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Archive for Monday, February 16, 2009

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Reel genius: KSU study explores why we love movie quotes

February 16, 2009

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Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the unlikely buddy movie “The Shawshank Redemption”: “I understand you’re a man who knows how to get things.”

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the unlikely buddy movie “The Shawshank Redemption”: “I understand you’re a man who knows how to get things.”

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” asks the important questions: “If you had access to a car like this, would you take it back right away?”

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” asks the important questions: “If you had access to a car like this, would you take it back right away?”

Get busy living, or get busy dying. Surely you’ve heard that line before. You know, from “Shawshank Redemption”? (Or Shawshank, as those of us who’ve seen the movie at least a dozen times usually call it.)

You mean you haven’t seen it? Wow.

Turns out that nearly 100 percent of Americans quote a movie in conversation. That’s according to a survey by a Kansas State University professor out last year.

And he says people get really, really disappointed when they quote a movie only to be greeted with blank stares.

“When someone hasn’t seen the movie, that solidarity is broken,” psychology professor Richard Harris says. “It’s kind of a way to cement in-group membership.”

And that makes sense to Daniel Smalley, a Kansas University student from Overland Park.

“The worst is when you might quote a dirty line from a movie, and you just get a blank stare,” he says. “They just think you’re a total pervert.”

Harris found, in his study, that people were genuinely surprised when someone didn’t understand a movie quote.

“People quote movies to people they think had seen the movie,” he says. “I think there definitely is (a community-building aspect).”

Harris, who himself likes to use the quote “I know I’m not real, but I could learn to be,” says he was surprised at just how pervasive the desire to quote from movies is.

“I had no idea it was such an important behavior,” he says.

His favorite quote, incidentally, is from an old Woody Allen movie, “The Purple Rose of Cairo.”

Smalley, the KU student, agrees that movie quotes can serve to build a sense of community, but he says they can also work to change the direction or tone of a conversation.

“If you’re having a serious conversation and you quote something from ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ you can lighten the mood,” he says.

Of course, who knows if you even made it this far.

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

AFI's Top-10 Film Quotes

The American Film Institute’s top-10 movie quotes of all time:

1. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

— Clark Gable, as Rhett Butler, in “Gone with the Wind”

2. “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

— Marlon Brandon, as Vito Corleone, in “The Godfather”

3. “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.”

— Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, in “On the Waterfront”

4. “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

— Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, in “The Wizard of Oz”

5. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

— Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, in “Casablanca”

6. “Go ahead, make my day.”

— Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan, in “Sudden Impact”

7. “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

— Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, in “Sunset Boulevard”

8. “May the Force be with you.”

— Harrison Ford as Han Solo, in “Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”

9. “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

— Bette Davis as Margo Channing, in “All About Eve”

10. “You talkin’ to me?”

— Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, in “Taxi Driver”

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 1 month ago

"Careful, I've got a beverage here!!"

Big Lebowski.

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geekin_topekan 5 years, 1 month ago

"Ya gonna pull them pistols or whistle Dixie?"

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Harpo 5 years, 1 month ago

I nominate, from Dr. Strangelove: President Merkin Muffley......

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room."

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Omegatron 5 years, 1 month ago

Outside of "You talkin' to me?" which I heard when I was a kid right before I knocked the punk out, and "May the Force be with you." which is standard at sci-fi and comic cons along with "Live long and prosper."

I've never heard anyone use any of these before.

In fact, the only movie quotes I hear in conversation are usually by some loser trying to pick up a chick at the bar...

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