My latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (which is redesigned, and like all redesigns I don't like it now but will probably get used to is) has a Q&A thing in it where they ask one of the reviewers various questions about movies. This week the question was what the EW writer thought the best movie quote ever was, and after reviewing a few of them, EW settled on "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," from Gone With the Wind. Now, I've never seen the movie and I thought the book was not all that great -- a little slow moving, and the fact that there was a guy named Ashley threw me off a bit -- so I can't agree with that.
To me, a great movie quote is not just one that sticks in your mind, like that one. It's not just one that's iconic ("Nobody puts Baby in a corner!") It's not just one that's catchy or used in other contexts ("Ask yourself: Do I feel lucky?") (Which is not the quote people remember!) It's one that sums up not just the plot twist in a movie, not just the movie itself, but an entire generation.
And there is only one quote that meets that definition. There is only one set of movies that was created by one generation and spanned two others. There is only one set of movies that revitalized an entire genre. There is only one set of movies that spawned so many characters that cannot be forgotten, that crossed boundaries into politics, that set a new standard for evil. And the fun, the thrill, the passion of those movies, the reason that people still watch them and will watch them in 20 years, critics be damned, is summed up in this one quote, the best movie line ever:
"I am your father."
It doesn't get any better than the embodiment of evil in the 21st century telling the embodiment of innocent heroism that they are related, that they are father and son. For a generation of kids who pretended to be Luke Skywalker, this was the ultimate betrayal. It was a twist, a cliffhanger, an earth-shattering revelation of the kind we always suspected our own parents would tell us and feared they might actually do-- worse that "you're adopted," it was "you're the son of evil!" It represented, and still does, what it feels like to grow up: You want to get out in that world, or another, and when you finally do, nothing is what you thought it was and your preconceptions are shattered.
I am your father!
That's the best quote ever, right there.