Administrative Executive Editor
“Show me the money,” exclaimed Cuba Gooding Jr. in the 1996 film, “Jerry McGuire,” a quote that will live on in cinema infamy as it’s repeated countless times. People quote movies and television shows every day, but what makes a quote so catchy and memorable that it stands the test of time and live on in the references of innumerable fans?
According to a study done by Cornell computer researchers, “memorable lines use familiar sentence structure but incorporate distinctive words or phrases, and they make general statements that could apply elsewhere.”
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A study that explains what makes quotes so memorable? “Inconceivable,” as Wallace Shawn from the 1987 film “The Princess Bride” might say, but it’s true.
According to the article “Computer Scientists Show What Makes Movie Lines Memorable” from Science Daily “graduate student Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil said ‘Using movie scripts allowed us to study just the language, without other factors. We needed a way of asking a question just about the language, and the movies make a very nice dataset.’”
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means,” Mandy Patinkin would reply.
The Keene State College campus is no different with the multitude of references spoken across it. “My dad and I quote ‘Mr. Deeds’ all the time,” KSC junior Emily Reed said.
Movie quotes slip into everyday conversations, typically to make a joke, and most of the time the reference doesn’t have anything to do with the original quote. This comes back to the “general statements” the Cornell study mentioned that allow the quote to be taken out of context.
“Is there no one else? Is there no one else?” Is a popular line delivered by Brad Pitt from the movie “Troy” (2004). The line signifies a very emotionally intense scene of the movie, but often get manipulated to denote a mundane accomplishment or if anyone else has a question after a lecture.
But what is the most quotable movie?
“A lot of people quote ‘Mean Girls,” Reed said. The 2004 cult hit, “Mean Girls,” has become on the most often, and easily recognized movie to quote.
“It’s like the most quoted movie of our generation,” KSC junior David Draper said. He continued, “It’s just so well known to everyone, and everyone knows when you’re quoting it.”
“I still hear a lot of Borat,” KSC sophomore Dylan Vandermark said.
Many familiar quotes come from recent movies that may be topical at the time, but die off as the movie moves further from everyone’s thoughts. However, truly memorable quotes seem to find a way to stick with people and endure. Quotes like “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” as uttered by Clark Gable in “Gone with the Wind” (1939) or “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” stated Humphrey Bogart, in “Casablanca” (1942), still pop up all over the place. Both are classic films, but even beyond that, people who have never seen the films but know the quotes reference them. This only works because the lines are so universally understood.
To understand what makes dialogue memorable, it would make sense to analyze the words.
“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” as mystically spoken by Alec Guinness’ character Obi-Wan Kenobi in the 1977 film “Star Wars,” is one of the most quoted lines from the film.
According to the study, “Each quote was paired with another from the movie’s script, spoken by the same character in the same scene and about the same length, to eliminate every factor except the language itself. Obi-Wan Kenobi, for example, also said, ‘You don’t need to see his identification,’ but you don’t hear that a lot.
A possible reason for is because the first line in more general and uses more distinctive language, like the word droid, which isn’t commonly used word outside the “Star Wars” universe. The study claims, “A line will be less general if it contains third-person pronouns and definite articles [which refer to people, objects or events in the scene] and uses past tense [usually referring to something that happened previously in the story].“
Memorable dialogue is about more than just the words however; it’s in the delivery as well.
Later analysis of the study found, “Memorable quotes use more sounds made in the front of the mouth, words with more syllables and fewer coordinating conjunctions.”
Ryan Glavey can be contacted at
Graphic by: Chelsea Nickerson / Graphics Editor