10 Life lessons from Nora Ephron films

Fiona Hicks

The late Nora Ephron was the doyenne of screenwriting, penning When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail and Julie & Julia, amongst many other hugely successful films. Here are the life lessons her films have taught us. 

Rob Reiner’s meticulous direction coupled with Nora Ephron’s sharp wit led to the creation of a battle-of-the-sexes romcom that would re-ignite the genre.

We will never tire of watching Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) as the would-be lovers who seem so wrong for each other but are actually just right.

There’s a reason these movies can be watched again and again. It’s because Ephron’s lines are timeless, combining intelligent humour and touching life advice—with a bit of philosophy thrown in. Here are the lessons they have taught us. 


Take control of your own destiny

Sleepless in Seattle
Image via TriStar Pictures

“Destiny is something we’ve invented because we can’t stand the fact that everything that happens is accidental.” - Sleepless in Seattle


Never give up hope

Mixed Nuts
Image via TriStar Pictures

“Just remember that in every pothole there is hope. Well, you see, pothole is spelled P-O-T-H-O-L-E. So if you take the P, and add it to the H, the O, and the E, and rearrange the letters… or contrariwise, you remove the O, T, and the L, you get 'hope.'

So, just remember, in every pothole there is hope!" - Mixed Nuts


Don't look outside yourself for a sense of who you are

you've got mail
Image via: Warner Bros

"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee.

Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc.

So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can—for only $2.95—get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino." - You've Got Mail


Some things are best kept to yourself

Harry Met Sally
Image via Columbia Pictures

“Harry, you’re going to have to try and find a way of not expressing every feeling that you have, every moment that you have them.” - When Harry Met Sally


Love is a powerful thing

Julie and Julia
Image via Columbia Pictures

“You are the butter to my bread, you are the breath to my life.” - Julie and Julia


Everyone has their own sense of humour

My Blue Heaven
Image via Warner Bros

Hannah: “I see that it’s funny. I have a sense of humour.”

Barney: “Of course you have a sense of humour. Everyone thinks they do, even people who don’t.” - My Blue Heaven


Wisdom can be found everywhere

Image via New Line Cinema

Michael: “Remember what John and Paul said.”

Frank: “The apostles?”

Michael: “No, The Beatles. All you need is love.” - Michael 


Small things can be mighty too

My Blue Heaven
Image via Warner Brothers

"Richie used .22's because the bullets are small and they don't come out the other end like a .45, see?

A .45 will blow a barn door out the back of your head, and there's a lot of dry cleaning involved, but a .22 will just rattle around like Pac-Man until you die." - My Blue Heaven 


Appearances can be deceiving

Image via ABC Motion Pictures 

“I remember in high school her saying, 'Now what'd you want to take that science class for? There's no girls in that science class. You take home ec, why don't you? That's the way to meet the nice boys.'

'Mom,' I said, There ain't no boys in home ec. The boys are in the science class.' She hated when I said, 'Ain't.'” - Silkwood


Love is in the details

When Harry Met Sally
Image via Columbia Pictures

 “I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich.

I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night.

And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve.

I came here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” - When Harry Met Sally


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