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13 Famous Pop Culture References and Where They Come From

Updated on October 9, 2014
Pulp Fiction (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Pulp Fiction (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 1994)

Growing up watching cartoons and generally being submersed in popular media can expose you to some material you find you're not quite familiar with. Here's a helpful guide to some quotes and images you may have heard or seen in movies and on TV.

1) "Here's lookin' at you, kid."- Casablanca (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1942)

Widely regarded as one of the most well-written films of all time, Casablanca is filled with memorable quotes that pop up again and again. It is also the originator of the quote "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

2) "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille."- Sunset Blvd. (dir. Billy Wilder, 1950)

Another early classic, Sunset Blvd. features one of the most repeatedly reused quotes to ever have a mysterious origin. The film is also famous and often referenced for its innovative use of narration, which is given by a main character found dead in a pool at the beginning of the film.

3) "Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!"- The Shining (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

Pop culture has never been creepier! This oft quoted line from The Shining is actually a reference to the Johnny Carson Show. I attribute it to The Shining only because it managed to give it that creepiness that only Jack Nicholson can provide. The line is most often used when someone is taking an axe to a door.

Some other incredible quotes from The Shining include: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," "REDRUM," and of course the amazingly creepy twins saying, "forever.... and ever.... and ever..." While these references may have been originated by Stephen King's novel, they were certainly popularized by Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation.

4) "The old in-and-out"- A Clockwork Orange (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

Okay, so this quote isn't as well known, but A Clockwork Orange still makes this list for its iconic scene: the young Alex (Malcolm MacDowell) strapped to a chair with his eyelids held open, forced to watch a myriad of violent images presented to him by a wall of television sets. You may have noticed this imagery used in the opening of the adult swim series Robot Chicken. You may have also seen a reference to Alex's gang of Droogs in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006). You can take or leave the D, but if you consider yourself a film buff and you haven't seen A Clockwork Orange, you probably should, but beware- it can be quite disturbing. It gives a whole new spin to Singin' in the Rain (1952).

5) "You like me! You really like me!"- Sally Field's acceptance speech for best actress in Places in the Heart (dir. Robert Benton, 1984)

After originally hearing that this quote came from Sally Field after her win for Norma Rae (1980), I did some research and found out that the line, or something like it, came from her speech for her Places in the Heart win. That's right, it's a famous misquote! Sally Field actually said, "I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"

Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (dir. Billy Wilder, 1955)
Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (dir. Billy Wilder, 1955)

6) Marilyn Monroe in a white dress standing over an air vent- The Seven Year Itch (dir. Billy Wilder, 1955)

The image says it all. Surprisingly, The Seven Year Itch wasn't actually the first film to feature a woman's skirt being blown up. The scene is actually a reference to an incredibly old example of what used to be considered "sexually charged" content in the movies. The short film it pays homage to is called What Happened on Twenty-third Street, New York City (1901). YouTube it.

7) "Hello, Clarice."- The Silence of the Lambs (dir. Jonathan Demme, 1991)

Another fantastically creepy movie, The Silence of the Lambs features Anthony Hopkins in a great performance as the killer cannibal Hannibal Lecter. And, I hate to say it, but we have another misquote on our hands. The line is actually "Good evening, Clarice."

8) "You can't handle the truth!"- A Few Good Men (dir. Rob Reiner, 1992)

For the longest time the only thing I knew about this quote was that Tom Cruise was saying it. Turns out Tom Cruise actually says "I want the truth!" which is followed up by the famous retort from... wow... Jack Nicholson. The man knows how to intimidate.

9) "Say hello to my little friend!"- Scarface (dir. Brian De Palma, 1983)

Al Pacino as Tony Montana expertly delivers this incredibly famous line, armed with a machine gun and his Cuban accent. You may also recognize the line immediately before it: "You wanna play rough? Okay."

10) "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."- Gone With the Wind (dir. Victor Fleming, 1939)

Everyone's favorite classy insult comes straight out of one classic movie. Even if you don't like the movie, you gotta love that line.

