What Is the Greatest Movie Quote of All Time?

Toto from the Wizard of Oz wears 3-D glasses.
Graham Roumieu

A. O. Scott, New York Times film critic and author, Better Living Through Criticism

I grew up watching The Wizard of Oz on a black-and-white television set, so it wasn’t until my 20th viewing or so that I discovered that it was in color—the Oz portions, anyway. Which is why the line that Dorothy utters when she steps out into that enchanted world defines, for me, the inexhaustible magic of movies: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Tracy Clayton, host, Strong Black Legends podcast

Nas’s character in the movie Belly is trying to get his girlfriend, played by T-Boz of TLC, to go to Africa with him. Her response is stunning in its simplicity: “Africa is far.” Indeed, young T-Boz! Africa is far (from New York City, the movie’s setting). Black folks in America are emotionally and spiritually removed from Africa. So what looks like just a simple and obvious response is actually deep and thought-provoking.

Jenny Han, author, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

“As if!,” from Clueless. Short and to the point. It gave girls a language for dealing with unwanted attention from creepy guys, in a way that was clear and bold but also funny.

Reader Responses

Michael E. Zuller, Great Neck, N.Y.

Humphrey Bogart’s toast to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca: “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Fraught with bittersweet regret, a groundswell of longing, and, just maybe, a glint of hope.

Alan Ruttenberg, Englewood, N.J.

“Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here! This is the war room!,” from Dr. Strangelove. It’s both absurd and deadly serious. And the sardonic use of the word Gentlemen is priceless.

Illustration of Jaws
Graham Roumieu

Dan Fredricks, Janesville, Wis.

In Jaws, Police Chief Brody’s humorous one-liner to Quint after his experience with the great white: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Tom Quigley, Garden City, N.Y.

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and … it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” Rocky Balboa

Rocky lies on the floor.
Graham Roumieu

Daniela Zini, Oviedo, Fla.

“But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!” Michael Stuhlbarg’s heartbreaking speech as Elio’s father in Call Me by Your Name feels like cool rain on scorched earth. He tells his son that he accepts him as he is, that his heartbreak will pass—and that he shouldn’t regret his first love. The speech reminds us that heartbreak is a product of our ability to feel, and should not be taken for granted.

Kevin Morales, Edinburg, Texas

In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne says to Red: “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Frank Tokarsky, Kettering, Ohio

A special honor should go to the Godfather movies for their body of memorable quotes: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”; “Leave the gun. Take the cannolis”; Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes”; “Never hate your enemies—it affects your judgment.”

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