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You’re gonna need a bigger boat.
— Roy Scheider as Martin Brody in Jaws

For nearly 30 years, a good friend and I have had an on-going debate on the greatest movie line of all time. Actually, for the first few years, it wasn’t much of a debate. We both agreed “Luke, I am your father” from The Empire Strikes Back deserved the title. Discovering Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader were related was the most visceral experience either of us had ever had in a movie.

While it’s a compelling scene, we eventually realized we didn’t even remember the quote correctly. And so, the debate began: we compiled top 10 lists, argued over how ‘greatest’ should be measured, and contradicted ourselves every few years. The conversation eventually settled into a rhythm, with new movies being disparaged for lack of memorable lines and old classics rehashed for sentimental value.

My friend favored “Rosebud”; the mysterious final word of Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane. Rosebud is famously explained at the very last moment of the film. If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s worth doing so for this unexpected reveal.

I went a different way entirely. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws gripped me with implied threats, glimpses of the shark, and a slow build to the dramatic unveil nearly 20 minutes into the movie. Roy Scheider, playing police chief Martin Brody, captured the moment perfectly when he allegedly ad-libbed “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” – without dropping his cigarette.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=8gciFoEbOA8

Given that background, it’s not surprising we both watched when the American Film Institute (AFI) aired a special on the 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time. According to AFI, more than 1,500 film artists, critics and historians chose quotes which “circulate through popular culture, become part of the national lexicon and evoke the memory of a treasured film, thus ensuring and enlivening its historical legacy.” Gone with the Wind takes the top spot but Casablanca has an amazing six different quotes in the top 100. Rosebud is on this list at #17 and my Jaws quote is #35. Here are the top 10 quotes:

  1. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, 1939
  2. “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Marlon Brando in The Godfather, 1972
  3. “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender.” Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, 1954
  4. “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, 1939
  5. “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, 1942
  6. “Go ahead, make my day.” Clint Eastwood in Sudden Impact, 1983
  7. “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard,1950
  8. “May the Force be with you.” Harrison Ford in Star Wars, 1977
  9. “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” Bette Davis in All About Eve, 1950
  10. “You talkin’ to me?” Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver 1976

After the special aired, AFI published the full list of the 400 quotes which were nominated. That set off a fresh debate of quotes which should have made the top 100 but didn’t. Eventually, we agreed John Belushi’s stirring speech in Animal House deserved the nod:

Over? Did you say “over?” Nothing is over until we decide it is!

In fact, we both believe it could replace #82 “Toga! Toga!” from the same movie.

This past weekend I called my friend and started the conversation with one word: Rosebud. 30 minutes later I hung up and rewatched the scene in Jaws for the umpteenth time. We’re gonna need a bigger list.

Are there any quotes you would like to add?

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9 Comments

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  1. Tim Clark

    Nice list, Jonathan! Jaws is my favorite movie. I was able to see in again on the big screen a few months ago which was a great experience. Packed theater and everyone still clapped and cheered during all the classic moments even though we’ve seen it a million times. A few more that may or may not be classic lines:

    “Say hello to my little friend.” – Al Pacino, Scarface, 1983

    “Groovy.” – Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead 2, 1987

    “Can I borrow your towel? My car hit a water buffalo.” – Chevy Chase, Fletch, 1985

    “Are you gonna bark all day little doggy, or are you gonna bite?” – Michael Madsen, Reservoir Dogs, 1992

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  2. Matt Fraser

    I can’t even recall how many quotable lines Aliens has that my friends and I keep repeating.

    “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” Hmm, I can think of a few projects I’ve been on where I felt that way.

    “This little girl survived [for seventeen days] with no weapons and no training.” “Why don’t you put her in charge?” Might not have been a bad idea.

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    1. Jonathan Becher Post author

      As far as movies go: Big, The Big Sleep, The Big Heat, and even Pee Wee’s Big Adventure made AFI’s nomination list. But not The Big Lebowski.

      Perhaps we should demand a recount.

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