Memento Quotes: Innovative & Intriguing

(Total Quotes: 60)

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by:
Jonathan Nolan (short story “Memento Mori”)
Christopher Nolan (screenplay)
Guy Pearce – Leonard
Carrie-Anne Moss – Natalie
Joe Pantoliano – Teddy Gammell
Mark Boone Junior – Burt
Russ Fega – Waiter
Jorja Fox – Leonard’s Wife
Stephen Tobolowsky – Sammy
Harriet Sansom Harris – Mrs. Jankis
Thomas Lennon – Doctor
Callum Keith Rennie – Dodd
Kimberly Campbell – Blonde
Marianne Muellerleile – Tattooist
Larry Holden – Jimmy


Memento quotes rewrite the rules of the narrative of movies as we know it. It’s a very ambitious undertaking and one that has been succeeded in taking a typical film noir thriller and twisting it completely to deliver something innovative and clever. 

Verdict: The quotes might not totally reveal the cleverness of this movie but it’s a good place to begin understanding the story.

Memento Quotes


[first lines]
Leonard Shelby: [voice over] So where are you? You’re in some motel room. You just…you just wake up and you’re in…in a motel room. There’s the key. It feels like maybe it’s just the first time you’ve been here, but perhaps you’ve been there for a week, three months. It’s…it’s kind of hard to say. I don’t…I don’t know. It’s just an anonymous room.


Teddy: Lenny!
Leonard Shelby: It’s Leonard. Like I told you before.
Teddy: Did you? I must have forgot.
Leonard Shelby: I guess I’ve already told you about my condition.
Teddy: Oh, well, only every time I see ya!


[walking through the Discount Inn parking lot, Teddy stops at his dilapidated Chevrolet]
Leonard Shelby: My car.memento-1
Teddy: [laughing] This is your car.
[Leonard holds up a picture of the Jaguar with the caption ‘My Car’]
Leonard Shelby: Oh, you’re in a playful mood. It’s not good for you to make fun of somebody’s handicap.
Teddy: Just trying to have a little fun.


[Leonard stops the car next to a pickup truck parked outside a derelict building]
Leonard Shelby: Looks like somebody’s home.
Teddy: Ah, that thing’s been here for years.
Leonard Shelby: What are you talking about? These tracks are only a few days old.
Teddy: Tracks? What are you, Pocahontas?


[inside the derelict building Leonard hits Teddy over the head with the back of his gun]
Leonard Shelby: You’re gonna pay for what you did. Beg forgiveness and then you pay.
Teddy: You don’t have a clue, you freak!
Leonard Shelby: Beg my wife’s forgiveness before I blow your brains out.


[Leonard’s holding Teddy down with a gun held to his face]
Teddy: Leonard, you don’t know what’s going on. You don’t even know my name.
Leonard Shelby: Teddy.
Teddy: That’s cause you read it off a fucking picture. You don’t know who you are.
Leonard Shelby: I’m Leonard Shelby. I’m from San Francisco.
Teddy: That’s who you were. That’s not what you’ve become.
Leonard Shelby: Shut your mouth.memento-5
Teddy: You want to know, Lenny? Come on. Come on, let’s go down to the basement. Let’s go down, you and me together. Then you’ll know who you really are.
[Leonard glances fearfully at the door, then looks at Teddy holding his gun up to shoot]
Teddy: No!
[he shoots Teddy in the back of the head]


[we see Leonard lying on a bed]
Leonard Shelby: It’s just an anonymous room. There’s nothing in the drawers. But you look anyway. Nothing except the Gideon bible, which…which I, of course, read religiously.


Leonard Shelby: Burt. I’m not sure, I think I may have asked you to hold my calls.
Burt: You don’t know?
Leonard Shelby: Well, I think I may have. I’m not too good on the phone.
Burt: Right, you said you like to look people in the eye when you talk to them.
Leonard Shelby: Yeah, yeah.
Burt: You don’t remember saying that.
Leonard Shelby: Well, that’s the thing. I have this condition.
Burt: A condition?
Leonard Shelby: It’s my memory.
Burt: Amnesia?
Leonard Shelby: No, no, no, no, it’s different from that. I have no short-term memory. I know who I am, I know all about myself. I just…since my injury I can’t make new memories. Everything fades. If we talk for too long I’ll forget how we started and next time I see you I’m not gonna remember this conversation. I don’t even know if I’ve met you before. So if I seem a little strange or rude, or something, uh…
[he notices Burt is staring at him strangely]
Leonard Shelby: I’ve told you this before, haven’t I?
Burt: Yeah…I don’t mean to mess with you but it’s so weird. You don’t remember me at all?
Leonard Shelby: No.
Burt: We’ve talked a bunch of times.
Leonard Shelby: I’m sure we have.


Burt: What’s it like?
Leonard Shelby: It’s like waking. It’s like you just woke up.
Burt: That must suck. It’s all backwards. Like, maybe you got an idea about what you want to do next but you don’t remember what you just did.


