29 October 2022

And Don't Call Me Shirley


As I get older, I'm often reminded that my memory's not what it used to be. Example: One night last week, while my wife and I were watching the news, I asked her what I thought was a reasonable question about a guy who was being interviewed on the street. "Why in the world," I said, pointing, "would someone wear both a belt and suspenders?" It was of course more of an observation than a question, and right away it seemed somehow familiar to me. I spent the rest of the newscast trying to remember where I'd heard that expression before. 

Later that night I did some snooping around on YouTube and--sure enough--I found this clip, from Once Upon a Time in the West, which solved my belt-and-suspenders mystery. When I told my wife about it. she made an observation of her own. She said, not for the first time, "I think you watch too many movies."

Guilty as charged, there. I happen to love movies. And over the years I've picked up a lot of sayings that I first heard spoken in big-screen dialogue. Some of them are silly, some are wise, and most of them stay in my head for a long time afterward. Which led of course to this post.

Here's my question to you: How many film quotes do you recognize, from the following three lists?

NOTE: Given my sophisticated viewing preferences, you can expect to see more quotes here from movies like Jaws and Blazing Saddles than from movies like Schindler's List and Anna Karenina. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

List #1. 10 lines of dialogue that almost everyone knows.
 (I trust you to supply the movie names. If you've been lost on a jungle island for the past eighty years or so and your rescuers have a computer handy, I have provided video-clip links.)

1. Here's looking at you, kid.

2. I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse.

3. May the Force be with you.

4. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

5. You're gonna need a bigger boat.

6. Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

7. If you build it, he will come.

8. Bond. James Bond.

9. I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

10. Go ahead. Make my day.

List #2. 100 quotes you probably/possibly know, if you're a movie lover:

1. You can't fight in here--this is the War Room. -- Dr. Strangelove

2. Show me the money. -- Jerry Maguire 

3. I coulda been a contender. -- On the Waterfront

4. Play it, Sam. Play "As Time Goes By." -- Casablanca 

5. Surely you're not serious. / I am serious. And don't call me Shirley. -- Airplane!

6. I'm the king of the world! -- Titanic

7. Leave the gun, take the cannoli. -- The Godfather

8. Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. -- Forrest Gump

9. What we have here . . . is a failure to communicate. -- Cool Hand Luke

10. You can't handle the truth. -- A Few Good Men

11. That plane's dusting crops where there ain't no crops. -- North by Northwest

12. Today I saw a slave become more powerful than the Emporer of Rome. -- Gladiator

13. Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip. -- Raiders of the Lost Ark

14. You talking to me? -- Taxi Driver

15. Love means never having to say you're sorry. -- Love Story

16. Is it safe? -- Marathon Man

17. Put up your arms--and all your flippers. -- Men in Black

18. I'd like to report a truck driver who's been endangering my life. -- Duel

19. I wish we could chat longer, but I'm having an old friend for dinner. -- The Silence of the Lambs

20. Say hello to my leetle friend. -- Scarface

21. Open the pod bay doors, Hal. -- 2001: A Space Odyssey

22. The stuff that dreams are made of. -- The Maltese Falcon

23. Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. -- The Princess Bride

24. Travis! Bring your gun! -- Old Yeller

25. Who ya gonna call? -- Ghostbusters

26. Made it, Ma! Top of the world! -- White Heat

27. They call me Mister Tibbs. -- In the Heat of the Night

28. Seven years of college, down the drain. -- Animal House

29. I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore! -- Network

30. We got trouble, right here in River City. -- The Music Man

31. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. -- Rebecca

32. Who are those guys? -- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

33. Please welcome the very excellent barbarian . . . Mr. Genghis Khan! -- Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

