Ten film quotes we all get wrong
You might already know that Casablanca’s Sam was never asked to play it again. But what are the other most common mistakes when quoting from classic films?
By Theo Merz
8:36AM GMT 14 Jan 2014
Correcting someone on a misremembered line from a film is the behaviour of a true pub bore. As they didn’t say in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: when the misquote becomes the line, use the misquote.
Still, in a bid to protect you from the pedants, Telegraph Men selects the top film phrases we all get wrong…
The misquote: Play it again, Sam
The quote: Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’
Fact: more people have now said “Did you know they never actually say ‘Play it again, Sam?’” than have said “Play it again, Sam”. This is the misquoter’s misquote, its place in cinema history cemented when compulsive reference dropper Woody Allen used it as the title of his 1972 film.
2. Dirty Harry
The misquote: Do you feel lucky, punk?
The quote: Being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?
It’s easy to see how this one became truncated – the misquote gets across Clint Eastwood’s sentiment perfectly while taking a fifth of the time of the original.
3. The Silence of the Lambs
The misquote: Hello, Clarice…
The quote: Good evening, Clarice…
Unfortunately nobody seems to be called Clarice nowadays so this one is hard to roll out in a social setting. The important thing is that you say it while wearing a muzzle.
4. The Empire Strikes Back
The misquote: Luke, I am your father
The quote: No, I am your father
Out by a single word, this one topped LoveFilm’s list of memorable misquotes. Luke’s reaction to the revelation – an extended, screamed “No!” – is also eminently quotable and has provided the basis for many youtube re-edits.
5. Field of Dreams
The misquote: If you build it, they will come
The quote: If you build it, he will come
Kevin Costner’s character walks around in his crop field, repeatedly hearing the words “If you build it, he will come”. He is amazed that his wife, sitting on the porch, can’t hear them too – and it appears a generation of filmgoers wasn’t paying much attention either.
6. The Graduate
The misquote: Mrs Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?
The quote: Mrs Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?
This is one of the few misquotes that gets the tone of the original wrong as well as the words. With the misremembered line, Dustin Hoffman’s character appears much surer of himself, but in the original there’s a moment when he genuinely doesn’t know whether the older woman is trying to seduce him or not.
7. The Wizard of Oz
The misquote: I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto
The quote: Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore
…we must be over the rainbow! And while we’re there, there are better lines from the 1939 film to quote. What about: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with”? Or just “There’s no place like home”.
8. All About Eve
The misquote: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride
The quote: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night
Unless you can match Bette Davis’s effortless disdain it’s best not to try this one in either version.
9. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The misquote: Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
The quote: Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?
The ‘mirror, mirror’ line is now so standard that it provided the title to the 2012 updating of the Snow White tale.
10. Wall Street
The misquote: Greed is good
The quote: The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.
This misquote became a shorthand for the perceived attitude of City traders in the ’80s, and the sentiment was recently revived in a speech by Boris Johnson when he claimed that “greed [is] a valuable spur to economic activity”.
Forgetting the exact wording is going to be the least of your worries if you find yourself quoting it to the wrong crowd.