Most great movies have one or two lines that seem to capture the spirit of the film, a character, or a particular scene. Long after we’ve watched a movie and the minor details have left our minds, the iconic quotes linger with us. While screenwriters would love each of these lines to be products of their minds, that’s not always the case. Many of the most amazing quotes were not planned at all in the script. At least, the way they actually came out in the end wasn’t planned. We have all heard stories about great actors ad-libbing their lines, or the movies whose scripts were basically used only as rough outlines. But many of the quotes on this list weren’t even ad-libbed. Some were misquotes. Some were outright mistakes. And some were jokes that made the final cut, but all were memorable.
On this list are 15 of the most iconic lines in film, and all 15 came out much different than they were scripted. It’s impossible to say how memorable they would have been if they remained the same as they were written, but, just by looking at them in their original state, we can assume they wouldn’t, no offense writers. It is what it is. So let’s take a look at what was changed and you can judge if the filmmakers made the right choice by leaving the revised quotes as is. This is a list of what might have been. Here are 15 famous movie lines that were originally way different.
15. “You talkin’ to me?”
There’s been a lot of discussion about Robert De Niro‘s ability to ad lib and change entire scenes with his ability to react to what’s happening around him, but the best example of this has to be in his monologue in the Martin Scorsese classic, Taxi Driver. The script for that scene read simply, [looks in mirror]. That’s it. De Niro did all the rest. The entire, “you talking to me” bit was all freestyled. Apparently, they asked De Niro to maybe pull his gun out and point it in the mirror, but Scorsese, had enough faith in De Niro’s ability to take it further than that, and boy did he ever. He went on to deliver one of the simplest but most recognizable monologues in the movies. It’s tough for any movie fan to walk by a mirror when they’re by themselves and not ask it a few questions a la Bobby D.
14. “I haven’t been f–ed like that since grade school.”
After Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) finish knockin’ boots in Fight Club, Marla says, “I haven’t been f–ed like that since grade school,” showing her sexual depravity and freedom. The pillow talk line is a lot to take in and it hits the ears harshly, but the scripted line that it replaced (also in the book) is actually a whole lot worse. In the first cut of the film, Marla said, “I want to have your abortion,” which the President of Fox 2000 Pictures turned down when she first heard it. Fincher said he would replace it, but on the condition that the new line couldn’t be axed. She agreed and this grade school line was added. Word has it that the new line was hated even more but was not able to be cut as per their agreement.
13. “Have you ever killed anyone?” — “Yeah, but they were all bad.”
When Jamie Lee Curtis asks Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Have you ever killed anyone?” in the movie, True Lies, his response, “Yeah, but they were all bad,” in his thick Austrian Arnoldian accent is pitch perfect. The original script for that scene was actually much less funny, though. In it, Curtis asks if he had sex with anyone in the line of duty, then the conversation sort of rambled on from that point and we’re all glad that it was changed. As it is in many of the quotes on this list, the shorter the quotes the more effective they are.
12. She said, “I love you.” He said, “I know.”
Han Solo is a jerk. The sooner you accept him for what he is the more quickly you’ll be able to enjoy him, and love him for it. When Leia confesses her love to him, you might expect a loving return, but, then again, you don’t know Han Solo like you think you do. Apparently, though, neither did the scriptwriters. The script had Leia saying the following: “I love you. I couldn’t tell you before, but it’s true.” To which Han Solo responded, “Just remember that ’cause I’ll be back.” The line was changed to a much simpler and a better suited line during filming, all at the suggestion of Harrison Ford. When discussing the line, Ford said of the line, “it’s beautiful and it’s acceptable and it’s funny.” I wonder, if it was spoken like it was written, would James Cameron have still made Arnold’s famous line “I’ll be back” in The Terminator? Would it be Han Solo’s line instead?
11. The Alliterative “V” Rant
When V is asked who he is in V For Vendetta, he goes into an incredibly wordy and incredibly alliterative rant that uses pretty much every single word that begins with the letter V in the English language. There are some who say the speech is a little silly, but most see it as one of the cooler moments in the film. Since V is a man of many words, it makes sense that he rambles on at such length, playing with words so much. This speech was a latecomer to the party that is the script, though. Originally it meant to be much simpler and to the point. Originally it was, “Me? I imagine all manner of names shall be heaped upon my humble visage, for now, let us simply say I am the villain.” I actually like both, but, then again, no one asked me.
10. “Yippee-ki-yay, mother f–er.”
OK, so there’s not a lot of substance here, but the quote is really well known. It’s short and to the point. At first, there was no line. But the Die Hard script was changed to add in a sarcastic response from John McClane (Bruce Willis) to Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Gruber had just called McClane a Cowboy over the phone, so Willis decided to spice up the response a little bit. He added in the final touches and got a good laugh from the cast and crew. The studio left it in the final cut and the first test audiences absolutely loved it, so it stuck around for good. Today, it’s one of the most quoted lines there is, especially if you were a kid when this movie came out. Then you quoted it every single chance you got.
9. “But why male models?”
