Say What? Famous Last Words

by Bill Gibron

30 November 2009

In celebration of tomorrow's DVD and Blu-ray release of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (and the similarly themed bonus featurette - "Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words"), SE&L has selected some of its favorite, and most fascinating, individual and entertainment elegies.
cover art

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Blu-ray)

Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Bill Hader, Christopher Guest, Steve Coogan,

US DVD: 1 Dec 2009 (General release)
UK DVD: 1 Dec 2009 (General release)

They are meant to be the final beat to any life - cinematic or human. They often adorn tombstones, or land like bombshells at the end of elaborate plots. They can be memorable or moving, insightful or indicative of an existence worth noting. They often come from the historical or the histrionic, acting as exclamation points with summary significance attached. We call them “famous last words” and for many they mark the one and only reference point for a particular person, personality, or motion picture.

Don’t think so? Ask someone to name the movie where “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn…” comes from and they’re bound to answer Gone with the Wind (actually, that’s not the actual final lines from the film. Scarlett O’Hara, rebuffed by Rhett Butler’s curse, argues that she’ll figure out how to get him back tomorrow. After all, she says, “Tomorrow is another day.”). Mention a noted bit of deathbed cattiness - “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go” and the name ‘Oscar Wilde’ instantly comes to mind…well, at least to English majors. 

From the obscure (playwright Eugene O’Neill supposedly uttered “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room - and God damn it - died in a hotel room,” before passing on) to the sublime (Daniel Day-Lewis’ ambiguous reading of There Will Be Blood‘s bombshell, “I’m finished.”), last words resonate with a special kind of power. They can be forceful or sad, pithy or prone to self-pity. In any case, they become like little trivia stepping stones for the cultural maven, a way of gauging knowledge and scope without significantly damaging (or adding to) you geek cred.

In celebration of tomorrow’s DVD and Blu-ray release of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (and the similarly themed bonus featurette - “Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words”), SE&L has selected some of its favorite, and most fascinating, individual and entertainment elegies. In some cases, the selections are obvious. In others, they’re obtuse. While we couldn’t find room for all our choices (we are still trying to confirm that “No More Pull-ups” is indeed the last line of Roland Emmerich’s ditzy disaster epic 2012) the list below should get you thinking about other entries in the category, as well as what you might say if you time should ever come.


“…And oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home.” - The Wizard of Oz

“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” - Casablanca

“Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” - It’s a Wonderful Life

“…You see, this is my life. It always will be! There’s nothing else - just us - and the cameras - and those wonderful people out there in the dark. All right, Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up.” - Sunset Boulevard

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” - The Diary of Anne Frank

“Well, nobody’s perfect.” - Some Like It Hot

“Mein Fuehrer, I can walk!” - Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb

“You finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!” - Planet of the Apes

“You can tell everybody. Listen to me, Hatcher. You’ve got to tell them soylent green is people. We’ve got to stop them somehow.” - Soylent Green

“This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.” - Network

“It’s too bad she won’t live—but then again, who does?” - Blade Runner (Director’s Cut)

“I’m pregnant.” - Hannah and Her Sisters

“I’m sixty.” - Murphy’s Romance

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?” - Stand by Me

“I do wish we could chat longer, but I’m having an old friend for dinner. Bye.” - The Silence of the Lambs

“Hail to the king, baby.” - Army of Darkness

“Dick Laurent is dead.” - Lost Highway

People (Famous or Otherwise)

“Drink to Me!” - Pablo Picasso, painter

“Codeine…bourbon…” - Tallulah Bankhead, actress

“Die, I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him”. - John Barrymore, actor

“I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis”. - Humphrey Bogart, actor

“I’m bored with it all.” - Winston Churchill, statesman

“Dammit…Don’t you dare ask God to help me.” - Joan Crawford, actress

“Yes, it’s tough, but not as tough as doing comedy.” - Edmund Gwenn, actor

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” - Nathan Hale, patriot

“Money can’t buy life.” - Bob Marley, musician

“Every damn fool thing you do in this life you pay for.” - Edith Piaf, singer

“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” - Leonardo Da Vinci, artist/inventor

“Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!” - Karl Marx, ideologist

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