I’m taking a bit of a blogging break and throughout the Summer I’m actually going to blog a bit less as I’m working on my novel/script [still deciding which format it’ll end up to be], plus I just need a break from review writing.
But as I mull over the topic presented by guest blogger Izzy on this post about Gender & Hollywood Screenwriting, it made me feel compelled to write a reaction post of sort. Izzy’s post made me ponder of some of my favorite movie quotes uttered by female characters. As Izzy pointed out, there are far fewer of memorable movie lines by female characters than the male counterparts, even fewer when it’s not romance related or about wanting something from the male co-star of the film. For example, take these two quotes from one of Hollywood’s biggest leading ladies, Julia Roberts:
“I want the fairy tale.” – Vivian, Pretty Woman
“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” – Anna Scott, Notting Hill
For me, some of the truly memorable quotes are those that represent the strength of the character, those that display their feisty-ness, survival prowess or willful defiant against what society dictate them to be.
Well, after raking my brains, here are five quotes I love from some of my favorite female characters of all time:
All About Eve – It was based on the 1946 short story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr, although screen credit was not given for it (per Wiki)
Gone With the Wind – 1939 American epic historical romance film adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer-winning 1936 novel of the same name.
Now, this one I had to put the scene before it to put it in context. Eowyn is perhaps one of the most well-rounded supporting female characters in blockbuster films. It’s no doubt one of the highlights of the final Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King:
Both Sense & Sensibility and Mansfield Park were based on Jane Austen’s famous novels, which always feature strong female protagonists. I LOVE how both Elinor and Fanny are not defined by romance nor the men in their lives. Though they are in love with men who seem to be unattainable due to the societal norm of the day, they stick to their principles even if they have to emotionally suffer from it.
It’s no surprise that four of the films above are based on narrative stories written by women. And nobody could argue that there’s a shortage of female screenwriters [or female anything for that matter] in Hollywood. It’s a pity because just in the past few years, the movies that made a big impression on me happen to be written and/or directed by women, i.e. In A World, Belle, Beyond the Lights, Brave, Gone Girl, Girlhood (Bande de Filles), not to mention these three French films I saw recently that are women-centric: Thérèse Desqueyroux, Violette and Pour Une Femme (For A Woman). I like them because the protagonists break the female archetypes of women being defined by men, but show women as being the complicated, flawed and conflicted beings that we are.
As my friend Cindy wrote in her comment in Izzy’s Post, women are as complicated as men and their characters should represent that. Let’s hope we’ll see more women being active parts of Hollywood filmmaking process, both in front and behind the camera.
So what are some of YOUR favorite movie quotes by female characters?
35 thoughts on “Five Favorite Movie Quotes from Inspiring Female Characters”
Good pick, I love Scarlet O’Hara and Fanny Price. But I could not forget Dido Elizabeth Belle “How should any male know the ways of a lady when he has not mastered the ways of a gentlemen?”
Hi Von! Oh yeah that’s a GREAT quote in Belle, love that movie so much! I love that the writer and director are both women of color.
Excellent quotes. Without any statistical proof to back me, I will say it appears the number of women in prominent roles in front of and behind the camera is on the rise. Hopefully that will continue. Great post.
Hi Dell! I think it appears that the number of prominent female roles in Hollywood is on the rise but then again we have nowhere to go but up. So yeah, hope it only gets better from here.
It’s interesting that a few of these and taken from historical novels. What does that say about the modern day eh?
Hi Mark! An astute observation there, yeah it seems that we need MORE memorable female character quotes… and more prominent female roles in general in Hollywood!
The writing sounds interesting Ruth. I wish you all the best with it, whatever the final format! I feel like I need a break myself but set myself the stupid task of writing about every film I watch when I started, so it seems a shame to stop doing that after 300 reviews or so!
Anyway…quotes by female characters. How about Mae West’s ‘Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?’ She had dozens of great one-liners.
