Movie misquotes happen all the time, and despite what some people believe (The Mandela effect comes to mind), it’s not actually the result of some kind of mind-altering, reality bending phenomenon, but rather, a collective mistake that’s repeated several times that it becomes what people perceive to be real.
There are plenty of movie misquotes across movie history, but here are some of our favorites, with a little bit of context to shed light on their meaning.
“If You Build It, They Will Come”
The Movie: Field of Dreams
The ACTUAL Quote: “If You Build It, He Will Come”
Probably one of the best sports/fantasy movies of all time (at least, in my book), Field of Dreams combined my love for baseball with a gripping drama that was driven by sheer human emotion. In the movie, Ray Kinsella, played with depth by Kevin Costner, is a novice corn farmer who had a troubled relationship with his late father, John, who was a huge baseball fan.
One night, as he was walking through his cornfield, he hears a voice whispering, saying “if you build it, he will come”, and then receives a vision of a baseball field where his corn field used to be.
Here’s where the confusion stems from: many people assume that the quote was “they will come” because, after Ray builds the (ill-advised) baseball field, the ghosts of long-dead baseball players, along with droves of living baseball fans, all flock to the field to watch some good ol’ fashioned baseball.
However, the whole movie was an allegory about Ray coming to terms with his relationship with his father, and that the voice saying “he will come” was a foreshadowing of the ending, where the ghost of Ray’s dad John appears to him as a young man, and they eventually come to terms with their troubled past.
“Luke, I am Your Father”
The Movie: Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The ACTUAL Quote: “No, I am your father”
Who hasn’t seen Empire? Of the 9 Star Wars films, Episode V has consistently been ranked as the number one Star Wars film, and is still the gold standard of many a sci-fi sequel, for good reason: one, despite being a sequel, it could be viewed alone and still be completely understandable and relatable. Two, it didn’t sugar coat the conflict between good and evil, showing that sometimes, the bad guys win and there’s nothing you can do about it.
No scene epitomizes this than Luke and Darth Vader’s showdown in the bowels of Cloud City. After losing a one-sided battle with Vader, Luke finds himself clinging to life on a well-placed spike (hey, it’s sci-fi fantasy, let it pass). He boldly claims that he will be nothing like Darth Vader, until Vader busts out the curveball of a lifetime:
“I am your father”
Of course, people now misremember it as “Luke, I am your father”, but in reality, Vader says the iconic phrase as an add-on to his villain dialogue:
Vader: Obi Wan never told you what happened to your father…
Luke: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Vader: No, *I* am your father.
Cue Vader’s theme song, Luke crying, I mean, it’s just the best scene ever, and if you grew up watching the Star Wars saga and saw this for the first time, I’m telling you, chills.
The Movie: The Silence of the Lambs
The ACTUAL Quote: “Good evening, Clarice”
Hannibal Lecter is probably one of the most iconic villains in all of movie history, masterfully portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in 3 movies (The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon), wherein the master thespian created a character so charismatic, so evil, and so human that one can’t help but be chilled to the core whenever Hannibal spoke.
In The Silence of the Lambs, FBI trainee Clarice Starling is assigned by her superior to interview Hannibal Lecter, a genius-level cannibalistic serial killer then-incarcerated in a federal prison, in order to gain some kind of insight from the other side in their pursuit of Buffalo Bill, another serial killer on the loose.
As she arrives in his cell, Hannibal begins to creep her out and get into her head, first by dismantling all of her approaches to establishing trust and rapport, and then by psychoanalyzing her personality, pointing out several flaws, and finally belittling her skills and dismissing her as unqualified. It’s an unnerving six minute scene that has haunted generations of viewers.
There’s only one problem: he never actually says “Hello, Clarice”, not even close. Well, not in that scene anyway.
The now-iconic “Hello, Clarice” was actually in another scene later on in the movie, where they move Hannibal Lecter to a Tennessee courthouse. Here, Clarice Starling arrives to give back some documents she had received from Lecter prior, and with his back turned, Hannibal delivers the chilling greeting:
“Good evening, Clarice”
“Play it Again, Sam”
The Movie: Casablanca
The ACTUAL Quote: “Play it once, Sam, for old time’s sake” and “Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By”
One of the misquoted lines of all time, “Play it Again, Sam” became a catch-phrase for a generation of swooning, heartbroken, yet stoic men, desperate to hear their special song one more time. Of course, in the movie, this is never said exactly, although two variations of it are.
Usually attributed to Humphrey Bogart, the misquotation is ironic because the line is actually uttered by Ingrid Bergman. As Ilsa Lund, Ingrid implores the Casablanca’s pianist, Sam, to play their special song:
Ilsa: Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.
Sam: I don’t know what you mean, Miss Ilsa.
Ilsa: Play it, Sam. Play “As Time Goes By.”
Sam: Oh, I can’t remember it, Miss Ilsa. I’m a little rusty on it.
Ilsa: I’ll hum it for you. Da-dy-da-dy-da-dum, da-dy-da-dee-da-dum…
Ilsa: Sing it, Sam.
Humphrey Bogart never actually says “Play it again, Sam”. The closest he gets to it is this exchange:
Rick: You know what I want to hear.
Sam: No, I don’t.
Rick: You played it for her, you can play it for me!
Sam: Well, I don’t think I can remember…
Rick: If she can stand it, I can! Play it!
“Houston, We Have a Problem”
The Movie: Apollo 13
The ACTUAL Quote: “Houston, we’ve had a problem”
Ok, this one is a little tricky, because it’s an actual quote, but a misquote at the same time. Let me explain:
In the movie Apollo 13, Mission Commander Jim Lovell, noticing an audible bang somewhere in the ship, reports back to ground control about a problem they have, uttering the line “Houston, we have a problem”. The phrase was so iconic, it became the tagline of the movie.
So, yes, the quote does exist in the movie, but it is, in itself, a misquote: it’s not a ‘movie misquote’ per se, but rather, a misquote of the actual dialogue of the crew.
The movie Apollo 13 was based on the autobiographical novel Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, written by the astronauts Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger. Jim and Jeffrey wrote of their experience on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission and used actual recordings of transmissions between them and Mission Control in Houston for reference. In the movie, Jim Lovell’s character interacts with Houston:
Houston: Uh, this is Houston. Uh, say again, please?
Jim Lovell: Houston, we have a problem. We have a main bus B undervolt.
But in reality, it was actually fellow astronaut Jack Swigert who uttered the real quote, which was “Houston, we’ve had a problem”, implying that the problem had passed, with Jim Lovell reiterating the sentence when asked by ground control to clarify. The official transcript of the conversation goes:
02 07 55 19 Haise: Okay, Houston (interrupted by Lovell)
02 07 55 20 Lovell: I believe we’ve had a problem here. (interrupting Haise)
02 07 55 28 Lousma: This is Houston. Say again, please.
02 07 55 35 Lovell: Houston, we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a main B bus undervolt.
The phrase, of course, was altered for dramatic effect, and is now popularly used to describe an unforeseen problem.
What’s YOUR Favorite Misquote?
Hit us up in the comments below for your favorite movie misquote moments!