20 Best Hidden Figures Quotes


  • Real-life women & their achievements influenced the fictionalized film Hidden Figures, highlighting their pivotal roles in NASA during the space race.
  • The movie addresses race, gender, and scientific progress through memorable quotes, showcasing the struggles and accomplishments of Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy.
  • The cast of remarkable women, led by Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, and Octavia Spencer, won an award for their portrayal of these groundbreaking figures.



Hidden Figures is a film about groundbreaking women and there are a lot of memorable Hidden Figures quotes within the story. The central characters are played by actresses who are remarkable women in their own right, so much so that the film won an award for best cast. Hidden Figures stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson, and Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn.

The movie itself is partly fictional in terms of the narrative, but the bulk of the major details are based on the real-life hard-won achievements of these three women. Hidden Figures marks an important moment in the history of America. The space race captured the attention of the world, but so did the Civil Rights Movement, and the story of the real-life women in the middle of both historical moments is a compelling one. Race, gender, and scientific progress are all addressed in some of the best Hidden Figures quotes.

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20 “Mary, It’s Sunday. Please Have Some Shame.”

Taraji P. Henson As Katherine Johnson

Mahershala Ali in a military uniform in Hidden Figures

When Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy attend a local picnic after church services on a Sunday, Katherine meets her future husband, played by upcoming Blade star Mahershala Ali. Before she can even get up the courage to speak to him, however, Dorothy waves him over and Mary makes a few suggestive comments. Katherine tries to shame Mary into stopping her commentary, but it doesn’t work.

Hidden Figures is a movie about three women who take on astronomical challenges and make huge strides not just for themselves, but for people of color as a whole. Sometimes, it’s easy to see them as larger than life. Moments like this in the movie remind the audience that these women were real people. Katherine is a brilliant mind in her field and yet she can still get embarrassed by her friends talking about a handsome man.

19 “You Could Fly Up To Space If You Wanted To, Mama. You Could Be An Astronaut.”

Zani Jones Mbayise as Kathy Johnson

Taraji P. Henson as Katherine holds up a drawing from one of her daughters while saying good night in Hidden Figures

Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy are very much aware of the limitations placed on them because of the society they live in. Each barrier they break is one they hope their children don’t have to. The movie doesn’t spend a ton of time with the children of these women, but this is one of the Hidden Figures quotes from Katherine’s daughter that makes it clear that boundary-breaking is working.

Kathy firmly believes that her mother could become an astronaut and that there shouldn’t be anything stopping her from going to space. For Kathy, there isn’t an invisible line between her mother and the men who are going to space, which is a sign that the world is changing. It is also an example of how children sometimes see things better than adults do as Kathy sees the amazing things that her mother accomplishes and doesn’t see why society is holding her back due to their own ignorance.

18 “Any Upward Movement Is Movement For Us All, Just Isn’t Movement For Me.”

Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn

Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) and Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) showing clearance in Hidden Figures

Though Mary and Katherine both end up with surprising opportunities to advance in their careers, Dorothy finds herself consistently passed over for a promotion. This results in Dorothy venting to Katherine and Mary in the car on their way home. Dorothy understands how unfair it is that white women keep being named supervisors when she’s doing all the supervisory work herself.

She amends all of her venting with this line to show that she isn’t ungrateful for the opportunities her friends have gained. She points out that progress is being made and that benefits them all, but it doesn’t mean that she cannot be frustrated by the fact that she is not getting recognized in the ways she deserves. Dorothy, however, wants an opportunity as well. She eventually finds a way to make that happen for herself, but this line is a reminder of the people left behind in the changing world.

17 “If She Says [The Numbers] Are Good, Then I’m Good To Go.”

Glen Powell as John Glenn


Glen Powell’s Top Gun role helped to launch him to a sought-after position in Hollywood, but now that he is a huge star in his own right, it is fun to look back on this early role as another high-flying pilot, John Glenn. The astronauts being sent into space on test flights had to have complete faith in the people sending them there. John Glenn, however, didn’t have faith in the team of men sitting in the conference room. Instead, he had faith in Katherine Johnson after seeing her work out the math first-hand.

He refused to launch until Katherine double-checked everyone else’s math, including the actual computer brought in to eliminate all the handwork. His trust in her in the movie is the same as it was in real life, which was monumental at the time. It might have angered some of the men on the team, but helped Glenn feel secure to have Katherine running the numbers.

16 “We All Get To The Peak Together, Or We Don’t Get There At All.”

