Iconic Movie Lines That Weren’t Scripted
Directors and producers usually plan out the movies they wish to make—from the actors and actresses, the music, the set design, the costumes of the characters, the setting of the films, and even more, the flow of the story and the spoken lines—they all have it mapped out in their heads. You might think that there’s little room for divergence.
From the creative minds of the actors and actresses in the production, impromptu lines appear that perfectly fit in with the rest of the movie, and since it strikes such a chord, the director usually decides to keep them in. Here’s a little secret: most of these unplanned lines become the most famous line in the film! Read on to find out about these 40 iconic movie lines that are not in the original script.
"You Can’t Handle The Truth!”
The 1992 movie A Few Good Men generally had favorable reviews from movie critics. The cast includes Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore. The plot follows the court-martial of two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of their peers and the tribulations of their lawyers as they unravel the case.
One of the iconic lines in the movie was, “You can’t handle the truth!” This happens when Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is questioning Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) during the trial, and Kaffee says, “I want the truth.” In the script, Nicholson should have said the line, “You already have the truth!” However, he changed it to “You can’t handle the truth!” which we think is better than the original.
“She Talks in Her Sleep.”
It has been over 30 years since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade swung onto the big screen with its spirited adventure full of bold stunts, thrilling special effects, and numerous intriguing locations. Did you know that Sean Connery delivered one of the most remembered lines in a moment of pure improvisation?
Sean Connery, playing Professor Henry Jones, ad-libbed the line: “She talks in her sleep,” as a response to being asked how he knew that Elsa was an ally to the Germans. When it was said while the film was being shot, everybody just fell on the floor in hysterics. Spielberg, the director, said, “Well, that’s in,” and staying true to his word, it survived the final cut, and sure enough, people loved it!
“I'm Walkin' Here!”
Midnight Cowboy is a 1969 drama film starring Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, and Sylvia Miles. It is based on a novel of the same name by author James Leo Herlihy. The story revolves around two con men who formed an unlikely friendship; one a naïve sex worker Joe Buck, and the other an ailing con man Enrico “Ratso” Rizzo.
In one of the most famous scenes in the film, Voight and Hoffman are walking when Hoffman is almost hit by a cab. He hits the front of the cab and shouts, “Hey! I’m walkin’ here!”. Years later, Hoffman said in an interview that it was improvised. The actual footage was real—it was a low-budget production that didn’t hire any extras, so the actors had to film with radio mics to do the dialogue while walking on a real street on Sixth Avenue.
Star Wars is one of the best movies created of all time, in big part due to its actors doing a great job in portraying their characters. In The Empire Strikes Back, the battle between the malevolent Galactic Empire, led by the Emperor, and the Rebel Alliance, led by Princess Leia, continues.
Moments before Han Solo gets frozen alive in carbonite, Princess Leia tells him that she loves him. “I know,” he responds. The original line was, “I love you too,” but Ford didn’t feel that it would fit his character. He approached George Lucas, who was supportive and said to Ford that he could say whatever he liked. When the camera started rolling, Ford said the words, “I know,” which remains iconic today.
"Hey Malkovich, Think Fast!”
Being John Malkovich is a 1999 fantasy comedy film. The story revolves around a puppeteer who finds a portal that leads into Malkovich’s mind. The flick stars John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, and Catherine Keener. John Malkovich plays a satirical version of himself.
In one of the scenes, a truck drives by John Malkovich, and a rowdy youth yells, “Hey Malkovich, think fast!” and hits a can at his head. They can hit the actor, who lets out a loud expletive. The truth is, the line was not on the script itself. It turns out that the extra in the scene was drunk, but thankfully not the one driving, and just decided to do it. The director loved the scene, and because of the candid reaction from Malkovich, he realized that he should keep it on the final cut.
“I Don't Care.”
The 1993 action film The Fugitive is based on the 1960s television series of the same name created by Roy Huggins. The plot of the film revolves around Dr. Richard Kimble, who escapes from custody following a bus crash after he was framed for the murder of his wife and unjustly sentenced to death. The film includes Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones.
The iconic scene is set in a tunnel, where Dr. Richard Kimble tries to appeal to Gerald, the US Marshal played by Jones, by saying, “I didn’t kill my wife.” According to the initial script, Jones was supposed to say, “That’s not my problem.” Jones instead said the very in-character response, “I don’t care.” Thanks to the improvised line, Tommy Lee Jones was able to win an Oscar Award.
7. “Funny How? I Amuse You?”
