Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: Intro and Index

One of the projects which I have wanted to tackle for a very long time now is a “Better than AFI’s 100 Quotes.” Unfortunately, I am one person, and simply trying to compile that many potential quotes at this point would require the lifespan of a Galapagos tortoise and not a dude with a day job. I’ve compromised. I’ve held myself to the quotes of 2000-2023, which meant that I only had to start from like, 1,400 potential quotes instead of way more than that.

The AFI Quotes list aired on TV in 2005, which was absolutely the perfect time to release such a list. Their qualifications were pretty straightforward. They kept it to lines more than monologues (the longest of them is the one from On Golden Pond), largely eliminated back-and-forths (except for “And don’t call me ‘Shirley'”), and excluded song lyrics. I’ve done the same. Otherwise, it’s basically what you’d expect. Is it famous? Does it make people think of the movie? It’s why there are six quotes from Casablanca in their top 100, and even more specifically in their top 67. The film’s words are our words, its meanings our meanings. Like the AFI, I’m happy to include multiple quotes from a single film, though in my analysis no film squeezed in more than two quotes. Screenwriters can’t all be fortunate enough to get their lingo from Everybody Comes to Rick’s.

There are plenty of lists which I think the AFI could really stand to fool around with, like a third edition of their Top 100 movies or an addendum to their Stars list to honor movie stars who became prominent in the back half of the 20th Century. I don’t know where they’d even start with this set of criteria in 2023 for a quotes list, because “cultural impact” now means “memes,” and thus my belief that 2005 was a perfect year to put a quotes list out in the world.

Some of the lines I’ve chosen have been memed, and some of the lines I’ve chosen have been aggressively memed, but it’s because of memes that I’ve tried to expand this criteria well past “is it popular?” The test cases here are the Star Wars prequels. I didn’t include anything from Revenge of the Sith: no “Hello there!” or “It’s over, Anakin! I have the high ground!” It’s not that it wasn’t tempting. My favorite knock-knock joke of all time goes:

1: Knock knock.
2: Who’s there?
1: Ewan.
2: Ewan who?

I mean, it’s well-known. It’s popular enough that it has even escaped r/PrequelMemes. I have never delivered that particular punchline with anything resembling a straight face. It’s also just not one of the best movie quotes since 2000.

Aside from popularity, which has guaranteed a number of lines from blockbusters and major award winners, I also made judgments based on:

  • How good or well-written the line was. As always, craft matters, though this is far from a catalogue of the most poetic or elegant expressions of the past twenty-some years.
  • The line reading itself. How it sounds matters a great deal to me. If it looks good on the page or on the IMDb quotes section but doesn’t actually sound good in the movie, then what use is it?
  • Effect on the individual film. If push came to shove, I gave a lift to lines that I thought really punctuated a good movie.

This will also act as the home page for links out. Instead of writing about these quotes in a lump, I’ve decided to do something I haven’t done for a project in many years. Each quote will get its own very short post; I’m shooting for about 400 words or so for each one, just to get a flavor of the quote, the movie, the actor, the writer, the story, or whatever else speaks to me at the moment.

  1. “Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
  2. “I am! A revolutionary!”
  3. “Play ‘Jaja Ding Dong!'”
  4. “Look at me. I’m the captain now.”
  5. “And I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it! But I’m so lonely!”
  6. “I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.”
  7. “You think you’d be happy with a nice Midwestern girl? No way, baby, I’m it.”
  8. “What’s a bad miracle? They got a word for that?”
  9. “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings obliteration.”
  10. “Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh, my God. It even has a watermark.”
  11. “Boo, you whore!”
  12. “You wanna hear a story about how me and this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long, but full of suspense.”
  13. “That’s all.”
  14. “Goddammit, this is a dark fucking period!”
  15. “Now, my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!”
  16. “If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song.”
  17. “I’ve never tasted that taste in my life. Not entirely pleasant, extremely poisonous, but still, a new flavor. That’s a rare thing in my age.”
  18. “Ape alone weak. Apes together strong.”
  19. “My name is Harvey Milk, and I’m here to recruit you.”
  20. “The price for your glory is their suffering!”
  21. “Thank God. I die a true American.”
  22. “If you want to dance the masque, you must service the composer.”
  23. “The same thing that’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me.”
  24. “You’re waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away.”
  25. “Some people can’t imagine being stolen from.”
  26. “I should’ve killed you back in Philly.”
  27. “I spoke in the car about the hole at the center of this doughnut. And yes, what you and Harlan did that fateful night seems at first glance to fill that hole perfectly. A doughnut hole in the doughnut’s hole. But we must look a little closer. And when we do, we see that the doughnut hole has a hole in its center. It is not a doughnut hole at all but a smaller doughnut with its own hole, and our doughnut is not whole at all!”
  28. “Why the fuck would you show me something if I couldn’t have it then?”
  29. “Where’s the horizon?”
  30. “At first I did not know it was your diary. I thought it was a very sad handwritten book.”
  31. “I’m always home. I’m uncool.”
  32. “There! I have you! You’re completely dished! Do you not know that in the service, you must choose the lesser of two weevils?”
  33. “Well, Wildcat was written in a kind of obsolete vernacular. Wildcat. Wildcat. K’pow.”
  34. “Tell them I love my wife.”
  35. “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
  36. “Fuck off, teenagers!”
  37. “I volunteer! I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!”
  38. “Poetry in translations is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.”
  39. “Your mom goes to college.”
  40. “I apologize for my appearance. But I have had a difficult time these past several years.”
  41. “I am inevitable.”
  42. “Luke, we are what they grow beyond.”
  43. “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
  44. “What, did he tell you about the goy’s teeth.”
  45. “Every man we’ve killed has been replaced by worse!”
  46. “I am McLovin.”
  47. “Close your eyes. Starting now, you are not to blink. If you blink we go back to the start.”
  48. “First time?”
  49. “Where’s my super suit?”
  50. “But why is the rum gone?”
  51. “Wakanda forever!”
  52. “Very nice, how much?”
  53. “I’m not leaving. I’m not fucking leaving!”
  54. “I’m so embarrassed. I’m not a real person yet.”
  55. “Would that it were so simple.”
  56. “Birds.”
  57. “Hark! Hark, Triton! Hark!”
  58. “‘Don’t put metal in the science oven, Rosalyn.'”
  59. “I am Groot.”
  60. “If they wanted a decent funeral, they should have got themselves killed in summer.”
  61. “How dare you!”

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