29+ Iconic Movie Lines That Weren't Included in the Original Script
| LAST UPDATE 05/09/2023
Scripts are the framework of all movies. They are where iconic moments are born - except these famous scenes weren't even included in the original scripts. Here's a look back at our favorite improvised movie lines...
"You Can't Handle the Truth!"
Jack Nicholson has made movie magic many times before, and this scene is no different. In A Few Good Men, Nicholson stars as Colonel Nathan Jessup, who is taking the stand in this famous courtroom scene.
Col. Jessup is being questioned by Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise. Kaffee states, "I want the truth!" What was scripted by writer Aaron Sorkin was, "You already have the truth!" Except Nicholson improvised, "You can't handle the truth!" They kept the line in - and the rest was movie history.
"I'm Walkin' Here!"
In the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight star as two unlikely friends navigating the tough New York City streets together. The film received critical acclaim, but one scene stands out from the rest... and it almost didn't happen.
When Hoffman and Voight crossed the street, a taxi cab almost hit them. In real-time, Hoffman reacted and came up with, "I'm walkin' here," as if it was part of the original script. The improvised reaction was so good that it stayed in the movie and has become an iconic part of pop culture.
"Take the Cannoli"
One of the most repeated lines from the American classic The Godfather almost didn't happen in the first place. The film centers around the Italian mafia boss, Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, who passes control of his organized crime empire to his youngest son. So, what almost didn't happen?
When Vito is double-crossed, he orders the man to be taken out. So, Clemenza, played by Richard Castellano, and a henchman murder him. Afterward, Clemenza was only scripted to say, "Leave the gun." However, based on advice from Castellano's wife, Ardell Sheridan, he added, "Take the cannoli," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
"You Talkin' to Me?"
This movie line is one of those lines that is so ingrained into pop culture that it is sometimes hard to remember where it originated from! The famous line is from the 1976 classic Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese. In the scene, Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro, is amping himself up in the mirror.
Apparently, there was no dialogue scripted in the scene. Scorsese told Today in an interview, "There was no dialogue, I believe, in the scene, and I remember asking [De Niro], 'Can you say something to yourself? In the mirror?'" That simple direction ended up in De Niro delivering one of the most memorable movie scenes ever.
"You're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat"
The two-note theme music from Jaws has signaled danger for decades since its release in 1975. The Steven Spielberg film follows three men as they hunt down a shark that is wreaking havoc on a small coastal town. Roy Scheider improvised the line when he got a close-up look at Jaws. However, there's more to the story.
The line was an inside joke from the set! The producers of the classic film were reportedly extremely cheap. One of the screenwriters, Carl Gottlieb, told The Hollywood Reporter that the crew began to say the line about anything that went wrong on set. Scheider kept trying to incorporate it into the movie, and ultimately he succeeded.
"Alright, Alright, Alright"
Who knew that the famous catchphrase of Matthew McConaughey was actually an improvised line that he came up with?! In his breakout role, McConaughey starred as David Wooderson in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused. In an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, McConaughey explained how he came up with his now-signature line.
McConaughey said before filming, he had been listening to The Doors and kept hearing Jim Morrison repeat, "all right." Eventually, he used that as inspiration. Plus, he wasn't supposed to be filming that day! Linklater added McConaughey into the scene last minute. Everyone was alright, alright, alright with the addition.
"I Love Lamp"
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is full of some of the funniest and most repeated lines in movie history. One of the most iconic lines from the film wasn't even written into the script. Steve Carrell, who played Brick Tamland, improved his iconic line, "I love lamp."
Carrell recalled in a conversation with 92nd Street Y how it happened. When talking with director Adam McKay, Carrell said, "Adam was like, "We should have more lines for you, but we don't have any on the page.' He literally said, 'Just say something,' and hence came, 'I ate a big red candle' [and] 'I love lamp.'"
"I'm the King of the World!"
Not only was this line not originally written into the script, Leonardo DiCaprio almost didn't want to say the now famous line! In Titanic, DiCaprio starred as struggling artist Jack Dawson who won a ticket to board the ill-fated Titanic ship and fell in love with aristocrat Rose, played by Kate Winslet.