In Zoolander, when David Duchovny‘s character meets up with Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Matilda (Christine Taylor), to explain Mugatu’s (Will Ferrell) plan, Zoolander asks the question, “Why male models?” Duchovny goes on to explain that male models have been groomed into the perfect assassins, conditioned, brainwashed and trained like monkeys, making them an ideal choice for a criminal mastermind like Mugatu. In the script, the conversation essentially ends there, but, when it came time to shoot the scene, Stiller forgot his next line, so he just repeated the question, “But why male models,” to which Duchovny responded, “Are you serious? I just told you that a minute ago.” It all works out perfect because the scene shows how the low intelligence of male model’s makes them great assassins and Zoolander bangs his dumb drum loudly with this repeated question.
8. “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
Star Wars apparently had several lines that were worse on script than they were in the movies. This might be because the films have been so iconic for so long, or simply because the changes in the scripts were so well documented. They basically recorded every step of the process. Either way, the line, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope,” as spoken by Leia in the message she planted in R2D2 was not how it was originally planned. Initially, it was supposed to be, “you must help me, you are my last hope,” which is not really true, is it? This would imply that Leia had other hopes but now she’s on her last, but this isn’t the case. She had only one hope—Obi Wan—until she finds a new hope—Luke. You see how it all works? Great.
7. “My wife used to fart in her sleep.”
In Good Will Hunting, when Robin Williams and Matt Damon are discussing relationships, Williams tells Damon a story about his wife and how, after two years of being gone, he remembers best the small idiosyncrasies of hers. The story he tells starts with, “My wife used to fart in her sleep,” and this gets Damon laughing. As the story builds, Damon just can’t choke the laughter back. Williams even gets the cameraman going, noticeable in the lens shaking during the scene. Part of why this story is so funny, other than the mention of farts, is because Williams was scripted to say, “My wife used to turn the alarm clock off in her sleep.” The fart story was completely ad-libbed and caught everyone off-guard. Since the hilarious conversation brought on such genuine reactions, it made the final cut.
6. “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
The scene which has Peter Clemenza (Richard S. Castellano) say, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli” has become one of the most quoted (if not the most quoted) lines in The Godfather trilogy, but it was intended to be simpler and subtler. The script called for the line, “Leave the gun,” but because Francis Ford Coppola wanted him to grab the cannoli, he wrote, “don’t forget the cannoli” on Castellano’s script, expecting them to just grab it silently and leave. When Castellano saw this in his script, he took it as a new line, so he added it in. When he said it in the scene, he changed it slightly to “take the cannoli,” which gives the speech some nice parallelism with “leave” and “take.” Smart move Castellano.
5. “I’m the king of the world!”
When Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his squeaky-voiced friend stand at the prow of the Titanic, the final cut of the movie was much different than what was originally scripted. With the guy who played King Theoden in The Lord of the Rings looking on from the Captain’s perch, Jack screams, “I’m the king of the world,” and then he starts yipping a yeehawing like a rhinestone cowboy. At that moment in the script, however, it simply read, [camera pans] … Well then. Not as exciting. As they always say, thank the lord for Leo. I’m sure some people say that. Even though that scene might be the single cheesiest in cinematic history, it would be pretty awkward just watching the captain, Leo and squeak-o-saurus just smiling like idiots while the camera pans.
4. “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”
The beauty of this quote from the end of Back to the Future is half in the cliffhanging nature of the line and half in the delivery of Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). There is, however, something to be said for the words in the line, at least when you see how it was originally scripted. The early draft of the script had the line as, “where we’re going, we don’t use roads,” one small word change for a movie, one giant word change for all of cinema. Yeah, maybe that’s a bit much, but it’s a pretty important quote. The change is important, though, because they do use roads, they just don’t need them. Their cars fly. That’s why he said it. They’re in the future. You get it.
3. “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
After trying to reach HAL to have him open the pod doors in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dave is met with an eerie robotic denial from his onboard computer, “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” It is here that HAL shows his freedom to think independently from his orders from Dave. His honesty and his confidence throughout the entire scene is flat out creepy. We feel power shifting between the two. In an early draft of the script, the line was much different, much worse. Rather than speak the truth, HAL lies to Dave so that Dave doesn’t blame him for not opening the doors, saying instead, “There’s been a failure in the pod bay doors.” For me, an honest villain is a scarier villain.
2. “May the Force be with you.”
The landmark quote in Star Wars was never supposed to be. Well, it was planned, but things were supposed to be different. It was always a kind of good luck or blessing (akin to “may God be with you”), but it wasn’t as it appeared in the film. In the early drafts of the script, the quote was actually, “may the force of others be with you.” In fact, there were a few mentions of “the force of others” in the scripts and all were changed. The entire idea of the Force changed quite a few times over the time building the franchise, so it makes sense that the quote would. The change works because less is more in this case, and the “force of others” feels clunky and unnecessarily long next to the Force on its own. The films did alright and a few people remember the quote, “May the Force be with you,” so I guess the change was a good one.
1. “Here’s Johnny!”
When Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is breaking down the door trying to get to Wendy and Danny in The Shining, the script called for him to break open a spot large enough to look through and then say, “Wendy, I’m home.” While this line would surely be great because the scene was so amazing overall, Nicolson’s ad-libbed line of “Here’s Johnny” became so recognizable that many people don’t even know he’s imitating the intro to The Johnny Carson Show. It makes sense that “Here’s Johnny”, wasn’t written into the script because Stanley Kubrick didn’t even know what the saying meant when Nicholson said it, even though he loved the way it sounded.