11) "You had me at 'Hello'."- Jerry Maguire (dir. Cameron Crowe, 1996)

Oh my god is this movie full of famous quotes. Tom Cruise haunts my memory of a quote yet again, and again it is not delivered by him. He starts this conversation off with the "You complete me" bit-- so no lack of famous lines for him-- but it's his female counterpart Renée Zellweger who tells him to shut up before delivering the famous line. Cuba Gooding Jr. also makes an appearance in this film, starting the back and forth of "Show me the money!" that is so well known.

12) "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."- Forrest Gump (dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1994)

Tom Hanks as Forrest delivers these and other fantastic insights like "Stupid is as stupid does" all throughout Forrest Gump. Although the movie is modern in many ways, it's definitely considered a classic. And "that's all I have to say about that."

13) "You know what they call a quarter-pounder with cheese in Paris?"- Pulp Fiction (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 1994)

I may have picked another quote for this film but I decided that since I have avoided profanity so far, I might as well keep it up. In my opinion this film has some of the most unforgettable dialogues about every little thing: eating pork, foot massages, and killing people included. Mostly I think this movie deserves to be on this list because everyone knows it, everyone talks about it, and in their own subtle ways almost everything is referencing it. When I was a kid I saw a reference to it in Space Jam (1996), and I remembered it when I finally got old enough to see Pulp Fiction. If you don't believe me, you'll just have to see for yourself.

Remember, if you have any trouble catching references like this, it might be a good idea to see more films! All of those listed here come highly recommended as a starting point.


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    • Kitschensyngk profile image

      Adam Lafferty 

      9 years ago from Lawrence, KS

      I've wondered where that "Mr. DeMille" quote came from. Thanks! :)

    • girlincape profile imageAUTHOR

      Kasey Rubenstein 

      10 years ago from California

      I love it too. Spaced is a short British TV series that has a ton of references. It's probably my favorite show of all time. Family Guy is pretty fun too.

    • PoeticLicense profile image


      10 years ago

      I just love pop culture. (Of course, if you knew more about me then that wouldn't surprise you!) I think pop culture references are what make Family Guy one of my favorite TV shows and I sometimes use them to bond with my one son, in fact!

    • girlincape profile imageAUTHOR

      Kasey Rubenstein 

      10 years ago from California

      Yep. He's a pretty iconic director.

    • profile image

      Skin Deep 

      10 years ago

      Alright! Kubrick made it on your list twice!

    • girlincape profile imageAUTHOR

      Kasey Rubenstein 

      10 years ago from California

      Ah, thanks. I had a feeling I might be getting that wrong. I'll correct it straight away.

    • satomko profile image

      Seth Tomko 

      10 years ago from Macon, GA

      Good list, though technically, Pacino's accent as Tony Montana is Cuban since he's a refugee from Fidel's island.

    • girlincape profile imageAUTHOR

      Kasey Rubenstein 

      10 years ago from California

      Thanks! I never knew about Sally Field's quote until recently. Such a strange unknown controversy.

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 

      10 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I always felt for Sally Field , the way that quote was taken outta context.. she is just a nice person who was trying to be herself. Great post !!

    • girlincape profile imageAUTHOR

      Kasey Rubenstein 

      10 years ago from California

      Thanks ladybird! It feels good to know your trivia, doesn't it? I love movie trivia.

    • Ladybird33 profile image


      10 years ago from Fabulous USA

      great quotes and I knew them all! Loved it, thanks for sharing.

    • girlincape profile imageAUTHOR

      Kasey Rubenstein 

      10 years ago from California

      Thanks Shinkicker! I totally thought of even more just after I published it. Like, "You talkin' ta me? You talkin' ta me?" from Taxi Driver (dir. Martin Scorsese, 1976). Robert DeNiro looked so different then...

    • Shinkicker profile image


      10 years ago from Scotland

      Great collection of quotes

      I love all these movies, they had great scripts which speaks for itself.


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