Thanks Stu! It’s really fun when you come up with a new story that you’re passionate about.
I applaud you for the discipline on reviewing every film you watch, I don’t think I have the energy to do so.
Ahah yeah Mae West certainly had a ton of fun one-liners, that one you mentioned is certainly iconic.
In addition to historical novels, science fiction stories often present fully formed female characters (note: “science fiction”, not “sci-fi”).
From Contact (1997):
David Drumlin: I know you must think this is all very unfair. Maybe that’s an understatement. What you don’t know is I agree. I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.
Ellie Arroway: Funny, I’ve always believed that the world is what we make of it.
From Another Earth (2011):
Rhoda Williams: When early explorers first set out West across the Atlantic, most people thought the world was flat. Most people thought if you sailed far enough West, you would drop off a plane into nothing. Those vessels sailing out into the unknown, they weren’t carrying noblemen or aristocrats, artists or merchants. They were crewed by people living on the edge of life: the madmen, orphans, ex-convicts, outcasts like myself. As a felon, I’m an unlikely candidate for most things. But perhaps not for this. Perhaps I am the most likely.
From Predestination (2014):
The Interviewer: Do you see yourself as a tourist or a participant?
The Unmarried Mother: I’ve excelled in advanced physics, biology and astronomy. A tourist is someone who travels across the ocean only to be photographed sitting next to their boat. I have no intention of being a tourist.
Hello Chip! Those are three great quotes and I’m glad I’ve seen all three. I never thought of sci-fi as presenting well-rounded female characters but then again Ripley from Alien is one of the greatest female protagonists of all time.
I only saw one from the list there, Return of the King. But to honest with you, I’m not the type that tends remember movie lines much, even from my favorite movies. With the exceptions of “Bond, James Bond” and “I’ll be back”, I can’t remember most lines from my favorite films. As for my favorite line from a female character? I’ll go with Ripley’s “Get away from her you bitch!” from Aliens.
Good luck on your novel Ruth! Hope it turns out great. I know it’s hard to make time for personal projects when we’re all so busy. Starting next month, I’m going to spend most of my weekends on building a prototype for my casting movie site and hopefully build an app for it soon. I want to have a basic functionality of the site up by the end of this year, hopefully.
Oh I hope you decide to write a script instead of a novel, scripts are more fun to read. 🙂
I’m still hoping to shoot my short movies sometime soon but again my budget is very limited and I don’t want to make something where I”m not satisfy with. Currently it will probably cost me around $10,000 to shoot the first short movie. I want to shoot three shorts so I combine them into a feature and enter it into Sundance and Tribeca film festivals.
Hey Ted, love your ambition… good luck!
Thanks Becky! Making a movie is a lot of work, I’ve learned that with my last couple of short movies. With this one, I’m hiring a cinematographer, editor, visual effect artists, costume designer, make up artists, camera operators and some other people. I want to make it look like a professional movie and not some amateur one. Especially when I plan to enter it into a couple of big film festival.
Hello Ted! Ah yes, I knew someone would bring up Ripley’s line and that’s definitely an iconic line from the most badass female protagonist ever!
Thanks for the kind words Ted, yeah I’m leaning towards doing a script as I haven’t done it before. I’ve written the 10 acts (I think of it like chapters in Blu-ray/DVDs) and so it’s a matter of fleshing it out. I can’t wait to see your casting site and that short project sounds exciting as well. Let me know if you want me to sit in on one of your auditions again 😉
Writing screenplay is kind of a challenge, when I started writing my first screenplay, I had to keep remember that I’m writing with visual and have to describe every single scenes and make them coherent. If you want some good examples of screenplays, I can email you some. I think I still have QT’s scripts of Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained somewhere in my computer.
I might actually have to do another screen test since I’m not sure the actress I chose can be in the movie anymore. I’ll let you know if I’m going to hold another screen testing.
