Robin Williams in 'Dead Poets Society'

7 Famous Movie Quotes With Crucial Life Lessons To Impart

Some quotes from films move us more than real-life encounters. This list will aim to highlight seven quotes from famous films that offer significant life lessons.

Inspirational. Life-changing. Significant. Relevant. Chill-inducing. These are some of the adjectives that surface when discussing films that nestle their way into our hearts and minds — and never leave. Films with lines we’ve memorized. With moments so clear in our memories, it’s as if the events unfolded in our very own lives. 

Some quotes in movies take you aback. You pause to digest the words that have been said. The words are so meaningful they pierce through the silver screen to all those listening. You may even feel removed from the story — stomaching the weight of wisdom imparted — before regaining focus and returning to the tale before you. 

This list will highlight movie quotes with vital life lessons to share. And some of the movies may surprise you, for a film need not be serious to say something significant. 

“Don’t ever let somebody tell you you can’t do something, not even me. Alright? You dream. You gotta protect it.” — ‘The Pursuit of Happyness

It’s tough to make it in a capitalist society where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Where generational wealth is a ticket to a life of financial freedom. Yet, despite all the obstacles that may get in the way of your dreams, determination will triumph if given the space to flourish. 

Will Smith’s character goes on to explain to his son that people will try to tell you that you cannot achieve your dreams— and this is because their fear is greater than their will. People who are too scared to give it their all want to see others succumb to the same negative emotions. Yet, dreams are powerful. We must protect them. Nurture them. Without aspiration, there is no success. But with it, with a vision so strong it’s tangible before it comes to fruition, we can pursue and attain happiness. 

“The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” — ‘The Lion King’ 

Rafiki is The Lion King’s unorthodox and eccentric mandrill. Despite his questionable approach to imparting life lessons, his wisdom is faultless nonetheless. He is the embodiment of intuition, and is the “old soul” to Simba’s “young grasshopper.” This quote about the past relays that one’s history is powerful — it can carry so much emotional weight that it paralyzes you in the present. However, the quote also asserts that it can be a source of knowledge — a well of experience that you learn from.

Running from the past will keep you in a cyclical trap of your own creation. The more you run, the less you grow. When you confront the past, pain and fear will surface, but at the end of the tunnel, there is freedom. Freedom from the shackles your mind has constructed as barriers. But the thing about barriers: they do not only keep others from getting in…they keep you from getting out. 

Rafiki is present to teach Simba the importance of resilience, accepting responsibility, and growing from one’s mistakes. And, in this one quote, he does it all. 

“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” — ‘Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

On a literal level, this quote lacks a bit of a punch in the inspiration department. However, on a metaphorical level, it’s a good lesson about preparing for the worst. In life, if you are prepared to “dodge a wrench” — face the unexpected, cope with drastic change, find solace in times of despair — you will easily be able to “dodge a ball” — deal with everyday inconveniences and minor disappointments. Think of the wrench as the worst possible outcome, and the ball as the modestly annoying consequence. If you only prepare for the ball, what will you do when the wrench comes flying at you? 

This is not to say that you should live life in a state of anxiety, but rather that it’s good to emotionally, physically, and mentally develop the means to face life’s greatest challenges. 

“My mama always said, Life was like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.” — ‘Forrest Gump’ 

This famous Forrest Gump quote is similar to the one above but is less about preparation, and more about accepting life’s randomness. Life throws curveballs. Life can bring glorious days of pure bliss and somber days filled with sorrow and regret. Yet, until you live it, you won’t know it. So, get out there and take a bite of the chocolate — hopefully, you get a good flavor.

You don’t always need a plan. Forrest never really had one, and his life brought him such an eclectic series of adventures. Sometimes it’s okay to let the wind sweep you away and see what happens when you relinquish a little control. 

“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living…” — ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’ 

It’s easy to dwell on those we have lost. To fixate on all the ways we could have acted differently when they were alive. On all the actions we could have taken to change the course of events that have taken them away. However, it does not benefit you or those around you to focus on those who are no longer here. There are those living who could use your support — those suffering who still walk this earth. Pity them. Find it in your heart to care for them. Find it in your power to console those who can benefit from your compassion. 

Dumbledore goes on to include that Harry should, most of all, pity those who “live without love,” for what is a life without love? Those struggling with isolation — with the earthly woes of a loveless existence — are more deserving of pity than those who cannot feel the commiseration you hold for them. This quote is primarily about shifting perspective in the face of loss, and, though difficult to hear, these are words we can all learn from. 

“And medicine, law, business, engineering: these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love: these are what we stay alive for.” — ‘Dead Poets Society

Robin Williams’ character is not diminishing the importance of practical studies here but rather emphasizing the importance of the humanities. Without science, we would not survive. We would be stuck in the dark ages. Yet, without poetry, art, beauty, and romance, what would we have to survive for? How would we connect with one another? How would we find the souls out there operating on the same wavelength? 

Do not get so caught up in the tangible — in the objective and practical — that you forget the very facets of existence that make us human. The very things that separate us from inferior mammals with no more than an instinct to survive. We have an instinct to flourish. Nurture it. 

“But when I saw her laid out like a queen, she was the happiest corpse I’d ever seen.” — ‘Cabaret

This quote may need a little bit more context than the others on the list; however, once broken down, it carries a great deal of weight about living life to the fullest. This quote is a lyric from the song “Cabaret” from the movie musical Cabaret. The lyric is about a woman who partied. She never said no to an exciting opportunity. She took risks. She came to the cabaret to “hear the music play.” And, when she died, she looked so at ease, for she did not have any regrets. 

She did not die thinking about all the “what ifs” for she chased all those exciting opportunities. This is not to say that you should be fearless and risk-taking to a fault (for she likely died from “too much pills and liquor”), but you should not be too regimented as to miss out. As the song goes, “From cradle to tomb, it isn’t that long a stay,” so put on your going-out outfit and hit the town.

About the author

Josh Lezmi

Josh is an entertainment writer and editor at Thought Catalog.