What makes a great movie quote?

Nothing to do with nothing, but after looking up monocline (see previous entry) and discovering it was (variously) […]

Nothing to do with nothing, but after looking up monocline (see previous entry) and discovering it was (variously) “an oblique geologic fold” “Double flexure connecting strata at one level with same strata at another level.” or “a local steepening in an otherwise uniform gentle dip.” I decided that Alan Cooper had seen more monoclines than he had defined, and decided to use that word becauase of he had gotten a contextual definition (does Alan Cooper hike? what does our vocabulary reveal about our personal habits? Or am I merely looking in the wrong dictionaries?).

Suddenly I heard in my head the famous line from The Princess Bride “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

And then I had to go look for the quote, since I hate misquoting. Which took me to thinking about what makes a good movie quote. Personally I think it should both remind you of the scene in the movie and stand alone as just good writing.

Thus, this site has acceptible quotes from Princess Bride, including “Thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice papercut and pour lemon juice on it? ”
and this site is less effective with quotes like “As you wish” and “That’s inconcievable!” — moving if you’ve seen the movie, but meaningless if you haven’t.

Or maybe it’s just the art of knowing how much context to provide. “Inigo: “You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you.”
Dread Pirate Roberts: “You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.” ”
(you kow this was just an excuse to read and quote a buch of Princess Bride, doncha..)


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  1. 3

    Hey, you are encouraging me…

    It is said that Howard Hawks actually asked Raymond Chandler that question, who reported didn’t know. From Ebert’s article on The Big Sleep

    “Hawks sent Chandler a telegram asking whether the Sternwood’s chauffeur, Owen Taylor, was murdered or a suicide. ‘Dammit I didn’t know either,’ ” Chandler recalled. ” (pretty good article comparing the pre-war orginial with the altered post-war version that was released)

    Joe Brody is the most likely suspect and the pick of most. I always rather thought that it was Carmen (you know how she is when she’s like that), and Joe got rid of the body in order to blackmail Carmen and the Sternwoods.

    Admittedly the script points toward Joe, who is the kind of cheap thug who carries a blackjack:

    “OHLS : Hi, Ed. I see you got him up. Who is he?
    UNIFORMED DEPUTY : His name is Owen Taylor, General Sternwood’s chauffeur according to his driver’s license.
    OHLS : What’s the story?
    UNIFORMED DEPUTY : You can see most of it from here. Went through the railings. It must have hit it pretty hard. The rain stopped down here about nine P.M. The broken ends of the rails are dry inside. That would put it about nine-thirty.
    MAN : Slow down.
    OHLS : All right, Doc. Let’s have it.
    MEDICAL EXAMINER : His neck was broken. Something hit him hard across the left temple.
    OHLS : What made the bruise? Steering wheel?
    MEDICAL EXAMINER : Mm-Mmm. Whatever it was, it was covered. Because the wound had already bled under the skin while he was still alive.
    MARLOWE : A blackjack?
    MEDICAL EXAMINER : Could be.
    PLAINCLOTHESMAN : Hey, Bernie. The funny thing is the hand-throttle of the car was set halfway down. ”

    Definately not a suicide…

  2. 4

    and thanks for the link! I always under-utilize the IMDB.

    Prince Humperdinck: Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work. But I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped!
    Count Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.

  3. 6
    Karl Fast

    There are two reliable and definitive sources of film quotes. They are not exhaustive, of course, but they are extensive and accurate.

    First is the IMDB, of course. Finding this quote in the IMDB was trivial:

    [Vizzini has just cut the rope The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up]
    Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    The second site is Tim Dirks’ “The Greatest Films” sites. This has incredibly detailed descriptions of 200+ films. Far more detail than the IMDB, but if you want to an exact scene-by-scene description of “Vertigo” including famous dialogue and discussion there is nothing better (not even in print).

    There is also a “Great Films Quote” section. It wouldn’t help you for this film (not yet, The Princess Bride is on his todo list). But more most classic films this is the best site in the world (no overstatement).

  4. 7

    Actually from the book it’s pretty clear Joe Brody did it. And I believe the connection is even clearer in the short story — one of two that were foundation of the novel.

    If I remember correct Brody chases Taylor and gets him to stop by posing as a plain-clothes cop. But when he tries to grab the photos of Carmen, there’s a fight and Brody saps Taylor.

    Interestingly, Chandler didn’t just combine the two stories (which have a much leaner style than Chandler is known for) instead he reportedly replayed the scenes in his mind and rewrote the words from scratch.

  5. 8

    =v= Coincidentally, my housemates had The Princess Bride on teevee a few nights ago. I still prefer the book to the movie, even though it was written by a screenwriter who then went on to write the movie’s screenplay. :^)

    One of these days I gotta send away for the big reunion scene.

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