Here are our picks for the 10 most iconic TV quotes to ever air or stream!
By Robert Scucci | Published
We all know by now that any long-running TV series isn’t complete without an iconic quote, or several in some cases. Just like in real life, when you get to know a person well enough, you start to notice that they have certain catchphrases. Since art imitates life (or is it the other way around?), it’s no mystery that the characters that we know and love also have similar verbal ticks.
This list will highlight some of our favorite recurring TV quotes, and a couple of one-offs that are so iconic that you simply can’t think of the show without immediately quoting them. Here are 10 of our favorite TV quotes that you may want to start working into your own conversations.
10. “I’ve made a huge mistake.” – Gob Bluth, Arrested Development
Gob Bluth is an aspiring (read: failed) magician, and the eldest son of the Bluth family in Arrested Development, and has one of the best recurring TV quotes in the entire series: “I’ve made a huge mistake.” We want to say that he is an individual with good intentions, but he’s not. We also want to say that that he’s a good businessman, but he’s not.
In other words, Gob Bluth quite often makes huge mistakes, and then boldly proclaims that he’s made one. Whether he’s running the family business into the ground, messing up yet another romantic relationship, or being forcibly removed from the Alliance of Magicians, it’s clear that although he’s a terrible human being in a lot of ways. However, this TV quote allows us to know that Gob’s at least a little bit self-aware about the instances in which he puts his capacity for critical thinking on the back burner, of which there are many.
9. “The truth is out there.” – Fox Mulder, The X-Files
In The X-Files, Fox Mulder is more often than not a believer living in a world full of skeptics. Throughout the run of the show, we see him chase after cases that defy logic, and obviously have some sort of paranormal component to them, but the FBI has their doubts. In fact, Special Agent Dana Scully was specifically partnered with him to apply logic and scientific reasoning to Mulder’s wild theories in an attempt to keep him grounded in reality.
But Mulder never wavers from his convictions, and his obsession with the X-Files is very much a part of him. On many occasions, you can see Mulder look to the sky, and say “the truth is out there,” and given the circumstances we find him in, we’re compelled to believe him.
8. “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” – Arnold Jackson, Diff’rent Strokes
Diff’rent Strokes is a classic fish out of water story about two African American kids from Harlem who are adopted by a successful businessman named Mr. Drummond. We find the boys, Arnold and Willis, struggle to adjust to a life of high-society luxury, and a lot of the comedy comes in the form of the culture shock that the boys experience. The incredulity on Arnold’s part is what often leads to his iconic TV quote-turned-catchphrase, “what’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”
But it’s not just Wills who gets asked what he’s talking about. Depending on the scenario, and who is prompting Arnold to ask them for an explanation, he uses this catchphrase with whomever he is talking to when he wants some clarification. It’s one of our favorite TV quotes.
Try it next time your boss asks you to stay an extra hour after you’re scheduled to leave. Just make eye contact, look them straight in the eye, and say, “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Boss?” We promise they’ll love it.
7. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” – Coach Taylor, Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights was a popular NBC sports drama that ran from 2006 to 2011. It was set in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, and if you know anything about football communities, then you certainly know how seriously they take the sport. This is especially true in the South, where entire towns rally to watch the big game.
It’s Coach Taylor’s iconic TV quote, “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose,” that resonated so well with the Dillon Panthers, the community, and the audience of the show. The quote is simple, yet powerful, and is one of optimism and perseverance. Though this TV quote started out as a concise way to end a pep-talk, it can translate to other aspects of life, which is why it’s such a powerful quote.
In other words, if you focus on your goals with positive intent, you’ll always emerge from your struggles as a winner.
6. “Say My Name.” – Walter White, Breaking Bad
When you think of this TV quote, it’s only natural to start singing the Destiny’s Child song of the same name. In the case of Breaking Bad, however, this exchange is far from catchy, but totally iconic. When Walter White introduces himself to Declan, he insists that the purity of his cook is better than anybody else’s, and he doesn’t want to give him his entire supply of methylamine.
