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  • Dylan Glover

The Death of the Movie Quote

five things I didn't know about remote copywriting

Quick question - Can you quote a line from a Marvel movie? Or a Netflix show?


Ok. How about Star Wars? James Bond? Toy Story? Thought so…


Quoting lines from films and TV shows provided the soundtrack to my childhood, youth and beyond. And I wasn’t alone. How many successful comedians have recalled memorising The Goons, Monty Python or The Young Ones? Racing into the playground the day after broadcast to regale classmates with new lines, accents and skits.


Movies would often play for months in cinemas, and then disappear before emerging on shiny black VHS tapes six months or even years later. While we waited (again) for the potential of sequels, second series or follow-up albums, we’d rewatch, relisten, relearn. Ad infinitum.


Soon we’d know the lines perfectly, including every pause and beat in between. They’d be so hardwired into our heads that when someone asked you a question, you had to fight back the urge to reply from your subconscious with a line from Predator, or a pithy Withnail bon mot.


Why was that?


Same bat time, same bat channel…


TV schedules became memorised by heart. You knew when Blackadder was on, or when Lethal Weapon 2 was coming to the local flea pit. Any glimpse of a poster or trailer, pored over with intense zeal.


Communal cultural experiences. Now those were the days. You were at the mercy of TV schedules and cinema release calendars. Even music had a rhythm all its own - Top Of The Pops BBC1 Thursday 7pm, then Radio 1 Top 40 Sunday 4 til 7.


By the time Monday came around, you knew what your classmates would be talking about, or listening to. Because you’d be doing the same.


The era of streaming has widened choice and access, but narrowed appeal and that wonderful happenstance of stumbling across something randomly new. Like when your favourite show (or song) would finish, and you’d naturally stick around to see what was next.


Finding your tribe


Back then, cultural worship felt clandestine, rather than universal.


Movie quotes were a universal language; a bond that fellow movie lovers would use to suss out potential new friends, or break the ice at awkward social gatherings. In the era before geeks and nerds became the go to for Hollywood, our secret cabal was exciting, a new language.


And this education would serve me well in the copywriting realm. Movie scripts and song lyrics are often brilliant, sharp ways to say cool things. Or express emotion in a succinct and memorable style. Scripts are constructed around using language sparingly, and propelling stories using dialogue.


Many of my own favourite headlines or impactful manifestos have often been unconsciously and consciously informed by songs, speeches or movie scenes. Tone of voice is often best summarised using popular movie and TV characters, or maverick musician types.


On many occasions, I’ve thought up a headline and paused. ‘What’s that from?’ Nine times out of ten, it’s a line from a 90’s pop song, or a slick quip from some movie or other.


The future is sh*te?


The entire cultural machine is different. The classics became classics via telly repeats and video stores. Now what do we have? Non-stop content factories, and memes.


The death of the movie quote is reflected in the death of cinema-going. No longer do we venture out to the pictures to lose ourselves in giant, loud and glorious stories, an experience (until recently) enhanced by experiencing with and amongst others (don’t get me started on those bringing their home viewing habits to the Odeon - talking, second screening, etc).


As unofficial ‘saviour of cinema’ James Cameron stated in a recent interview:


“…we started consuming whenever we sort of wanted to, and we lost those cultural milestones where everybody was sharing something in the zeitgeist at the same time."


So what’s next? Memes seem to date quickly and randomly. Yes, ‘This is fine’ is still peppered across my social channels as a relevant retort to these doomed times, but when did you last see/hear Chocolate Rain?


Game Of Thrones’ ‘Winter is coming’ feels like the last cultural quote to transcend the format, i.e. when people who’ve never seen the show recognise, and use it.


It’s almost as if everyone took the brief of ‘finding their tribe’ and stretched it beyond its limits. The tribe now has only one chief. It’s you.


Now you watch and listen to exactly what you want, when and where you want, as giant streaming services hoover up anything remotely popular, including your childhood back catalogue, then timidly reheat it and serve it back to you 10 times a day.


Along with unlimited choice comes less opportunity to revisit and reconsider. Or change your mind.  And no breathing space to fall in love with a quote, learn it, riff on it, and then ride it to infinity (and beyond).


And that’s a real shame. Yippie Kay-Ay Movie Quoters?

26 views2 comments


Ricardo Moreau
Ricardo Moreau
Mar 06

Whenever someone uses the loanword 'bon mot' like that, I've no choice but to sit up and take you seriously.


Katie Taylor-Thompson
Katie Taylor-Thompson
Jan 05

Cats and dogs living together. Mass hysteria. Loved this!

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