We are living in strange times indeed. The current COVID-19 pandemic is really going to test the adage “There’s no place like home” to breaking point, as we are all encouraged to stay at home as much as possible at the moment in order to maximise so-called ‘social distancing’ and banish the world of the scourge of Coronavirus. The adage however, famously used in the movie ‘The Wizard of OZ’, allows us to segue into the topic of watching great films. Many of us will be finding more time to watch films at the moment, whether with our families or on our own. There are some great quotations from famous films and many blogs about them but not many have stopped to consider why we like them so much.
For what it’s worth my top 10 movie quotations, in no particular order, are:
“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” The Italian Job, 1969
“How do you like them apples?” Good Will Hunting, 1997
“Oh I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?” Pulp Fiction, 1994
“I mean, funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you?” Goodfellas, 1990
“Roads ? Where we’re going we don’t need roads” Back to the Future, 1985
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” Jaws, 1975
“I see dead people” The Sixth Sense, 1999
“I’ll be back” The Terminator, 1984
“Houston, we have a problem” Apollo 13, 1995
“Here’s Johnny !” The Shining, 1980
“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys.” Dead Poets Society, 1989
The more observant among you will have noticed that I have listed 11! But that’s the point, most of us have so many we can’t easily limit them. But why do we love a great line from a film ?
Well, why do we quote anything? Oxford University Press has for many years compiled a dictionary of quotations. These are not limited to films but draw on novels, plays, poems, essays, speeches, films, radio and television broadcasts, songs, advertisements, and even book titles. It can sometimes be difficult to draw a distinction between quotations and similar sayings like proverbs, catch-phrases and idioms. A catchphrase is a phrase that is often repeated by and therefore becomes connected with a particular organisation or person, especially someone famous such as a TV entertainer. It tends to be his or her ‘calling card’. A quotation is a phrase or short piece of writing often taken from a longer work of literature , poetry, etc or what someone else has said. Those of us who watched the original version of the TV game show ‘Catchphrase’ may have said to ourselves “Hey, that isn’t a catchphrase” when Roy Walker occasionally gave a disappointing answer after letting the hapless contestant down gently with the line “it’s good, but its not right”…..that’s a catchphrase by the way, not a quotation!
So much for identifying quotations, but what is the point of them? In reality they perform many different functions for different people in different contexts. They often lend authority to an argument by drawing on some past heavyweight. You may find your kids lost for words if you quote Mark Twain at them e.g. “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything”! I suspect in most cases quoting from films isn’t used in this way but rather it is used as a feel good exercise and it is a short cut to remembering the film itself and it brings the film to life with the escapism that usually entails. Often repeating lines from films in exchanges between friends and family leads to bonding, like the repeating of an inside joke. Sometimes we are able to pull a line from a staged situation into a real life situation and apply it appropriately.
Only a few things can bring people together. Aspects of life such as food, music, books, and films are the most universal parts of contemporary pop culture. Movie quotes unify people, now more than ever. So the next time you say “You talkin’ to me?” or “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley” , you’re keeping alive the trend of quoting iconic movies. Everyday lines like these are becoming increasingly immersed into our culture. After this lockdown is over we may need them more than ever, so get viewing those films now!