While many of these iconic scenes from classic movies are from completely separate genres and were made in totally different decades, their most famous scenes and quoted lines happen to have one common denominator…
Their most memorable moments are nowhere to be found in their original scripts.
Perhaps, the most moving movie moments are not written, planned, or practiced; perhaps their magic is made through that certain spontaneity and authenticity only possible in the present moment.
These 15 iconic movie scenes didn’t find their magic in their scripts.
Just like in real life, they may have started with a plan, but tripped over it, and ended up stumbling straight into greatness…
1) Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me?”
Perhaps the most quoted movie line of all time is from Robert De Niro’s famous mirror monologue in Taxi Driver, in which he repeatedly asks his own reflection, “You takin’ to me? Yet, according to Director Martin Scorcese, the scene originally didn’t even contain dialogue.
Almost through with shooting, behind schedule, and determined to wrap things up, Scorcese asked DeNiro to just improvise the scene and maybe try saying something to himself.
For the film’s 40th anniversary, the cast reunited in what can only be described as an oddly tepid interview with Today’s Matt Lauer (worth watching for the awkward moments alone) and shared the story behind it’s most famous moment.
During the interview, Scorcese recollects, “He kept saying, ‘You talkin’ to me?’ He just kept repeating it, kept repeating it … and [they were] banging on the door saying, ‘Come on, we got to get out of here.’ “And I said, ‘No, this is good, this is good. Give me another minute.”
Turns out he was right; it was good. It was really good, which explains why this completely unscripted line is quite possibly the most recognizable movie line in the history of film.
P.S. Jodie Foster is having NONE of Matt Lauer’s clickbait questioning in this interview, and while it was shot a little over a year before Lauer’s “retirement,” she seems to instinctively recognize the antagonizing and chauvinistic undertones looming just beneath the paper-thin brim of the abnoxiously wholesome hat Lauer wears to work every day (ahem, excuse me, wore to work).
But I digress. Moving on.
2) The Fugitive: “I don’t care.”
If you were born any time before or during the 1980’s, there is a 97.3% probability that you’ve reenacted thisfamous scene from The Fugitive at least once, with a 99.68% likelihood that you’re delivery was atrocious.
You know the scene- the one where Dr. Richard Kimble, played by Harrison Ford, tells Tommy Lee Jones’ character, US Marshall Samuel Gerard, “I didn’t kill my wife,” to which Gerard responds with the crazy harsh yet classic comeback, “I don’t care.” Despite being both highly quotable and theme-defining, this line was never in the script.
According to Producer, Roy Huggins, the line originally read, “That’s not my problem.” But Tommy Lee did have a problem with it… or at least he wasn’t crazy about it. So he changed it to what instantly became the film’s famous three-word catchphrase.
Tommy Lee’s revision was such an immediately-obvious success, the film’s closing scene was altered to reference Lee’s unscripted line.
As Lee’s character removes the handcuffs from the vindicated Doctor and offers him an icepack, Kimble says, “I thought you didn’t care,” to which US Marshall Gerard replies, “I don’t.” The two share a somber chuckle before Gerard promptly confesses to carrying an affection for both the truth and for the innocent Doctor, when he closes the film with the final line, “Don’t tell anybody, okay?”
Jones’ performance was so impressive, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film. But, considering Jones coined the film’s most climactic line AND, by doing so, ultimately defined the film’s closing moment, we’re wondering why Tommy Lee Jones wasn’t even nominated for best screenplay adaption.
Oh well, he doesn’t care, why should we? Thanks to Tommy Lee, people have been not caring about shit since 1993.
3) The Shining: “Here’s Johnny.”
Well, turns out, the scariest line in all of film’s history wasn’t even in the script. Jack Nicholson unexpectedly ad-libbed the line, which was an impromptu psychopathic imitation of the famous introduction of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.
4) Jaws: “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
In 2016, Jaws’ writer and actor, Carl Gottlieb, who played the small role of Amity’s newspaper reporter, shared some intriguing insights into the film’s history with the Hollywood Reporter.
According to Gotlieb, the film’s classic line (the exact language of which happens to be a matter of great debate) was not a one-liner you’ll find anywhere in the script. And while the nation remains divided on whether the classic line is actually “You’re going to need a bigger boat” or “We’re going to need a bigger boat,” Gottlieb subscribes to the ladder and he was there, so we’ll go with “you’re” (even though IMO it’s totally “we’re).
