What Happened to All the Great Quotable Movie Lines?
Posted on December 20, 2014 at 3:58 pm
Michael Cieply has a fascinating piece in the New York Times about the movie lines we love to quote and why there don’t seem to be any new ones. Look through all of the top ten lists of the year, and see if you can think of one quotable line from any of them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t well written, even literary. But it has been a long time since we’ve seen a movie like “The Princess Bride,” where any reference to it will inspire a flurry of well-loved lines. Where are the “You had me at hello” moments?
Sticky movie lines were everywhere as recently as the 1990s. But they appear to be evaporating from a film world in which the memorable one-liner — a brilliant epigram, a quirky mantra, a moment in a bottle — is in danger of becoming a lost art.
Life was like a box of chocolates, per “Forrest Gump,” released in 1994 and written by Eric Roth, based on the novel by Winston Groom. “Show me the money!” howled mimics of “Jerry Maguire,” written by Cameron Crowe in 1996. Two years later, after watching “The Big Lebowski,” written by Ethan and Joel Coen, we told one another that “the Dude abides.”
But lately, “not so much” — to steal a few words from “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” Released in 2006, that film was written by Sacha Baron Cohen and others and is one of a very few in the last five years to have left some lines behind.
Maybe it’s that filmmaking is more visual, or that other cultural noise is drowning out the zingers…. it may be that a Web-driven culture of irony latches onto the movie lines for something other than brilliance, or is downright allergic to the kind of polish that was once applied to the best bits of dialogue.
I have heard that the real reason is that when movies started making more money outside the United States than they do domestically, there was less call for wit or quips or catch-phrases. Maybe the rise of social media will create a whole new market for tweet-able dialog.