34. I'm walking here! I'm walking here! -- Midnight Cowboy

35. After all . . . tomorrow is another day. -- Gone with the Wind

36. STELLA! -- A Streetcar Named Desire

37. I'll have what she's having. -- When Harry Met Sally

38. He can't go down with three barrels on him. Not with three, he can't. -- Jaws

39. I see dead people. -- The Sixth Sense

40. Plastics. -- The Graduate

41. I'm George, George McFly. I am your density. I mean . . . your destiny. -- Back to the Future

42. Houston, we have a problem. -- Apollo 13

43. I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man. -- True Grit

44. You had me at "hello." -- Jerry Maguire

45. I don't understand. All my life I've been waiting for someone, and when I find her . . . she's a fish. -- Splash 

46. Shaken, not stirred. -- Goldfinger (and many other Bond movies)

47. There's no crying in baseball. -- A League of Their Own

48. Snake Plissken? I heard you were dead. -- Escape from New York

49. And for a brief moment, Gordo Cooper became the finest pilot anyone had ever seen. -- The Right Stuff

50. It's alive! It's alive! -- Frankenstein

51. Rosebud. -- Citizen Kane

52. Remember me? I came in here yesterday and you wouldn't wait on me. Big mistake. -- Pretty Woman

53. He's fleeing the interview! -- Fargo 

54. What in the wide, wide world of sports is goin' on here? -- Blazing Saddles

55. Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. -- Wall Street

56. Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you? -- The Graduate

57. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. -- Casablanca

58. Heeeeere's Johnny! -- The Shining

59. It was beauty killed the beast. -- King Kong

60. Anybody hear that? It's an impact tremor, that's what it is. I'm fairly alarmed here. -- Jurassic Park

61. Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. -- It's a Wonderful Life

62. Tell 'em to go out there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. -- Knute Rockne: All-American

63. Put some Windex on it. -- My Big Fat Greek Wedding

64. And that was the end of Grogan--the man who killed my father, raped and murdered my sister, burned my ranch, shot my dog . . . and stole my Bible. -- Romancing the Stone

65. Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape. -- Planet of the Apes 

66. I saw it. It was a run-by fruiting. -- Mrs. Doubtfire

67. Be careful, out there among them English. -- Witness

68. ADRIAN! -- Rocky

69. I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too. -- The Wizard of Oz

70. Roads? Where we're going, you don't need roads. -- Back to the Future

71. Fat man, you shoot a great game of pool. -- The Hustler

72. I volunteer as tribute. -- The Hunger Games

73. Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. -- Casablanca

74. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. -- The Terminator

75. Have fun storming the castle. -- The Princess Bride

76. Roger O. Thornhill. What does the O stand for? / Nothing. -- North by Northwest

77. Michael, we're bigger than U. S. Steel. -- The Godfather, Part II

78. Give me ten men like Clouseau and I could destroy the world. -- A Shot in the Dark

79. To infinity and beyond! -- Toy Story

80. Docta Jones, Docta Jones! No more parachutes! -- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

81. This was no boat accident. -- Jaws

82. I don't have to show you any steenking badges. -- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

83. WILSON! -- Cast Away

84. When you said you chased tornadoes, I thought that was just a metaphor. -- Twister

85. A lie keeps growing and growing until it's as clear as the nose on your face. -- Pinocchio

86. I want Ness . . . dead. I want his family . . . dead. I want his house . . . burned to the ground. -- The Untouchables

87. Hasta la vista, baby. -- Terminator 2: Judgment Day

88. What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today. -- Groundhog Day

89. All I wanna do is go the distance. -- Rocky

90. That'll do, pig. That'll do. -- Babe

91. They're heeee-re. -- Poltergeist

92. I killed him for money and a woman--and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. -- Double Indemnity

93. We rob banks. -- Bonnie and Clyde

94. I'll be back. -- The Terminator

95. These aren't the droids you're looking for. -- Star Wars

96. There's only one rule: Once you go in . . . you don't come out. -- Escape from New York 

97. Sometimes nothin' can be a mighty cool hand. -- Cool Hand Luke

98. Round up the usual suspects. -- Casablanca

99. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again. -- Gone with the Wind

100. Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing. -- To Kill a Mockingbird

List #3. 50 quotes rarely recognized, but cool anyway (some of my favorites):