Regardless, the famous phrase was an ongoing on-set joke made by cast and crew members that swiped a jab at the film’s “stingy” producers! The boat on which all the film’s lighting, camera, and craft service equipment were stored required the support of another boat that was too small to carry its weight, and thus quickly became an object of ridicule among crew and cast members…
Gottlieb explains, “[They] were very stingy producers, so everyone kept telling them, ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat.’ It became a catchphrase for anytime anything went wrong … if lunch was late or the swells were rocking the camera, someone would say, ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat.’”
Apparently, Roy Scheider, who played Sheriff Brody, dropped the line regularly while shooting the film, most times in jest. But it wasn’t until Sheriff Brody faced his great white rival for the first time, that the ad-lib took on a life of its own and was instantly transformed from inside joke to iconic phrase.
To this day, when faced with an overwhelming and arduous task, people still count on this funny phrase for a little comic relief.
5) Pretty Woman: “Jewelry box moment.”
In one of Pretty Woman’s most beloved scenes, Richard Gere unexpectedly snaps the jewelry box he’s presenting to Julia Robert’s character closed, as she stares at the box’s quarter million dollar contents in awe.
Robert’s reacted with a seriously startled laugh that’s so authentic and imperfectly endearing, she was basically crowned America’s official sweetheart right there on the spot.
While the scene seemingly pays tribute to Robert’s stellar acting skills, the film’s director, Garry Marshall, recently revealed that Julia’s surprise reaction is actually authentic.
Marshall had put Gere up to the prank, and explains, “I said, ‘Richard, you gotta wake her up a little, so when she reaches for the box, slam it.”
While it’s hard to imagine this movie scene sans mischievous moment, Marshall reveals furthermore that it wasn’t until the very last editing session that they decided to include this classic outtake in the film’s final cut.
6) The Silence of the Lambs: The Hiss
The famously frightening scene in Silence of the Lambs in which Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, fondly reminisces over a human liver he once ate “with some fava beans and a nice Chianti,” ends with Lector hissing at FBI Agent Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster,
The now infamous hiss was actually just something Hopkins did as a joke during rehearsal but the sound effect was so startling, Director Jonathan Demme decided to use it in the film.
The freaky outtake became a trademark sound effect for Hannibal Lector, a role that would ultimately earn Hopkins an Academy Award, not to mention, a permanent place in Hollywoods’ villain hall of fame.
7) When Harry Met Sally: “I’ll have what she’s having.”
The famous deli scene in When Harry Met Sally, in which Meg Ryan’s character, Sally, proves her point by way of an orgasmic public performance is yet another famous scene containing an iconic line that was not originally written in the film’s script, but rather, spontaneously sprung from the genius minds at work.
The line “I’ll have what she’s having,” recited by an elderly deli patron in response to Ryan’s shockingly sexy scene, was a last minute suggestion made by Billy Krystal.
Not only was the line unscripted; the whole orgasm act wasn’t incorporated into the scene until a last-minute rehearsal, when Meg Ryan suggested that the scripted deli conversation (which was about sex but didn’t call for a full-blown tutorial) could benefit from an added element of performance art.
Little did Ryan know her suggestion would ultimately lead to her most memorable movie moment, nor did the woman she impressed at the deli, who was played by Producer Rob Reiner’s mom, know her one line would end up being the line of a lifetime.
8) When Harry Met Sally: “But I would be happy to partake of your pecan pie.”
Yet another uniquely memorable improvisation by Billy Krystal in When Harry Met Sally is the iconic line, “But I would be happy to partake of your pecan pie.” The unscripted line was so unexpectedly funny that it caught Meg Ryan completely off-guard, causing her to bust up laughing mid-scene.
But the film’s director, Rob Reiner, immediately recognized the magic in this unscripted movie moment, so he signaled Ryan to keep rolling!
In the clip, after she authentically laughs at Billy Krystal’s improvised pecan pie comment, you can actually see the moment Ryan assumes the scene’s a bust as she look over toward Director Rob Reiner, with the expectation he’s about to call cut. Ryan catches on to Reiner’s direction and visibly re-enters character.
9) Good Fellas: “Funny how?”
Almost everyone knows the famous scene in Martin Scorcese’s Good Fellas, when Tony DeVito, played by Joe Pesci, takes offense to fellow-good-fella, Henry Miller, played by Ray Liotta, telling him that he’s “funny.” While the story elicited laughter from the entire gang, DeVito’s doesn’t take Miller’s comment that he’s “funny” as a compliment, leading DeVito to ask, “Funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?”
