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17 Must-Watch American Movies and Quotes

American Films and Qoutes

It’s a double benefit - get to entertain yourself and train your ear to the English language! From the previous century, here are some of the greatest US movies ever made. Working through this American movie list will keep you busy for hours and hours, polishing and integrating the English you learn at EnglishClass101!

Citizen Kane

1. Citizen Kane

The famous US movie Citizen Kane was an American drama released in 1941. The movie starts with the death scene of Charles Foster Kane, an extremely wealthy media mogul. In his last moments, Kane is heard mysteriously whispering only one word: “Rosebud”.

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Kane’s death is national news, and sets off an epic tale of a man’s rising from rags to riches, through the abuse of power and, of course, love. In the end, the mystery of Rosebud is solved, but rather watch this evergreen classic to learn Kane’s secret yourself. The most famous quote from the film is obviously Kane’s deathbed utterance, but another unforgettable one is directed at Mr Bernstein, a bespeckled Jew who loves Kane unconditionally. Kane says: “You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

2. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

The Eighties brought an unforgettable US movie blockbuster, this time in the science fiction genre. Heartwarming E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was directed by Oscar-winner Steven Spielberg, regales with the story of a cross-specie friendship between a wrinkled, knee-high alien and Elliot, a lonely 10-year-old boy. Elliot rescues E.T from a government search party, but soon E.T falls ill because Earth is not his home.

All ends well, though, with E.T. saying just before he leaves for his home planet while tapping on Elliot’s chest with a glowing forefinger: “I’ll be right here.

Gone With The Wind

3. Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind is a 1939 US movie that depicts the southern US state of Georgia during the Civil War and the Reconstruction period. It was adopted from Pulitzer-winner Margaret Mitchell’s novel of the same name.

The movie’s storyline gives us some insight into how the southern aristocracy viewed the Civil War and the ensuing political Reconstruction. Its storyline centers on Scarlett O’Hara and her struggles to find true love while maintaining her way of life and her beloved plantation. It is also the tale of true love lost, with its most famous quote coming from the lips of Rhett, the betrayed lover. Scarlett asks Rhett what she will do without him, and where she will go when he leaves, to which Rhett famously replies, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Jaws

4. Jaws

Another Spielberg success, super-scary Jaws topped nearly every US movie list in 1975, and was based on a novel by Peter Benchley. It tells the riveting story of an enormous killer shark with a taste for human blood, and, of course, the human hunt to kill it. The shark becomes a truly menacing entity in the film, appearing to target those who hunt it, and also eliciting one of cinema’s greatest understatements ever. Sheriff Brody, after ogling the monster for the first time, tells fellow shark-hunter Quint with wide eyes: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”. If you like scary, this is one of the top US movies to watch in the thriller genre.

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs

5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

In 1937, Walt Disney animated the famous fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, for which he received an honorary Oscar. The story itself needs no introduction, as most Westerners probably know it from childhood. One of its most famous quotes comes from the lips of Grumpy, the surly, pessimistic dwarf, as he grumbles about Snow White joining the Seven Dwarf family: “Pretty soon she’ll be tying your beards up in pink ribbons and spraying you down with that stuff called, uh, perfoom”.

Star Wars

6. Star Wars (A New Hope)

Star Wars (A New Hope) is one of six films released in the 1977 Star Wars saga, brainchild of screenwriter and director George Lucas. This US movie is part of a series that still proves of the most enduring hits of all time in the sci-fi genre. Basically, the film tells the tale of rebel freedom fighters in a civil war against the repressive Galactic Empire, and it even succeeded to land its own commemoration day - Star Wars Day. The date was derived from the movie’s most famous quote: “May the Force be with you”. These words were soon reworked to the mildly funny pun “May the Fourth be with you”.

The Godfather

7. The Godfather

The Godfather was an epic 1972 story about the rise of a mafia crime family, the Corleones, and specifically about the rise of Michael Corleone, who takes over from his aging father, Don Vito Corleone. It’s brutal, bloody and was a fantastic box office hit that led to another two Godfather movies. This one is replete with quotable quotes, but a lesser known, excellent quote came from the character Calo, who said: “In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns”. True, that.

The Sound of Music

8. The Sound of Music

Few people don’t know The Sound of Music, and its wonderful score. This American musical film was released in 1965, and tells the story of the Von Trapp family and, Maria, beautiful singer-nun-turned-nanny. The Von Trapps are a family of seven children, and a sad, austere father who is a Captain in the army against Hitler’s forces. He’d lost his wife and the mother of his children too soon.

Obviously, Maria excels not only in her duties as a loving caretaker of the children, but also succeeds to win Captain von Trapp’s heart. Another evergreen, this US movie continues to regale all generations with its gentle love story and engaging tunes. One of the memorable quotes were uttered by Captain Von Trapp, addressing Maria: “You brought music back into the house. I had forgotten”.

