its citizens.
There have been many comedic retreads of this important word in cinema history, but it originated with Orson Welles’s title character in Citizen Kane. While the movie has developed into something of an enigma over the years, there’s no question that it wasn’t one of the most touted cinema classics. When Kane utters this phrase on his deathbed no one could possibly grasp the significance of—including the film’s characters—until it is revealed at the end, though what the full significance of it was viewers can only guess based upon the gleaned clues throughout the movie.
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
The Wizard of Oz is perhaps one of the best known pieces of film in history. Everyone, at one point or another, has seen this movie, and some people love it, while others find it far more troubling than it lets on at the surface. When the main character, who has attempted to flee from home, gets her house swept in a whirlwind and is plunked down in a strange land, punctuated by the change from black-and-white cinematography to Technicolor. When Judy Garland’s character Dorothy speaks this phrase to her dog, it quickly became the catchphrase of anyone making note of the fact that where they were had fast become someplace strange and unfamiliar. A variation of this phrase can be seen countless times in a multitude of TV and film usages, cementing it has one of the most re-quoted—and misquoted—lines in cinema.
"Why so serious?"
The most modern entry, this phrase very quickly gained notoriety, uttered by the late Heath Ledger’s character The Joker in The Dark Knight, the middle entry in the newest Batman series of movies. Lots of things were said over the three films that could be considered quotable, but this one is by far the most famous, as it even became the second movie’s tagline. The usage was actually quite jarring, as it was juxtaposed by a lunatic telling a temporary hostage about how his father intentionally and permanently disfigured him as a child. While they never say for sure who he is or whether the story was true or not—as he uses a different story at a different point to explain his scarification—the placement, along with dramatic music and a fearsome delivery to make one of the most tense scenes in the movie have brought it into the forefront of modern cinema to the point that very few people would have trouble identifying the line.