Words of Wisdom from the Movies

 

“As a lawyer, I’ve had to learn that people aren’t just good or bad. People are many things.”

jimmy stewartThis line is spoken by Paul Beigler, a fictional small-town lawyer brilliantly played by Jimmy Stewart in the courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder. I don’t want to have to summarize the whole movie (if you haven’t seen it, though, please make sure to do so; it’s a great flick and also features George C. Scott in what I believe was his film debut), so I’m going to oversimplify the context of the scene.

Basically, Beigler is trying to convince a woman named Mary Pliant to help him gain testimony from another person that her old friend and benefactor, Barney Quill, raped a woman. Mary Pliant is reluctant to believe or help prove this accusation about a man who was always so kind and loving to her, which is what leads to Beigler speaking the line I just quoted.

It’s a line that has always stuck with me and comes to my mind from time to time when I learn of respected figures who are then revealed to have committed awful crimes. I thought of the line during the recent news stories involving Bill Cosby, and again this evening when talking on the phone with my sister. My sister just learned that a member of her ward (the Mormon term for a congregation), a seemingly very spiritual and kind family man who had only a few weeks earlier delivered a very moving talk in church, has just been arrested for molesting his daughter. He had been molesting her for the past five years and had threatened his family that he would kill them if any of them reported it, but (thank God) the daughter finally went to the authorities.

My sister’s understandably shaken by the news. I think most if not all adults understand that you never really know for certain whether someone you know is leading a double life, but it’s always shocking to learn that a seemingly decent person can in fact commit and hide such monstrous crimes. I mentioned the line from Anatomy of a Murder to my sister as we talked.

It’s a quote that I really do believe. While it can be easy to sort people as “good” or “bad,” the fact is that everyone is a mix of both. An individual can be sincere in doing good towards others in many aspects of their life, yet also do some despicable things to others in other aspects of their life. The good a person does does not excuse their crimes or pardon them from the justice they must face, but neither does one’s crimes invalidate the value of the good that they do either, or their sincerity in doing so.

In the simplest terms, people are complicated. This is not a new or earth-shattering observation, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard or read that little nugget of truth expressed as affectingly (to me personally) as in that scene from Anatomy of a Murder.

Which brings me to the topic of this post. As much as I love movies, generally I don’t look to them as fonts of wisdom. The primary goal of movie producers are, after all, to just make an entertaining and popular product for their audience. And when movies do attempt to impart some moral lesson, observation on life, or inspirational creed, the words they use often don’t rise above the cliche or even banal (“Follow your heart,” “All you have to do is believe in yourself,” “On our own, we can’t beat [the big bad], but together we can!”).  However, a screenwriter sometimes writes a line of dialogue that really is profound or eloquent and can change, or at least help clarify, the way we think about something.

So I wanted to ask the Ricochetti: What are lines from movies that you think are true words of wisdom to remember? I’m not talking about just favorite lines of dialogue, but specifically the ones you found to be powerful/insightful and that have stuck with you through the years.

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  1. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Gunga gunga gulunga. ;-)

    • #1
  2. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet
    @KnotwisethePoet

    DocJay:Gunga gunga gulunga. ;-)

    Alright, I admit, I’m totally lost.  What is that one from?

    • #2
  3. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    I’ve spent a few minutes, and I can’t think of anything really.  I’ve seen the movie you’ve referenced, both as a child, and as an adult, and I was entertained by it.

    I suspect that most ricochetti won’t.  This forum, by it’s very nature, probably attracts people who read more than watch movies, or at least reads more on average than our society does.

    And that’s where I’ve earned what little wisdom I have.

    • #3
  4. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    It’s not so much a “word” of wisdom, but in the otherwise horrible-to-take-life-lessons-from movie Pulp Fiction, we get a very graphic illustration on why you follow the rules of gun safety.

    I’ve always loved Gandalf’s speech about how Minas Tirith became a shell of itself:

    The old wisdom bourne out of the west was forsaken. Kings made made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living, and counted the old names of their descent dearer than the names of their sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry, or in high cold towers asking questions of the stars. And so the people of Gondor fell into ruin.

    Such a great lesson on life and what’s important in it.

    • #4
  5. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet
    @KnotwisethePoet

    Al Sparks:I’ve spent a few minutes, and I can’t think of anything really. I’ve seen the movie you’ve referenced, both as a child, and as an adult, and I was entertained by it.

