I swear they make these lists just to get people talking and make them mad. I’ve been perusing the 400 nominees for the American Film Institute’s 100 movies, 100 quotes list. They’ve put catch phrases in there. Catch phrases! Things like “All-righty then!”, or “Yeah, baby!” are put alongside great lines like Airplane!‘s “Looks like I picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue…”.
And where are my favorite lines? Where is Fight Club‘s classic Marla Singer line: “My God! I haven’t been fucked like that since grade school!”
What I’m getting at is the difference between great writing and great lines. Great writing:
from Team America: World Police:
Spottswoode: Please, Gary, I’m not from Hollywood. I’m not going to fuck your mouth and my time is extremely valuable.
Gary: Jesus! This is a nice limo!
Spottswoode: Yes it is. Now, suck my cock.Just kidding!
Gary Johnston: OK, a limousine that can fly. Now I have seen everything.
Spottswoode: Really? Have you seen a man eat his own head?
Gary Johnston: No.
Spottswoode: So then, you haven’t seen everything.
“You complete me.”
“I want you to hit me as hard as you can.”
“I’ll be back.”
“I am your father.”
“As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again!”
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
“They can take our lives, but they’ll never take our Freedom!”
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”
“Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”
The difference is that one shows a great deal of writing skill, and one transcends both page and performance and burns into your brain. Look at the lines above. Chances are, you can name at least 8 of the 10 movies I took them from, and you know the scene, who said it, what happened before, what happens next, etc.
Whereas, if I suggested “Excellent!”. Some of you might say Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, where others would think fondly of Monty Burns. A great line has to be great outside of the context of the film, not just as something that’s fun to shout at your coworkers. Look at me ramble. I hate lists.
But AFI gets much credit…MUCH credit, for including the classic (delivered by wrestling God “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in They Live): “I’ve come here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of bubble gum.”
You want great lines? Go to IMDB.com
By the way, every time I read that line about a man eating his own head, I laugh. I laugh, and I laugh, and I don’t care who sees me, because life is beautiful.