[to himself whilst looking at his body tattoos, copy of license certificate and a Polaroid picture of Teddy]
Leonard Shelby: White male. First name, John. Last name G for Gammell. Drugs. License plate. SG13…7IU. It’s him. I found you, you fuck.



[talking on the phone]
Leonard Shelby: You said we talked before. I don’t remember that. Yeah, but it’s not amnesia. I remember everything up until my injury, I just can’t make new memories.


[talking on the phone in his motel room]
Leonard Shelby: I guess I tell people about Sammy to help them understand. Sammy’s story helps me understand my own situation. Sammy wrote himself endless amounts of notes. But he got mixed up. I have a more graceful solution to the memory problem. I’m disciplined and organized. I use habit and routine to make my life possible. Sammy had no drive…no reason to make it work. Me? Yeah…I got a reason.


Leonard Shelby: So, you have information for me?
Natalie: Is that what your little note says?
Leonard Shelby: Yeah.
Natalie: Must be tough living your life according to a couple of scraps of paper. You mix your laundry list with your grocery list and you’ll end up eating your underwear for breakfast. I guess that’s why you have those freaky tattoos.


Natalie: You gave me a license-plate number. Had my friend at DMV trace it. Guess what name came up? John Edward Gammell. John G.
Leonard Shelby: Do you know him?
Natalie: No. But his face on his driver’s license looked really familiar. I think he…I think he’s been in the bar, maybe. Here’s a copy of his license, his registration, photo and all. Are you sure you want this?
Leonard Shelby: Have I told you what this man did?
Natalie: Yeah.
Leonard Shelby: Well, then you shouldn’t have to ask.
Natalie: But even if you get revenge, you’re not gonna remember it. You’re not even gonna know that it happened.
Leonard Shelby: My wife deserves vengeance. It doesn’t make any difference whether I know about it. Just because there are things I don’t remember doesn’t make my actions meaningless. The world doesn’t just disappear when you close your eyes, does it. Anyway, maybe I’ll take a photograph to remind myself. Get another freaky tattoo.


[remembering his wife]
Leonard Shelby: You can just feel the details. The bits and pieces you never bothered to put into words. And you can feel these extreme moments. Even if you don’t want to. You put these together and you get the feel of a person. Enough to know how much you miss them. And how much you hate the person who took them away.


[Leonard notices the message ‘Remember Sammy Jankis’ written on the back of his hand in his motel room him talking on the phone]
Leonard Shelby: I met Sammy through work. Insurance. I was an investigator. I’d investigate the claims to see which ones were phony. I had to see through people’s bullshit. It was useful experience, ’cause now it’s my life. When I meet someone, I don’t know if I’ve met them before. I have to just look in their eyes and try and figure them out. My job taught me the best way to find out what someone knew was just let ’em talk and watch the eyes and the body language. If someone scratches their nose while they’re talking, experts will tell you it means they’re lying. It really means they’re nervous. People get nervous for all sorts of reasons. It’s all about context. Yeah, I was good. Sammy was my first real challenge.


Leonard Shelby: Memory’s unreliable.
Teddy: Oh, please.
Leonard Shelby: No, no, no, no really. Memory’s not perfect, it’s not even that good. Ask the police. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. The cops don’t catch a killer by sitting around remembering stuff. They collect facts.
Teddy: That’s not what I’m…
Leonard Shelby: They make notes and they draw conclusions. Facts, not memories. That’s how you investigate. I know, it’s what I used to do. Look, memory can change the shape of a room, it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record. And they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.


Teddy: You really want to get this guy, don’t you?
Leonard Shelby: He killed my wife. He took away my fucking memory. He destroyed my ability to live.
[Teddy touches Leonard’s neck to feel his pulse]
Teddy: You’re living.
Leonard Shelby: Only for revenge.


Burt: Oh shit! It’s the wrong room. You’re in 304 now. I’m sorry. I fucked up.
Leonard Shelby: This is not my room?
Burt: No, come on, let’s go.
[Leonard picks up a piece of paper from his bed]
Leonard Shelby: Then why is this my handwriting?
Burt: This was your room, but now you’re in 304.
Leonard Shelby: When was I in here?
Burt: Last week. But then I rented you another room on top of it.
Leonard Shelby: Why?
Burt: Business is slow. I mean, I…I…I told my boss about the…your condition and stuff, and he said try and rent him another room.
Leonard Shelby: So how many rooms am I checked into in this shit-hole?
Burt: Just two, so far.
Leonard Shelby: Well, at least you’re being honest about ripping me off.
Burt: Well, you’re not gonna remember anyway.
Leonard Shelby: You don’t have to be that honest, Burt.
Burt: Leonard, always get a receipt.
Leonard Shelby: Oh yeah. I’ll write that down.