The 1990 mobster film Goodfellas indeed had a gifted cast composed of Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, and Paul Sorvino. The film recounts the rise and fall of mob associate Henry Hill and his friends and family from 1955 to 1980.
Joe Pesci’s “Funny how?” moment is not in the actual script but was improvised. The scene takes place at a restaurant, with Henry and others listening to one of Tommy’s stories. As everyone laughs, Henry tells Tommy he’s a funny guy, which Tommy doesn’t take well. “Funny how? Do I amuse you?” As tension builds, Henry tries to explain himself, but Tommy keeps pushing him about it, asking if he sees him as a “clown.” The director loved the ad-lib and just went on with it.
“You Talkin' to Me?”
The story of Taxi Driver revolves around a mentally unstable veteran who works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where he perceives corruption and violent action all around him. This film was made in 1976 with Hollywood stars Robert de Niro and Jodie Foster. It was directed by Martin Scorsese.
Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) organizes to help a prostitute escape her pimp. As he locks himself up in his apartment, Bickle talks to himself in the mirror. De Niro deserves full credit for this performance—not just because of his acting but also because he came up with the iconic line “You talkin’ to me?” on the spot. The script itself had no lines for De Niro to recite, simply stating, “Bickle speaks to himself in the mirror.” De Niro came up with all the lines on his own.
“We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat.”
The Jaws movie is based on the 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. It stars Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody who, with the help of a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw), hunts a man-eating great white shark that is attacking beachgoers at a summer resort town.
Chief Martin Brody (Roy Schneider) speaks after the viewers get their best look yet at the terrifying, massive great white shark in the movie. Scheider famously added the line in himself, but it turns out he didn’t just think of it off the top of his head. Carl Gottlieb, who co-wrote the screenplay, revealed the story behind the iconic line. The producers were known to be stingy, and crew members were constantly asking them to get a bigger boat to carry the equipment and craft services. The line was so natural that they decided to retain it in the film.
“I'll Bet You Could Suck a Golf Ball Through a Garden Hose.”
Full Metal Jacket is one of the most iconic war films of all time. Starring Matthew Modine, Lee Ermey, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Adam Baldwin, the movie follows a platoon of U.S. Marines through their boot camp training in Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.
Lee Ermey was technically hired as a technical advisor for the movie, as he has experience as a Parris Island Marine drill instructor. However, the director couldn’t find the right actor for the role, so he hired Ermey. It’s said that he improvised over half of the lines in the film.
“Take the Cannoli.”
The Godfather, filmed in 1972, is the first installment in The Godfather trilogy and is one of the most famous crime movies in the whole world. The story follows the Corleone family under patriarch Vito Corleone (Marlin Brando), focusing on the transformation of his youngest son, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.
This ad-lib took place in the scene where Paulie Gatto (Johnny Martino) double-crosses Vito Corleone. Peter Clemenza (Richard Castellano) and a henchman take Paulie outside the city, where he’s shot in the back of the head while Clemenza goes to pee. When Clemenza goes back to the car, he tells the henchman to “Leave the gun.” That line was in the script, but Castellano threw in the line, “Take the cannoli.” The director loved it and decided to keep it.
Hannibal Lecter's Hissing Sound
The 1991 psychological horror The Silence of the Lamb follows the story of a young FBI trainee who is hunting a serial killer, “Buffalo Bill,” who skins his female victims. The trainee seeks the help of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and known cannibalistic serial killer.
Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, has minimal screen time with only 25 minutes of the 120 minutes run time. When he delivered his line, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” Lecter pauses, then makes a gross hissing sound. The hissing sound is not included in the script, but it made the movie more impactful. Hopkins is a talented actor who didn’t rehearse the sound yet fits well in the movie. With his performance, he earned an Academy Award for Best Actor. We say he deserves it!
“He Stole My Line.”
The American drama Good Will Hunting, which stars Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, and Stellan Skarsgård, received positive reviews from film critics and grossed over $25 million during its run. One memorable line delivered by Robin Williams adds to the touching scene of the movie.
Early in the movie Dr. Sean Maguire, played by Robin Williams, tells the story of how he met his wife, missing the sixth game of the 1975 World Series to have a drink with his future wife instead, saying, “Sorry guys, I gotta see about a girl.” At the end of the film, the character of Matt Damon, Will Hunting uses the same line in a handwritten note. Dr. Maguire was just supposed to stand in the doorway with a voiceover, but instead, he uttered, ”Son of a b*tch. He stole my line.”
“People Call Me Forrest Gump.”
