As a filmmaker, I believe that film is first and foremost a visual medium but that doesn't negate dialogue as an important element in the architecture of a film. It can help provide a window into a character's inner most thoughts and motivations, and at best, help define a character. For me the most exciting piece of dialogue can stand alone. You can share it with someone and they immediately get it. No set up needed. I believe the best dialogue is the kind that makes you say to yourself, "I wish I'd said that." And can be a lesson for life and a philosophical take on our very existence. Of the thousands of films and television episodes I've seen, here's the ones that made an impact on me.
"Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions."
— Tyler Durden, portrayed by Brad Pitt, in FIGHT CLUB
"Lie to no one. If they're somebody close to you, you're gonna ruin it with a lie. And if they're a stranger, who the fuck are they that ya gotta lie to."
— Okla, portrayed by Willie Nelson, in THIEF
"I have spent my whole life scared. Frightened of things that could happen; might happen; might not happen. Fifty years I spent like that. Finding myself awake at three in the morning. But you know what? Ever since my diagnosis I sleep just fine. And I came to realize, it's that fear that's the worst of it. That's the real enemy. So. Get up. Get out in the real world and you kick that bastard as hard as you can, right in the teeth."
— Walter White, portrayed by Bryan Cranston, on BREAKING BAD
"All due respect, you got no fucking idea what it's like to be number one. Every decision you make affects every facet of every fucking thing. It's too much to deal with almost. And in the end you're completely alone with it."
— Johnny Sack, portrayed by Vincent Curatola, on THE SOPRANOS
"Pain and damage don't end the world. Or despair or fucking beatings. The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man – and give some back."
— Al Swearengen, portrayed by Ian McShane, on DEADWOOD
"The artists job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of our existence."
— Gertrude Stein, portrayed by Kathy Bates, in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
"I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying."
— Andy Dufresne, portrayed by Tim Robbins in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
"I don't get strokes, I give 'em."
— Coach Montezuma Monroe, portrayed by Jim Brown, in ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
"You will only live as long as the last person who remembers you."
— Akecheta, portrayed by Zahn McClarnon on WESTWORLD (2016)
"Weird, huh? Yeah, weird."
— Terry Cowens and Vance Cowens, portrayed by Randall Batinkoff and Dyan Haggerty, in ALONG FOR THE RIDE
"Sometimes you miss the bullseye."
— Raylan Givens, portrayed by Timothy Olyphant, in JUSTIFIED
"No one gives it to you, you gotta take it."
— Frank Costello, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, in THE DEPARTED
"Confidence is a seductive concept, if you've never had any and are starting to get some."
— Stanley, portrayed by Richard Neil, in THE SECOND ROOM
"Art never dies, art is an expression, and we have to stop expressing to kill an art form."
— Jay Johnson, in I'M NO DUMMY
"My God. I haven't been fucked like that since grade school."
— Marla Singer portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter, in FIGHT CLUB
"I always tell the truth, even when I lie."
— Tony Montana, portrayed by Al Pacino, in SCARFACE
"I don't want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me."
— Frank Costello, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, in THE DEPARTED
"I used to be somebody, but now I'm somebody else. Who I'll be tomorrow is anybodies guess."
— Bad Blake, portrayed by Jeff Bridges, in CRAZY HEART
"Visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else's dream?"
— Orson Welles, portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio, in ED WOOD
"I'm not crazy. I'm colorful."
— Percy Garris, portrayed by Strother Martin, in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
"The Japanese have a saying, 'a man is whatever room he is in...'"
— Bert Cooper, portrayed by Robert Morse, on MAD MEN
"I'd damn sent rather be hung by my friends, than by a bunch of damn strangers."
— Jake Spoon, portrayed by Robert Urich, on LONESOME DOVE
"I can't believe how much money I've spent fucking up my life."
— Brenda Chenowirth, portrayed by Rachel Griffiths, on SIX FEET UNDER
"The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool."
— Lester Bangs, portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, in ALMOST FAMOUS
"Who's the more foolish, the fool, or the fool who follows him?"
— Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi, portrayed by Alec Guinness, in STAR WARS
"I want to see that guy. I have some unfinished business with him. I need him like the axe needs the turkey."
— Jean, portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck in THE LADY EVE
"Everybody needs somebody, but you can do better than him."
— Frankie Machine, portrayed by Frank Sinatra, in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM
"Why do you hate me so much? All I ever did to you, was like you."
— Annette, portrayed by Donna Pescow, in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
"Yesterday's gone, we can't get it back."
— Augustus "Gus" McCrae, portrayed by Robert Duvall, on LONESOME DOVE
"You believe what you like, the way I see it, this is my last chance to make something of myself before I head to the wrong side of the grass"
— Shelby Parlow, portrayed by Jim Beaver, on JUSTIFIED
"That's a lot of woman there. Beautiful, classy, and guts. Hard enough to kill ya and soft enough to change ya."
— Dolworth, portrayed by Burt Lancaster, in THE PROFESSIONALS
"We're flawed because we want so much more. We're ruined because we get these things, then wish for what we had."
— Don Draper, portrayed by Jon Hamm on MAD MEN
"What you got ain't nothing new. This country's hard on people. Can't stop what's coming. Ain't no waiting on you. That's vanity.
— Ellis, portrayed by Barry Corbin, in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
"You always making big, big plans for tomorrow, you wanna know why? 'Cause you always fuckin' up today."
— Bobbie, portrayed by Billie Neal, in DOWN BY LAW
"I ain't one for looking back. Eyes ahead."
— Freddy Hayes, portrayed by Reg E. Cathey on HOUSE OF CARDS
"One way or another, we all work for our vice."
— Doc Riedenschneider, portrayed by Sam Jaffe in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE
"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."
— Clemenza, portrayed by Richard S. Castellano in THE GODFATHER
"I swear, you two are the most fucked up people I've ever known; and I specialize in fucked up."
— Tanner Bolt, portrayed by Tyler Perry in GONE GIRL
"When I was a kid I had a pet rattlesnake, I was fond of it, but I wouldn't turn my back on it."
— Cole Harden, portrayed by Gary Cooper in THE WESTERNER
"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering."
— Yoda, voiced by Frank Oz in STAR WARS: Episode 1 THE PHANTOM MENACE
"As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe... keep breathing"
— Hugh Glass, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in THE REVENANT
"You're not too smart, are you? I like that in a man."
— Matty Walker, portrayed by Kathleen Turner in BODY HEAT.
"I've known good criminals and bad cops, bad priests, honorable thieves, you can be on one side of the law or the other. But if you make a deal with somebody you keep your word."
— Mike Erhmantraut, portrayed by Jonathan Banks on BETTER CALL SAUL
"Why don't you wise up Ruth. It's their world and we're just living in it."
— Johnny Ingram, portrayed by Harry Belafonte in ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW
"I've met a lot of hard boiled eggs in my time, but you, you're 20 minutes."
— Lorraine Minosa, portrayed by Jan Sterling in ACE IN THE HOLE
"I once asked this literary agent what kind of writing paid the best. He said, 'Ransom notes.'
— Harry Zimm, portrayed by Gene Hackman in GET SHORTY
"Take your paws off me, or I'll make you use that gun."
— Samuel Spade portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in THE MALTESE FALCON
"Favor kill you faster than a bullit."
— Carlito Brigante portrayed by Al Pacino in CARLITO'S WAY
"You can't play God without being acquainted with the Devil."
— Dr. Robert Ford portrayed by Anthony Hopkins on WESTWORLD (2016)
"Problem is most people don't believe something can happen until it already has. It's not stupidity or weakness, it's just human nature."
— Jurgen Warmbrunn portrayed by Ludi Boeken in WORLD WAR Z
"I was winning. Now the games over, it's finished and I lost. No matter how far ahead you think you are you never win. It's not in the cards. Never has been, never will be. There's always some outside force, some unexpected thing that has you beaten before you ever really start."
