Don't pretend like you haven't said that before. Leonardo DiCaprio's famous one-liner in the 1997 blockbuster "Titanic" is one of the most quotable moments in movie history. But what makes it so memorable? Was it the way he said it? Where he was? What he was wearing? Now, thanks to science, we finally have an answer. (Cue cheers of struggling screenwriters worldwide.)
According to a recent study conducted by a team of researchers at Cornell University, movie lines become popular through a combination of factors, the most important being familiar sentence structure and general statements that could apply to any situation.
For example, as ScienceDaily points out, "'You're gonna need a bigger boat' or 'These aren't the droids you're looking for' (accompanied by a hand gesture) have become standing jokes. You can use them in a different context and apply the line to your own situation."
Other determining factors include lines that use third-person pronouns (she, her, he, him), definite articles ("the" as opposed to "a") and past tense. More syllables and fewer coordinating conjunctions (and, or, but) also help.
To determine the formula for a memorable movie quote, researchers brought in thousands of scripts along with a list of famous quotes culled together from IMDb. As ScienceDaily explains,
Each quote was paired with another from the movie's script, spoken by the same character in the same scene and about the same length, to eliminate every factor except the language itself ... [Scientists then] asked a group of people who had not seen the movies to choose which quote in the pairs was most memorable. Two patterns emerged to identify the memorable choice: distinctiveness and generality.
Afterward, the team programmed their findings into a computer, giving them the final results.
You can find more about the study over on ScienceDaily or on the Cornell website. For a list of AFI's Top 10 Movie Quotes, check out the gallery below.
[via ScienceDaily and AFI]
AFI's Top 10 Movie Quotes