Forrest Gump is considered one of the most successful movies of all time as it was a big sensation at the box office. Tom Hanks is the star of the film, and he won Best Actor in the Academy Awards for his performance. Forrest Gump joins the army in which he meets Benjamin Blue, his friend who eventually says, “People call me Bubba.”
His original reply was just a simple, “My name is Forrest Gump,” but Hanks decided to mimic Benjamin Blue; thus, the creation of “People call me Forrest Gump.” The director loved the improvised line so much and thought that it fits so well with the character.
“Like Tears in Rain.”
Blade Runner is a 1982 science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer. This movie is a loose adaptation of the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” in 1968. Rick Deckard, played by Ford, fights for his life against the replicant Roy Batty, played by Hauer.
However, as Batty’s replicant lifespan beats down to zero, he instead chooses to save Deckard. The original script was a long soliloquy, but the night before filming, Hauer altered his lines without telling director Ridley Scott. He added the phrase, “like tears in the rain,” which perfectly fits the movie and is considered the greatest line in sci-fi history.
“Want to Hear the Most Annoying Sound in the World?”
Jim Carrey is known for the funny antics that made him fit for comedy shows. Carrey is a comedy master, and he used his mastery in one of his famous scenes in the series where Harry, played by Jeff Daniels, and Lloyd (Carrey) pick up the hitman hitchhiker.
According to the director, the whole scene was improvised, including Carey’s famous line, “most annoying sound in the world,” and the duo’s rendition of “Mockingbird.” Jim Carrey deserved a standing ovation in this performance!
“...And I'm All Out of Bubblegum.”
The movie They Live is a 1988 American sci-fi film based on the 1963 novel Eight O’Clock in the Morning by Ray Nelson. The film follows a drifter who, using special sunglasses, discovers that aliens have been manipulating people with the use of media.
When Nada, the drifter played by Roddy Piper, walks into a bank to eradicate some of the aliens hiding behind human masks, he says the classic line, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick a** … and I’m all out of bubblegum.” Piper later revealed that the director told him to say whatever he felt like. The line has been parodied countless times since.
“You Know ... Morons.”
Before being Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder starred in the 1974 movie Blazing Saddles, a classic American satirical western black comedy. Gene Wilder brings a calming presence to the comic chaos of Blazing Saddles with his performance as the washed-up gunslinger Jim.
With his iconic line, “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know—morons.” Wilder added the phrase, “You know—morons,” which adds humor to the line making the movie even funnier as a result.
One of the signs of an actor being the best of the best is when they can create a whole script on the spot. This is what happened to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, the 1979 American epic psychological war film that follows the journey of Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen), who needs to kill Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando).
There were so many changes while making the movie – one of them being Brando showing up on set far more overweight than he needed for the script. The director resorted to using close-up shots and loose, black clothing to hide Brando’s figure. Brando made up approximately 50 percent of the final lines heard in the movie, including his famous long monologue on the horrors of war.
“OK, Who Brought the Dog?”
Because of the success of Ghostbusters in 1984, there’s no wonder it came back with another sequel in 2021. This might have been thanks to the comedy of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Sigourney Weaver.
Toward the end of the movie, Louis Tully, played by Rick Moranis, holds a party for many of his clients. According to director Ivan Reitman, the entire scene was ad-libbed. Reitman later revealed, “Rick just made all of it up as he was doing it.” In that case, we consider Moranis a genius!
“I’m King Of The World!”
Who doesn’t know the movie Titanic? Everyone knows or is very much aware of this movie starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. This film, released in 1997, incorporates the historical and fictionalized aspects of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.
It’s hard to imagine that there were scenes in the movies that were just improvised. Imagine DeCaprio coming up with the “king of the world” line all by himself. Well, he did—it was not in the original script. The actor said it when he got on the boat prior to the shoot. James Cameron was so enamored by the line that he insisted it should be on the script as a way to add a little carefree joy to the romance scene.
“Here’s Lookin’ at You, Kid.”
This romantic drama film in 1942 is one of the pillars of American movie history. Casablanca’s storyline is set during World War II; it focuses on an American immigrant in Morocco who must choose between the love of a woman and her husband’s safety as they escape the city to continue their fight against the Germans.
Humphrey Bogart said the famous line to Ingrid Bergman while teaching her how to play poker during an onset break. This was overheard by the director, who loved it. He went on to ask Bogart to say those words on set in front of the cameras.
“I’m a Zit. Get It?”
Animal House is a comedy film that is full of surprises. The 1978 film follows a trouble-making fraternity member whose fellows challenge the authority of the dean of the fictional Faber College. If the actors had adhered to the script, it never would have been remembered today.
