They call it a Royale with Cheese: Movie quotes keep conversations real |

They call it a Royale with Cheese: Movie quotes keep conversations real

William Ferchland

It’s a combination of art, skill and memory. Delivery doesn’t have to be perfect but it helps. Entire conversations can be based on one bit of dialogue.

News of the American Film Institute releasing the top 100 all-time movie quotes sparked conversation in South Lake Tahoe about the use, philosophy and favorites from cinema.

Sylvan Sullwold’s preferential line comes from “Heat,” a 1995 movie staring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Sullwold, 25, who works at Video Library and drives a cab, favors the quote since it relates to his taxi job.

“I have to reserve my angst,” he said without imitating Pacino. “It keeps me on the edge where I have to be.”

While the quote wasn’t verbatim, the relevancy to Sullwold’s life as a cab driver was still there.

“It’s the psychology of handling somebody inebriated,” he said.

Nick Green, an employee at Round Hill Video, doesn’t use many movie quotes at the store since he is usually by himself. He said he pulls them out when working at Starbucks or at home with his brother. The two siblings can quote most of the scenes in “Ocean’s 11,” he said.

Most of those interviewed agreed men cite movies more than women.

Alisha Johnston likes the line from another Pacino movie, “Scarface,” when his character demands that intruders greets his “little friend,” a huge cannon of a gun. Still, Johnston says she hardly includes it in her conversational repertoire.

“I’m not as cool as Al Pacino,” she said. “He’s the only one worthy enough.”

Besides humor and personal credos, movie quotes also act as conversational fillers, said David Hamilton, an instructor at Lake Tahoe Community College who teaches theater and speech.

“Part of what a good movie quote does is it’s the perfect way to say something at a time when you wouldn’t be able to think of something original yourself,” he said.

Quotes become popular either because of the movie or the actors who first speak them, Hamilton said. Quotable characters include Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator,” Joe Pesci in “Goodfellas” and Clint Eastwood in the “Dirty Harry” series.

Some movies can have an entire litany of usable quotes spoken by a variety of characters. Those that come to mind are “The Big Lebowski,” “Top Gun,” “Boogie Nights” and “Dazed and Confused.”

Being involved in theater, Hamilton’s favorite quote involves three words from “Shakespeare in Love.” When one character is asked how a theater production comes off without error, Geoffrey Rush simply replies, “It’s a mystery.”

Often famous lines are used by other media or by the actors themselves. Schwarzenegger has used a version of his famous “I’ll be back” line in the political arena when promoting California in a trip to Japan. A photo in newspapers captured a Japanese billboard featuring Schwarzenegger behind a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge. Beside him were the words: “Visit California. You’ll be back.”

“I think (movie quotes) make it easier for people to relate to each other,” Sullwold said.

But those who memorize cinematic quotes also acknowledge they can’t rely on them as a crutch in social situations. Yet it’s fun to imagine world leaders exchanging lines from “Dumb and Dumber” to form a bond.

– E-mail William Ferchland at

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