1. Goodnight, you princes of Maine, you knights of New England. -- The Cider House Rules

2. I've got the motive, which is money, and the body, which is dead. -- In the Heat of the Night

3. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. -- The Usual Suspects 

4. We at the FBI do not have a sense of humor that we're aware of. -- Men in Black

5. Any man don't wanna get killed, better clear on out the back. -- Unforgiven

6. That's a negative, Ghostrider, the pattern is full. -- Top Gun

7. All these things I can do, all these powers . . . and I couldn't even save him. -- Superman

8. The next time I see Blue Duck, I'll kill him for you. -- Lonesome Dove

9. A wed wose. How womantic. -- Blazing Saddles

10. You got ten seconds to run like hell. Then dynamite, not faith, will move that mountain into this pass. -- The Professionals 

11. In the end you wind up dying all alone on some dusty street. And for what? A tin star? -- High Noon

12. Ain't had no water since yesterday, Lord. Gettin' a little thirsty. Just thought I'd mention it. Amen. -- The Ballad of Cable Hogue

13. How will you die, Joan Wilder? Slow, like a snail? Or fast, like a shooting star? -- Romancing the Stone

14. Oh, my. I hope that wasn't a hostage. -- Die Hard

15. I'll take those Huggies and whatever you got in the register. -- Raising Arizona

16. He just saved your life, and Elizabeth's too. And he saved mine, and Arliss's. We can't just shoot him, like he was nothin'! -- Old Yeller

17. Stay on or get off? STAY ON OR GET OFF? -- Speed

18. I wish they wouldn't land those things here while we're playing golf. -- M*A*S*H

19. O Captain, my Captain. -- Dead Poets Society

20. Love means never having to say you're sorry. / That's the dumbest thing I ever heard. -- What's Up, Doc?

21. Come on, Hobbs, knock the cover off the ball. -- The Natural

22. We find the defendants incredibly guilty. -- The Producers

23. I'm always frank and earnest with women. In New York I'm Frank, in Chicago I'm Ernest -- The Long Kiss Goodnight

24. Moneypenny, what would I do without you? / My problem is, you never do anything with me. -- On Her Majesty's Secret Service

25. I see you've been missing a lot of work. / Well. I wouldn't say I've been missing it. -- Office Space

26. I'm thinking your head would make a real good toilet brush. -- Heaven's Prisoners

27. The horse is too small, the jockey's too big, the trainer's too old, and I'm too dumb to know the difference. -- Seabiscuit

28. I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals. -- Butch Cassidy

29. Go do that voodoo that you do so well. -- Blazing Saddles

30. All you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, and charge me for a chicken salad sandwich. / You want me to hold the chicken? / I want you to hold it between your knees. -- Five Easy Pieces

31. Where is your commanding officer? / Blowed up, SIR! -- Stripes

32. You are in need of a soothsayer. / How do you know? / I'd be a fine soothsayer if I didn't. -- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

33. This lighter has sixty-two different functions. Sixty-three if you wish to light a cigar. -- Our Man Flint

34. Funny thing is, on the outside I was an honest man. I had to come to prison to be a crook. -- The Shawshank Redemption

35. That's a Smith and Wesson--and you've had your six. -- Doctor No

36. Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes? -- Raiders of the Lost Ark

37. That was the end of my religion period. I ain't sung a hymn for 104 years. -- Little Big Man

38. Here are your names: Mr. Brown, Mr. White, Mr. Blond, Mr. Blue, Mr. Orange, and Mr. Pink. -- Reservoir Dogs

39. Don't open my pantry, Father. I found one of them in there and I locked him in. -- Signs

40. He's in a gunfight right now. He'll have to call you back. -- Under Siege  

41. You know, the one thing I can't figure out, are these girls real smart or real real lucky? -- Thelma and Louise

42. You can shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em . . . -- To Kill a Mockingbird

43. What happened to the old bank?--it was beautiful. / People kept robbing it. / Small price to pay for beauty. -- Butch Cassidy

44. If you build what, who will come? / He didn't say. -- Field of Dreams

45. Ain't gonna be no rematch. Don't want one. -- Rocky

46. He did it! He missed the barn! -- Cat Ballou  

47. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? / So help me, Me. -- Oh, God!

