10 Famous Movie and TV Lines in English

You love to watch TV and movies, don’t you? Well, great news! It’s not always a waste of time.

Maybe you already know about how English is used in pop culture, and you’ve been improving your English by watching awesome movies.

But when you want to make people laugh, you can use movie references to your advantage.

Referential humor means making a kind of joke taken directly from a popular movie or show. In other words, you are quoting someone or talking about something almost everyone knows about.

On comedy shows like “Family Guy” or “Saturday Night Live,” they use this type of humor a lot. They quote or  misquote (change the words of the quote) a line or talk about a famous person or movie.

In English-speaking countries, this is a very common type of humor—people will make references every day, sometimes without even knowing it!

In this post, you’ll learn some of the most famous references, what they mean and how to use them. Ready? Let’s go!


1.  “Why so serious?” Batman: The Dark Knight

You’ve probably heard this one before. The Joker in the new “Batman” movies often says this line.

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It became really popular to use this after “The Dark Knight” came out in 2008. It’s especially fun to try to copy the Joker’s deep, scary voice.

The meaning is very  straightforward (direct, easy to understand)—you can use this to ask why someone is being so serious. Usually, this is used when everyone else is having fun, but there are people who aren’t smiling or laughing along.

Use this around your friends who love Batman!


A:  “I can’t believe you guys think this show is funny! It’s so stupid.”

B:  “Aw, come on Tom, it’s hilarious! Why so serious?” 

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2.  “How you doin’?” Friends 

This line is used several times in the TV show “Friends” from the 90s and early 2000s. There are several main characters and one of them is Joey, who is an actor and playboy / player (someone who dates a lot of women).

He  flirts (acts as though attracted to someone even when not serious about it) a lot and his famous line when he’s flirting is How you doin’?”

Like most of these quotes, try to copy the actor’s voice. Use this line as a joke when your friend looks pretty or handsome, and you want to pretend that you’re flirting with them.


A:  “Do you like my new dress?”

B:  “Yeah… how you doin’?”

3.  “I’ll be back” Terminator 

In this classic ’80s film, Arnold Schwarzenegger made the line “I’ll be back” famous for decades.

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It’s used in the different films from the series (many movies about the same characters) and is also used in hundreds of movies today. Whenever someone is leaving a place and will come back later, they will say this dramatically in the actor’s voice to be funny.


A:  “Can you go to the store and buy some chips?”

B:  “Sure… I’ll be back!”

4. “Say hello to my li’l friend!” – Scarface

The full quote is, “You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my li’l friend!”

In the movie “Scarface,” Al Pacino plays the main character who says this before pulling out a  missile launcher (a very large gun) and shooting people.

This quote is used for so many things, basically at times when you show someone something you’re hiding—a gun, puppy, action figure, etc. (It’s also sometimes used as a sexual reference, so be careful!)

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A:  “Is that a Chihuahua?”

B:  “Say hello to my li’l friend!”

A:  “… hello.”

5. “Life is like a box of chocolates” – Forrest Gump

In another classic movie  starring (featuring the actor) Tom Hanks, there are many quotes. This one—along with Run, Forrest, run!”is the most popular.

This phrase continues on to say,  You never know what you’re gonna get.” Back when this film was made, stores sold boxes of chocolates with no labels for the flavors, so you wouldn’t know what kind of chocolates you were eating.

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The meaning of this quote is that life is unpredictable and you don’t know what will happen, which is a  theme (main idea) in the movie.

People may use this when eating chocolate, or they may change the quote to be clever, or just use it properly when something unexpected happens.


A: “Life is like a box of chocolates.”

B:  “You say that every time I buy you these …”

6.  “We’re not in Kansas anymore” – The Wizard of Oz

In the original “The Wizard of Oz” movie with Judy Garland, Dorothy says this to her dog after they are carried from Kansas, U.S.A to the Land of Oz by a tornado (a large column of air that touches the ground and turns around and around very rapidly).

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The full line is,  Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” 

This is used when people go to any new place that’s strange or unexpected. For example, if you and your friend go to a bar, and all the people there are dressed up in crazy costumes, you could try this one.


A:  “This club looks like a vampire house …”

B:  I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore …”

7. “The name’s Bond. James Bond” – The James Bond Series

In the many, many James Bond films that have come out over time, this line is used in almost all of them.

When the character introduces himself to people, he says his name this way. He usually sounds dramatic, dangerous or classy.

There are two ways to use this. One way is to use the original quote when someone dresses up in a tuxedo or a very nice suit. Another is to use the same pattern, but use another name instead.

When you feel cool, look cool or want to sound cool, you can use this phrase.


A:  “Wow! Why are you wearing such a nice suit?”

B:  “The name’s Bond. James Bond.”

8. “You Can’t Handle the Truth!” – A Few Good Men

This film is about a lawyer defending two  marines (military force that supports operations near the shore) and stars Tom Cruise. This dramatic quote is used in a courtroom scene when he is questioning Jack Nicholson.

When Tom Cruise shouts  I want the truth!” Jack Nicholson shouts back angrily, You can’t handle the truth!”

In the film, they talk about the ugliness of war and death and how the lawyer cannot handle the truth that he knows deep inside his mind.

When used as a reference, some people will say it when they don’t want to tell the person the answer to a question.

It’s usually quoted when someone asks a question or tells you to be honest, and you want to jokingly make a normal situation seem very serious.


A:  “Did you eat the last cookie? Tell me the truth.”

B:  “You can’t handle the truth!”

9. “No soup for you!” – Seinfeld

In the TV show “Seinfeld,” there is a character that fans call The Soup Nazi.

One of the characters makes him angry, and so The Soup Nazi refuses to sell him soup. Instead, he shouts “No soup for you!” and takes the soup back.

This is usually quoted when someone asks for something and you don’t want to give it to them, or you pretend you don’t want to. It could be soup—or anything else, really.


A: “Hey, can I have a sandwich and some tomato soup?”

B:  “No soup for you!”

10.  “My precious” The Lord of the Rings 

This line is from “The Lord of the Rings,” which is a trilogy (a set of three books or movies).

Several characters say this, but the most famous is Gollum/Smeagol who follows Frodo to steal the golden ring back from him. He refers to the ring as “his precious,” because it’s important to him and he needs to have it.

If you’re protecting something you love, you can try this to make a joke. It could be about a food, a person or a toy. Like “No soup for you!,” it’s also used when you don’t want to give something to another person. It’s also said in a creepy (scary and weird) voice to sound like Gollum.


A: “Is that a new watch? Can I see it?”

B:  “No! Don’t touch it, it’s my precious …”

More Types of References

Besides quoting things directly, you can also reference TV shows, movies, characters, episodes, writers, directors and places. Not up to date on English-language pop culture? Then this is a good time to add movies, TV shows and other English videos to your learning routine. A program like FluentU can make this easier to do by breaking up videos into smaller, more manageable chunks.

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If something reminds you of something you saw in a movie or TV show, you can make a reference, as long as all your friends know what you’re talking about.

Here are a few examples:

So now you can see that most shows and films can be referenced to make a joke in English.

And these are only a few of the well-known ones! The best way to understand these is to watch some of these movies and shows yourself and quote your favorite lines to others.

The most important thing is to get into the character when quoting people and have fun!

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:


If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

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