Director James Cameron recalled in an interview, "It was made up on the spot… we were losing the light. I had tried this, and we had tried that…" Apparently, when he told DiCaprio the line, the actor responded with, "What?!" Then, Cameron directed him to "Just ****ing sell it."
"I Am Iron Man"
In Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. starred as Tony Stark: the billionaire engineer who created a suit to help keep him alive and ultimately fight evil. The 2008 movie began the Marvel universe, and it almost looked a lot different. The ending line - where Stark revealed his identity and changed the entire plot - was improvised by Downey Jr.
Downey Jr. completely surprised producer Kevin Feige with the twist. According to Deadline, Feige "became excited by the choice and approved leaving it in before the cut to the end credits." This memorable line change set the path for the entire Marvel universe.
In Die Hard, Bruce Willis's signature line was written totally differently in the original script. Screenwriter Steven E. de Souza told The Hollywood Reporter, "I wrote 'Yippe-ki-yay, a--hole.' But Bruce, on his final take, ad-libbed the 'motherf---er,' much to the amusement of the crew." But would everyone else like it?
De Souza continued, "The studio nervously left it in for the first test screening, and the reaction made it permanent. But you don't always know." The saying had become so popular that it was included in every sequel they made afterward. Imagine John McClane without his signature phrase!
"Here's Looking at You, Kid"
Known as one of the most famous lines throughout cinematic history, this one was actually improvised. The 1942 film, Casablanca, starred Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. While the film features many famous moments, this line uttered by Bogart was never included in the original script.
While the saying was quite common in the 1930s, the film made it part of pop culture. According to the BBC, Bogart added the line while filming a flashback scene. The writers liked the addition so much that they changed the script and added it three more times throughout the film. Here's looking at you, Bogart.
"Reading? I Didn't Know You Could Read?"
The Harry Potter film franchise was filled with unforgettable moments. During a Facebook Live, Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy, revealed that one of his favorite lines is from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - and is actually an improvisation he made up!
In the scene, Harry and Ron Weasley take Polyjuice Potion to disguise themselves as Malfoy's best friends, Crabbe and Goyle. Harry forgot to take his glasses off, so when Malfoy questions why he's wearing them, Harry makes up the excuse that he was reading. That is when Felton improved his line. Five points for Slytherin!
"I Want My Pink Shirt Back!"
Mean Girls has some of the most quotable lines in movie history. From "You go, Glen Coco" to "She doesn't even go here" to "On Wednesdays, we wear pink," one line is better than the next in the 2004 comedy written by Tina Fey and directed by Mark Waters! However, one of the iconic lines wasn't written in the script by Fey.
It was improved by actor Daniel Franzese, who played Damian. Franzese told Insider, "After a while, they started trusting me and giving me freedom" in terms of improvising on set. During rehearsals, he came up with the idea to say, "I want my pink shirt back," as he was driving away from Cady, played by Lindsay Lohan.
Another Martin Scorsese film has made the list! One of the earlier scenes in Goodfellas takes place at the Copacabana Club, where Tommy DeVito, played by Joe Pesci, gets into an argument with Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta. But it was Pesci's life that actually inspired the improvisation.
Ray Liotta shared at the film's 25th-anniversary celebration at the Tribeca Film Festival that the line came from a story Pesci told during rehearsals. When Pesci was working as a waiter, he called someone from the Mafia funny, and Scorsese liked the bit so much that he added it to the film.
"He Stole My Line"
The end of a movie can be the most memorable part. It is what audiences are left with as the credits roll. The ending of Good Will Hunting was scripted differently than what ended up in the final cut of the Academy Award-winning film. All thanks to the genius of Robin Williams.
In an interview with GQ, writer and star Matt Damon revealed, "He says, 'Son of a b****, he stole my line.' That wasn't scripted. Robin just did that. We had scripted that he just kind of sits there and takes it in and realizes that my character is gone... We knew that was it the second he said it."