48. I once asked this literary agent, "What kind of writing paid the best?" He said, "Ransom notes." -- Get Shorty

49. You've got me? Who's got you? -- Superman 

50. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off. -- Alien

And this is me, signing off. If you have a favorite film quote, or even one from TV (I had to draw the line somewhere), please let me know in the comments section.

Next Saturday, I'll be here with something about, believe it or not, mystery writing. Meanwhile, keep watching those movies.


  1. John, if, wearing suspenders, they come loose, it can prove embarrassing. I speak from experience. Edward lodi

    1. How true, Edward. BTW, since I finished writing this column the other day, I actually saw an advertisement for suspenders whose straps are designed to *attach to a belt*. So now I *do* have an answer to "why wear both?" Before that, it always seemed strange to me.

      But I still like the movie clip.

  2. Cajun chef Justin Wilson often said he wore both a belt and suspenders because of his background as a safety engineer. "Always have a backup."

    1. Ha! Can't argue with that. (Or anything Justin Wilson said. I was crazy about that guy. I gar-awn-tee!)

  3. Mike -- I'm glad you're no longer Anonymous.

  4. Fun post, John, and I'm surprised how many of these I knew. I guess that shows my age, doesn't it?
    You left off one of my favorites, though, also from The Unforgiven: "That sonofabitch had it coming/ We've ALL got it coming, Kid." Eastwood's dead flat monotone on the response is perfect.

    1. Hey Steve. Yep, you and I are about the same age, and it sounds as if--God help you--you've probably seen about as many movies as I have.

      Surprisingly, Unforgiven has a LOT of great lines of dialogue, and some of them timeless. In one scene Eastwood said something like "A hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he's got and all he's ever going to have." That's hard to forget. And in another scene a dying Gene Hackman says, as if he can't quite believe he's been shot: "I was building a house." (Hey, doesn't matter--if you're the villain, nothing's guaranteed.)

      I'm always, always impressed by the brilliance of some screenwriters,

  5. Love these! I'm surprised at how many I recognized (almost all) but I haven't seen most of the movies, just a few clips in many cases. --Susan Oleksiw

    1. I love 'em too, Susan--hearing/seeing lines of dialogue like that bring back fond memories. Actually I HAVE seen all these movies, most of them several times. I keep telling myself it helps my writing, though the jury's probably still out on that. I do know that great dialogue in any kind of fiction is always inspiring to a writer--or should be.

      Thanks as always.

  6. Actually the line, "I'm walking here" from Midnight Coboy was an ad lib. The car in question was not supposed to be there. Thanks for this. Some great lines.

    1. Hey Herschel! Yep, I'd heard that, about the Midnight Cowboy quote. I think it was mentioned in one of those Actor's Studio interviews, when James Lipton hosted Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman and Voight were crossing the street as planned and the car drove up out of nowhere. (I love that kind of inside info.)

  7. Can't resist, John. "Nobody puts Baby in the corner."

    1. Ha! Yep, I actually had it in there and later took it out. Great movie, for sure! Still hard to believe that's the same girl who was in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The magic of movies . . .

  8. Great post - and I have seen wayyyyyy too many of these movies. Oh, well, at least I stay off Tik-Tok!

    1. Me too, Eve! There are worse habits we could have.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  9. As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. (Thought I'd throw in a TV reference.) Always love your dialogue-quote posts, John.

    1. Hey Barb. I thought you were going to say As God is my witness, my turkeys will never be hungry again. Yes, I probably needed some TV references--but the lists were too long already.

      This dialogue stuff is *always* fun, I think.

    2. Oh, that's good, John! I heard a story about the "WKRP" line---originally it was something like "I swear I thought turkeys could fly," but actor Gordon jump was a very devout Christian and felt that Arthur Carlson would be too and would only invoke the name of God if it was something he seriously believed. So, Jump changed the line to "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!" And it's in a GIF now!

