Shot of General Grievous from the Star Wars Prequels.

Some movies are just so eminently quotable that the dialog takes on a life of its own. People sometimes won’t even realize what it is that they’re quoting–the film has just become that pervasive in popular culture that even people who haven’t watched it might reference it. For a recent example, we’ve seen almost every line of dialog from the Star Wars prequel trilogy turned into a meme over the last few years. Post a comment online somewhere that says “Hello there,” and you’ll have a reply within minutes adding “General Kenobi!”

Of course, this sort of thing is not limited to the prequels. Let’s look at some of the most famous lines and phrases in pop culture and how they got their start.

4. “Game Over, Man!” — Aliens

Shot of "Game over, man!" scene from Aliens
Hudson rants in the background about how bad their situation is. Click the image to watch the scene.

Aliens is a film that might not strike a viewer as particularly quotable at first glance, but the movie actually has a number of iconic lines, including:

  • “They mostly come at night. Mostly.”
  • “Nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”
  • And the climactic, “Get away from her, you bitch!”

And while those are all great, I’ve instead chosen the line that’s iconic enough to have an entire (rather poorly reviewed) movie named after it. Uttered as part of a mental breakdown by the less-than-valiant Private Hudson, “Game over, man!” is a line that truly captures just how bad the situation the characters find themselves in. It’s short and pithy, which made it ripe for parody in a variety of other situations, including as a weird Easter egg in Mortal Kombat XL and in the children’s cartoon Phineas and Ferb. Amusingly, this particular line was improvised, according to Hudson’s actor Bill Paxton (RIP).

3. “The Truth is Out There” — The X-Files

Mulder from the X-Files
“The truth is out there, but so are lies.” Click the image to view a clip.

In an interesting case, this particular line primarily functioned as the tagline for the entire show, and much of its popularity may be owed to that fact. The line, however, is spoken in the show on a few occasions by both protagonists. Quickly picked up by both real conspiracy theorists and those looking to make fun of them, the quote’s meaning is fairly obvious, and could function as the motto for pretty much any character on a quest for knowledge. Yet, the tone in references and parodies, such as its various mentions on The Simpsons, is often oddly dismissive. The quote was even referenced in Cleopatra 2525, one of our past Primer subjects.

It recently resurfaced in pop culture with the show’s return a few years ago, and was often seen in memes alongside the joking “Area 51 raid” event that appeared on Facebook.

2. Red Pill, Blue Pill — The Matrix

Neo chooses a pill, from the Matrix
“You take the blue pill, the story ends…” Click to see the full scene.

The full quote is a bit too long for the title entry, but this also makes for a rather odd example in that it was, originally, designed as a reference to an earlier work itself — specifically, Alice in Wonderland. The version used in The Matrix, however, has become far more iconic, and often in rather undesirable ways (don’t really want to spend any time here discussing incels; they aren’t worth it). The choice presented by Morpheus in the scene is, of course, one between “ignorance is bliss” and knowledge of the true nature of reality, even if that means enduring unpleasant things. Parodies typically involve the character in question immediately going for the blue pill, often to the exasperation of the one offering, or attempting to take both at once just to see what happens.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this quote is also rather popular with conspiracy theorists and those on the fringe, believing that their “red pill” was the little known or rarely believed information that they’ve found and held on to as the truth. Probably best to leave that there, eh?

1. Beam Me Up, Scotty — Star Trek

Captain Kirk Requesting a Beam Out
One of the many times Kirk requests a beam up… but not from Scotty.

And how could I talk about famous sci-fi quotes without mentioning the most famous of all? It’s rather common knowledge by this point that perhaps the most well-known quote in sci-fi was never actually stated on screen. Kirk gets close at several points; he says “beam us up, Scotty,” a few times, and at one point says “beam me up” without mentioning Scotty by name, but never is the whole phrase said at once. And while Scotty does sometimes man the transporter console, it really isn’t his primary job, and mostly only happens when his expertise in particular is needed. James Doohan, who played Scotty, didn’t seem to mind, and in fact made it the title of his autobiography.

Usage of the line in pop culture is typically by nerdy characters, generally to serve as evidence of their nerdiness. If a run-of-the-mill drama or comedy has an episode set at a convention, you can be sure you’ll hear this line, whether it makes sense or not. It’s also sometimes said sarcastically or even pleadingly by characters who are tired of dealing with whatever’s going on, although even in these situations it’s probably going to be limited to nerd-types. The quote even has an alleged association with drugs, although that’s dubious and likely outdated, even if it was at some point true.

Guess that rounds out the Friday Four for this month. Kind of different than the stuff I had been doing, I’ll admit, but the effect that sci-fi has on pop culture is just as relevant to the site as anything else. You can let me know about any favorite movie quotes you have that entered the general lexicon in the comments below.