    I suspect that most ricochetti won’t. This forum, by it’s very nature, probably attracts people who read more than watch movies, or at least reads more on average than our society does.

    And that’s where I’ve earned what little wisdom I have.

    That’s one reason why I find this topic intriguing, though.  Yes, ricochetti are a very literate bunch, and I do think one is going to generally find more words of wisdom through reading than watching movies (of course your mileage may vary depending on what sort of books you read; shallow or superficial writing is not exclusive to Hollywood).  But sometimes a movie does present something really insightful to the audience, and I’m curious to see what’s stood out to others.

    • #5
  6. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet
    @KnotwisethePoet

    Here’s another one I love.  An exchange of dialogue from the Joss Whedon scifi flick Serenity that perfectly (and chillingly) captures the arrogance of a nanny state’s desire to control people:

    River: People don’t like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think, don’t run, don’t walk.  We’re in their homes and in their heads and we haven’t the right.  We’re meddlesome.

    Teacher: River, we’re not telling people what to think.  We’re just trying to show them how.

    • #6
  7. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Gunga line is from Caddyshack where Bill Murray is explaining being a caddy for the Dalai Lama . “Oh there won’t be a tip, but on your death bed you’ll receive total consciousness. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice”. Just some comedy.
    If you’d like reality I’ll give you The Night Of The Iguana where Richard Burton has the tour bus driver stop on a bridge to watch the Mexican families play in the water ( impoverished 1950’s). Some lady asks why and he responds,” A moment of beauty Ms Fellows, a fleeting glimpse in to the lost world of innocence”. Since the first time I’ve heard that 25 years ago I’ve thought about it every time I see people playing with kids in nature. Can’t get it out of my head and I really don’t want to.

    • #7
  8. MikeHs Inactive
    MikeHs
    @MikeHs

    I have a few:

    1. “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!”

    2. “There’s a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour.” “How fast was I going, officer?” “ I’d say around ninety.”

    3. “Oh, Jeff, I don’t want to die!” “Neither do I, baby, but if I have to I’m gonna die last.”

     

    • #8
  9. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    “I’ve got to. That’s the whole thing.”

    Will Kane’s explanation to his new bride as to why a man cannot run away (High Noon).

    • #9
  10. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    My favorite Jimmy Stewart quote, from the movie Harvey:

    “In this world, you can be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. I recommend pleasant.” If you see the film, you will understand the depth of that line.

    • #10
  11. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    “I’m not afraid of the man who wants ten nuclear weapons. I’m terrified of the man who only wants one.” –The Peacemaker

    • #11
  12. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Aaron Miller:My favorite Jimmy Stewart quote, from the movie Harvey:

    “In this world, you can be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. I recommend pleasant.” If you see the film, you will understand the depth of that line.

    Funny … one of my favorite lines from a musical (don’t know if it made it into the movie) is this gem from the Witch in Into the Woods:

    You’re so nice. You’re not good; you’re not bad. You’re just nice. I’m not good; I’m not nice; I’m just right.

    • #12
  13. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet
    @KnotwisethePoet

    Amy Schley:

    Funny … one of my favorite lines from a musical (don’t know if it made it into the movie) is this gem from the Witch in Into the Woods:

    You’re so nice. You’re not good; you’re not bad. You’re just nice. I’m not good; I’m not nice; I’m just right.

    Actually, Amy, they made Into the Woods into a movie just this past holiday season.  My wife and I quite enjoyed it, though if you’re a purist you might be bothered that they toned down/omitted some of the musical’s darker moments and plot points in the film adaptation (it still ends up pretty dark for a Disney-produced film).

    (Edit: oh, I reread your comment and realized you are aware of the movie, you just don’t know if that particular line’s in the film.  It is.)

    • #13
  14. Real Jane Galt Coolidge
    Real Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Narrator: On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.
    — Fight Club.

    • #14
  15. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet
    @KnotwisethePoet

    Speaking of Into the Woods, pretty much the entirety of the song “Children Will Listen” is very wise and moving.  Sadly, they cut out some of the song lyrics and it’s kind of buried at end of the film adaptation.

