MOTIVATIONAL MOVIE QUOTES
After a lifetime spent in love with the movies, it occurred to me how often a great line of dialogue from a film stayed with me. I’m not just talking about memorable quotes like, “Play it, Sam!” from Casablanca or “I’ve been slimed!” from Ghostbusters, or “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in again!” from the Godfather, Part Three. Those lines are great, but I am referring to motivational movie quotes that makes me think about how I live my life – or how I should live my life.
Let me share 10 of my favorites with you. Please offer your favorites and your reactions in the comments section below!
“It’s easy to be a holy man on top of a mountain.”
(The Razor’s Edge, 1984)
Many of us espouse religious convictions, and almost everybody would claim that they try to live their life with an integrity and consistency that makes sense to them. But what happens when our integrity is challenged or our religious faith leads us to a path that is inconvenient, not profitable, or steers us away from immediate pleasure? How many people who considered themselves moral and decent people have affairs, cheat on their taxes, or lie to their bosses? No one is perfect and no one is entirely consistent. This line of dialogue comes from a man who has spent a great deal of his adult lifetime seeking the meaning of life. After studying with a brilliant, spiritual guru in the Himalayas, he realizes that it is easy to live by our values when there are no temptations available. The true test of our integrity is how we behave in the real world. I struggle with this constantly. How do we make our actions consistent with what we say we believe?
“We are all just one small adjustment away from making our lives work.”
(How Do You Know, 2010)
This line comes at the end of a powerful story. The main character (Paul Rudd) is facing jail, poverty, and disgrace, having been falsely accused of a crime. In the midst of his dilemma, he meets a beautiful woman going through a crisis of her own. At an elegant rooftop birthday party being thrown by her boyfriend, Rudd shows up and hands her a birthday gift: a container of Play-Doh. He explains the fascinating story behind the invention of Play-doh; how it was invented for one purpose and flopped, but was then reinvented as a toy for children. He uses this for a metaphor as to how we can all make minor adjustments in our lives and make them tremendously better. I think about this a lot. Sometimes just changing my usual approach to a problem will bring about a much better result than I would have otherwise gotten.
“It’s a topsy-turvy world, and maybe the problems of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans. But this is our hill. And these are our beans!”
(The Naked Gun, 1988)
Even in a comedy as wacky as “The Naked Gun,” one can find a nugget of wisdom! So many people, when faced with difficulty, downplay their problems and refused to seek help. They’ll often say, “It could be so much worse – there are people facing much bigger difficulties than I am.” I think that keeping that perspective is often extremely healthy. And all of us tend to recoil from people who see their lives as nonstop sources of drama. But it is also important to remember that the problems that we face are still very real and need to be addressed. It is okay to ask for help, even if other people are in much worse circumstances.
“A man can convince anyone he’s someone else but never himself.”
(The Usual Suspects, 1995)
As a public speaker, I have a public persona that I share with my wonderful clients and the fantastic audiences who honor me by coming to hear me. As a father, husband, brother, uncle, church member, citizen, I likewise have a public persona. When I first heard this line from “The Usual Suspects,” it hit home. All of us have roles to play in our daily lives. Success and failure, fame and security, all of these will be part of our lives at some point. But we need to remember to stay true to who we really are.
“Don’t miss the wonders that surround you because every tree, every rock, every anthill, every star is filled with the wonders of nature.”
(Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939)
I am surrounded by the wonders of modern technology. The highest aspiration of some of the people with whom I talk is to have a “man cave” and expensive entertainment center in their homes, replete with large flatscreen TVs, streaming video, super fast Internet, and all the latest gadgets. As a movie lover, I admit to loving a big-screen TV and Blu-ray player and surround sound! But as I rush from speaking engagement to speaking engagement around the country, I constantly remind myself to look up from my phone or computer and look out the window at the magnificent world God has created for us. I was speaking in Nevada and as impressive as the gaudy opulence of the Las Vegas strip can be, I was thrilled when my hosts took me 20 minutes away from the city and up into the magnificent Red Rock Canyon. But we don’t need a national park to remind us of the beauties of this world. There is a magnificent weeping willow tree along the eleven minute walk I take four times a day taking my children to and from school. No matter how busy I am, no matter how preoccupied I am with the appointments I need to keep, the phone calls I need to return, or the presentation I need to tweak, I always try to remember to look up at that gorgeous tree. It always makes me smile.
“Never do nothing you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of The New York Times.“
(Born Yesterday, 1950)
It seems that a day does not go by that some politician (or athlete or movie star or journalist) is embroiled in some scandal. The one thing they all seem to have in common was the belief that they would never get caught. Yet somehow they did! In an era of the 24 hour news cycle and gossipy social media, rumors fly with lightning speed. Anyone who’s ever had a defamatory rumor spread about them knows how hard it is to get the truth out. This wonderful quote from a classic film is a quick reminder that if you do the right thing, you won’t have to worry about what others will say.
“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
(The Godfather, 1972)
The combination of a difficult economy, high unemployment, corporate downsizing and a culture built on consumer acquisition has caused many people to work longer hours, travel more, and spend less time with their families. I get that. All of us want to make sure that we can guarantee a secure and better future for those who are dependent on us. But I often meet people who work incredibly long hours, travel incessantly, and cannot relax even on vacation, all while trying to provide more for their families. Yet many of them have lost touch with the very families they are trying to support. The desire to close one more deal, send one more email, or attend one more networking conference is always tempting for some folks. The Godfather was certainly very aspirational – but somehow always managed to have Sunday dinners with his family. This quote is a good reminder to seek balance in our lives. Don’t miss the very small but very important moments.
“You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions. Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not. ‘Have you found joy in your life?’ ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’”
(The Bucket List)
What joy do you bring to other people? Has your success made you happy? What are you doing with your life that really matters? I believe that unless we leave this world a better place, our lives had been wasted no matter what financial success we may have accrued. This film centers around the unexpected friendship that develops between two very different men, each of whom is being treated for terminal cancer. The reality of impending death clears their minds and helps them focus on what is truly important. I enjoy my work, but I also love reading to my children’s classes, going to my daughter’s cheerleading competitions, and building Legos with my son. It is all about balance.
(When told that the workers of Freedonia are demanding shorter hours. President Rufus T. Firefly [Groucho Marx] responds:)
“Very well, we’ll give them shorter hours. We’ll start by cutting their lunch hour to 20 minutes!”
(Duck Soup, 1933)
I threw this one in to my list of motivational movie quotes because it always makes me laugh. And I actually quote it quite often in my presentations – it is a reminder to make sure you fully understand the question before you offer a solution. So often when people claim to be listening, they are actually simply waiting to say what they were going to say anyway. And at many political forums, people don’t actually ask questions and listen to the answers, they merely make a statement of their own belief and follow it with, “Don’t you agree?” Take the time to listen to the question, make sure you understand it, and don’t forget to laugh at the absurdity of life!
To read some of my other blog posts on the movies, click the links below.