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‘Mad as Hell': The AFI’s Top 100 Film Quotes

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Last night, the American Film Institute unveiled the top 100 quotes from American films. As one might expect from such a subjective undertaking, the list is underwhelming.

The top 10 is about what you might expect, with quotes from Gone With the Wind, Casablanca (one of six quotes to make the top 100), The Godfather and The Wizard of Oz all making the cut.

The list covers most of the obvious bases, including two wooden Arnold Schwarzenegger lines known as much for inducing groans as anything else (why not have “It’s not a tumor”?). But, as with any such list, there are glaring omissions.

For example, there’s nothing from Mel Brooks or the Marx Brothers (Correction: only one Marx Bros. quote, which is still pretty pathetic). John Hughes didn’t make the list (not even Ben Stein’s deadpan “Bueller”), nor did anything from It’s a Wonderful Life. Joe Pesci’s “You think I’m funny?” monologue from Goodfellas is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps most shocking is the total omission of two of the most quoted movies of my generation, This Is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride.

The AFI list gives short shrift to comedy in general, choosing, for example, only one relatively unfunny line from Annie Hall out of Woddy Allen’s entire oeuvre. One notable exception is the wise inclusion of a Caddyshack quote at number 92.

There are also issues of placement. For example, the Silence of the Lambs quote about fava beans and chianti—a quote that I would contend does not belong on the list at all—comes in at number 21, one notch above “Bond. James Bond.” For shame.

Sometimes it is difficult to figure out why the Institute chose one quote over another from a given film. They have “May the Force be with you” from Star Wars instead of the arguably more memorable “Luke, I am your father.” It seems as though the members of the AFI can’t make up their minds whether they’re doing the top 100 quotes or the top 100 films.

Another baffling choice is “Open the pod bay doors, HAL,” from 2001: A Space Odyssey, rather than the much more memorable “What are you doing, Dave?”

There are two choices that never should have even been considered for the list. At number 38, the AFI chose “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” from The Pride of the Yankees and they placed “Houston, we have a problem” from Apollo 13 at number 50. These quotes are memorable not because they were in a movie, but because they happened in real life. If someone made a bio-pic of Abraham Lincoln, would they put “Fourscore and seven years ago…” on the list?

All of this raises a basic question: Why even make the list at all? It’s far more subjective than ranking the top 100 films, and that process was fraught with controversy as well. And because it’s so subjective, the list really has no value as anything other than a marketing tool. If people start talking about their favorite movie quotes, maybe they’ll go out and pick up a DVD or two and help out the flagging movie industry in the process.

Seems like a scam, but don’t quote me on that.

(parenthetical remarks)

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About parenthetical

  • Kent in Kentucky

    I can’t believe they did not include “But ya are, Blanche, ya ARE in that chair”. You can’t walk into a gay bar and not hear those words.

  • Hugh Brown

    “For example, there’s nothing from Mel Brooks or the Marx Brothers.”

    Huh? What about this Marx Brothers quote?

    53. “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know,” “Animal Crackers,” 1930.

  • http://www.docofdiets.com dietdoc

    Pete, you are absolutely correct; very subjective. I mean, are we going for dramatic impact? Acting delivery? Frequency it has been repeated in pop culture? Exactly what were the criteria used?

    Alas, the inevitable question is: who cares? Make your own list and enjoy the memory of hearing those lines for the first time. Those are always the best lists, anyway.

    Cheers,

    Ron

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    not even Ben Stein’s deadpan “Bueller”

    What I find strange about this is that they used this line in their opening montage. And, yes, it most definitely should have been included – who doesn’t hear this at least once a week?

  • Sunny

    Quote: All of this raises a basic question: Why even make the list at all? It’s far more subjective than ranking the top 100 films, and that process was fraught with controversy as well.

    It’s all for entertainment; for fun. There no way someone should be mad as hell about a silly list. I enjoyed the list and hope to catch the special when it airs.