"Like Tears in Rain"
With the numerous decisions an actor makes, they must always keep the character in mind. That is precisely what Rutger Hauer did when he took on the role of robot Roy Batty in the sci-fi film Blade Runner. And director Ridley Scott had given Hauer the freedom to change his lines!
Hauer described in an interview with Radio Times that he had cut out most of the monologue written for his character's final moments. Instead, he kept two lines from the scripted speech and added, "like tears in rain." Hauer created one of the movie's most memorable moments with his improvisation.
"Everyone Wants To Be Us"
One of Meryl Streep's best performances was as magazine editor Miranda Priestly in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. The film centers around a young journalist, played by Anne Hathaway, who gets a coveted job at an elite fashion magazine working as an assistant to Priestly. During the table read, Streep did a bit of improv.
The final line of the movie was scripted to be, "Everybody wants to be me." However, according to Variety, Streep changed the word me to us, referring to Streep and Hathaway's characters. Streep's line change was so well-received that the script was changed to what Streep had said - all while improvising a scene. Groundbreaking.
"I'm a Zit. Get It?"
Saturday Night Live comedian John Belushi starred in the 1978 comedy Animal House. The film is filled with many laugh-out-loud moments, and a special direction may be the reason why. According to Vanity Fair, Belushi was the only cast member permitted to go off-script as he pleased.
So, when Belushi's character is seated with members of the rival fraternity, he asks them to guess what he is. Then, he stuffs mashed potatoes into his mouth before clapping his cheeks, sending the potatoes flying everywhere. He improves the iconic line, "I'm a zit. Get it?"
"Why Male Models?"
Sometimes mistakes can produce better results. That was the case with this hilarious line in the 2001 comedy Zoolander. In a Reddit AMA, Ben Stiller, who played Derek Zoolander, revealed the real story behind the improvised line. It was all a mistake!
Stiller confessed, "I literally was listening to what David Duchovny said… and I honestly forgot, I hadn't followed what he was saying, I said it again and got my lines wrong, and David (who's a very funny guy) improvised the 'are you serious? I just explained that.'"
"I've Been Impaled"
Improv can happen all the time on film sets. Actors will do multiple takes of a scene and sometimes are even directed to go off the cuff. However, in animated films, improvisation proves more of a challenge, which is why it is all the more surprising this line made it into the Disney hit Frozen!
Actor Josh Gad, who voiced the lovable snowman Olaf, was shocked when he saw that one of his improved lines made it into the final cut. He recalled on a press day, "…I remember saying as a joke, 'I've been impaled,' and I was shocked when I watched the movie and they animated this and kept this in the film."
"I'll Have What She's Having"
The scene at Katz's Deli from When Harry Met Sally is one of the most memorable moments in movie history. Yes, that scene. There were many moving parts to make this iconic scene come to life. Star Billy Crystal came up with the now-famous line, "I'll have what she's having." But that's not all.
The woman who voiced the role was director Rob Reiner's mother, Estelle Reiner. According to the book I'll Have What She's Having, Reiner called his mom to see if she would come in to do this one line for him. She replied, "I'll come, I'll have a hot dog." In two takes, she delivered one of the best lines in movie history.
"I Know Where All the Nukes Are & I Know the Codes"
Bridesmaids is perhaps one of the funniest movies of all time. The comedy is filled with laugh-out-loud gags and jokes from start to finish - except one almost didn't happen! In an interview, director Paul Feig revealed that the pep talk Melissa McCarthy's character Megan gives to Wiig's character Annie wasn't scripted.
Originally, it was scripted to be a different character entirely, Feig said. Then, once they cast McCarthy, they rewrote the scene. On the shooting day, McCarthy began to ad-lib. Feig shared, "She added in the stuff like how rich she is, having the clearance codes… That was all stuff she came up with when we shot on the day."
"I Don't Wanna Go"
Spoiler alert! This following improvised line is heartbreaking and reveals the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. When Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland, is with his mentor, Tony Stark, played famously by Robert Downey Jr., he knows something is wrong.
