When it comes to classic movie quotes, there is a thin line between iconic and cliche, and this list is devoted to film dialogue that crossed that fragile boundary. Some of these movie lines have become part of pop culture, finding their way into everyday conversation. Yet for all the fame they have garnered, some of them border on being overrated.
With that in mind, here are the ten most overrated lines in movie history, one of which may even show up in the new James Bond film, Skyfall.
10. “Hasta la vista, baby.” – Terminator 2, 1991
Terminator 2 is a great movie, one of the best (entirely unnecessary) sequels ever made and, along with Aliens, one of the best reasons to forgive James Cameron for his two most overlong and overrated films, Titanic and Avatar.
The plot of the film involves Arnold Schwarzenegger’s terminator character being sent back in time to keep ten-year old John Connor (Edward Furlong), who will one day lead humans in a battle against technology, from being murdered by another terminator. The problem? Even though he’s the only hope for the survival of humanity, you spend the whole movie hoping that the bratty little John Connor kid actually does get killed.
He’s just too obnoxious, and nowhere is this more evident than in the scene where he teaches Schwarzenegger’s character how to speak “the way people talk.” Connor tells him to answer questions with “no problemo” and to use retorts like “eat me,” “chill out,” “later dickwad,” and, of course, “hasta la vista, baby,” which was ranked at number 76 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Movie Quotes list.
So, yes, the line is admittedly pretty awesome when Schwarzenegger delivers it right before he shoots the T-1000, but when you remember that the quip originated as part of a ten-year-old punk’s lesson in trash-talking, it losses some of its coolness.
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9. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” – Love Story, 1970
These days, complaining about this line is almost as cliché as the line itself. Still, no list of overrated movie quotes would be complete without “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” from the 1970 romantic melodrama Love Story. The movie stars Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw as young lovers Oliver and Jenny, who meet and fall in love at Harvard University. The now iconic line, which ranks at number 13 on AFI’s 100 Movie Quote list, is spoken twice in the film by both O’Neal and MacGraw.
The problem with this line is that, to quote Lisa Simpson, “No it doesn’t!” This patently stupid piece of dialogue has been mocked more times than I can count. Fortunately, I don’t have to, because Wikipedia devoted a whole article to doing just that.
The Wikipedia page on “love means never having to say you’re sorry” documents all the parodies of this line that can be found in pop culture, including my personal favorite: Peter Bogdanovich’s classic 1972 screwball comedy What’s Up Doc?, in which Barbara Streisand attempts to use the line on Love Story star Ryan O’Neal himself. He responds by noting, “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
8. “Rosebud.” – Citizen Kane, 1941
Citizen Kane is a justly revered classic of cinema, and it’s made even more impressive by the fact that it was Orson Welles’ directorial debut, which he co-wrote and starred in at the incredibly young age of 25. For years it was ranked as the greatest movie of all time by Sight and Sound magazine, until just this year when it lost the top spot to Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
I’m not here to join the chorus of detractors who say that the movie itself is overrated. I will say, however, that the line “Rosebud,” which lands at number 17 on the AFI list, is overrated.
A bedridden Charles Foster Kane (played by Welles) whispers the line during the film’s opening moments, then drops a snow globe onto the ground. A nurse runs into the room to check on him and discovers that he’s dead. The entire plot of the film is framed around a reporter attempting to find out what Kane was referring to when he muttered his final word.
There’s just one problem: Kane died alone. The nurse came into the room after he murmured his last word. How did anyone actually hear him say “rosebud?” Reportedly, when Welles was questioned about this by some friends, he thought for a while and then said, “don’t you ever tell anyone of this.”
So “Rosebud” is, as a movie quote, simply a reminder of the one glaring mistake in an otherwise pretty perfect movie.
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7. “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” Dead Poets Society, 1989
This line, ranked number 29 on the AFI list, is delivered by Robin Williams, and has become a cliché piece of advice used by English teachers who harbor a secret desire to have their students spontaneously address them as “O captain, my captain.”