Walt insists on taking this route because it’s worth more in his hands than it is in anybody else’s. When Declan questions who Walter White truly is, we get one of the most iconic TV quotes to ever come from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Walt stares Declan dead in the face, and says, “Say my name,” to which Declan replies, astonished, “You’re Heisenberg.”
5. “Grunt.” – Tim Taylor, Home Improvement
Home Improvement had a legendary run from 1991 to 1999, and the series is full of so many iconic TV quotes. Whenever Tim Taylor would make an off-color joke on his public access show Tool Time, his co-host Al Borland, would always quip back with, “I don’t think so, Tim.” Who could forget Tim’s neighbor who never showed his face, Wilson’s patented, “hi-di-ho, neighbor!”
But the quote in Home Improvement that is perhaps the most famous doesn’t even involve real worlds. We’re talking of course about Tim “The Tool-Man” Taylor’s legendary grunt. Sometimes phrased as “oh-oh-oh,” but oftentimes expressed as “ooh-ooh-ooh.”
No matter how he emphasized his grunts when he was particularly excited, Tim Taylor would always express himself like chimp on an ether frolic. Though this comes off as “cringe” when you look back at the series, this TV quote was very much a part of the 90s lexicon if you were up on your sitcoms.
4. “Live long and prosper.” – Spock, Star Trek
One of the most iconic TV quotes to come out of the Star Trek universe has to belong to the almighty Spock. This phrase was often paired with the Vulcan salute, which Leonard Nimoy attributed to his Jewish Heritage. But no matter the origin of this TV quote, it’s safe to say that “live long and prosper,” is synonymous with our favorite pointy-eared, logic-loving Vulcan.
You’d be hard-pressed to go to any sort of science-fiction convention and not see this TV quote written on a shirt, or enthusiastically spoken by a fan of Star Trek.
3. “How you doin’?” – Joey Tribbiani, Friends
Joey Tribbiani from Friends is a ladies man. Or at least he thinks he is. The struggling actor had one of the more iconic recurring TV quotes on the series: “how you doin’?” But it’s worth noting that this TV quote transcends pickup artistry, and playful flirting, and has other applications as well.
Sure, we’ve seen Joey use this pick-up line to try hooking up with the ladies plenty of times. But in season 7 when he becomes obsessed with Monica’s cooking, he even directs this affectionate phrase to what he refers to as “fried stuff with cheese.” Having already nearly eaten himself into a coma, he picks up the food, and says “how you doin’?”
2. “Winter is coming.” – Ned Stark, Game of Thrones
If you love TV quotes with double meaning, then you’re probably a fan of Game of Thrones. Taken literally, “winter is coming” is in reference to the seasonal patterns in Westeros. But it’s also the motto of House Stark, and it refers to always being prepared and ever vigilant.
The rulers of the North know that they always have to be prepared to brave a storm, whether it is literal, or figurative. That’s why this TV quote resonates so well with audiences. In other words, when Ned Stark says “winter is coming,” you know things are about to get serious.
Though this TV quote is said a number of times, it doesn’t truly reach “catchphrase” status in Game of Thrones itself. But fans of the series will often use this TV quote when they’re out and about to describe anything from mild inconveniences, to significant life events.
1. “D’oh!” – Homer Simpson, The Simpsons
Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!” is probably one of the most iconic TV quotes to come out of the 90s, and for good reason. There’s just something so satisfying about hearing Homer yell this annoyed grunt. He makes this noise quite a bit throughout the entire run of The Simpsons.
“D’oh!” is truly a catchphrase in every sense of the word. Homer will say it when he stubs his toe, hits his head, finds out that he’s past-due on his mortgage, and when he gets in trouble at work at the Nuclear Power Plant.
But the best part about this TV quote is that it was never actually scripted as “D’oh!” This was a creative liberty taken by voice actor Dan Castellaneta when The Simpsons was still a new show (centuries ago). In fact, the iconic phrase originally appeared in the scripts as “annoyed grunt,” and Castellaneta improvised it. He was right to trust his instincts, because it’s still one of the most memorable TV quotes to this day!