In 2005, the American Film Institute (AFI) released a list of the top 100 greatest movie quotes of all-time.
The rundown, which was turned into a three-hour special that aired on CBS, was compiled by 1,500 filmmakers, historians, and critics.
We decided to honor their list by re-creating it here, and we created a brand new complimentary list of our own called 50 of the greatest song lyrics of all-time.
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In 2005, the American Film Institute (AFI) released a list of the top 100 greatest movie quotes of all-time. The rundown, which was turned into a three-hour special that aired on CBS, was compiled by 1,500 filmmakers, historians, and critics.
We decided to honor their list and re-create it here, along with a brand new list of our own, 50 of the greatest song lyrics of all-time.
You may or you may not agree with all of them, but it's fun to read nonetheless.
AFI chose “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn,” from 1939’s Gone with the Wind, as the top movie quote of all-time.
The year Gone with the Wind hit theaters is the most represented year on their list. There are 19 quotes from movies released in 1939.
Casablanca leads all pictures with seven quotes. Wizard of Oz comes in second with six.
Humphrey Bogart uttered a tenth of the quotes. You probably assumed that with Casablanca’s being the most quoted flick.
Woody Allen, Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, the Marx Brothers, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and James Stewart all uttered five or more quotes.
The list’s oldest film was The Jazz Singer. Hollywood’s first full-length “talkie” was released in 1927.
The list’s only notable drawback is its age; it’s not friendly to Millennials. The rundown has only one film from the 21st century.
Otherwise, AFI did a respectable job of putting together a list. It’s comprehensive and includes Hollywood’s most notable lines.
At the same time, they left plenty of room for argument. Ultimately, a list is judged by the quality of debate it sparks. AFI’s list is a great debate-starter.
It helps if you review their quotes with as much objectivity as you can afford. For example, the list contains quotes like “There's no crying in baseball,” “Houston, we have a problem,” and “You had me at ‘hello.’”
While those quotes are the artistic equivalent of fast food, they are undeniably part of our popular culture. Even causal movie fans know those lines and the movies from which they sprung.
While those quips are vapid, they are far more recognizable then the witty, “An African or European swallow?” or the quintessential meme fodder, “Khaaannnn!” Neither of those lines made the list.
AFI’s focus on cultural impact and longevity inspired us to create a similar list for popular music.
We culled the liner notes of our favorite LPs, and reviewed lyric sites, to create a catalog of the 50 greatest song quotes of all-time.
Almost certainly, we left your favorite lyric off our list. And by favorite, we mean that line you turned into a life motto, DIY t-shirt, or back tattoo.
For that we apologize. Nonetheless, we think you’ll agree that the 50 lyrics we selected, like AFI’s 100 movie quotes, have become staples of popular culture and some of rock’s most endearing sentiments.
The Beatles lead all artists with six quotes. Their decade, the 1960s, is responsible for 17 entries.
The 21st century did better on our list of song quotes then it did on AFI’s list of movie passages. Don’t take that as us disparaging the music of the 21st century. It’s just that that music hasn’t had enough time to be considered enduring.
We listed artists that made the song, and by extension the lyric, popular. Therefore, some of the songs we quoted are covers, but it’s their version of the song that has become definitive.
Lastly, the year represents when the song was released, not when it was written.
What song lyric came in first? “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye” from Steam’s 1969 single "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”
Since 1977, when it was used at a Chicago White Sox game to salute an opposing pitcher being removed from the game, Steam’s brain worm has become a utilitarian taunt. For example, in 2017 Democratic lawmakers used it to tease their Republican counterparts over a failed legal battle.
“Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye” may not be the most sagacious thing to ever come out of a rock singer’s mouth, but it’s now the go-to-chant for a group of winners to ridicule a group of losers.
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