Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in ‘The Graduate’.

Iconic quotes from '60s movies

Written by:
June 27, 2023
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Iconic quotes from '60s movies

The 1960s marked a major decade of achievements in film, giving us iconic cinema ranging from the nearly-four-hour epic "Lawrence of Arabia" to films characterizing the newfound French New Wave to innovative horror classics such as "Night of the Living Dead" and "Psycho."

Of course, part of the charm of movie history is tracking which cinematic quotes have lodged themselves within our collective pop culture consciousness. Some were initially lyrics from memorable songs in movie musicals, which had their heyday during this decade. Others help characterize faraway worlds, from the mythic adventures of the Old West to the imagined distant future of 2001.

Do you consider yourself a movie buff who can quote "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or a James Bond film word for word? To put your skills to the test, Stacker compiled a list of 25 famous quotes from some of the most acclaimed films of the 1960s. Each slide presents the quote, along with context revealing who said it, and the quote's place within the larger movie itself. The following was drawn up from a variety of influences, including film institutes, Criterion film archives, awards show clips, and more.

Think you're an expert on all things related to 1960s cinema? Read on to find out.

"I don't know if I'm unhappy because I'm not free, or if I'm not free because I'm unhappy."

Disillusioned aspiring American journalist Patricia (Jean Seberg) says this quote during a lament about her life in Jean-Luc Godard's iconic 1960 film "Breathless." A classic of the French New Wave, this line captures the nihilism that Patricia and her criminal boyfriend Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) feel about the meaninglessness of life.

"Feed me!"

This command is uttered by the carnivorous plant Audrey Jr. to its creator, meek flower clerk Seymour (Jonathan Haze) in the 1960 film "The Little Shop of Horrors." While many viewers are most familiar with the 1986 musical film of the same name, that movie is actually an adaptation of this cult-classic B-movie.

"We all go a little mad sometimes."

After young thief Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) overhears an argument between Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and a voice she assumes is his mother, Norman explains that his mother, though mentally ill, isn't a "maniac" but "just goes a little mad sometimes." He follows up this explanation with the chilling line "We all go a little mad sometimes." Norman is one of the most memorable villains in Alfred Hitchcock's filmography, terrifying audiences in the 1960 film "Psycho."

"I'm Spartacus!"

After Thracian gladiator Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) and an army of enslaved men are captured after revolting against their oppressors, the Roman enslavers offer a pardon to the men if they identify the rebellion leader. Before Spartacus can give himself up, the other men all begin to shout "I'm Spartacus!" in solidarity with him. The quote has appeared in a plethora of other pop culture moments since, from a Pepsi commercial to a 2000 Academy Awards skit featuring Billy Crystal.

"That's the way it crumbles, cookie-wise."

Put-upon insurance worker C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) put his twist on the classic idiom "that's just the way the cookie crumbles" in Billy Wilder's beloved 1960 rom-com "The Apartment." He says this in response to his co-worker and crush Fran (Shirley MacLaine), who wonders why she can't fall for nice men like him.

"No matter where you run, you end up running into yourself."

Struggling writer Paul (George Peppard) uses this quote when he argues against New York society girl Holly's (Audrey Hepburn) habit of shutting people out in favor of her own independence in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." This exchange occurs at the end of the film before the two finally admit their feelings for each other.

"I flip when a fellow sends me flowers. I drool over dresses made of lace."

This line opens the song "I Enjoy Being a Girl" from the 1961 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Flower Drum Song," which was the first Hollywood film to feature an all-Asian cast. It's sung by Chinese-American showgirl Linda Low (Nancy Kwan), who endorses traditional femininity while dating protagonist Mei Li's (Miyoshi Umeki) love interest, a nightclub owner named Sammy Fong (Jack Soo).

"I like to be in America!"

In the 1961 movie musical "West Side Story," Rita Moreno's headstrong character Anita utters this retort—in the song aptly titled "America"—to her boyfriend Bernardo (George Chakiris), who is criticizing the racism he's encountered since leaving their homeland of Puerto Rico for New York City. This interrogation of the American dream ranked 35th on the American Film Institute's "100 Years… 100 Songs" survey of great songs in U.S. film.

"Bond. James Bond."

It's hard to believe that this legendary movie quote didn't emerge until 1962, but that's when the very first James Bond film, "Dr. No," premiered. The phrase was uttered by the first-ever 007 secret agent, Scottish actor Sean Connery.

"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

In the sweeping, nearly-four-hour 1962 epic "Lawrence of Arabia," British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) acts as a liaison between the British and the Arabs as they wage battle against the Turks. He demonstrates his toughness during a scene in which he extinguishes a match between his thumb and forefinger without admitting to being in pain. When a baffled corporal asks how he does so, this is his answer.

