19 Most Misquoted Movie Lines Of All Time
You can thank Hollywood for the world's lamest game of telephone.
If you’re a fan of the movie Jaws—and who isn’t?—you’ve probably found a reason to use the movie’s most classic line at least once in casual conversation: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ve probably been misquoting that line your entire life. You’re close, but that’s not exactly what Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) says to his crew-mate Quint (Robert Shaw). What he actually tells him is, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Saying it that way just sounds wrong, doesn’t it? “We’re going to need a bigger boat” just rolls off the tongue more easily. But no, you can check the footage yourself: it’s “you’re,” not “we’re.” So how did it get stuck in our memories the wrong way for so many years?
Well, it’s far from the only movie quote that we’ve all misremembered. Here are 19 famous lines from some of the most classic movies in cinema history that we’ve all been misquoting without even realizing it.
“Greed is good.”
Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) delivered what’s probably the most notorious lines about ethically-challenged investors in Oliver Stone’s 1987 cinematic tour de force Wall Street. Only problem is, he never said it.
What Gekko told the crowd of would-be investors was this: “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.” You’re never going to catch somebody saying it that precise way. “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
“Play it again, Sam.”
It might be the most repeated line in film history, and nobody actually said it. In our collective cultural memories, it was Humphrey Bogart who said “play it again, Sam” in the 1942 noir classic Casablanca. But it was Ingrid Bergman who actually said something closer, when she asked the piano player, “Play it once, Sam, for old time’s sake. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’”
Later in the film, Bogart tells Sam, “You played it for her, you can play it for me. If she can stand it, I can. Play it!” Not exactly “play it again, Sam,” but it’s close… kinda. And, fun fact: did you know the film wasn’t originally named Casablanca?
“Do you feel lucky, punk?”
It’s such a fun line to say. Whenever you want to sound threatening, in a Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry kinda way, this is the quote to turn to. Ah, if only it was accurate. Yeah, that’s not exactly what Clint said when he confronted some bad guys with a .44 Magnum. What he really said was. “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” You have to admit, even though it involves a few more words, that’s a much cooler quote.
“You dirty rat!”
It’s the most infamous three words that James Cagney ever said on film. Well, allegedly. It’s difficult to pinpoint where and when he might’ve said something vaguely similar. In the 1931 movie Blonde Crazy, he did say this: “Oh, that dirty, double-crossin’ rat. I’d like to get my own hooks on him. I’d tear him to pieces.” Which is at least close, right? And then in the 1932 movie Taxi!, he called somebody a “dirty, yellow-bellied rat,” which is, again, at least in the vicinity of “you dirty rat,” but not exactly.
It’s one of the most ubiquitous lines in movie history: the creepy way Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) greets Clarice (Jody Foster) in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. If you’ve ever done a Hannibal impression to try and freak somebody out, you’ve likely said the famous quote wrong. What Dr. Lecter actually says is, “Good evening, Clarice.”
“A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
There are at least two movies where John Wayne is credited with saying this line, 1939’s Stagecoach and 1953’s Hondo. But as it turns out, he didn’t say it in either.
In Stagecoach, the Duke came close with the line: “Well, there’s some things a man just can’t run away from.” It’s kind of the same thing, but not really. In Hondo, Wayne declared that “A man ought’a do what he thinks is best,” which is at least in the ballpark. But are the things a man has to do also what he thinks are best? A debate for the ages.
“Luke, I am your father.”
It’s one of the most famous lines in the entire Star Wars franchise, and we all get it wrong. Darth Vader never said this exact quote in The Empire Strikes Back. He was correcting Luke, who had other ideas about who his daddy was. “No,” Darth told him, “I am your father.” Leave out the “no” and you lose the whole switcheroo aspect of Darth’s revelation.
“I’m out of order? You’re out of order! This whole court’s out of order!”
When defense lawyer Arthur Kirkland (Al Pacino) loses his cool in the 1979 courtroom drama …And Justice For All, he scolds the judge with this legendary takedown. Or maybe not. Our memories got some of the words right, but less than you might think. What Pacino actually screams at Jack Warden is, “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They’re out of order!”
