Since the Academy Awards debuted in 1929, the Best Picture category has been widely considered the most prestigious honor at the ceremony. As of 2021, there have been 571 films nominated, and 93 winners, ranging from historical epics such as 1959’s Ben-Hur to 2019’s South Korean black comedy Parasite. Some Best Picture winners have stood the test of time better than others, but many are still considered true classics — timeless movies such as On the Waterfront, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Godfather.
Over the decades, these movies have provided many famous quotes. Among the Best Picture nominees, who can forget such classic lines as “E. T. phone home,” ”Show me the money!” and “You're gonna need a bigger boat.” Here are 10 of the most memorable lines from Best Picture winners from the 1930s to today — some of which rank among the most quotable movie lines of all time.
War isn't the way it looks back here.
— "All Quiet on the Western Front"
Released in 1930, this epic antiwar movie is a harrowing account of warfare in World War I. It was the first Best Picture winner based on a novel (written in 1929 by Erich Maria Remarque), and the movie remains a classic.
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
— "Gone With the Wind"
Rhett Butler’s (Clark Gable’s) last words to Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) rank among the most famous in movie history. At the 1939 Academy Awards, Gone With the Wind set a record for Academy Award wins and nominations, with 10 wins including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress.
Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now… Here's looking at you kid.
The number of quotable lines from this 1942 romantic drama is off the charts, with many still frequently repeated today. The World War II-set love story between Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is hokey at times, but it has plenty of heart.
You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been someone, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it…
— "On the Waterfront"
Marlon Brando’s mesmerizing performance as former prize fighter Terry Malloy is often considered the greatest piece of character acting of all time. The movie won eight Academy Awards in 1954, including Best Actor for Brando.
They call me Mister Tibbs!
— "In the Heat of the Night"
When Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a Black police detective from Philadelphia, becomes involved in a murder investigation in a small town in Mississippi, he doesn’t receive the warmest welcome. But his relationship with Chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) develops throughout the movie. The quote above remains one of the most classic lines from 1960s cinema.
I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.
— "The Godfather"
Marlon Brando again, this time as Don Vito Corleone — with one of the most famous lines in movie history. Corleone knows how powerful he and his family have become, and this line from the 1972 crime classic sums that up nicely.
I'm an excellent driver.
— "Rain Man"
The autistic savant Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) often repeats himself throughout the movie. When he first meets Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) — before Charlie knows that Ray is his brother — Raymond recognizes the 1949 Buick Roadster and eagerly states, “I'm an excellent driver,” a line he repeats four or five times later on in the 1988 film.
Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.
— "Schindler's List"
In one of the 1993 movie’s final and most heartrending scenes, Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) presents Schindler (Liam Neeson) with an engraved gold ring, explaining that it bears the line above — a quotation from the Talmud, the book of Jewish law. Oskar Schindler saved around 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.
My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
When Maximus (Russell Crowe) removes his helmet in the arena and turns to deliver the above lines to Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), it’s a truly stirring moment. Crowe was perfect for the role, and deservedly won Best Actor in 2000.
Let me tell you something, man. There are Black people everywhere. Remember that, OK? No place you can go in the world ain’t got no Black people. We was the first on this planet.
In the movie’s first chapter, Juan (Mahershala Ali) delivers this speech to Little (Alex Hibbert), both to instill some pride in Little for his racial heritage and to let him know that he doesn’t have to feel so alone. In 2017, "Moonlight" became the first LGBTQ+ film and the first film with an all-Black cast to win Best Picture.
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