The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013 Film)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013 Film) Quotes and Analysis

"To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life."

Motto of Life magazine

This is the motto of Life magazine, the publication where Walter works. It is about taking risks, seeing the world, and being involved with the world. It serves as an inspiration not only to the employees of the magazine, but to Walter in particular, who takes its message to heart.

"I haven't really been anywhere noteworthy or mentionable."

Walter Mitty

Walter is not having luck with online dating because his profile is pretty nondescript. As he talks to a customer service representative, Todd, he admits that he hasn't done many noteworthy things, which prevents him from being able to make his profile exciting.

"That song is about courage and going into the unknown."


The song in question is David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and Walter has just been on the receiving end of an insult, when their new boss, Ted, calls him "Major Tom" as a way of insulting his tendency to space out. Cheryl kindly reminds Walter that the song is actually about someone who is brave, and should not be interpreted as an insult.

"The quintessence of life."

Sean O'Connell

The elusive image which O’Connell believes should be featured on the final print copy of Life magazine is one which he describes as revealing the quintessence of life. The word “quintessence” becomes a recurring joke about how nobody seems really sure of its meaning. Hendricks latches onto the word as a display of his own intelligence and understanding with the ironic consequence of revealing the depth of his shallowness.

"Beautiful things don't ask for attention."

Sean O'Connell

When Walter encounters Sean in the Himalayas, Sean is trying to take a picture of a beautiful and mysterious snow leopard, an animal that only appears at certain times. Sean admires the animal's discretion, and uses it as a philosophical jumping-off point when he suggests that "beautiful things don't ask for attention."

"And I get it. You got your marching orders... and you have to do what you have to do. But you don't have to be such a dick. Put that on a plaque, and hang it at your next job."


When Walter delivers the missing negative to Ted, he finally is able to muster the courage to stand up for himself and the employees at Life. He tells Ted that he doesn't treat his employees well, as a way of letting Ted know how he could improve, and also signaling to Ted's new employees that he will not be an appreciative boss.

Walter Mitty: What was the picture?

Sean O'Connell: Let's just call it a ghost cat, Walter Mitty.

Walter and Sean

In the Himalayas, Walter tries to get Sean to tell him what the final cover image in negative 25 is, but Sean remains vague about it, saying that it's a picture of a "ghost cat," another word for the elusive snow leopards of the Himalayas. It is clear, however, that Sean is not speaking literally and is suggesting that the term "ghost cat" is more symbolic in this context.

"I was saying you know who looks good in a beard? Dumbledore. Not you."


In a fantasy of himself talking back to the mean spirited Ted, Walter imagines himself making fun of Ted's beard, much to his coworkers' delight.

"Sometimes I don't. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it."


When the snow leopard finally does emerge, Sean doesn't even take its picture. Instead he just looks at it, which confuses Walter, who thinks the whole point is taking the animal's picture. Sean informs him that sometimes it's more important to be in the present moment and just look at something and appreciate it.

Walter Mitty: So you're just going to finish your beer and then fly a machine?

Helicopter Pilot: Yeah, I'm kind of nervous about the storm.

Walter and the Helicopter Pilot

At the bar in Greenland, Walter talks to a drunken helicopter pilot about the fact that he is going to operate a helicopter. The fact that the pilot has been tossing back beers does not make Walter feel very confident in his ability to navigate an aircraft.