CHARLOTTE, N.C. In 1939, Clark Gable, playing Rhett Butler in “Gone with the Wind,” was filmed delivering what is arguably the one of the greatest movie lines in film history. You know what it is: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” No one involved with that film imagined that Rhett’s then-eyebrow raising observation would become legendary in the annals of film. Yet today it’s regarded as one of Hollywood’s greatest movie lines of all time.
However, that immortal line almost didn’t happen. To play it safe back in the days when Hollywood scripts and dialogs were vetted by an official film censor, “Gone with the Wind’s” director Victor Fleming shot the scene between Butler and Scarlett O’Hara (Vivian Leigh) a second time. In that “safety take,” Rhett said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t care,” in the event the censors of the day objected to the use of the word “damn.”
Thankfully “damn” was approved, although producer David O. Selznick was required to pay a $5,000 penalty for using it.
In tribute to those famous words and that now familiar phrase, it seems appropriate to list some other famous movie lines that managed to work their way into the lexicon of American pop culture and language.
The American Film Institute (AFI) has come up with its own list of the top 100 most recognized movie lines, and it’s a good one. As with any list, however, this AFI selection of Hollywood’s greatest movie lines is subjective and up for debate. But that’s part of the fun. Most people have their own favorites and will certainly remember some lines that AFI’s experts have omitted in their list.
As for us, we’re posting 40 of the first 50 lines from AFI’s top 100 compendium of Hollywood’s greatest movie lines directly below. Our list consists of AFI’s movie line choices 11 through 50 on that Top 100 list. As a test of your movie buff skills, try to name the movie in which each of these lines appeared. If that gets too easy, the see if you can name the character who delivered it.
- What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.
- I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
- Love means never having to say you’re sorry.
- E.T. phone home.
- They call me Mister Tibbs!
- I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.
- Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
- Bond. James Bond.
- There’s no place like home.
- Show me the money!
- I’m walking here! I’m walking here!
- Play it, Sam. Play “As Time Goes By.”
- You can’t handle the truth!
- I want to be alone.
- After all, tomorrow is another day!
- Round up the usual suspects.
- I’ll have what she’s having.
- You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.
- If you build it, he will come.
- My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.
- We rob banks.
- We’ll always have Paris.
- Stella! Hey, Stella!
- It’s alive! It’s alive!
- Houston, we have a problem.
- You’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?
- You had me at “hello.”
- There’s no crying in baseball!
- As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.
- Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?
- Elementary, my dear Watson.
- Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape.
- Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
- Here’s Johnny!
- Hasta la vista, baby.
- Yo, Adrian!
- Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.
- Tell ’em to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper.
- A martini. Shaken, not stirred.
- My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you.
To check yourself against the AFI experts, write down your answers (or guesses). Then, go to the AFI Top 100 Movie Quotes link by clicking here. See how you measure up by comparing your answers Against AFI items 11 through 50.
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to highlight contenders without adding the actual Top Ten most famous lines according to AFI. So here they are counting down backwards from 10 to 2 on the AFI list:
- “You talkin’ to me?” (“Taxi Driver,” 1975)
- “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” (“All About Eve,” 1950)
- “May the Force be with you.” (“Star Wars,” 1977)
- “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” (S”unset Blvd.,” 1950)
- “Go ahead, make my day.” (“Sudden Impact,” 1983)
- “Here’s looking at you, kid.” (“Casablanca,” 1942)
- “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” (“Wizard of Oz,” 1939)
- “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” (“On the Waterfront,” 1954)
- “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (“The Godfather,” 1972)
As already mentioned above, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” gets top billing in the AFI Top 100 list. Who could argue that this top pick is indeed one of the greatest movie lines of all time, if not the greatest of them all?
More fun facts about Hollywood’s greatest movie lines
In case you’re wondering, the year 1942 claims the most classic lines. That’s thanks largely to “Casablanca” which takes the trophy as the most quoted film with six.
Interestingly enough, David O. Selznick bought the rights to “Gone with the Wind” in 1937, but as of May the following year, with money running low, he still had not found his Scarlett O’Hara. Selznick ultimately sold worldwide distribution rights to the movie to MGM for $1.5 million and the studio agreed to lend Clark Gable to Selznick to play Rhett Butler.
When shooting began in December of 1938, Scarlett O’Hara and Ashley Wilkes remained the missing links in the cast. Both Vivian Leigh and Leslie Howard signed contracts in January 1939 and principal filming ended six months later in June of that year.
As for Rhett Butler’s notorious four-letter expletive, well, if “Gone with the Wind” were filmed today, the first letter of that word would either be “S” or “F” and there would be no $5,000 fine. The American English language, you see, has “Gone with the Wind” as well.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.