In Dead Poets Society, Williams plays a college professor who teaches young students about poetry exactly the way you would imagine Robin Williams teaching students about poetry: by doing his John Wayne and Marlon Brando impressions.
“Carpe diem” is Williams’ mantra, and it has quite a profound effect on some of his students. Even today, you’ll hear many fans of the film quoting it, although there is one thing these people seem to forget about the line: (spoiler alert!) it actually ends up being really terrible advice.
When one of Williams’ students, inspired by his teacher, decides to go into acting, it leads to some pretty tragic results for him (and for Williams, who is forced to resign). So if there is really one piece of advice to take away from Dead Poets Society, it’s this: do not, under any circumstances, seize the day.
6. “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” – To Have and Have Not, 1944
This line, from the 1944 film To Have and Have Not, landed at number 34 on AFI’s list. The movie itself is based on a 1937 novel by Ernest Hemingway, directed by the incomparable Howard Hawks, and stars legendary movie couple Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in their first on-screen pairing. Despite this incredible pedigree, the film is good but not quite great, and plays more like Hawks’ own (lesser) version of Casablanca than a Hemingway-esque masterpiece.
Of course, Bogie and Bacall do have great chemistry together, which is most famously exemplified by the scene in which Bacall says the above line to Bogie (who then lets out a low whistle). The problem with this line is not that it’s bad but that it has aged poorly; at the time, this was an incredibly suggestive bit of dialogue.
Today, however, it sounds like the kind of eye-roll-inducing quip that would show up in one of the cheesier James Bond movies (probably something from the Roger Moore era).
Also, at the time of filming, Bogart was 44 years old. Bacall, on the other hand, was only 19, and that just makes the whole thing a bit creepy.
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5. “La-dee-da, la-dee-da.” – Annie Hall, 1977
Woody Allen is one of the greatest living American filmmakers, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. He has been nominated for an Oscar a total of 23 times: 15 times for screenwriting, seven for directing, and once as an actor. In fact, Allen has more Academy Award nominations for screenwriting than any other writer, all of which are in the Best Original Screenplay category.
So how many lines from Woody Allen’s movies made AFI’s list? Just one, and it wasn’t even really written by him. At number 55 on the list is “La-dee-da, la-dee-da,” a whimsical saying from the 1977 classic Annie Hall that was improvised by star Diane Keaton.
Really? I suppose that “la-dee-da, la-dee-da” is a pretty defining aspect of Annie as a character, but it’s also pretty insulting that this nonsensical muttering is apparently considered better than any of the hilarious one-liners that Allen has authored for his films over the years, including one of my personal favorites from 1997′s Deconstructing Harry, “the most beautiful words in the English language aren’t ‘I love you’ but ‘it’s benign.’”
4. Everything Robin Williams says in Good Morning, Vietnam – 1987
Okay, okay, I’m clearly cheating with this one. Still, I’ve always been a bit perplexed by the acclaim that greeted Robin Williams’ manic, rambling performance as real-life Vietnam-era Armed Forces Radio disc jockey Adrian Cronauer in the 1987 comedy Good Morning, Vietnam.
His improvisational riffing on the subjects of politics and pop culture were once considered hysterical, but watching the movie now, they are honestly the dullest part of the film. Even worse, director Barry Levinson frequently cuts to shots of soldiers laughing as they listen to Williams on the radio, which feels like an attempt at using peer pressure to convince the audience that the film’s star is actually funny.
Despite the fact that this movie is remembered for providing Robin Williams with his breakthrough role, he’s not even the funniest actor in it. That award goes to Bruno Kirby, as Williams’ uptight foil, superior officer Second Lieutenant Steven Hauk. He’s wonderful as the film’s straight man, and since Lt. Hauk is a man who despises the mugging antics of Robin Williams, for me – he’s ultimately the most relatable character in the movie.
3. “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump, 1992
Tom Hanks speaks this line (ranked number 40 on the AFI list) as the title character in the 1992 film Forrest Gump, a movie about a guy so stupid he arrives at a bus stop two hours and twenty minutes early.