— Al Wacker portrayed by John Dehner on THE RIFLEMAN
"Personally, I don't like a girlfriend to have a husband. If she'll fool a husband, I figure she'll fool me."
— Michael O'Hara portrayed by Orson Welles in THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI
"It's a dog eat dog world, and I'm wearing Milkbone underwear."
— Norm Petersen portrayed by George Wendt on CHEERS
"A relationship, I think, is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we're got on our hands is a dead shark."
— Alvy Singer portrayed by Woody Allen in ANNIE HALL
"I walked this earth my whole life with my pride, you see. Now if that's lost, the rest of you is lost with it, 'cause there's certain things my vanity won't abide."
— Augustus "Gus" McCrae portrayed by Robert Duvall on LONESOME DOVE
"You hit the ground running, and you don't look back."
— Feech La Manna portrayed by Frank Loggia on THE SOPRANOS
"I never fucked anybody over in my life didn't have it coming to them, got that? All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don't break 'em for no one."
— Tony Montana, portrayed by Al Pacino, in SCARFACE
"It's a lesson I learned a long time ago. A man worth shootin' is a man worth killin'."
— Bob Larkin, portrayed by Henry Fonda in FIRECREEK
"It's a bitter little world full of sad surprises."
— Evelyn Hahn, portrayed by Joan Bennett in HOLLOW TRIUMPH
"Hardly anything is evil, but most things are hungry. Hungry looks very much like evil from the wrong end of the cutlery. Or do you think your bacon sandwich loves you back?"
— Dr. Who, portrayed by Peter Capaldi on DOCTOR WHO
"Look, motherfuckers spend their whole life not knowing who they really are. But in chaos, baby, that's when the lights come on."
— Ralph Carnegie, portrayed by Erik Griffin on I'M DYING UP HERE
"Sun don't shine on the same dogs' ass every day, but Mister, you ain't seen a ray of light since you got here."
— Opal Fleener, portrayed by Fern Persons in HOOSIERS
"The only thing wrong with the seven deadly sins is that there aren't more of them."
— Maeve Mallay, portrayed by Thandie Newton on WESTWORLD (2016)
"The future keeps telling us what the past was about. You make the past mean different things by the way you use the time that comes after."
— Arthur Fancy, portrayed by James McDaniel on NYPD BLUE
"I make a very reluctant victim."
— Paladin, portrayed by Richard Boone on HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL
"Most human beings only think they want freedom. In truth, they yearn for the bondage of social order, rigid laws, materialism."
— John Teller, portrayed by Nicholas Guest on SONS OF ANARCHY
"I've shot people I liked more for less."
— Raylan Givens, portrayed by Timothy Olyphant, on JUSTIFIED
"It's easier for two guys to keep a secret when one of them is a corpse."
— Michaela Freda, portrayed by Samantha Soule on CITY ON A HILL
"We all have bloody thoughts."
— General Cook, portrayed by Peter Coyote on DEADWOOD
"You're marking time is what you are. You're backing off, you're hiding out. You're waiting for a bus you hope never comes because you don't want to get on it anyway, because you don't want to go anywhere, alright."
— Frank, portrayed by James Caan in THIEF
"'I will show you fear in a handful of dust. T. S. Eliot.' We don't actually fear death. We fear that no one will notice our absence. That we will disappear without a trace."
— Dr. Adit Gadh, portrayed by Shishir Kurup on BONES.
"It's like watching a dog chase a car. He'll never catch it, and even if he did, he couldn't drive it."
— Charlie Harper, portrayed by Charlie Sheen on TWO AND A HALF MEN
"An Apache scout told me once, when you love somebody you trade souls with them. They get a piece of yours and you get a piece of theirs. But when your love dies a little piece of you dies with them, that's why it hurts so bad."
— Shea Brennan, portrayed by Sam Elliott on 1883
"The concept of coincidence is erroneous. It's possible to define a formulation of patterned interaction between all things within the universe."
— Dr. Leon Watters, portrayed by Richard Schiff, on BONES
Got a favorite piece of dialogue that changed the way you looked at the world? Feel free to share it with us via Email at: bryanwsimon.com.