What Makes A Movie Quote Memorable?

Researchers at Cornell University have analyzed thousands of movie quotes to figure out why some are more memorable than others. Melissa Block and Audie Cornish have more.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. And, hey, Melissa, you talking to me? You talking to me? You can't handle the truth. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

BLOCK: Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night.

CORNISH: In the annals of cinema, there are movie lines we forget and there are movie lines that are so unforgettable, they can kick around the culture for generations.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY")

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: (as The Terminator) Hasta la vista, baby.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DIRTY DANCING")

PATRICK SWAYZE: (as Johnny Castle) Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SUDDEN IMPACT")

CLINT EASTWOOD: (as Harry Callahan) Go ahead, make my day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "PRINCESS BRIDE")

MANDY PATINKIN: (as Inigo Montoya) Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CASABLANCA")

HUMPHREY BOGART: (as Rick Blaine) Here's looking at you, kid.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LOVE STORY")

ALI MCGRAW: (as Jennifer Cavalleri) Love means never having to say you're sorry.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "JERRY MAGUIRE")

RENEE ZELLWEGER: (as Dorothy Boyd) You had me at hello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CHINATOWN")

JOE MANTELL, ACTOR: (as Lawrence Walsh) Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SUNSET BOULEVARD")

GLORIA SWANSON: (as Norman Desmond) All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE GODFATHER")

MARLON BRANDO: (as Don Corleone) I'm going to make them an offer they can't refuse.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "COOL HAND LUKE")

STROTHER MARTIN: (as Captain) What we've got here is failure to communicate.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TITANIC")

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (as Jack Dawson) I'm the king of the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WIZARD OF OZ")

JUDY GARLAND: (as Dorothy) Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WHEN HARRY MET SALLY")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: I'll have what she's having.

BLOCK: Now, researchers at Cornell University have created a computer program to understand what makes a memorable movie quote memorable. The system sorted through thousands of quotes that have been flagged by users on IMDb, the Internet Movie Database.

CORNISH: It then compared them to other lines in the same movie, spoken by the same character. The difference, they found, comes down to a few factors.

BLOCK: The memorable lines use a combination of the present tense...

CORNISH: General syntax...

BLOCK: ...and indefinite articles. Jon Kleinberg is a computer science professor at Cornell and one of the study's co-authors.

JON KLEINBERG: One example is in "Jaws," when they say...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "JAWS")

ROY SCHEIDER: (as Chief Martin Brody) You're going to need a bigger boat.

KLEINBERG: ...you could ask what would have happened if that line had been, you're going to need the bigger boat. You might well have asked yourself, which bigger boat? Was there some boat we were talking about? You're going to need a bigger boat, you could argue, makes it more freestanding and, therefore, more portable.

CORNISH: Struggling screenwriters take comfort. Kleinberg says the algorithm won't be used to produce box office hits. Think of it more as advice, he says, for writing movies, ads, even political slogans, but the computer system is not without its flaws.

BLOCK: When presented with two movie quotes, one considered more memorable than the other, the computer could only identify the popular one about 65 percent of the time. Humans, on the other hand, answered correctly at a rate of 75 percent, to which we say...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SOME LIKE IT HOT")

JOE E. BROWN: (as Osgood Fielding, III) Well, nobody's perfect.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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