Researchers are Cornell University explored the science behind movie quotes to try and figure out how and why certain quotes become well known.
They looked at the scripts for about 1,000 movies and checked (a) which sentences were listed in the movie’s “Memorable Quotes” page on IMDb and (b) how often said sentence cropped up elsewhere on the Web. This isn’t a perfect methodology, because IMDb Memorable Quotes sections can be filled with gibberish — it’s not all “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” on there, as you might imagine — but I can’t really imagine a better way to figure this out.
It’s really quite interesting. They find that memorable quotes tend to use less common word choices or are so general as to be easy to apply to any old situation.
Of course, this only deals with the sort of quotes that have the broadest impact and become universal (i.e. “I coulda been a contender”). I don’t know about you, but these aren’t the quotes that are a part of my regular life. Those quotes I repeat come from things I and the people with whom I associate have in common. So when I quote “Arrested Development” or whatever, it’s not because that one quote was so memorable, but because either that quote or bit or movie or book or show or whatever has become part of the relationship I have with someone. But this is still interesting.