  • Alex

    It is shameful that Robert De Niro’s quote from Taxi Driver: “Are you talking to me…” is only at #10.

    It should be #1 no doubt, or #2 after Brendo’s: “make him an offer he can’t refuse”. Not #10.

    But in any case, the list is not subjective and the criterias are unknown.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Hugh: I messed up. Note the correction in the text. Thanks.

    Sunny: See, the title is a bit of a joke since it’s part of one of the quotes that made the list (number 19 from Network). I’m not actually mad. Don’t you think I’m funny? Not funny, how? Not like a clown, not funny? (Sorry, Joe)

  • Sunny

    Yeah, I got ya. I still thought you were upset with the choices though. My bad.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Well, flummoxed, maybe. A little ticked. Upset would be going too far.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Yes! I sat through the entire three hours waiting for two quotes: the aforementioned “But ya are, Blanche, ya are in the chair,” and, from The Women, “There’s a word for you ladies, but it’s seldom used in high society, outside of kennels.” Instead, there were a few great lines and a bunch of catchphrases.

    Undewhelming, to be sure.

  • http://childoftv.blogspot.com/ Brent McKee

    These things are so subjective that it’s not even laughable. Silent movie fans usually get ticked off at these AFI lists (but not this one of course) because the collective memory rarely extends to the period before 1950 or at best 1939. So “kennels” isn’t on the list and neither is Ma Joad’s “we’re the people” line from the end of “Grapes of Wrath” but “Hasta la vista…baby is.”

  • The Theory

    No Monty Python & The Holy Grail? No Tarantino?

    interesting… interesting.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    The Monty Python is fine since this list only covers US movies. The Tarantino is a different story.

    And what about “Yippie kay-yay mother f**ker!” from Die Hard? That should be in there, too.

  • The Theory

    >>only covers US movies<<

    oops. missed that somehow along the line…

  • Offramp

    I would have had:
    “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” (Cagney in White Heat).

    “First you get the money…” (etc – Scarface).

  • Offramp

    By the way, isn’t 2001: A Space Odyssey a British film?

  • Duane

    Nah, it was made in outer space. Didn’t you see it?

  • Shark

    What’s really pathetic is that the AFI didn’t include writer’s credits, ie. screenwriter’s name or original author… Like those great lines just fell out of an actor’s ass.

    Feh.

    Once again, the WRITER gets fucked and marginalized by Hollywood.

    PS: I’ll be back later with Shark’s Alternative List of Great Lines.

  • Shark

    ‘”Jesus, Tommy, they took his hair!” — Miller’s Crossing, Ethan & Joel Coen

    “Callin’ it your job don’t make it right.” — Cool Hand Luke, Don Pearce/Frank Pierson

    “It’s pronounced Eye-gor.”
    “But they told me it was Igor…”
    “WELL THEY WERE WRONG, THEN, WEREN’T THEY!?” — Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks/Gene Wilder

    “…so he’s going to have an enormous schwanstucker…?”
    Igor: “…he’s gonna be very popular.” — Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks/Gene Wilder

    “Everyone has the right to make an ass of themselves. You can’t let the world judge you too much.” — Harold & Maude, Colin Higgins

    “My father used to say a person shouldn’t think about dying. They should think about living.” — Pollyanna, David Swift/Eleanor H. Porter

    “Shall I calculate and scheme, live in fear, make visits instead of rhymes, meet all the right people, seek introductions and favors?
    No, thank you.
    No I thank you . . .
    And again, I thank you!” — Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand

    Chris Adams: “Places you’re tied down to, none. People with a hold on you, none. Men you step aside for, none.”
    Lee: “Insults swallowed, none. Enemies, none.”
    Chris: “No enemies?”
    Lee: “Alive.” — Magnificent Seven, William Roberts

    “Graveyards are full of boys who are very young and very proud.” — Magnificent Seven, William Roberts