Sometimes a film delivers its most powerful message wordlessly - say, by the clenching of a character's jaw.
More often, movie moments are made by the words that are spoken - or shouted - such as Tommy Wiseau in "The Room," wailing, "You're tearing me apart!" (That gem of dialogue, by the way, was stolen from "Rebel Without a Cause," as we learn in the new film "The Disaster Artist," a comedy about the making of Wiseau's so-bad-it's-good masterpiece.)
Here are 10 other memorable bits of dialogue from this year's films - some of which are sure to be nominated for screenwriting Oscars, and others that, for reasons that are harder to explain, found their way into this critic's heart - and notebook.
Screenwriter: Greta Gerwig
Actress Greta Gerwig's solo directorial debut centers on Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a Sacramento high school senior who dismisses her home town as the "Midwest of California." But the headmistress of Lady Bird's Catholic school, Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith), thinks she knows better, telling our protagonist that it's obvious, from the way she writes about Sacramento in her college admissions essays, that Lady Bird loves the city. "All I do is pay attention," Lady Bird protests, to which the nun replies:
"Don't you think they are the same thing - love and attention?"
Screenwriter: Anthony McCarten
Joe Wright's film looks at Winston Churchill's early days as British prime minister. Set in 1940, the film culminates with Churchill (a transformed Gary Oldman) delivering his "We shall fight on the beaches" speech, rousing and reassuring the British government and people on the eve of the Battle of Britain. After listening to the speech, a member of Parliament asks, as though blown away by the words, "What just happened?" And Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane) replies:
"He mobilized the English language, and sent it into battle."
The Florida Project
Screenwriters: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Filmmaker Sean Baker's portrait of the Central Florida underclass focuses on a little girl named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) who is living with her prostitute mother in a seedy, Orlando-area motel. When Moonee introduces a new friend to her secret hideaway - an uprooted, yet still living, tree - Moonee describes it in a way that offers a metaphor for her own survival instincts:
"Do you know why this is my favourite tree? Because it tipped over, and it's still growing."
The Shape of Water
Screenwriters: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Guillermo Del Toro's sci-fi fantasy - half horror story, half swooning romance - is about a mute cleaning woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with an amphibious sea creature (Doug Jones) that is being studied in the government lab where she works. Narrated by Richard Jenkins, as Elisa's misfit roommate, Giles, the poetic tale of oddballs seeking to belong ends, fittingly, with a fragment of verse:
"When I think of her, of Elisa, all that comes to mind is a poem, made of just a few truthful words, whispered by someone in love, hundreds of years ago: 'Unable to perceive the shape of you, I find you all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with your love. It humbles my heart, for you are everywhere.' "
Screenwriter: Aaron Sorkin
The Oscar-winning writer of "The Social Network" and the creator of the Emmy-winning "The West Wing" has sometimes been criticized for writing dialogue that doesn't sound the way people normally talk. Making his directorial debut with an adaptation of Molly Bloom's 2014 memoir about running a high-stakes poker game, Aaron Sorkin fills the script with smart (and improbably sassy) zingers, including this put-down, by Bloom's lawyer (Idris Elba), of the cover photo chosen by his client (Jessica Chastain) for her book:
"You look like the cat that ate the canary - and then told the canary's parents about it."
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Screenwriter: Martin McDonagh
Francis McDormand plays Mildred, the grieving - yet scabrously funny - mother of a murdered teenage girl who has installed a series of billboards accusing her town's police chief of inaction. When the local priest (Nick Searcy) stops by to ask her to take them down, Mildred lays into him, citing the Los Angeles County penal code - which considers gang members to be complicit in crimes committed by other gang members - to implicate the padre in pedophilia.
"(This) got me thinking, Father, that whole type of situation is kinda similar to you church boys, ain't it? You've got your colors. You've got your clubhouse. You're, for want of a better word, a gang. And if you're upstairs smoking a pipe and reading a Bible while one of your fellow gang members is downstairs f-----g an altar boy, then, Father, just like the Crips, and just like the Bloods, you're culpable. 'Cause you joined the gang, man. And I don't care if you never did s--- or never saw s--- or never heard s---. You joined the gang. You're culpable. And when a person is culpable to altar-boy-f-----g, or any kinda boy-f-----g - I know you guys didn't really narrow it down - then they kinda forfeit the right to come into my house and say a word about me, or my life, or my daughter, or my billboards. So why don't you just finish your tea there, Father, and get the f--k out of my kitchen?"
The Big Sick
Screenwriters: Emily Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Married in real life, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon collaborated on a funny-sweet screenplay about their courtship - which included Gordon being placed in a medically induced coma after she was taken seriously ill. When stand-up comic Nanjiani, playing himself, meets the parents of his sick girlfriend (Zoe Kasdan), he finds himself in the awkward position of having to simultaneously reassure Mom and Dad (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) while delivering terrible news:
"Apparently, there are good and bad comas. And the kind that they put her in - the medically induced ones - are definitely the good kind of coma. Like, you know how there are good and bad carbs? Gremlins - those can be good or bad."
Screenwriter: Taylor Sheridan
Taylor Sheridan's directorial debut - a nouveau Western centering on the investigation of the murder of a Native American girl - features Jeremy Renner as a laconic and methodical agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who dispenses such folksy nuggets of wisdom as:
"Being careless won't get you anywhere faster" and "A gun is always loaded, even when it ain't."
Screenwriters: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green
Director James Mangold's noirish tale of Marvel's X-Men features poignantly broken-down versions of Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who laments the burden of the mutant hero who, seemingly, can't be killed:
"Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long."
Screenwriters: Brett Haley, Marc Basch
Aging cowboy/actor Sam Elliott plays an aging cowboy/actor struggling to find work in an industry whose enduring appeal - part escapism, part voyeurism - he sums up, succinctly:
"Movies are other people's dreams."