While he’s waiting, he tells a bunch of strangers who apparently don’t keep up with current events about how he met three presidents, influenced both Elvis Presley and John Lennon, started the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, uncovered the Watergate scandal, became a millionaire, ran across America, and most importantly, coined the term “sh*t happens.” (Hey, why wasn’t that line ranked number 40 on the AFI list?)
Like the movie it’s from, this line is fun, but doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny. You see, boxes of chocolate are actually fairly predictable. They may be assorted, but anyone who has experience eating them is fairly familiar with the usual suspects. See that lumpy one? Those are nuts. Gross. The long, log-shaped one? That’s caramel. See that heart shaped one? Yeah, that’s just a solid chunk of chocolate, shaped like a heart.
So no, the fact that you may occasionally accidentally eat something with a cocunut filling because you thought it was going to have cream in it simply isn’t that analogous to the way that one man can go from watching his friend and fellow soldier die in Vietnam to showing LBJ his butt.
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2. “I’m the king of the world!” – Titanic, 1997
Another piece of dialogue written by James Cameron, this one doesn’t even have the advantage of being delivered in a thick Austrian accent by a guy firing a handgun. Instead, this line (ranked at number 100 on the AFI list) is shouted by a young Leonardo DiCaprio as he stands on the bow of the RMS Titanic.
Titanic portrays the infamous ship’s four-day maiden voyage in what feels like real time, featuring a hackneyed love story between stars DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Yet, despite its faults (did I mention Celine Dion sings on the soundtrack?), this movie went on to win 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. As he accepted his Best Director Oscar, Cameron himself shouted, “I’m the king of the world,” which made this line officially unbearable.
Even worse, thanks to the popularity of this film, pretty much every annoying human being who has ever set foot on a boat – be it the size of a cruise liner or a canoe – has felt the need to make their way to the bow and shout this line. Every time I hear someone shout this quote, I find myself wishing to see them meet the same fate as DiCaprio’s character.
1. “A martini. Shaken, not stirred.” Goldfinger, 1964
This line, first spoken by Sean Connery as James Bond in 1964’s Goldfinger, is placed at number 90 on the AFI list. Connery’s self-introduction from Dr. No (“Bond. James Bond.”) came in at number 22 on the list. Together, these quotes represent the two most iconic lines in a film franchise that turned 50 years old on October 5, and this year saw the release of its 23rd film, Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig as Bond.
Four of the six actors who have played Bond have ordered “shaken, not stirred” martinis (Connery, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig) and the other two (George Lazenby and Roger Moore) have had the drink ordered for them. The specificity of Bond’s drink order is meant to highlight what a classy and refined man-of-the-world he is. There’s just one problem: it doesn’t make sense!
You see, when Ian Fleming was first writing the Bond novels in the 1950s, vodka wasn’t that popular outside of Russia, and most martinis were made with gin. So, at the time, it was fairly unique and distinctive for Bond to order a vodka martini. But why the “shaken, not stirred” request? Well, prior to the 1960s, most vodka brands were refined from potatoes instead of grain, making them somewhat oily. So in Fleming’s 1953 novel Casino Royale, Bond orders a shaken martini because the shaking will help disperse the oil. He even tells the bartender that vodka made from grain rather than potatoes would improve his drink.
But the first Bond movie came out in 1962, and ever since then Bond has been insisting on “shaken, not stirred” martinis. Why? He’s drinking vodka refined from grain, not potatoes. Bond worrying about being served oily, potato-based vodka is an incredibly anachronistic concern that belongs in the fifties, not the present day. It would be like if the next Bond movie featured 007 fretting that Sputnik may be equipped with atomic bombs, or if it had him seducing a woman by complimenting her poodle skirt.
Maybe that’s why in 2006’s Casino Royale, after a despondent Bond has lost millions in poker and is asked by the bartender whether he wants his martini shaken or stirred, he gives the only appropriate answer someone can give to such a question: “Does it look like I give a damn?”
So, what do you think? Do you find these lines equally annoying? Are there any lines that I forgot to mention? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!Previous