Since the advent of Netflix and other streaming services, it may be easy to believe people have traded their nights out at the movies for evenings chilling on the couch. But for over a century, movies have become a stronghold in American culture: In 2016, 71 percent of Americans and Canadians went to the movies at least once, up 2 percent from the year before. Even next to Netflix, there's still plenty of room in our hearts for a trip to the movies.
While many of the films made in the past hundred years have been forgettable flops, others have become so memorable that their lines can pop up in our everyday lives. These movie quotes are a part of our language as we know it.
To find out which movies are quoted (or misquoted) most often, we surveyed 500 people – movie buffs and casual watchers alike. Which of these movie scripts have left the deepest marks in our memories and resonate most with each generation? Read on to see if your favorite movies and quotes made the list.
Which Famous Movies Made the Cut?
Out of the hundreds of quotable movies from across the years, 70 popular movie quotes made it into our study. So which movie quotes topped our list?
Nearly three-quarters of people surveyed have said "Houston, we have a problem" in casual conversation, making it the No. 1 most quoted movie line. "Apollo 13" (1995) was beloved by critics, receiving nine award nominations (and two wins) in 1996.
But the historical account behind this iconic line has largely been eclipsed by the film interpretation of the Apollo 13 mission. During the 1970 space flight, astronaut Jack Swigert radioed mission control and said, "Houston, we've had a problem here." Swigert, played by Kevin Bacon, didn't say these words in the movie. The honor was given to Tom Hanks, who played the mission's commander Jim Lovell.
Multiple genres are represented on this list of most-quoted movies, from the psychological mind-bender "Fight Club" (1999) to the thriller "The Sixth Sense" (1999) and musical adventure "The Wizard of Oz" (1939), a movie that changed modern cinema as we know it with its Technicolor film. These films, while very different, were quoted by over half of survey participants.
Some of the most iconic movie quotes on this list are said by people who have yet to see the movies they originate from. Nearly 45 percent of respondents who have used the "Taxi Driver" quote "You talkin' to me?" have never seen Robert De Niro wave a gun around and speak that well-known line.
It's clear that movie quotes take a life of their own, becoming synonymous with feelings or ideas. Over a quarter of those surveyed recalled saying "May the force be with you" yet have never seen the fourth epic installment of the "Star Wars" saga. There's no need to research "Star Wars"-specific terminology to find out what "the force" is and how you want it to work to someone's advantage. This movie quote has turned into a simple way to wish someone good luck in a future endeavor.
While the origins of these movie lines were unknown to many of our respondents, some quotes resonate with audiences and are widely recognized. Take the 1992 classic "Forrest Gump." As one of the "most American" movies, just 4 percent of respondents who quoted this movie's specific line about chocolates said they hadn't seen it before.
Miscredited Movie Quotes
Some movie quotes have become staples in American dialogue, even if their source is unknown. Like an urban legend, they can be passed down through conversation, and in some cases, their origins are lost along the way.
This might have been the case for the proverbial line from "The Godfather: Part II": "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." Of the participants who've said this line, over 75 percent incorrectly guessed the movie it's from.
In 1995, "Bye, Felicia" ("Friday") made its debut, and since then, it's become a common dis even used by political pundits. Despite its widespread use, more than 41 percent of people who've said it had no idea what movie it came from. Perhaps "Bye, Felicia" is so often misidentified because the director of "Friday," F. Gary Gray, reprised the line in his 2015 biopic "Straight Outta Compton".
Many movies in the same genre can get mixed up, leading people to misidentify movie quotes. One of the most identified lines was "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" from the movie "Dirty Dancing" (1987). Just 14 percent of participants misidentified this quote, but there were still some people who thought the line came from another romantic drama involving dancers, "Flashdance" (1983).
As we've seen, some cinematic moments stay with us forever. While many of these titles are popular among all age groups, there are some important differences in which movies are the most memorable to people.
With six movies appearing on all three generations' top 10 lists, it's clear some movies have more cultural staying power than others. However, there was more overlap between millennials (people born between 1981 and 1997) and Gen Xers as opposed to baby boomers.
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" comes from "Gone with the Wind" (1939), starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. Although this movie quote nearly tops the list for baby boomers, nearly 80 years later, Rhett Butler's famed words to Scarlett O'Hara are unrecognizable to younger generations.