    Careful the things you say
    Children will listen
    Careful the things you do
    Children will see
    And learn

    Children may not obey
    But children will listen
    Children will look to you
    For which way to turn
    To learn what to be
    Careful before you say
    “Listen to me”

    • #15
  16. Real Jane Galt Coolidge
    Real Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Tyler Durden: We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.
    — Fight Club

    • #16
  17. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Knotwise the Poet: My wife and I quite enjoyed it, though if you’re a purist you might be bothered that they toned down/omitted some of the musical’s darker moments and plot points in the film adaptation (it still ends up pretty dark for a Disney-produced film).

    See, here’s what I don’t get — Maleficent has a thinly metaphorical date rape as the crux for driving the plot of the movie and revolves around the love between an older woman and a younger one. *That* apparently is okay for a Disney-branded movie, but consensual adultery isn’t.  How does that make sense?

    • #17
  18. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet
    @KnotwisethePoet

    Amy Schley:

    Knotwise the Poet: My wife and I quite enjoyed it, though if you’re a purist you might be bothered that they toned down/omitted some of the musical’s darker moments and plot points in the film adaptation (it still ends up pretty dark for a Disney-produced film).

    See, here’s what I don’t get — Maleficent has a thinly metaphorical date rape as the crux for driving the plot of the movie and revolves around the love between an older woman and a younger one. *That* apparently is okay for a Disney-branded movie, but consensual adultery isn’t. How does that make sense?

    The miller’s wife and Cinderella’s Prince do have a dalliance in the woods in the movie, though it’s not graphic and it’s ambiguous whether they went all the way or not (the camera pulls back and then cuts to another scene when they start making out; when it cuts back to them and the Prince leaves they’re both still fully clothed). But I’ve avoided Maleficent so far mainly due to the fact that I don’t like Disney making a misunderstood victim out of my favorite of their classic villains.

    • #18
  19. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Knotwise the Poet: But I’ve avoided Maleficent so far mainly due to the fact that I don’t like Disney making a misunderstood victim out of my favorite of their classic villains.

    Yeah, it’s awful. King Steven is a feminist straw-man, the fairies who were the real protagonists of the animated move are relegated to complete idiots, they try to recreate a few classic scenes but end up making them make no sense or massively weaken the badassitude of the characters … I think Diablo the raven is the only character who becomes even slightly more interesting.

    Not a bad movie to watch with tweens, just to explain how much propaganda and political correctness can be crammed into a movie.

    • #19
  20. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    coburn

    “Nobody throws me my own guns and says ‘run.’ Nobody.”

    • #20
  21. Chris Member
    Chris
    @Chris

    Two moments from Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” still with me after 23 years:

    1.  Little Bill Daggett: I don’t deserve this… to die like this. I was building a house.

    Will Munny: Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.

    2.  The Schofield Kid: [after killing a man for the first time] It don’t seem real… how he ain’t gonna never breathe again, ever… how he’s dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger.

    Will Munny: It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.

    The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.

    Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.

    • #21
  22. Chris Member
    Chris
    @Chris

    Not unlike the OP’s “Anatomy of a Murder” quote, Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” had this reminder of human frailty.

    Noah Cross: I don’t blame myself. You see, Mr. Gittes, most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and the right place, they’re capable of ANYTHING.

    • #22
  23. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    “Go that way, very fast.  If something gets in your way – turn”.

    It’s “coaching” for a ski race in Better Off Dead, but if you think about it, it applies to a lot of things.

    • #23
  24. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    “There’s no crying in baseball!”

    • #24
  25. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Aaron Miller:“I’m not afraid of the man who wants ten nuclear weapons. I’m terrified of the man who only wants one.” –The Peacemaker

    oooh, man.  That is a good one.  Deep.  Excellent.

    • #25
  26. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    “McCarthy is an idiot, but unfortunately that doesn’t make him wrong.” – William Parcher (Ed Harris), A Beautiful Mind

    • #26
  27. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley
    @Wiley

    Knotwise the Poet: people are complicated

    I believe that is another way to say sin nature AND made in God’s image.

    • #27
  28. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Re comment #3, Al, I don’t understand this at all. Are reading and watching movies mutually exclusive? There have been dozens of epic film threads on Ricochet.

    • #28
  29. danok1 Member
    danok1
    @danok1

    “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” – J.B. Brooks, The Shootist

    • #29
  30. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend” – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence

    • #30
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