John Belushi’s character, John “Bluto” Blutarsky, seems to be a lovable yet immature one, but the “I’m a zit” skit made his fans love the movie even more. It’s said that Belushi added it to make his character more endearing to the audience.
“And What Did That Produce? The Cuckoo Clock.”
Orson Welles’ performance in the 1949 movie the Third Man was said to be one of his many masterpieces. Its success was partly thanks to the screenplay author, Graham Greene, for making the lines relatable and impactful.
“And What Did That Produce? The Cuckoo Clock.” It’s good that the director, Carol Reed, chose to keep it in the movie. Adding those lines in a 1940s movie was a brave move, and the audience surely would clap more if they knew that Welles improvised that line.
“I Am Hearing This, and I Want to Hear This.”
Devil Wears Prada is one of the most well-known chick flicks in the world. With a cast of Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt, the movie was, of course, going to be a blast. The film received positive reviews from reviewers, with Streep’s performance being singled out as excellent.
Emily Blunt delivered this sarcastic line as part of a caustic phone conversation. Like many impromptu scenes, this line was inspired by an event Blunt witnessed off-set. She overheard a mom tell her child this and decided it worked for the script. What a funny back story with a marvelous result!
“Picture a Girl Who Took a Nosedive From the Ugly Tree.”
Tom Hanks and Matt Damon in one movie? Yep, that’s Saving Private Ryan. The plot revolves around a United States Ranger Captain and his team in World War II. It’s also one of the most heartwarming movies of all time.
Because the movie has a lot of “guy talk.” The line, “Picture a girl who took a nosedive from the ugly tree,” might be immature for some, but it’s evocative—and it’s also an improvised line. It didn’t come about from the mind of a screenwriter but Matt Damon.
“Why Male Models?”
How could anyone forget the craziness of Zoolander? With Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and Owen Wilson on the cast list, the chances are good that you’re in for a crazy emotional rollercoaster ride full of laughs and gags—and laughs are what we got.
During the scene where Zoolander learns about the evil plot to use male models for political attacks, Ben Stiller forgot his line (in real life). Rather than call for a break, Stiller repeated the line as actor David Duchovny decided to stay in character. “You serious? I just told you that a moment ago.” It worked well. What genius actors!
“Game Over, Man. Game Over.”
Gamers would love to have had this line repeated over and again as it seems to be a perfect fit for their hobby. However, for Bill Paxton, who starred in the movie, Aliens, this line just seemed to make sense to say. And in retrospect, it made the movie even more unique and touching.
To be honest, this classic line from Aliens wasn’t actually a part of the script despite being one of the most iconic lines in science fiction. However, James Cameron, the director, loved it and kept it in the film. Thank goodness he knows a good line when he hears one.
Whenever we are hurting, whether physically or emotionally, we say things we don’t mean to say. However, the movie, The 40-Year-Old Virgin took the pain to the next level when Steve Carrell, the actor who played Andy Stitzer, had the waxing scene.
The thing is—that the waxing scene was not fake. Yes, what you see is what you get. Steve actually did the wax, and the pain that we watched on the screen is real. It just so happened he screamed Kelly Clarkson’s name when he was getting waxed on cam.
“I Didn’t Know You Could Read.”
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry’s team discovers a mystery lying deep within the walls of the school—secrets about Tom Riddle and his alter ego. One of the iconic characters in the movie is Draco Malfoy was played by Tom Felton, who added a great line of his own into the mix.
For the most part, the barbs and banter came included in the script thanks to J.K. Rowling and her co-screenwriters. However, one little line wasn’t meant to be part of the movie. When Malfoy told Harry (who had used a potion to look like Goyle) that he was surprised he could read, it was an ad-libbed insult the actor had made up. It worked well, so they kept it in.
31. “I’ve Been Impaled.”
Although live-action movies are the ones that are usually improvised, animated films can have improvised lines as well. Due to the sheer amount of work placed on the shoulders of animators, ad libs have to be great to make it into the end product.
Frozen was one of those animated movies that also added a spontaneous line from the cast thanks to Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf the snowman, who’s everybody’s best friend. “I’ve been impaled.” We wish there could be more of that in the future!
“I’ll Have What She’s Having.”
The iconic 1989 film When Harry Met Sally tells the story of Harry and Sally from the time they met in Chicago just before sharing a cross-country drive through twelve years of chance encounters in New York City. The film addresses but fails to resolve questions such as, “Can men and women ever just be friends?”