More recently, the story has been entangled in controversy and debates about censorship as its film, book, and theater versions have been banned because of its portrayals of slavery in Antebellum America. These disputes could dissuade or even prevent younger viewers from seeing the 79-year-old movie.
On the other hand, other movies showed a great deal of generational staying power. Forty years had passed since "May the force be with you" was uttered in the 1977 installation of "Star Wars" to the release of "The Last Jedi" in 2017. As the franchise continues to grow, even the youngest viewers could be interested in going back to the original film to understand the whole story.
Revered actors and actresses devote long lives and careers pursuing entertainment, and their most famous lines often shift from movie dialogue to real-life conversation. As time goes on, the talent of decades past will always have their place in our conversations and along the fifteen blocks of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Movie Time Travel
There is no sure-fire equation for creating a successful movie. Many factors contribute to a movie's failure, such as a script written too ambitiously, a movie not living up to the hype of its predecessors, or an overblown budget. Our research found older generations quoted movies from all decades, but younger generations typically stuck to movies from their lifetime.
The Test of Time
Average Ages of People Who Quote Movie Lines vs. Movie Release Year
Highest Average Age
Lowest Average Age
"Casablanca" (1942) and "Good Morning, Vietnam" (1987) were released 45 years apart, but the oldest respondents quoted them on average. However, the movies topping the charts for the youngest people – "Mean Girls" and "Zoolander" – are both hits from the 2000s.
Although "Good Morning, Vietnam" was released in 1987, it is a historical comedy set in Saigon during the Vietnam War in 1965. The movie may appeal to the over 10 million baby boomers who have served in the armed forces, many of whom went to Vietnam. They lived during this historical event, which might make them more likely to quote this movie.
"Mean Girls" quotes took the top two spots for the youngest people in our survey. It's been nearly 15 years since this movie was made, but its appeal is still going strong: Nell Benjamin turned Tina Fey's screenplay into the highly anticipated musical adaptation of "Mean Girls," which opened on Broadway in April 2018.
Younger people were also more apt to quote epic, memorable speeches in newer movies, such as the war cry by King Leonidas in "300" (2006) and Jordan Belfort's legendary financial call to arms in "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013).
Show Me the Money
Whether it's Tom Cruise screaming into the phone in "Jerry Maguire" or a poorly hidden Kristen Wiig sneaking into an airplane's first class in "Bridesmaids," quotes having to do with money – or a lack thereof – also stick with us.
Maybe these money-related quotes have also crept into our conversations because it's become less taboo to discuss money like in the past. Compared to older generations, millennials are more likely to bring up financial topics, and they're also getting bolder about spending on the big ticket items, like new cars. By being more open about finances, they may encourage older generations to talk about it more often as well. As a result, quotes like this can end up in our daily conversations.
Taking a financial risk is a huge theme in these movies. In "Jerry Maguire," guilt over unsavory practices in the sports industry drives Maguire to do something that gets him fired. In "The Wolf of Wall Street," Belford becomes so addicted to the lifestyle of the rich and famous – yachts, luxury cars, fame – that it nearly kills him.
The biggest financial risk of all would be getting involved in the illegal ways that money can move, such as in "The Godfather." Those surveyed remembered the action stories where wealth was on the line.
The movie titles in this study are very different but have similar themes. Some of the movies take us on a wild adventure through a fantasy world, some bring us to emotional places causing us to question who we are, and some are timeless comedies with an appeal that spans generations.
It can be interesting to peek into the glamorous world of the rich and famous through film. In the movies, becoming rich can look so simple. But in the real world, it's not always easy to take control over your own finances. Worrying about money and thinking about debt can be daunting no matter your age. This is why it's important to take every opportunity to save money and take control of your own financial destiny.
For quotes of the financial kind, you can find everything from home, auto, and life insurance at Quote.com.
We collected survey responses from 500 people using Amazon's Mechanical Turk. 46.05% of participants were female, 53.75% were male, and less than 1% were nonbinary. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 72, with a mean of 36.48 and a standard deviation of 10.96.
Participants were shown a list of 70 movie quotes that were selected from crowdsourced responses from Amazon's Mechanical Turk and Reddit postings and lists of quotes from critically acclaimed and popular films. Participants were asked to select the quotes they had said in conversation. It is possible that with a more comprehensive list of quotes, we could have gained more insight into which film quotes were most popular among respondents.
No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content is purely exploratory, and future research should approach this topic more rigorously.
Fair Use Statement
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