Kevin Costner as Al Harrison

Katherine stands at the blackboard while the rest of the office watches her work in Hidden Figures

Al Harrison might initially be blind to the way Katherine is treated by the other men in the office, but once his eyes are open, he doesn’t have time for the pettiness the scientists and mathematicians throw her way. He makes it very clear that everyone on the team has to work together in this Hidden Figures quote.

As he points out, they can’t send men into space safely if their work isn’t flawless. For that to happen, they have to work together and trust one another to do their best job. His team doesn’t openly defy him after that. There are some who have criticized Harrison’s role in the movie, claiming it makes a hero out of a man who was ignorant of racism. However, Kevin Costner’s performance adds a commanding and stoic vibe that sells the character well.

15 “There’s Only One Thing To Do: Learn All We Can.”

Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn


While the movie is an important way of highlighting some forgotten figures in history who deserve to be recognized, Hidden Figures is also a great movie about the value of learning. If there’s one character who is always looking ahead, it’s Octavia Spencer’s Dorothy. She understands that progress can be a double-edged sword. Dorothy is the one who has the vision to understand what IBM means for her “computers.”

Dorothy is the supervisor of the women of color in charge of computing mathematical equations for NASA, though it takes a long time for her to get any kind of supervisor credit. When she learns that IBM can do thousands of calculations in the time it takes women to do one, she declares that they all have to study up on the new machine. Without Dorothy’s understanding of what’s coming, her entire department would have been out of a job.

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14 “We Go From Being Our Fathers’ Daughters To Our Husbands’ Wives To Our Babies’ Mothers.”

Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson

Mary (Janelle Monae) sitting in a full of men In Hidden Figures

Race is clearly a big issue that is addressed in Hidden Figures with the main characters being met with the limitations society puts on Black people during his era. However, they also have the fight to be taken seriously as women with many thinking their gender doesn’t even belong in the professional world. Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary are women who have their intelligence and careers in mind. They want to provide for their families, but they’re all hampered by the way the world sees them.

Mary has to deal with the surrounding men not believing a woman can be an engineer; Katherine gets off on the wrong foot with her future husband when he thinks working at NASA would be too taxing for a woman. The women are used to being defined by the men in their lives, as Mary points out, and they work incredibly hard to change it.

13 “Whoever Gets There First Will Make The Rules.”

Kevin Costner as Al Harrison


Al Harrison is instrumental in helping Katherine have a long career with NASA. He has a reputation for being hard on his computers, and no one is sure Katherine will last in his office. Harrison, however, wants one thing more than anything: to get men into space successfully. Harrison’s Hidden Figures quote here is made during a meeting about the space program.

He’s referencing the Russians putting a man in space first, but his words apply to the world of Hidden Figures. The women at the center of the story are hampered by the rules made by the white men who got to positions before them. Harrison tries to eliminate hurdles to Katherine’s success because, in his eyes, color isn’t important in getting to space – the math is what’s important but the rest of the world might not see things that way.

12 “I Have Never Seen A Mind Like Your Daughter Has. You Have To See What She Becomes.”

Katherine’s Teacher

Taraji P. Henson as Katherine looking at papers in Hidden Figures

Before Katherine worked at NASA, she was a little girl with a head for numbers. The state of the United States means that a young person of color would have a hard path to an education. The teacher who sees potential in Katherine, however, wants to make sure that she has a chance to go as far as possible. It is not just about allowing Katherine to excel but to discover the great things this young girl can one day accomplish,

The community bands together to make sure a little girl has a fighting chance to succeed.

Not only does her teacher reach out to high schools to get Katherine a better education, but the church takes up a collection to help Katherine’s parents make the move closer to the school that wants Katherine there. The community bands together to make sure a little girl has a fighting chance to succeed in a difficult world, and without that, Katherine might never have made it to NASA.

11 “It’s Equal Rights. I Have The Right To See Fine In Every Color.”

Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson


While most of the lines referencing the Civil Rights Movement in the movie are of the dramatic variety, there is a lot of humor. Mary is often the one to bring a little lightness and sarcasm to what could be a serious situation in her Hidden Figures quotes. Janelle Monae’s Hidden Figures role served as a true breakout for her and helped to kickstart the incredible career she has had.

When the women are introduced to the astronauts they’ll be helping to send into space, John Glenn, in particular, stops and chats with them. Mary takes a moment to admire the men’s appearances when they’re introduced, and after Katherine admonishes her for it, Mary gives her spin on the equal rights they’ve all been fighting for. Mary can’t be faulted for admiring smart and charismatic men who trust their work.