[in his motel room talking on the phone telling his story of Sammy Jankis]
Leonard Shelby: I’d just become an investigator when I came across Sammy. Mr. Samuel R Jankis, strangest case ever. Yeah, the guy’s a fifty eight year old, semiretired accountant. He and his wife had been in this car accident, nothing serious. But he’s acting funny, he can’t get a handle on what’s going on. The doctors find some possible damage to the hippocampus, nothing conclusive. Sammy can’t remember anything for more than a couple of minutes. Can’t work, can’t do shit. The medical bills pile up, his wife calls the insurance company and I get sent in. Now, this is my first big claims investigation so I really check into it. Sammy can think just fine but he can’t make new memories. He can only remember things for a couple of minutes. He’d watch TV but anything longer than a couple of minutes was too confusing, he couldn’t remember how it began. He liked commercials. They were short.


[we see Sammy give his wife her insulin shot]
Leonard Shelby: [voice over] The crazy part was that this guy who couldn’t follow the plot of Green Acres anymore could do the most complicated things…as long as he learned them before the accident…and as long as he kept his mind on what he was doing. Now the doctors assure me that there’s a real condition called anterial-grade memory loss, or short-term memory loss. It’s rare but legit. But every time I see him I catch this look this slight look of recognition. But he says he can’t remember me at all. Now, I can read people and I’m thinking “bad actor”. So now I’m suspicious and I order more tests.


[in his motel room talking on the phone continuing his story of Sammy Jankis]
Leonard Shelby: Sammy couldn’t pick up any new skills at all. But I find something in my research. Conditioning. Sammy should still be able to learn through repetition. It’s how you learn stuff like riding a bike. You just get better through practice. It’s a completely different part of the brain from the short-term memory. So I had the doctors test Sammy’s response to conditioning.
[we see Sammy being told to pick up some objects]
Leonard Shelby: [voice over] Some of the objects were electrified. They’d give him a small shock. They kept repeating the test, always with the same objects electrified. The point was to see if Sammy could learn to avoid the electrified objects…not by memory, but by instinct.


Leonard Shelby: Natalie, right?memento-6
[holds up photo of a bloody face, labeled “Dodd”]
Leonard Shelby: Who the fuck is Dodd?
Natalie: Guess I don’t have to worry about him anymore.
Leonard Shelby: What the fuck have you got me into?
Natalie: Shh. Come inside.


Leonard Shelby: There are things you know for sure.
Natalie: Such as?
Leonard Shelby: I know what that’s gonna to sound like when I knock on it.
[knocks on coffee table]
Leonard Shelby: I know what that’s gonna feel like when I pick it up.
[picks up an object made of glass]
Leonard Shelby: See? Certainties. It’s the kind of memory you take for granted. You know, I can remember so much. The feel of the world…and her. She’s gone. And the present is trivia, which I scribble down as fucking notes.


[reading from the backward written tattoos on Leonard chest in the mirror]
Natalie: When you find this guy, this….John G., what are you gonna do?
Leonard Shelby: I’m gonna kill him.
Natalie: Maybe I can help you find him.



[lying in bed with Natalie in her bedroom, she has her eyes closed]
Leonard Shelby: I don’t even know how long she’s been gone. It’s like I’ve woken up in bed and she’s not here…because she’s gone to the bathroom or something. But somehow I just…I just know she’s never gonna come back to bed. If I could just…reach over and touch her side of the bed….I would know that it was cold. But I can’t. I know I can’t have her back. But I don’t want to wake up in the morning thinking she’s still here. I lie here not knowing how long I’ve been alone. So how…how can I heal? How am I supposed to heal if I can’t…feel time?


[in his motel room talking on the phone continuing his story of Sammy Jankis]
Leonard Shelby: They kept testing Sammy for months. Always with the same objects carrying the electrical charge.
[we see Sammy picking up objects and getting electrocuted]
Leonard Shelby: Even with total short-term memory loss Sammy should have learned to instinctively stop picking up the wrong objects. All the previous cases responded to conditioning, Sammy didn’t respond at all. It was enough to suggest that his condition was psychological not physical. We turned down his claim on the grounds that he wasn’t covered for mental illness. His wife got stuck with the bills and I got a big promotion. Conditioning didn’t work for Sammy, so he became helpless. But it works for me. I live the way Sammy couldn’t. Habit and routine make my life possible. Conditioning. Acting on instinct.


[Teddy shows up at Leonard’s motel knocking at his door]
Leonard Shelby: Hi Teddy.
Teddy: Finished playing with yourself, Lenny?


Leonard Shelby: What are you doing here?
Teddy: You called me. You said you needed my help. You know, I’ve had more rewarding friendships than this one. Although I do get to keep telling the same jokes.


[after finding a beaten man in the closet]
Leonard Shelby: What’s your name? Your name?
Dodd: Dodd.
Leonard Shelby: And who did this to you?
Dodd: What?
Leonard Shelby: Who did this to you?
Dodd: You did.


[after finding Dodd beaten and gagged in the closet]
Teddy: A gun. Why would I have a gun?
Leonard Shelby: It must be his. I don’t think they’d let someone like me carry a gun.
Teddy: Fucking hope not.


Total Quotes: 60



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