Writers want to make a connection with their readers and the sooner they can do it, the stronger the reader will feel about the story. That connection comes with a strong opening line. Movie writers are the same way. They know that if an actor can issue a compelling line at the start of the movie, they will draw their viewers in and they will have a memorable experience watching the movie. Here are the seven best first lines in movie history.
"The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
"She isn't coming yet, Toto. Did she hurt you? She tried to, didn't she? Come on. We'll go tell Uncle Henry and Auntie Em." Dorothy (Judy Garland) in the Wizard of Oz, talking to her little dog, Toto, about her mean neighbor Elvira Gulch (Margaret Hamilton). Later on in the movie, Dorothy and Toto would confront Gulch when she takes on her other primary role–the Wicked Witch of the West. Garland's soft tone during these opening lines builds sympathy for her immediately.
"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)
"I owe everything to George Bailey. Help him, Dear Father." Spoken as a voice over at the start of one of the greatest American films ever made, the line demonstrates the love the people of fictional Bedford Falls feel for George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). Bailey has sacrificed all his own hopes and dreams for others and has a moment of crisis where he considers committing suicide. At that moment, his friends and family all pray for him.
"Love Story" (1970)
"What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach, the Beatles, and me?" — That's the line that Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O'Neal) utters at the start of the movie about his wife, Jennifer Cavalleri (Ali McGraw). The story of the death of such a young woman and the impact that she had on her husband starts with this compelling line.
"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." General George S. Patton (George C. Scott) at the start of the Oscar-winning movie about the controversial general. Patton was the common-sense general who was always in charge and demanded everything be done his way. George C. Scott's portrayal is legendary, and it starts with this epic line.
"Annie Hall" (1977)
"There's an old joke: Two elderly women are at a Catskill Mountain resort. And one of 'em says: 'Boy, the food in this place is really terrible.' The other one says: 'Yeah, I know. And such small portions.' Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly." Woody Allen's character Alvy Singer give his philosophy about life and stays true to his melancholy yet comical beliefs throughout the movie. The line be long, but it perfectly sums up how Alvy feels during the movie.
"Stand By Me" (1986)
"I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being." The voiceover at the start of this memorable coming-of-age movie sets the stage for the adventure that four boys experience during one pivotal summer. A line like this grabs the viewer's attention right from the start, and the story that follows never lets go.
"As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States." Those are the words of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) as he explains his desire to become a mobster and choose to get involved in a life of crime. And Henry goes on to demonstrate the truth behind his words in very memorable style.