Who could ever forget the fake orgasm scene in the diner? At the time, it was a groundbreaking scene that brought sexuality to the forefront of popular culture. The line “I’ll have what she’s having” was a zinger that just had to be written by a great screenwriter, right? This joke was suggested by Billy Crystal, the actor who played Harry—and was immediately approved.
"Know How I Know You’re Gay?”
Knocked Up, one of the best flicks in 2007, had plenty of provocative moments, including some that were not released in theaters. The plot revolves around the repercussions of a drunken one-night stand between a slacker and a media personality that results in an unintended pregnancy.
This scene involves two characters asking one another what tipped them off to the other being gay. The entire scene was all about teasing. All the jokes you hear during this scene are improvised by the two actors, Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, who look like they had a lot of fun filming it.
“I Need a Vacation.”
Terminator 2: Judgment day has an epic plot, especially with the protagonists constantly thinking about the fate of the future and of humanity. This drama-slash-sci-fi movie favorite has tons of memorable lines that make people feel nostalgic to this day.
Because of its big production, the movie was carefully planned. From the costumes, settings, prosthetics, characters, and of course, the script. The line, “I need a vacation,” wasn’t planned at all, though. This came out of Arnold Schwarzenegger and ended up making everyone chuckle enough to include it in the final cut.
“It’s Such a Fine Line Between Stupid and Clever.”
This Is Spinal Tap is a 1984 mockumentary film that satirizes the behavior and musical pretensions of rock bands and the tendencies of rock documentary filmmakers. Since it’s a mockumentary film, it also includes impromptu lines that make the film funnier.
The three lead actors were talented at adding realistic ad-libs to the script. Due to the large amount of improvisation they did during filming, all three leads got writing credits at the end of the movie. Nice one!
“And I...Am...Iron Man”
Do we need to say more? Marvel Studios are notorious for building up to epic moments, such as in the Avengers: Endgame entry. Their sprawling decade-long film series brought our beloved superheroes to the big screen. It’s an impressive feat, to say the least.
In the climax of The Avengers: Endgame, Thanos repeats his “I am inevitable” line from Avengers: Infinity War. However, Iron Man has tricked Thanos and says, “And I…am…Iron Man.” The line wasn’t in the original script for this film. In the original script, he remains speechless and snaps his fingers.
“I Don't Wanna Go.”
Aside from Tony Stark’s iconic line in Endgame, there’s also another line from the Avengers: Infinity War that was improvised. Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, delivers a tear-jerking “I don’t wanna go” simply as he’s erased from existence.
Holland explained in an interview that the lines he said in the scene were not in the original script. “A technique I do if I’m trying to cry is I’ll say a phrase over and over again,… In that scene, it was “I don’t wanna go,” and I just thought I would say it out loud. It’s really good in the film.” And he’s right. Bravo, Tom!
“What an Incredible Cinderella Story …”
Caddyshack is one of Bill Murray’s best early films. In the movie, Bill delivers a monologue about Cinderella. According to the director, Harold Ramis, all he said in the script was that Carl (Bill’s character) is outside of the clubhouse practicing his golf swing, cutting the tops off flowers with a grass whip, and yes, the monologue was completely impromptu.
Murray also spoke about the Cinderella story. He said that in those days, he was able to do just about anything in front of the camera. He was in character, and he was wired to his character’s persona. He came up with the line to entertain the movie crew. It ended up entertaining everybody.
“Alright... Alright... Alright”
Dazed and Confused, released in 1993, was the coming of age story that follows different groups of Texas teenagers during the last day of school in 1976. Even though it didn’t sell that much, it ranked third on Entertainment Weekly magazine’s list of the 50 Best High School Movies. The magazine also ranked it 10th on its “Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years” list.
Matthew McConaughey’s character, David Wooderson, is known for his recognizable “alright… alright… alright,” delivered perfectly by McConaughey, inspired by Jim Morrison’s stage jesting on a live Doors album. Matthew said the inspiration came in between takes while listening to Morrison play.
"Molly, You in Danger, Girl”
The 1990 film Ghost centers on Sam Wheat, played by Patrick Swayze, a murdered banker whose ghost sets out to save his girlfriend, Molly Jensen, played by Demi Moore, from the person who killed him with the help of the psychic Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg).
This supernatural romance film was in part made with the improvised talent of the actors and actresses in the movie. Whoopi Goldberg altered her dialogue in the script to fit her persona. She revamped it to fit with her Whoopian style: “Molly, you in danger, girl!”