10 “I Wouldn’t Have To. I’d Already Be One.”

Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson In Response To “Would You Try To Be An Engineer If You Were A White Man?”

Mary (Janelle Monae) stands in front of a crowd at a picnic in Hidden Figures

Time and time again, these women prove they are at the top of their professional game and they continue to do the work knowing they will not get the recognition they deserve. Mary is talking to one of the NASA engineers about the issues with a contraption. She instantly sees what is going wrong with the machine and what needs to be done for it, proving herself as an obvious choice for an engineer – and yet the likelihood of her being one is slim, purely due to her skin color and gender.

She knows she’s brilliant and that if given the chance, she could be exactly what she wants to be.

Mary never shies away from the reality of her situation. She knows she’s brilliant and that if given the chance, she could be exactly what she wants to be, but it takes a little more prodding for her to take the plunge and attempt it. It’s part of why Hidden Figures is an important movie to Monáe.

9 “I Have To Walk To Timbuktu Just To Relieve Myself!”

Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson

Katherine as Taraji P. Henson standing with white male NASA workers in Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures does a compelling job of highlighting the everyday discrimination these women go through which continue to pile up to the point that it makes it difficult for them to do the work they genuinely care about. Katherine spends what seems like most of her time on-screen running through hallways, across parking lots, sometimes through the rain, and always toting a huge pile of books, just to be able to go to the bathroom.

It never occurs to her boss how inconvenient her life is compared to that of her co-workers – all of them white males who have a toilet close by and who, on top of taking their ease for granted, also make Katherine’s life more difficult and humiliating by forcing her to use a separate coffee pot than the rest of the staff. It’s not until Katherine explains why she’s missing from her desk so often that Harrison begins to understand.

8 “No Crime In A Broken Down Car.”/”No Crime Being Negro, Neither.”

Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn & Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson

The women from Hidden Figures celebrating

It is not just in the workplace that these main character have to deal with racism as they are exposed to it so often they begin to expect it from most interactions they have. The women are stuck on the side of the road with a broken-down vehicle. When a police officer begins to approach them, Mary tenses up and barks at the girls to pay attention and prepare themselves. She expects the worst from the situation.

Dorothy makes the point that having a broken-down car is no crime, so they shouldn’t be worried, but Mary points out that it’s technically no crime to be Black, and yet it’s still treated like it is. Both women are right, and if the police officer hadn’t been interested in the Space Race, Mary’s worries about their situation may have been valid.

7 “Separate And Equal Are Two Different Things. Just Because It’s The Way Don’t Make It Right.”

Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn

Octavia Spencer as Dorothy in church in Hidden Figures.

Dorothy is the most likely character to tell others that they should keep their heads down and avoid trouble if they can, but she also doesn’t let herself be trodden on if she can help it. This Hidden Figures quote as she attempts to teach her sons about inequality proves that. Dorothy and her sons aren’t allowed to take out the book they need from the library, so Dorothy swipes it anyway, explaining that she is not stealing because, as a taxpayer, she has just as much right to things as anybody else.

She reminds her children that just because they are being kept separate from their white peers doesn’t mean they are being given equal opportunities either. It is a powerful moment of this mother reminding her sons of the reality of the world they live in but also encouraging them to hold onto their dignity no matter what.

6 “Every Time We Have A Chance To Get Ahead, They Move The Finish Line.”

Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson

Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary are in the crowd at NASA in Hidden Figures

Mary recognizes her ability to be an engineer and decides to set her sites on making her dream a reality. She already technically has the same credentials as every other engineer at NASA, and so should be able to obtain the role, but as soon as she applies, her supervisor asserts that there is an addendum to the position requirements. Mary is understandably angry, and she begins her push to meet the new requirements, despite feeling like she’s constantly set back.

Mary has seen first-hand that every time she and her co-workers do something to give themselves an edge, suddenly the workforce needs more from them. She knows that it’s unfair, but she still sets out to prove that she can catch up with the requirements. While those at the top are not willing to share their positions with someone like Mary, to just forces her to show them that she belongs there more than they do.

5 “Civil Rights Ain’t Always Civil.”

