Filmmaker Cameron Crowe will celebrate his 55th birthday tomorrow, and though he has an illustrious IMDb page to his name—Say Anything, Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky were all Cameron Crowe films—it’s hard to rank anything ahead of Almost Famous.
His 2000 semi-autobiographical film about a starry-eyed teenage rock writer on the road with one of the nation’s biggest up-and-coming bands was an inspiring, marvelously-written story of love, music and, as Lester Bangs would say, “struggling with one’s own limitations.” We rated it the third-best movie of the entire decade.
One of the film’s hallmarks was its seemingly endless supply of memorable lines, and in honor of Mr. Crowe’s birthday, we’ve assembled a list of the 15 best.
The movie’s hero, William Miller, finds a mentor in the famed rock critic Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman). When the two first meet, they find out they have a lot in common, namely that they weren’t exactly the popular kids in high school. After William bluntly responds to Bangs’ question about the other kids at school with, “They hate me,” Bangs offers this wise line of reassurance.
Frances McDormand plays William’s uptight mother, Elaine, who does everything she can to make sure her son doesn’t turn out like her rebellious, about-to-flee-home daughter, Anita (Zooey Deschanel). After Anita tells her mother that she has robbed William of his adolescence by skipping him ahead a few grades, Elaine isn’t phased. Seems about right for someone who insists on celebrating Christmas in September when it isn’t over-commercialized.
With William’s boyish face and unassuming demeanor, it’s easy for the members of Stillwater to forget that he’s “the enemy.” Guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) realizes this a little too late after telling William how he has to hold back on stage because of how much better of a musician he is than anyone else in the band.
This line represents Stillwater’s quandary when dealing with William. They know how ruthless and merciless “the enemy” can be, so they must always have their guard up. At the same time, they need to be friendly and open with him, because his opinion of the band will be read by “a million people.” And what band doesn’t dream of being on the cover of Rolling Stone?
We all have siblings or friends who first turned us on to good music. Little did William know how much what his sister had left for him would change his life. Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you’ll see your entire future.
Many of the best lines in Almost Famous weren’t particular attention-grabbers. Elaine offers this casual lament as her station wagon is parting a group of hippies in the parking lot of the Black Sabbath concert where she drops off William.
More words of wisdom from the sagacious Lester Bangs, as he’s coaching William on the eve of his Rolling Stone deadline…because they make you feel cool. I mean hey, I met you. You are not cool.
Uttered by William’s sister before dropping the needle on Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” (who were “on pot,” according to Elaine). When the song was over, William would be in high school decorating his textbooks with band logos.
Speaking to a lawn full of high school students during his Topeka acid trip, Russell realizes this probably wasn’t a good thing to say. He starts over, only to come to the exact same conclusion before hurling himself off the roof and into the swimming pool.
Penny Lane is riding high as she’s driving William to Los Angeles to meet up with the band (we find out later that she was only using him as an excuse to see Russell). She uses the time in the car to impart her Band-Aid philosophy to William. If only she had heeded her own advice.
What’s the difference? “The letter U.”
Just before the paramedics reach the hotel room to pump Penny’s stomach after she took a few too many Quaaludes, William finally professes his love before planting one one her, that, as William notes, she won’t even remember.
Triumphantly yelled by Russell while standing on the roof of the Topeka party house, this proclamation answered William’s earlier question to Stillwater’s manager about how to tell if the acid has kicked in yet.
Stillwater’s record label brought in hot shot manager Dennis Hope (Jimmy Fallon) to give the band a pep talk and run down why they need to ditch their friend for someone with experience. He explains how the band must strike while the iron is hot because they aren’t going to be rock stars forever. Fallon put the button on the line with a brief miming of Jagger’s cock walk.
Penny Lane’s mantra for living in the moment and appreciating all that’s happening around you became the film’s most enduring line.