| Greatest Movie Mis-Quotes: Some of the most classic film lines or scenes are really
only legendary and/or apocryphal, or they are merely movie
misquotes , but after many years of repetition and being misquoted in subsequent films, they have become part
of the filmgoing public's consciousness. Many of these examples are film
quotes that were either commonly attributed wrongly, or in fact were never
The top 10 most misquoted film lines are marked with an icon
Here are some prime examples:
- In The
Virginian (1929), one of the earliest Western talkies,
Gary Cooper's taunting line to bad guy Trampas (Walter Huston)
was not: "Smile
when you call me that!",
or "When ya call me that, smile!", but "If
you wanna call me that, smile." In the heated exchange
at the bar of a saloon, Trampas first challenged the Virginian:
"When I wanna know anything from you, I'll tell ya, you long-legged
son of a ...", to which the Virginian replied with his gun quick-drawn
against Trampas' abdomen: "If you wanna call me that, smile." After
a long pause, Trampas replied with a grin: "With a gun against
my belly I... I always smile."
[Owen Wister's book used the phrase: "When ya call me that, smile!"]
Play 1929 clip:
- In the Marx Brothers comedy film Animal Crackers (1930), Groucho Marx (as African jungle explorer Captain Geoffrey T. Spaulding) delivered the following line: "One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know." It has often been misquoted as: "...How he got in my pajamas I'll never know."
Play 1930 clip: (35 KB)
- The legendary blood-sucking Count Dracula (Hungarian-born
actor Bela Lugosi) never said "I want to suck your blood"
in the Universal horror classic, Dracula (1931).
However, the line was used in a humorous context by Dr. Tom Mason (Ned
Bellamy) practicing his Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) impersonation in
director Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994).
- Often misquoted is Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive)
- yes, Frankenstein was the name of the mad scientist - and his shout
of "It's alive!" with the stirring of life within his non-human
Monster (Boris Karloff), in Frankenstein (1931).
Frankenstein has often been quoted as saying instead: "He's alive!
Alive!" Mel Brooks' irreverent spoof Young
Frankenstein (1974) featured grandson Frederick Frankenstein
(Gene Wilder) resuming his late grandfather's experiments, and his loud
exclamation of: "Alive. It's alive! IT'S ALIVE!" to bug-eyed
Igor (Marty Feldman) and voluptuous lab assistant Inga (Teri Garr):
Play 1931 clip:
Play 1974 clip:
- The mobster refrain, "You dirty rat!" - was
never said verbatim by James Cagney, although he did say something similar,
"Mmm, that dirty, double-crossin' rat," in Blonde Crazy
(1931). It was misquoted in Cole Porter's 1934 stage classic Anything Goes and in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) when Michelangelo imitated James Cagney: "You dirty rat. You killed my brudda. You dirty rat."
[In Home Alone (1990), Macauley Culkin watched a
scene from a fictional B/W gangster film videotape titled, "Angels
With Filthy Souls" (a take-off on the Cagney film Angels
With Dirty Faces (1938)), in which a gangster shoots his girlfriend,
while saying, "Take that, you dirty rat!"]
- Greta Garbo's most famous quote of all, "I want
to be alone" was often thought to be non-existent or merely a
statement of her reclusive nature in private life. However, it prominently
appeared, with her famous accent spoken by the character Grusinskaya
in Grand Hotel (1932):
Play 1932 clip: (38 KB)
- "Me Tarzan, you Jane" - was a catchphrase
inaccurately-quoted from Tarzan, the Ape Man
Jane: (pointing to herself) Jane.
Tarzan: (he points at her) Jane.
Jane: And you? (she points at him) You?
Tarzan: (stabbing himself proudly in the chest) Tarzan, Tarzan.
Jane: (emphasizing his correct response) Tarzan.
Tarzan: (poking back and forth each time) Jane. Tarzan. Jane. Tarzan...
Play 1932 clip (excerpt):
"You're going out (there) a youngster, but you're
coming back a star!", "You're going out (on that stage)
a nobody, (kid), but you're coming back a star!", or "You're
going out a chorus girl, but you're coming back a star!" - all
misquotes of the original line in 42nd
Street (1933): "But you keep your feet on the ground
and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out, and, Sawyer,
you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a
Play 1933 clip:
"Is that a gun [or pistol] in your pocket, or are you just
glad to see me?" - was not spoken by Mae West in She
Done Him Wrong (1933) - but she did restate the line in her
final film Sextette (1978) to co-star George Hamilton. Reportedly, she spoke the line to an escorting LA police officer who met her at the LA railway station in February, 1936.
[Note: The line was parodied in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles (1974) by Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Schtupp as: "Is that a ten gallon hat, or are you just enjoying the show?"
Play 1974 clip: (32 KB)
And in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Dolores (Joanna Cassidy) asked Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) - with Roger Rabbit concealed in his pocket: "Is that a rabbit in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"]
In the 1933 film She
Done Him Wrong (1933), the bawdy actress Mae West
did say, "Why don't you come up sometime 'n
see me?", often misquoted as "Why,
don't you come up and see me sometime, (big boy)?" or "Come
up and see me sometime." She also said: "Come
up again, anytime."
Play 1933 clip:
(22 KB) (short version)
Play 1933 clip: (142 KB) (long version)
Play 1933 clip: (36 KB) (variation)
In the Laurel and Hardy classic
comedy, Sons of the Desert (1933),
Oliver Hardy exclaimed to partner Stan Laurel: "Well, here's
another nice mess you've gotten me into!" He did NOT say: "Well,
here's another fine mess you've gotten us into" or "Here's another fine mess you've gotten me into."
Play 1933 clip:
- At the conclusion of the classic adventure film King Kong (1933), Robert Armstrong (as Carl Denham) uttered the famous closing line: "Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast." Some have heard it to say: "...'Twas Beauty killed the Beast," although there's little doubt.
Play 1933 clip: (63 KB)
- In The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), Douglass
Dumbrille (as treacherous Mohammed Khan) did NOT say: "We have ways of making you talk" or "We have ways to make you talk."
Instead, he said: "Well, gentlemen. We have ways to make men talk."
Play 1935 clip: (41 KB)
- "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest
of them all?" - is actually an incorrect quote. In Disney's
animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
(1937), the wicked Queen asked: "Magic Mirror on the Wall,
who is the Fairest one of all?" [The misquote was heard in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988), 101 Dalmatians (1996), 54 (1998), and other films.]
Play 1937 clip:
- "Come with me to the Casbah," followed by
"we'll make beautiful music together" - was not said
by Charles Boyer to co-star Hedy Lamarr in Algiers (1938). It
was said by cartoon characters Yosemite Sam and Pepe LePew in
subsequent Looney Tunes cartoons, among others. In fact,
animator Chuck Jones based the Warner Brothers cartoon character Pepe
LePew on Charles Boyer's Pepe Le Moko.
- "Elementary, my dear Watson!" - was a phrase
never spoken by the lead character in the many Sherlock Holmes novels
from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This quote was rather found in a film review
in the New York Times on October 19, 1929. It became popularized
only after its trademark use in The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1929)
(the first Holmes film with sound), with Clive Brook (as Holmes) and H. Reeves-Smith (as Dr. Watson). [Watson: "Amazing, Holmes." Holmes: "Elementary, my dear Watson. Elementary."]
It was also stated by Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes character in
Twentieth Century Fox's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) - "Elementary, my dear Watson. Purely elementary." The closest phrases in Doyle's writings were in The Crooked Man
("Excellent!" I cried. "Elementary!", said he.),
and in The Adventure of the Cardboard Box ("It was very
superficial, my dear Watson, I assure you").