It’s sadly true that female characters rarely live up to male counterparts. I hope that’s changing and I’m excited we get to be a part of it!
Hi Jay! Yeah after doing research on this topic, it’s astounding how deprived we are of great female characters and therefore, there are far fewer memorable lines from them. The change can’t come soon enough.
Well, not sure if you can call Dorothy (Judy Garland) from the Wizard of Oz inspiring, but I love this classic line: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”
Hi Becky! I think Dorothy is iconic even if she’s not inspiring and that’s one iconic quote as well.
Love four of these, the fifth, from Return of the King, is a good one but I hate those films utterly. I guess unsurprisingly the ones I came up with are from older films, since I love them so, and two are from Bette Davis films.
Bette Davis in Dark Victory as she prepares to ascend the stairs:
“Nothing can hurt us now. What we have can’t be destroyed. That’s our victory – our victory over the dark. It is a victory because we’re not afraid.”
Bette Davis in Now, Voyager:
“Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”
Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not:
“You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve. You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow.”
And one from a slightly more recent film:
Melanie Griffith in Working Girl:
“I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?”
Hello there Joel! No love for LOTR? Oh no! May I ask why? I think they’re wonderfully written and realized on screen by Peter Jackson.
I haven’t seen Dark Victory, Now, Voyager and To Have and Have Not, but I LOVE that quote from Working Girl. That’s a rather snarky quote that’s a bit ahead of its time. Though I initially didn’t think of Melanie Griffith in that role, I end up liking her in that movie.
Ruth, I’m not the biggest fantasy fan although I adore Excalibur still the first LOTR was THE movie to see when it came out so I went. I hated it utterly but once I’d seen it I felt as if I had to see the trilogy through always hoping it would improve. For me it never did, endless hours of paralyzing boredom. It’s a polarizing series, my boss at the time hated them as much as I did but then there are others who love them. Just goes to show every movie isn’t for everybody.
If you like Bette Davis you must see both Dark Victory and Now, Voyager. They’re two of her signature roles and fine films. Dark Victory was Davis’s personal favorite of her movies. To Have and Have Not is good, but it’s more about the first pairing of Bogie & Bacall then the film. There is a far superior film version of the same Hemingway story called The Breaking Point with John Garfield & Patricia Neal both of whom are excellent in it. It’s scheduled on Patricia Neal’s tribute day during TCM’s Summer Under the Stars this August. It’s my favorite performance of Garfield’s who is my favorite actor.
I love your choice of the LOTR quote here, because for me that addresses the whole problem that is addressed in your quest post. Writers don’t assign enough credit to women, and it’s a shame because women’s stories are just as complex (often times MORE complex) than men’s stories and so they deserve to have that complexity addressed…but often times they are relegated to cliches simply because, as your quote states, they are not men.
Hello Drew! I almost didn’t include that quote from Eowyn but it’s really brilliant! It’s actually longer in the book but I love how concise it is in the film and totally get to the point. I think there are some men who could write about complex female characters, though surely not as well as women, so hopefully we’ll see more and more female writers [as well as filmmakers] in Hollywood. We haven’t come very far in regards to gender equality/opportunity in that business for some reason and that’s disheartening.
I actually thought the Eowyn line was kind of… I dont know, pandering? But this is from a male perspective so what do I know. It seems like it would be though. I agree that the character is very strong though and has a lot of internal complexity.
Hi Ian, I think the quote from the book is longer and perhaps offer more insight into the character. But of course they’d have to shorten it for the film and made it sound more bad ass 🙂
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Another good one is Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen: “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put on this world to rise above.”
Ahhhh, I still haven’t seen that film but that’s a great quote!
Oooh, awesome, awesome post! Love all of these quotes.
Thank you Fernando! We need more quotes from compelling female characters!
Great post! Love these quotes, especially the LOTR one. It’s a shame there aren’t more quotes from women like these in movies.
Thanks Josh! Yep exactly, hope there will be MORE of these in the future!
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