In the scene, Parker is about to turn into dust. He tells Stark, "Mr. Stark, I don't feel so good..." Director Joe Russo told Holland "to stretch the scene out," according to Insider. That is how Holland came up with the phrase, "I don't wanna go." It fit the moment so perfectly that it was kept in the final cut of the movie.
"What an Incredible Cinderella Story…"
Bill Murray is known for his outrageous antics and somewhat unpredictable behavior. The comedian's zany sense of humor was a perfect fit for the 1980 comedy Caddyshack, where he played Carl Spackler, the country club greenskeeper who has to get rid of a pesky gopher.
Director Harold Ramis shared in a book about the making of the film, "All it said in the script is: Carl is outside of the clubhouse practicing his golf swing, cutting the tops off flowers with a grass whip." Then, Murray improvised the entire scene, including the famous line, "What an incredible Cinderella story…"
"Molly, You in Danger Girl!"
Whenever people see pottery, it is hard not to think of the 1990 gem Ghost. However, one of the film's best lines was thought up and suggested by Whoopi Goldberg! Goldberg starred as the medium Oda Mae Brown. In a conversation with Variety, the actress shared the inside scoop.
The film's director, Jerry Zucker, was initially hesitant to cast a comedian in the role but ultimately decided to give Goldberg the part. Variety wrote, "During the first table read, Goldberg began suggesting new lines, which were ultimately written into the script." This included one of her best lines in the film.
"I'm Bugging Myself"
Is someone improvising their lines? As if! Except that is exactly what star Paul Rudd did in his breakout role as Josh in the 1995 hit Clueless. Donald Faison, who played Murray, revealed to Vulture that Rudd had improvised one of his famous lines.
Faison revealed, "When you see us laughing at the end, we're literally laughing for real because nobody expected him to say that. And how he said it." Rudd's costars proved that the best thing to do when someone begins improvising lines on set is to roll with the homies.
"Not You, I Don't Even Know You"
Not all of the best movie moments feature roaring laughter. Sometimes, the best moments can come from a lowkey, witty exchange. Like this moment in the 2001 comedy The Princess Diaries, when Lilly, played by Heather Matarazzo, is running to catch up with Mia, played by Anne Hathaway.
Matarazzo quips the hilarious line, "Not you, I don't even know you," to a passerby as she's running past. Except, the line wasn't written in the script. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Matarazzo revealed that the line was an ad-lib that producer Debra Martin Chase came up with. Miracles happen once in a while!
"Have Fun Storming the Castle!"
It is inconceivable that some of the funniest lines in The Princess Bride were not originally written into the script. However, director Rob Reiner knew what he was doing when he allowed Billy Crystal, who played Miracle Max, and his on-screen wife Carol Kane, who played Valerie, the freedom to improvise.
"We ad-libbed a lot of stuff: 'Have fun storming the castle.' 'Don't go swimming for an hour - a good hour,'" Crystal shared in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. He also shared, "There was a lot of really funny stuff that never made it into the movie." That blooper reel sounds like a great time.
"You Can't Watch Meg Ryan for Two Hours & Not Be Thinking About Another Girl"
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is a hysterical romantic comedy about an ad executive, played by McConaughey, who makes a bet that he can make any woman fall in love with him in 10 days. Except, a journalist, played by Hudson, has different plans. She is trying to write an article about how to lose a guy in 10 days.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hudson was the one who "came up with the idea to throw the platter of veggies during Ben's 'boys' night' and saying, 'You can't watch Meg Ryan for two hours and not be thinking about another girl,' when the pair go to see Sleepless in Seattle." Hudson is a comedic genius.
"And You Are So Good at It. Look at You"
In Julie & Julia, one underrated moment was an improvisation by actor Stanley Tucci. Tucci played Julia Child's husband, Paul Child, in the 2009 film. In a scene with Meryl Streep, who portrayed the famous cook Julia Child, Tucci added his own twist to the scene.
In the scene, the married couple discusses what Julia should do with her life. She wonders what to do there, and Tucci asks, "What is it that you really like to do?" To which Streep responded, "Eat." Cue Tucci's amazing improv. According to Insider, Tucci told chef Ina Garten that he made the line up.