  10. Great lists, John. I'm guessing you use a stream of consciousness approach. Otherwise you risk getting bogged down in highly quotable movies. Take "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," which teems with lines like:
    1. Bueller...Bueller...Bueller...
    2. It's over. Go home.
    3. Pardon my French. But you're an ass----!
    4. They think he's a righteous dude.
    5. So that's how it is in their family.
    6. Do you know where he is? Do you know when he'll be back? Do you know anything?

    Interestingly, all of the above lines are delivered by different characters. (Maybe that's a good sign for a comedy: everyone gets to deliver funny lines. But I digress.)

    If I ever generate a list like yours, my thinking is to avoid comedies. But even an absolute non-comedy can have the same problem, although maybe to a lesser degree. Consider the 1963 "The Haunting." Best I can do is narrow it to two lines, which effectively bookend the movie:
    1. Hill House had stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more.
    2. And we who walk here, walk alone.

    Hmmm, now the wife and I need to find a haunted house movie (correction, a GOOD haunted house movie) for Halloween-season viewing.

    1. Clarification: The Haunting is a great film. So is The Changeling and The Uninvited. The Legend of Hell House is fun. We're seeking something we have NOT seen. Any suggestions? Maybe "The Night House"?

    2. Dan, there were SO many quotable lines in Ferris. I think about that movie anytime an instructor asks the class a question, then looks at them and says, "Anyone? Anyone?"

      The movies with the highest number of recognizable quotes (at least that I recall) are Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, Butch Cassidy, Star Wars, and the Wizard of Oz. But that's just me.

      As for haunted-house movies, my favorites are probably The Others, The Shining, Poltergeist, the original Paranormal Activity, and Psycho.

      Thanks for your thoughts! Have a happy Halloween!

  11. Ending the day with a big grin on my face. I'm GLAD you watch way too many movies, John. We all benefit. :)

    1. Ha! Liz, you're a sweetheart. Glad I made you grin. Have a great week!

  12. I'll paraphrase three I've actually used (never mind the bizarre sets of circumstances.) "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking." -----Airplane, of course. "Holy Mackerel, I'm married!"----It's a Wonderful Life (said the day after my courthouse wedding, a very busy work day!) "Well, here's another nice mess you've got me into..." ---Laurel and Hardy's various movies. And, of course: "Trust me, I know what I'm doing!" ------the immortal Sledge Hammer. Wonderful column, as always, John!

    1. Good old Lloyd Bridges, in Airplane. (Another one of his: "Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.") There were a lot of good quotes in that movie. One of the best: Beaver Cleaver's mom saying "I speak jive." And I used only one quote from It's a Wonderful Life, but--as you demonstrated--there are many. So many of these lines are so common folks sometimes don't realize they CAME from movies.

      Thanks, Jeff. As always.

  13. Get. Off. My. Plane. (Air Force One, Harrison Ford)

    1. I watched that one again not long ago, Sandy. He can play a president, too, it seems.

      Good to see you here. Thanks!

  14. Thanks for a wonderful trip. Only a few I didn't remember, only because I never saw the movie. We seem to have similar taste, even though I'm WAY older than you (i.e. I saw them in the theater first release, ack). One you missed that I use often, though not out loud: "I...have had...enough...of you!". Star Trek 3. I still remember the blaze of triumph to see the hero act human instead of some screenwriter's idea of what was noble and right.

    1. Eugenia, I too saw many of these in the theater first, though I love watching them again whenever they're on TV or streamed via Netflix or Amazon Prime. And believe it or not, I've seen only the first two Star Trek feature films (loved the Wrath of Khan).

      I also enjoy watching YouTube clips of favorite film scenes (as though I haven't seen them enough already). Thank God for Apple Airpods, so my wife doesn't have to listen to all this revisiting of old movies.

      Thanks so much for stopping in at SleuthSayers!

  15. I recognized most of those quotes, and have seen almost all of the movies. Which suggests I should have been writing instead of sitting in the theater so much.


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