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The Cracker Barrel: Memorable lines

A look back on lines everyone remembers from movies

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“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”   

Remembering Tom Hanks uttering Forrest Gump’s much-repeated line, I got to thinking about other instances where quotes that first appeared in movies have gradually come to be part of everyday life.   

The next one that popped to mind was Clint Eastwood’s character, Harry Callahan, saying, “Go ahead, make my day.”   

Right on the heels of that came Harrison Ford in the role of Han Solo: “May the force be with you.”   

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Later I remembered another one, this time from “The Godfather,” when Marlon Brando as Don Corleone says, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”   

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A few days later it occurred to me to do a little research regarding such memorable quotations. What I found was that the American Film Institute had already formed a jury of some 1,500 film artists, critics and historians, and asked them to identify and then rank the hundred top movie quotations in American cinema.

The results were presented in a three-hour television program in 2005, and contained many classic utterances. 

Chosen to head the list was Clark Gable’s famous line as Rhett Butler in “Gone With the Wind,” when he says to Scarlett, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”   

In fourth place, from “The Wizard of Oz,” was Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale: “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

And right behind her was the renowned toast made by Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick Blaine in “Casablanca,” where he says, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”   

Other quotes on the list brought back bundles of half-forgotten memories, such as Ali MacGraw’s line from “Love Story,” when she says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” and Pat Welsh’s curt, “E.T. phone home,” from the movie “E.T.”   

A couple of well-known lines that appeared in movies were first spoken in real life, including Gary Cooper’s quote as Lou Gehrig in “The Pride of the Yankees,” where he says, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” and Tom Hanks as the astronaut Jim Lovell in “Apollo 13,” with the famous, “Houston, we have a problem.”   

Some draw you up short. When Michael Douglas, playing Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street,” says, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” you can’t help but think about the whole economic meltdown we struggled  through a dozen years ago, and the ethical darkness that produced it.

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And when Faye Dunaway, acting as Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest,” says, “No wire hangers, ever!” you instinctively recoil.   

But other lines are guaranteed to make you smile, such as Dustin Hoffman’s plaintive, “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me … aren’t you?” as Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate,” and Peter Sellers in his role as President Merkin Muffley in “Dr. Strangelove,” when he says, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”   

And then, of course, to wind it up, you have Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking as The Terminator, and his famous four-word goodbye: “Hasta la vista, Baby.”

Collections of Craig Nagel’s columns are available at CraigNagelBooks.com.

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Craig Nagel, Columnist

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