Aldis Hodge as Levi Jackson

Mary (Janelle Monae) stands with a crowd to watch a report on a television in a store window in Hidden Figures

There are many movies that attempt to capture the 1960s and the monumental changes the time period brought forth. Throughout Hidden Figures, there are flashes of scenes that suggest the greater levels of unrest that were occurring during the 1960s. Some members of the Black community will be seen protesting, which the women mostly try to stay apart from because their jobs are likely to depend on it.

All the same time, it’s a reminder of the fact that gaining more rights is not always a peaceful and clean path, especially since such a request is grounded in the unjust fact that rights were being withheld in the first place. Mary’s husband, Levi, is the one who makes the point to her. He offers this painfully truthful sentiment that is a reminder of the struggle, sacrifices, and tragedies that came about in the Civil Rights Movement.

4 “And It’s Not Because We Wear Skirts. It’s Because We Wear Glasses.”

Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson

A closeup of Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson in HIdden Figures is set in the middle of an image of the real Katherine Johnson at her typewriter at NASA

Katherine is originally put off by the man who ends up being her husband due to his instant doubt of her abilities because she is a woman. Unimpressed, Katherine rattles off all the high-level requirements of her position and makes sure he understands that the reason women get into these jobs isn’t because of their sexuality, but because of their intelligence.

She jokingly likens wearing glasses, not skirts, to being intelligent, and it has the effect she wants as he understands that he offended her. It’s one of the best Hidden Figures quotes to show Katherine’s sense of humor. It also shows that, despite the endless people who look down on her and underestimate her, Katherine is filled with pride that allows her to put them in their place with a reminder of her accomplishments.

3 “There’s No Protocol For Women Attending.”/”There’s No Protocol For A Man Circling The Earth Either, Sir.”

Jim Parsons as Paul Stafford and Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson


The long list of space movies that deal with the actual space program offer exciting reminders of how impossible and ambitious all of this seemed at the time. However, Hidden Figures highlighted how America was willing to take these bold steps but was still afraid of equality among its people. Katherine is expected to make the computations for the NASA team, and yet she isn’t allowed into the conference room when they are discussing the very information that is integral to her job.

Her superior, Paul Stafford, uses the cop-out excuse that the system is merely not set up for women to attend, and Katherine curtly points out how ridiculous a statement this is when considering the values behind their work. While Katherine is always polite, she does get the courage to speak her mind so that she can be part of the historic event of sending men to space.

2 “You, Sir, You Are The Boss. You Just Have To Act Like One… Sir.”

Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) stand at the head of the table in Hidden Figures

The head of the program finds himself confused and struggling to understand exactly why Katherine shouldn’t be able to attend the conferences, a task that is difficult because of the simple fact that no answer makes sense because the rule is purely founded on prejudice.

Katherine reminds him that he is the one with all the power.

He muses on who could change this rule, and Katherine reminds him that he is the one with all the power, if only he’d wake up to the fact. Harrison isn’t a bad guy in Katherine’s eyes, but he does need some prodding to help her when it seems like everyone else is against her. It is one of the themes of the movie that strikes a chord even in a modern setting. It is not enough for someone to be against injustice, if they are willing to continue to let it happen then they are part of the problem.

1 “Despite What You Think, I Have Nothing Against Y’all.”/”I Know You Probably Believe That.”

Kirsten Dunst as Mrs. Mitchell and Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn


Mrs. Mitchell, played by Kirsten Dunst, who has treated Dorothy with disrespect in every encounter, begins to see herself in the mirror – literally – when she and Dorothy find themselves using the same bathroom. Mrs. Mitchell attempts to assert a common understanding with Dorothy but only succeeds in exposing the fact that she doesn’t see how her daily treatment of Dorothy as an inferior person is due to her intrinsic racism.

It takes a long time for her to even slightly understand what she’s put Dorothy through, and it’s only when her team of white women who act as computers have their jobs threatened as well that she starts to see it. It’s moments like this that reveal the ingrained racism of the institutions and the period that make Hidden Figures such a great historical watch.

Hidden Figures

Based on the lives of Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, Hidden Figures tells the untold stories of the three African-American mathematicians and their work at NASA during the Space Race of the 1960s. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe star as Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson respectively, with a further cast that includes Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, and Mahershala Ali.

Director Theodore Melfi Release Date January 6, 2017 Studio(s) 20th Century Writers Theodore Melfi , Alison Schroeder Cast Jim Parsons , Glen Powell , Kirsten Dunst , Taraji P. Henson , Octavia Spencer , Janelle Monae , Aldis Hodge , Kevin Costner , Mahershala Ali

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