The line was instantly born from one of the most iconic scenes in one of the most iconic films of all time. What not everyone knows is that the famous scene was never in the script, but rather, it was a real-life story Pesci shared at rehearsal about a close encounter he once had waiting tables in Queens when a mob-boss patron didn’t appreciate the young Pesci calling him “funny.”
Scorcese recognizes entertainment value when he hears it, and that’s why he immediately insisted on incorporating Pesci’s story into a scene in the film.
But, considering we’re talking about Scorcese here, the drama behind this classic movie moment doesn’t end here…
The renowned director is known not only for imparting actors with an unprecedented decibel of creative voice, but also known for utilizing an element of surprise to his film’s advantage.
A dramatic scene in which the majority of actors are not privy the storyline (since it wasn’t in the script) is a golden opportunity for Scorcese. So he made sure to take advantage of the rare opportunity, and boy did he end up striking it rich.
Scorcese had informed only Pesci and Liotta of the this uniquely improvised lounge scene’s particular premise and also decided to shoot the entire exchange exclusively from a wide angle, in order to maximally capture the aloof actor’s expressions as they witnessed the scene suddenly shift in both tone and direction.
The payoff was movie magic, an all-time classic gangster scene, and one seriously iconic improvised line. And while we’ve certainly paid Martin Scorcese his due credit, we must also recognize Joe Pesci for this seriously compelling improvisation and how he manages to make his character’s absurd and unrelatable mobster mentality feel like an almost rational and justified perspective.
Like, seriously, what the hell did Liotta expect, running his mouth like a total wise guy?
10) Star Wars: “I know.”
While shooting the original Star Wars, Harrison Ford was so in touch with his character, Han Solo, that he took issue with a certain scene in the script for not authentically aligning with the hunky hero’s endearingly egomaniacal personality.
In the original script, when Princess Leia tells Hans Solo that she loves him, he replies, “I love you, too.” But Ford was less than impressed with this cheese-ball exchange and saw a “lost opportunity” in the scene. So he suggested that Han Solo reply, “I know” instead, when Princess Leia confesses that she loves him.
According to Harrison, George Lucas was initially less than thrilled with the actual improvised line, nor was he too happy with Harrison for deviating from script…
According to Ford, Lucas went “ape shit.” Needless to say, audiences loved the not-so-loving line.
11) A Clockwork Orange: “Singing in the Rain”
While Director Stanley Kubrick was not exactly enamored with the book “A Clockwork Orange,” the first time he read it, he eventually became quite fond of it and ultimately stayed true to the book’s overall narrative while writing his screenplay adaption of A Clockwork Orange.
According to Mental Floss“The director and actors hewed so closely to the book that sometimees they wouldn’t even use the formal screenplay on set. Instead, they simply carried the novel as a reference for dialogue in the scenes.”
Considering how Kubrick and the cast practiced such loyal adherence to the book version of A Clockwork Orange while filming the movie, it is that much more interesting to learn that one of the film’s most iconic (and seriously disturbing) scenes was nowhere to be found in the novel.
The film’s seriously psychopathic performace by protagonist antihero Alex DeLarge, played by Malcolm McDowell, in which he joyfully dances and sings “Singing in the Rain,” as he and his pals commit one the most egregious and deranged movie murders to ever be filmed, wasn’t written in the screenplay either… This is because the famously creepy murder scene’s musical entertainment was completely improvised by McDowell.
Kubrick had previously shot the scene (sans the singing) several times and was just not happy with it. Something was missing. So Kubrick told McDowell to experiment with the scene by engaging in some type of shocking behavior. And while most actors probably would have probably turned up the horror or got more graphic in an attempt to add shock value, but not Malcolm McDowell.
Nope, he drove right past violenceville and ragetown and ended up exiting at euphoria- a motivation that is not generally accosiated with the sociopathic mind- but it should be.
McDowell shares the mindset behind his particular song choice in this murderous musical scene, Entertainment Weekly, explaining that the song “Singing in the Rain” is “Hollywood’s gift to the world of euphoria. And that’s what the character is feeling at the time.”
In other words, it’s a happy song and murdering people makes his sociopathic character happy. So he sang a happy ditty. Cause he was happy. Makes a little too much sense, Malcolm.
After all, sociopaths are ultimately looking for the same sense of contentedness that *we are (*The vast majority of those reading this -except you- you’re definitely one of the 55,000 sociopaths out of 22 Words
Whoah, that’s a lot of sociopaths I’m potentially speaking to at the moment. But, if I may say, you certainly have superb taste in literature (wink) (love ya, mean it) (we’re still cool, right?).
