7 Iconic Movie Lines You Didn’t Know Were Improvised

(c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

Some of the most iconic movie lines in history weren’t actually in the screenplay. Instead they were ad-libbed by the actor or actress and ended up becoming one of the most memorable things about the movie. Many of these unscripted lines, however, aren’t common knowledge, so check out these 7 iconic movie lines that you didn’t know were improvised:

7. A Few Good Men

One of the most iconic moments in A Few Good Men was improvised. When Jack Nicholson’s character Colonel Jessup tells Tom Cruise’s character Lieutenant Kaffee that he “can’t handle the truth,” that line was ad-libbed. Nicholson was supposed to say, “You already have the truth,” but he trimmed it down and it ended up being way more effective and more memorable!

6. Dazed and Confused

Matthew McConaughey improvised his iconic line, “All right, all right, all right,” from Dazed and Confused. “So I was sitting in the car, nervous because I was about to have my first acting scene and I was improvising it. I thought, Who’s my man? Who’s my man? I’d been listening to this live Doors album where Jim Morrison barks out between two of the songs, ‘All right, all right, all right, all right!’ I didn’t know what it meant. So I was like, OK, Wooderson: I’m about rock ’n’ roll, weed, cars, and women. I’m in my car, I’m listening to Nugent’s ‘Stranglehold,’ and I’m high. And there’s the woman. I got three out of four. ‘All right, all right, all right!’ I figured I was batting .750, so that’s what the three ‘All right’s’ were about,” he told Newsweek.

5. Taxi Driver

Robert DeNiro totally improvised the line – “You talking to me?” – from Taxi Driver. “There was no dialogue, I believe, in the scene, and I remember saying, ‘Can you say something to yourself? In the mirror?” the director Martin Scorsese told Today. “It was the last week of shooting … it was very difficult, and we said, ‘OK, we’re just going to shoot this scene.’” Scorsese had locked crew members out while DeNiro improvised. “He kept saying, ‘You talkin’ to me?’ He just kept repeating it, kept repeating it … and the [assistant director] was 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.’ It was like a jazz riff. Just like a solo.”

4. When Harry Met Sally

During the scene in Where Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in a restaurant and an older woman seated at another table says, “I’ll have what she’s having,” that line was not in the original script. In fact, that line was improvised by the director Rob Reiner’s mother, Estelle Reiner!

3. The Shining

Jack Nicholson’s iconic “Here’s Johnny!” line from The Shining was improvised. He lifted it from the intro to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; that was Carson’s catchphrase. The director of the film, Stanley Kubrick, wasn’t aware of the reference, and almost didn’t use the line in the final cut.

2. Jaws

The line, “You’re going to need a bigger boat,” was initially used on set as a reference to how stingy the producers were; however, it ended up becoming a catchphrase for whenever something went wrong. Roy Scheider – who played Brody – ad-libbed the line many times throughout filming, but the only time that they kept it was after the first shark sighting. “It was so appropriate and so real and it came at the right moment, thanks to Verna Field’s editing,” the screenwriter Carl Gottlieb said.

1. The Devil Wears Prada

Emily Blunt’s line in The Devil Wears Prada, “Yeah, I’m hearing this, and I want to hear this,” was totally improvised. She got it after she saw a mother at a market say it to her child. “I guess I steal from people I meet. Like, I saw a mother speaking to her child in a supermarket when we were shooting that film. And it’s a line that gets quoted back to me now. She yelled at her kid and she kind of opened and closed her hand and she goes [in harsh American accent], ‘Yeah, I’m hearing this, and I want to hear this.’ I went and put it in a movie, when Anne Hathaway is kind of talking to me, and I just told her that [to make her shut up],” she said on Howard Stern’s Sirius XM program.



Cate has a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature and has been the Managing Editor of Fame10 for more than 6 years. Despite having a love for the works of Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy and Lord Byron, she also has an intense fascination with pop culture. When she isn’t writing for Fame10, she’s planning her next big adventure in Southeast Asia.