“Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is a catchphrase based on a line from the Erich Segal novel Love Story and was popularized by its 1970 film adaptation starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal. The line is spoken twice in the film: once in the middle of the film, by Jennifer Cavalleri (MacGraw’s character), when Oliver Barrett (O’Neal) apologizes to her for his anger; and as the last line of the film, by Oliver, when his father says “I’m sorry” after learning of Jennifer’s death. In the script the line is phrased slightly differently: “Love means not ever having to say you’re sorry.”
The line proved memorable, and has been repeated in various contexts since. In 2005 it was voted #13 in the American Film Institute’s list AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes. The band Sounds of Sunshine had a Top 40 hit in the United States with a song titled “Love Means You Never Have to Say You’re Sorry” in 1971. “Love means never having to say you’re…” is the opening sentence in the popular song “Can’t Help but Love You” by The Whispers, from their album named after the movie, issued in 1972.
The line has also been criticized or mocked, for suggesting that apologies are unnecessary in a loving relationship. Another character played by O’Neal disparages it in the 1972 screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc?: in that film’s final scene, Barbra Streisand’s character says “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” while batting her eyelashes, and O’Neal’s character responds in a deadpan voice, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”