12) Good Will Hunting: “The little idiosyncrasies.”
While the script called for Robin William’s character, Sean Maguire, to share a story about his late wife’s imperfections as a means of illustrating the value of people’s “little idiosyncrasies,” it didn’t originally include the story we ended up watching and requiring a tissue or ten to get through.
The script’s suggested “idiosyncrasy” story highlighted Maguire’s late wife’s tendency to sit up and turn off the alarm clock in the middle of the night while still asleep.
But Robin must have recognized that story in the script was lacking the very same raw, authentic, vulnerable, messy, risky “good stuff” that it purported to promote; things that Robin Williams happened to know a thing or two about.
So he improvised, sharing a story about how his character’s late wife “used to fart when she was nervous,” instead. The result is an amazing movie moment that is painfully breathtaking, breathtakingly painful, and overflowing with life’s “good stuff.”
In fact, Robin’s improvised story was so jam-packed with “good stuff, let’s just say that Damon didn’t sprain a muscle from the scene’s heavy acting, but he very well could have pulled something during the totally legit giggle fit Robin’s improv elicited; a laugh so legit he accidentally exits the camera’s view briefly and causing the camera to shake uncontrollably before he eventually gets it together and responds with an equally stunning performance.
Ugh, so much “good stuff” here. Maybe a little too much. Time for a quick (crying in the) bathroom break. Brb.
13) Zoolander: “But why male models?”
The hilarious scene in “Zoolander” in which Ben Stiller’s character, Derek Zoolander, repeats the question, “But why male models?” immediately after receiving an in-depth and lengthy answer from his co-star David Duchovny’s character, just mere seconds before, is so funny that the line is practically considered a pop culture slogan.
However, the ingenious line, which so perfectly encapsulates the essence of Derek Zoolander, was not actually in the script. In fact, it wasn’t even a genius impromptu improvisation by Ben Stiller.
Stiller simply forgot his line. And, presumably, in an attempt to avoid the Haza-Gaza of cutting camera and retaking the shot, Ben repeated his previous line as a signal to Duchovny to restart the scene.
Coincidentally, repeating this particular line at this particular moment happened to capture his character’s idiocy with utter perfection.
Not to mention, Stiller’s flub set his co-star up with yet another hilarious and unscripted line. Duchovny responds with “Are you serious? I just told you that like a moment ago,” which is the exact response any reasonable person would give when faced with stupidity the likes of Derek Zoolander.
The scene is now considered by many to be one of the film’s most amusing moments.
14) The 40 Year Old Virgin: “Kelly Clarkson!”
Before The 40 Year Old Virgin was deemed one of the greatest comedies of all time, “Kelly Clarkson” was just a pop star born from the original American Idol machine.
Yet after Steve Carell insisted on authentically capturing the film’s chest waxing scene by filming it in a single painfully real shot which required 5 cameras to ensure it’s success, “Kelly Clarkson” is now one of our generations most beloved curse words.
This behind-scenes-video shows Carrel moments before shooting the scene, telling crewmembers that he expected the waxing to be “a piece of cake,” yet afterward, Steve was saluting women everywhere for the pain they endure in the name of beauty.
Many of the creative choice words Carrel belted out during the live scene are now iconic expressions utilized by the masses.
15) Bridesmaids: “Air Marshall Style”
There are a few reasons this hilarious scene from is such a memorable moment in the cult classic comedy.
First of all, Melissa Mcarthy is in it. But there’s another explanation for the hilarity of this particular airplane scene: chemistry.
It just so happens that the actor who played Air Marshall Jon, who Mccarthy’s character suspects is undercover Air Marshall is her real-life husband, Ben Falcone.
Apparently, Judd Apatow, the film’s director, decided to scrap a lengthy and long-planned Vegas storyline last minute, when he felt that the whole Vegas bit had been overdone since he had originally written the scene years before.The result was a spontaneous scene between the married pair, in which they were given free reign to improvise. While, clearly, the couple had no trouble creating comedic gold, they did struggle to hold back laughter through their unscripted lines.
Ben tells GQ, “She had such good ones that I ruined. Like she said, ‘Do you like this leg? I got another one just like it. I can put them both over my head and comb my goddamn hair.’”
Considering how entertaining this duo is on screen, we can only imagine the hilarity happening at home.
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