The Power of the Catchphrase: “Houston, we have a problem.” With that interplanetary silence only punctuated by the buzzing of alarm systems, Tom Hanks delivers the chilling, immortal message.

 

This famous catchphrase hails from the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon, brought to the silver screen in the thrilling 1995 adaptation from Ron Howard.

Two days into the voyage, an equipment failure crippled the vessel and plunged the crew’s lives into peril. Fortunately for us, it also led to the coining of a now-famous catchphrase. Well, almost. “Houston, we’ve had a problem”, were the words originally spoken by astronaut Jack Swigert. In the film, they are delivered by Tom Hanks (as Jim Lovell) in a dramatic mid-film scene. As the thunderous shockwaves rip through the the body of the vessel, tossing the pilots around like toys, Mission Control look on in disbelief at the data on their computer screens flickering nonsensically.

With that interplanetary silence only punctuated by the buzzing of alarm systems, Tom Hanks delivers the chilling, immortal message: “Houston, we have a problem.”

The action suddenly blasts off, so to speak, the score kicks in, master warning lights flash, dials and gauges go positively berserk. This phrase clearly marks the turning point of the film — no longer is it a mission to the moon, but a cosmic struggle to engineer a return to Earth.

That the iconic phrase is slightly different to the original is generally overlooked by an audience who are still trying to work out exactly how Forrest Gump ended up in space. Nonetheless, it has entered into the extraterrestrial expanse that is colloquial English, a testament to this Oscar-winning film’s unbounded legacy.

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