With those immortal words Rhett Butler, Clark Gable´s character in the 1939 American Civil War classic Gone With The Wind, entered the pantheon of cinema legends. Words have the power to move us, inspire us and shape us; to help us imagine what it is like to be in the shoes of others. (In 2005 the American Film Institute (AFI) declared Gable´s line to be the best film quote of all time.)

With the Oscars ceremony 2014, movie fans were reminded of the silver screen´s enduring ability to enchant and delight. For sure, a picture can tell a thousand words – think of the little girl in the red coat in Steven Spielberg´s haunting Schindler´s List, wandering amongst the desperate crowds alone – a striking image that stays with you long after the movie has ended; or Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader battling with light-sabers on Cloud City.

Yet Star Wars fans tend to remember the words which accompanied that iconic scene more poignantly than the groundbreaking special effects; the moment when Luke accuses Vader of killing his father, only for Vader to reply: “No, I am your father…” Cue jaws dropping in theatres across the globe.

Some of the best quotes in film history, like the Star Wars line, achieve dramatic effect by keeping it short and simple: “Bond. James Bond.” Or perhaps: “E.T. phone home.” And who can forget a demented Jack Nicholson in The Shining, poking his head through an axe-smashed door to torment his terrified wife with a crazed: “Heeeeere´s Johnny!”

How about “I see dead people” (The Sixth Sense); “Go ahead, make my day” (Sudden Impact); “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” (Apocalypse Now); “I’ll be back” (The Terminator); “Rosebud” (Citizen Kane); “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” (The Godfather).

However many of the best lines come not from spy thrillers, science fiction epics, horrors or gangster flicks, but from film romances. “Here’s looking at you, kid” (Casablanca); “You complete me” and “You had me at hello”(both from Jerry Maguire);“I’ll have what she’s having” (When Harry Met Sally); the list goes on.

My favourite romantic line comes from the romantic comedy (rom-com for short) As Good As It Gets, as Jack Nicholson’s cranky author and confirmed bachelor, Melvin Udall, clumsily attempts to woo kind-hearted waitress and single mom Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt). In a rare moment of emotional candour, Melvin tells Carol over dinner that the morning after he first mether, he started to take the medication that moderates his erratic, misanthropic behavior.

“I don’t get quite how that’s a compliment to me,” replies Carol, unimpressed.

Melvin takes a moment to compose himself, then says:

“You make me want to be a better man.”

The line melts Carol’s heart – not to mention the hearts of cinema-goers the world over.

Can you think of any lines that have stayed with you over the years? We’d love to discover your favourites. Feel free to post them on our Facebook page!

A. Porter

Callan School
Latest posts by Callan School (see all)