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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What Makes A Movie Quote Memorable?

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What Makes A Movie Quote Memorable?

What Makes A Movie Quote Memorable?

What Makes A Movie Quote Memorable?

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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.

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")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DIRTY DANCING")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SUDDEN IMPACT")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "PRINCESS BRIDE")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CASABLANCA")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LOVE STORY")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "JERRY MAGUIRE")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CHINATOWN")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SUNSET BOULEVARD")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE GODFATHER")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "COOL HAND LUKE")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TITANIC")

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WIZARD OF OZ")

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

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")

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")

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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