15 famous film phrases and what they mean - from ‘hasta la vista’ to 'nobody puts Baby in a corner’

15 iconic lines from films that have entered everyday use15 iconic lines from films that have entered everyday use
15 iconic lines from films that have entered everyday use | Film stills/NationalWorld/Kim Mogg
All of these sayings are still been used years after the films they came from were made

The best films are the ones that stay with us long after the credits have rolled. Whether it’s a poignant message or a memorable character, they will often be the ones that we can watch again and again and never get bored, possibly even to the point where we can quote every line.

In fact, some films become iconic because of just one line. Below, we take a look at 15 of the most famous film lines of all time. Have a read and see how many you know. You might even say some of them yourself. For even more film-related news, check out our dedicated film page.

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Hasta la vista, baby

This phrase was said by Arnold Schwarzenegger's title character in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, released in 1991.It has entered popular culture, and former Prime Minister Boris Johnson uttered the phrase at the end of his final Prime Minister’s Questions in July 2022. It is Spanish for “until the view” which is a typical farewell in Spain and is said when people mean “goodbye” or “see you later”.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's title character in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.Arnold Schwarzenegger's title character in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's title character in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. | Tri-Star Pictures

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

This saying was uttered by Dorothy to her faithful pet dog Toto when she realises she’s been transported from her home in Kansas to the magical land of Oz in The Wizard of Oz. The film was released way back in 1939, but it’s still a well-known and used phrase today. Overtime, it has come to be synonymous with meaning a person is in a place they are not familiar with.

There’s no place like home

Another famous line from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy (played by Judy Garland) is told she must click the heels of her ruby slippers and utter this phrase so she can return home to Kansas. The phrase is often spoken by people who want to express how much joy and comfort they find in their home.

Dorothy with her dog Toto in The Wizard of Oz.Dorothy with her dog Toto in The Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy with her dog Toto in The Wizard of Oz. | American MGM

Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary

This famous line is spoken by English teacher John Keating, played by the late Robin Williams, in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. Carpe diem is a Latin phrase, usually translated as “seize the day”, taken from book 1 of the Roman poet Horace's work Odes. It actually means “pluck the day”, but this famous saying is said when someone is saying they will make the most of the day.

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Just keep swimming

Children’s films often have some of the most meaningful and memorable storylines and characters, and one of those is Dory from 2003 Disney Pixar film Finding Nemo. In the film, clownfish Marlin has to travel the length of the ocean to find his missing son, Nemo. He is helped by a a regal blue tang named Dory, and it is while they are searching that Dory utters the famous line to keep Marlin’s spirits up. Dory means it literally, but the phrase is now said when people are being encouraged to keep going even when times are hard.

Dory and Marlin in Finding Nemo.Dory and Marlin in Finding Nemo.
Dory and Marlin in Finding Nemo. | Disney Pixar

Nobody puts Baby in a corner

This phrase is said by the late Patrick Swayze’s Johnny Castle in the 1987 iconic rom-com Dirty Dancing. In the film, Johnny returns to Kellerman's holiday resort, where he has been sacked because of his relationship with guest Francis Houseman, known as Baby. When he approaches Baby, who is sitting at a table with her family, she is literally sitting in the corner - but then he says the famous line and takes her out of the corner and onto the dancefloor. The phrase also has a metaphorical meaning as he is saying that nobody can silence her, and it is this meaning that people are conveying when they say it today.

Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing.Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing.
Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. | Vestron Pictures

You had me at hello

This line is spoken by Dorothy Boyd, played by Renée Zellweger, in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. At the end of the film, when the titular character, played by Tom Cruise, expresses his love to Boyd in a long speech her response is this short and simple phrase which has become one of the most romantic sayings of all time.

They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom

This powerful phrase is taken from 1995 film Braveheart, which is based on the life of medieval Scottish leader William Wallace who was spurred into revolt against the English when the love of his life is killed. The famous line is uttered as Wallace, who was played by Mel Gibson, leads his men into battle with the English.Historians have agreed that the real Wallace is unlikely to have uttered these words, but it didn’t stop the line becoming famous.

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Mel Gibson as William Wallace in BraveheartMel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart
Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer

This is a phrase which means we should be aware of the words and actions of those we do not like more than those of our friends because it is people we do not like who could hurt us. It’s a statement that was made famous by the 1974 film The Godfather Part II, and though that film is now almost 50 years old people still say it today and impart it to others as a great piece of life advice.

Love means never having to say you're sorry

This is a romantic phrase which has stood the test of time. Technically, the saying is based on a line from the 1970 Erich Segal novel Love Story, but it was popularised by its film adaptation later that year. Admittedly, there is some confusion about the phrase as relationship experts would argue that it is important for people to acknowledge when they are wrong and apologise, but it does still remain one of the most beautiful lines in film history.

We’ll always have Paris

This iconic line is uttered by Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart) when speaking to his former lover Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman) in 1942 classic Casablanca. In the film, Blaine is talking about the brief romance they shared, and over six decades later people still use the phrase to mean that they will always have their memories of a person, particularly a previous romantic partner.

Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart) with his former lover Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman) in 1942 classic Casablanca. Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart) with his former lover Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman) in 1942 classic Casablanca.
Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart) with his former lover Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman) in 1942 classic Casablanca. | Warner Bros. Pictures

To infinity . . .  and beyond

This is a catchphrase made famous by the toy astronaut Buzz Lightyear in 1995 Disney Pixar film Toy Story (and the subsequent three sequels). It’s a saying that Lightyear, an eternal optimist, says many times and it means that possibilities are endless or that things are eternal and everlasting.

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You can't handle the truth

The cutting line was delivered in the military drama A Few Good Men in 1992. It comes in one of the final scenes of the film, when court martial lawyer Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) exposes Colonel Nathan R. Jessup’s (played by Jack Nicholson) false testimony surrounding the death of a Marine named Santiago. When asked by Kaffee to tell the truth, Colonel Jessup yells "You can't handle the truth!” Apparently, the line wasn’t even meant to be in the film and the original screenplay had the line "You already have the truth” but Nicholson changed this to "You can't handle the truth”. It’s now one of the most recognisable lines in film and people will often say it - though now usually ironically - before revealing information to someone.

Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) in A Few Good Men.Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) in A Few Good Men.
Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) in A Few Good Men. | Columbia Pictures

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all

Taken from 1942 children’s animation film Bambi, produced by Walt Disney, this line is said by Bambi’s rabbit friend Thumper. It’s an extremely popular saying, and is often quoted by parents who want to teach their children well.

Thumper the rabbit, from the film Bambi.Thumper the rabbit, from the film Bambi.
Thumper the rabbit, from the film Bambi. | Disney

Houston, we have a problem

This phrase was said in real life first, from the radio communications between the Apollo 13 astronauts Jack Swigert, Jim Lovell and the NASA Mission Control Centre, known as Houston, during the Apollo 13 spaceflight in 1970 as they spoke of their discovery of the explosion that crippled their spacecraft to mission control. The saying was then made famous by 1995 film Apollo 13 which dramatised what happened. People now say the phrase when they mean that they are facing an unforeseen problem.

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