"Hey, Boo."

Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and film adaptation "To Kill a Mockingbird" emphasizes the importance of not judging people based on prejudices and assumptions, told from the perspective of young Scout Finch (Mary Badham), the daughter of an upstanding lawyer in early 20th century Alabama. She says this line to shy town pariah Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), who disproves the town children's superstitions about him when he rescues Scout's brother Jem (Phillip Alford) from their father's (Gregory Peck) enemy, the vengeful racist Bob Ewell (James Anderson).

"We rob banks."

Faye Dunaway's Bonnie Parker delivers this smooth, straightforward introduction when introducing herself and her boyfriend/partner-in-crime Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) in the 1967 crime film "Bonnie and Clyde." The movie tells the true story of the star-crossed criminal couple who terrorized Depression-era America.

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room!"

This ironic scolding is delivered by the fictional U.S. President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) when a fight breaks out in the Pentagon War Room during Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." The war comedy satirizes the Cold War conflict between Americans and the Soviet Union, as evidenced by this hilarious line.

"A martini. Shaken, not stirred."

The 1960s gave rise to a number of James Bond firsts, such as Bond's (Sean Connery) first order of his signature drink in 1964's "Goldfinger." Adding to his debonair persona, Bond requests this drink after waking up on a plane and coming face-to-face with one of the most well-known Bond girls, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman).


This quote makes up one of the most memorable songs in the 1964 film "Mary Poppins," which stars Julie Andrews as a magical nanny who brings a distant family back together in 1910 London. Contrary to popular belief, the nonsense-sounding word—which describes something that is extremely superb—existed before "Mary Poppins" was released.

"When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window."

Julie Andrews' iconic "The Sound of Music" character Maria uses this rationale when she's ejected from her Austrian convent to serve as a nanny for the stern navy captain Georg von Trapp's seven children. The line comes up again when she decides to leave life as a nun and marry the captain, with whom she has fallen in love.

"What we've got here is failure to communicate."

Although this quote is heavily associated with the 1967 crime drama "Cool Hand Luke," it's not actually said by the film's imprisoned criminal protagonist (Paul Newman). Instead, it's delivered by aggressive prison warden Captain (Strother Martin), right after he refuses to fall for Luke's smooth-talking charm and gives him a beating.

"They call me Mister Tibbs."

The 1967 neo-noir "In the Heat of the Night" stars Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier as Detective Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia cop who heads to small-town Mississippi and is forced to contend with the narrow-minded racism of its local law enforcement. He issues this retort to the bigoted Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger), who insists on disrespecting Detective Tibbs by calling him by his first name and using a racial slur against him.

"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me."

Recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) utters this phrase when bored housewife and friend of his parents Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) begins putting the moves on him in 1967's "The Graduate"… even though he's falling for her daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). The highly quotable Mike Nichols film captures the boomer generation's disillusionment and dissatisfaction with the status quo in the '60s.

"Hello, gorgeous."

Barbra Streisand utters this line while playing comedian Fanny Brice in the 1968 musical film "Funny Girl." Streisand famously quoted the same phrase, "Hello, gorgeous," upon tying with Katharine Hepburn for the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 1969 Oscars.

"They're coming to get you, Barbra."

"Night of the Living Dead" opens with Barbra's (Judith O'Dea) brother teasing her with this line after sensing her fear of visiting their father's grave at the local cemetery. Little does he know that he'll soon be eaten by one of the zombies at the heart of George Romero's 1968 horror film. Although "Night of the Living Dead" wasn't the first zombie movie, it popularized the concept of the undead craving human flesh.

"Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"

Charlton Heston's hunted astronaut George Taylor shouts this at his sentient ape captors in the 1968 sci-fi classic "Planet of the Apes." In this world, apes rule over mute humans, so Taylor's sudden response shocks them.

"I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."

With this quote, machine gains the upper hand over man in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." In the scene, astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) asks supercomputer HAL 9000 to open the spaceship's pod doors, which HAL refuses after discerning that Dave has been conspiring to have him shut down.

"Who are those guys?"

Famed outlaws Butch (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) regularly pose this question while fleeing from their unnamed pursuers in the 1969 Western "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." The quote later became the title of the country rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage's eighth album in 1977.

"I'm walkin' here!"

This no-nonsense retort is synonymous with New Yorkers, but it was initially spoken by the disgruntled, habitually unemployed Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) in the 1969 buddy film "Midnight Cowboy." This fabled line, according to Hoffman, wasn't actually in the script—instead, the acclaimed actor improvised it.

Story editing by Cynthia Rebolledo. Copy editing by Tim Bruns. 

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