Most screenwriters dream of achieving classic movie quote status with the words that they so painstakingly write, and some actually attain that. But sometimes, brevity—as in one single word—can have the most effect in a particular scene, something that many screenwriters and actors often overlook in an attempt to fill a scene. Here are eight examples of words that are instantly recognizable and associated with their respective movies.
1. “Stella!” (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951)
Speaker: Stanley (Marlon Brando)
In most instances, a ripped-shirt drunkard screaming after his wife would instill a certain loathing for the character doing it. But Marlon Brando, being Marlon Brando, managed to make it one of the most unforgettable—and strangely sexy—moments in film history.
2. “Plastics.” (The Graduate, 1967)
Speaker: Mr. McGuire (Walter Brook)
Perhaps the most famous one-word movie line, it’s also one of the funniest lines in Mike Nichols’ most well-known film. Mr. McGuire means very well, but ultimately confuses an already-confused Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) with his suggestion that Ben pursue plastics.
3. “Bueller.” (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986)
Speaker: Economics teacher (Ben Stein)
Ben Stein has made an entire career out of his listless, deadpan delivery, and his performance in this movie was just the beginning. Fellow students started raising their hands to deflect the economics teacher’s incessant calling of Bueller’s name, but he persisted with excellent comedic timing.
4. “Rosebud.” (Citizen Kane, 1941)
Speaker: Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles)
One of the greatest tensions throughout the movie is what Kane meant by saying “rosebud” before dropping a snow globe and dying. A little Googling will tell you, but watching the movie is so much more satisfying.
5. “Freedom!” (Braveheart, 1995)
Speaker: William Wallace (Mel Gibson)
As if the swell of triumphant-yet-tragic music wasn’t enough, Wallace straining to cry out “freedom” right before being beheaded can bring even the surliest among us to tears. The rag in Wallace’s hand dropping to the ground as his hand goes limp is the final knife to the emotional jugular in Mel Gibson’s most successful directorial effort of the 1990s.
6. “Inconceivable!” (The Princess Bride, 1987)
Speaker: Vizzini (Wallace Shawn)
Wallace Shawn shines in almost any role he’s given, and his portrayal of Vizzini is no different. He can play just enough of a weirdo to make “inconceivable” one of the most memorable, enjoyable lines from this Sunday afternoon basic cable staple.
7. “Adrian!” (Rocky, 1976)
Speaker: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)
Even with his bruised, swollen and bloody face contorted almost beyond recognition, every girl watching Rocky wanted to be the girl Rocky was calling out for at the end of the fight. At the very least, it probably inspired parents everywhere to name their babies Adrian.
8. “Attica!” (Dog Day Afternoon, 1975)
Speaker: Sonny (Al Pacino)
In a scene that could only work with an actor as incendiary as Pacino, Sonny’s building anger at the police officer eventually turns into him crying “Attica!” over and over to the onlooking crowd, eliciting cheers and encouragement. Only a true story could be this unbelievable.