When Dr. Frankenstein brought his creature to life in the 1931 horror masterpiece, Frankenstein, we all just assume he started yelling, “He’s alive! He’s alive!” Well, sorry, but we’re all wrong. What the good doctor actually shouted in celebration was, “It’s alive!” Which makes sense; the monster is not technically a person. It’s a bunch of different body parts that the doctor sewed together.
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like… victory.”
Sometimes lines get misquoted just for the sake of brevity. Take this classic from Francis Ford Coppola‘s 1979 epic Apocalypse Now. Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) said something about napalm smelling like victory, but it was nowhere near as concise as we all remember. His full quote was a bit more rambling. “You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that.” He went on to talk about bombing a hill for twelve hours, and their enemies being wiped out. “The smell, you know, that gasoline smell,” he continued. “The whole hill. Smells like… victory.”
“Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?”
The most famous line by Dustin Hoffman in 1967’s The Graduate is one that people get, well, mostly right. He actually says, “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?” The way movie fans have reimagined the line actually changes the meaning slightly. The misquote is a direct question, but what Hoffman actually says has more uncertainty. He thinks his girlfriend’s mom is trying to seduce him, but he’s not sure. “Aren’t you?” he asks, doubting his own version of events.
“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.”
Even if you’ve seen the 1939 classic Wizard of Oz every year, you probably still think this was the line uttered by Dorothy (Judy Garland) when she realized she was far, far away from home, It’s really not. What she said was, “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” It’s not about what Dorothy “thinks.” It’s all about her feelings.
“Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
This is a curious misinterpretation. Why have we collectively taken Bette Davis‘ most famous quote from All About Eve (“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night”) and made it sound like she’s a sadistic greeter at a Disney theme park ride? It’s bumpy “night,” people, unless you remember some rollercoasters in the movie that we’ve forgotten.
“We have ways of making you talk.”
Even if you’ve never seen the 1935 Gary Cooper movie The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, you probably know this line, which is best said with a sinister German accent. Well, it might be worth actually watching the movie, because that line doesn’t exist. What’s really said—and in perfectly clear English, without the accent—is “Well, gentlemen? We have ways to make men talk.”
“Run, you fools!”
It’s one of our favorite scenes in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. When Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) is about to be pulled into the abyss by a monstrous Balrog, he shouts to the hobbits… well, not what you think. In our memories, he tells them to run, but the line is really “Fly, you fools.” It’s such a pervasive error, there are Reddit threads devoted to debating the line.
“If you build it, they will come.”
We still get misty-eyed every time we watch Kevin Costner’s love letter to baseball, Field of Dreams. But as much as we think we know the story inside and out, we still get this timeless line wrong. The voice that Costner’s character hears in the crop field isn’t promising an abundance of people. The line is actually, “If you build it, he will come.” The “he” in question is Shoeless Joe Jackson and, well, we don’t want to spoil the movie for you.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?”
Every kid who grew up watching the Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs knew the creepy questions asked by the wicked Queen, Snow White’s evil stepmother. Or at least we thought we did. The real line is, “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” Why have we all collectively decided to drop the adjective that explains the mirror’s powers? Who knows?
“Me Tarzan, you Jane”
Even Johnny Weissmuller, the star of the 1932 classic Tarzan, the Ape Man, was confused about what he said. He once admitted in an interview, “I didn’t have to act in Tarzan, I just said: ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane.’” Except, sorry, he never said that.
His character had a lengthy exchange with Jane as she attempted to explain their names. There was a lot of finger pointing back and forth as she tried to make him understand. His closest version of the line is, “Jane. Tarzan. Jane. Tarzan. Jane. Tarzan. Jane…” But maybe that’s not as catchy as “Me Tarzan, you Jane.”
“Beam me up, Scotty”
We hate to ruin your childhoods, but Captain Kirk (William Shatner) never once said, “Beam me up, Scotty.” Not in the TV show that ran between 1966 and 1969, and certainly not in any of the movies beginning with the first one in 1979.
What he actually said was, “Scotty, beam us up.” Because Kirk was a team player, he’s not going to leave his friends behind. That’s just selfish! He said variations on that line during the TV run, everything from “Ready to beam up, Jim” to “Gentlemen, I suggest you beam me aboard.” But never “Beam me up, Scotty.” And for more great cinematic quips, check out The 30 Funniest Movie Lines of All Time.
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