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9. The Wizard of Oz

Another film that still enchants children and adults alike hails from 1939. Who doesn’t know The Wizard of Oz, with its adventurous tale of tornadoes and witches and lions and scarecrows, and, of course, a Kansas farm girl called Dorothy. Dorothy lands by chance in an enchanted land on an adventure that both scares and challenges her, and teaches her, above all, that there’s no place like home.

The movie is filled with homegrown truths and quant sayings to quote at most any occasion. A lesser known one comes from the Cowardly Lion, who says: “What makes a King out of a slave? Courage!”

Ben-Hur

10. Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur (or Benhur) is a 1959 epic film directed by William Wyler, the third film version of writer Lew Wallace’s 1880 fictional novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The story is about a Jewish prince who is battling the Roman empire in the time of Christ. The film went on to win a record of eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture - a feat equaled only by Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

One of the wiser quotes from the film comes from Messala, who tells his friend Ben-Hur: “It’s an insane world, but in it there’s one sanity, the loyalty of old friends”.

Casablanca

11. Casablanca

US movie Casablanca was made in 1942 and directed by Michael Curtiz. It’s a classic World War II movie with a story that centers on the life of a cynical nightclub owner, Rick Blaine, in the city of Casablanca in Morocco. The film relates the difficult, self-sacrificing choices Blaine must make for love when he has to choose between his love for an old flame, Ilsa, and helping her and her husband escape the Nazis and certain death.

Probably the most famous quote from this US movie was a quintessentially American toast, originating from an 1884 novel written by an anonymous author. In Casablanca, Blaine uses it when he toasts Ilsa with: “Here’s looking at you, kid”.

12. Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is an award-winning 1994 American comedy-drama film based on a novel of the same name by Winston Groom. Anyone who doesn’t know Forrest Gump’s famous saying: “My momma always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get’”, has probably been living on a different planet all this time.

The film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, stars Tom Hanks, Robin Wright Penn, and Gary Sinise. The story centres around Forrest Gump, a simple man from Alabama, and his journey through life meeting historical figures, influencing popular culture, and experiencing firsthand historic events of the late 20th century.

The Matrix

13. The Matrix

Ah, The Matrix, a US movie that managed to gain a cult following, and inspired many copycats with its novel special effects. This 1999 film from the science fiction action genre, firmly placed actors Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne in the international Hollywood stars firmament. The Matrix shows a future with an alternate reality controlled by machines, and attempts by humans to escape into actual reality. The film was the basis for a series of Matrix movies, video games, and other paraphernalia

Zen-like soundbites abound, like this one from the deep-voiced Morpheus talking to Neo, the main character: “…you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”

14. Rebel Without a Cause

Rebel Without a Cause was directed by Nicholas Ray in 1955, and tells the story of a rebellious teenager played by James Dean, who comes to a town, meets a girl, disobeys his parents, and defies the local high school bullies. It was an attempt to portray the moral decay of American youth, critique parental style, and exploit the differences between generations.

The main star, James Dean, died tragically in a car accident a month before the movie premiered. Prophetically, his troubled teenage character Jim Stark says about his situation with his parents: “I don’t know what to do anymore. Except maybe die”.

Singin' In The Rain

15. Singin’ in the Rain

The famous 1952 musical comedy movie Singing in the Rain, starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. The film depicted the early Hollywood movie business with its transition from silent movies to “talkies.” Says Cosmo Brown in a bleak comment about “talkies”: “Talking pictures, that means I’m out of a job. At last I can start suffering and write that symphony”.

Gene Kelly’s rendition of the song, “Singing in the Rain”, is still considered one of the best dance scenes in movie history.

The Shawshank Redemption

16. The Shawshank Redemption

The inspiring and emotionally moving American drama, The Shawshank Redemption, was released in 1994 and is based on a Stephen King novella called “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.” The US blockbuster stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman as inmates at the fictional Shawshank State Prison in Maine, United States, and follows the story of mostly Robbins’ character, Andy Dufresne, who was imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit.

Andy overcomes many obstacles in prison, famously deciding that: “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying”. The type of move you’d want to watch more than once.

Psycho

17. Psycho

Psycho is a yet another Alfred Hitchcock thriller, this time starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. The film, which was released in 1960, follows a female motel guest and the motel manager who turns out to be a deeply disturbed killer. The movie’s shower scene is one of Hitchcock’s most famous scenes.

Norman bates, the infamous killer, chillingly says: “We all go a little mad sometimes”. Watch what is considered to be one of Hitchcock’s best films to see just how mad Bates got.

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