20 Times Actors Went Off-Script To Kiss Their Co-Stars

When you think of improvisation, you probably imagine wacky comedy troupes, right? And given that most Hollywood productions are scripted to among an inch of their lives, you’d be forgiven for believing that there’s no room for spontaneity on screen these days. Not so! Some of your favorite TV shows and movies have seen stars pucker up unprompted. Yes, many kisses – from quick pecks on the cheek to passionate smooches – were filmed entirely on the fly. And here’s a look at just 20 of them.

20. Roger Moore and Valerie Leon in The Persuaders

Veteran British actress Valerie Leon has had the good fortune to work alongside such legends as Richard Harris, Richard Burton and Roger Moore. She’s shared the screen with the suave James Bond star on no fewer than four occasions, in fact. And the lucky lady has even had the opportunity to get up close and personal with Moore on set.

While filming an episode of classic ’60s series The Saint, for instance, Leon took part in a three-in-a-bed scene with Moore. That’s not as risqué as it sounds, though. In fact, the actress went so far as to describe the moment as “terribly innocent.” And Leon has also spilled the beans about another amorous encounter with the former 007. According to the Islington Tribune, she said in 2017, “I was also in The Persuaders, and Roger gave me an unscripted kiss. I just closed my eyes and enjoyed it. They kept it in.”

19. K.J. Apa and Casey Cott in Riverdale

One of the most memorable Riverdale episodes has to be season four’s “Wicked Little Town,” when the gang tackle Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And two of the teen drama’s stars certainly got into the spirit. In the cult musical, Hedwig typically wades into the audience to give one lucky spectator a smooch. So, Casey Cott and K.J. Apa decided to uphold the tradition – even if they had to go off-script.

Speaking to TV Insider in April 2020, Cott revealed all, saying, “Halfway through shooting that number, I was like, ‘I should just go kiss K.J.’ So I planted one on his cheek… Then the next take, I went in to do the same thing, and he turned his face and we just kind of laid a big one on each other… After that, we were like ‘This is exactly what it should be.’”

ADVERTISEMENT

18. Camilla Luddington, Justin Chambers and Jessica Capshaw in Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy addicts know that, in the very last episode of the show’s 14th season, Camilla Luddington’s Dr. Jo plants a kiss firmly on Alex’s lips. Then she does exactly the same to Arizona. And while these smooches seem to catch both recipients, Justin Chambers and Jessica Capshaw, entirely off guard, that’s for good reason. You guessed it! The whole moment was entirely spontaneous.

Luddington confessed all when she retweeted a clip of the three-way kiss on Twitter. The actress wrote, “Ha!!! It was unscripted, but I thought hello?!!! Who wouldn’t want to also smooch Arizona Robbins?” Well, indeed. And Luddington’s admission was met with nothing but admiration by fans of the long-running medical drama.

ADVERTISEMENT

17. Jim Caviezel and Taraji P. Henson in Person of Interest

The kiss that Joss Carter shares with John Reese just before she dies is arguably one of the most unforgettable moments of Person of Interest. But in a 2013 interview with TV Line, showrunner Jonah Nolan revealed that actors Taraji P. Henson and Jim Caviezel actually smooched on the fly. Shockingly, he also admitted that he initially wasn’t a fan.

Nolan said, “I’ll be honest, Greg [Plageman, executive producer] and I were not terribly interested in seeing that take because the moment on the page was about the enduring friendship between these characters. Yet from the beginning, I was kind of always rooting for that connection, that spark, so finally we sat down and looked at the take like, ‘Aww…’ It’s very earned. It’s very real.”

ADVERTISEMENT

16. Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands in A Room with a View

Helena Bonham Carter has admitted that she didn’t have much kissing experience at all – let alone on camera – when she was cast as Lucy Honeychurch in period drama A Room with a View. Then just 18 years old, the actress kept everyone waiting to cement her character’s romance with Julian Sands’ George Emerson. But she eventually plucked up the courage on the spur of the moment, as she recalled in a 2015 interview with The Criterion Collection.

Carter also revealed that she’d had other things on her mind when the “magic moment” finally occurred. The star said, “It’s very hard to walk across a plowed field in high heels. I just knew I had to get to [Julian] without falling down – and then not laugh when he kissed me.”

ADVERTISEMENT

15. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World

Believe it or not, but Jurassic World’s Claire and Owen were never meant to kiss in the long-awaited reboot of the dinosaur franchise. Yes, really! Take it from Bryce Dallas Howard herself. She told Out magazine that her on-screen smooch with Chris Pratt had never been in the original script before adding, “And then on the last day, that happened…”

Apparently, Howard was left just as surprised by the kiss as the rest of the crew. Well, except for director Colin Treverrow, who had secretly discussed with his leading man the prospect of a spontaneous smooch. In a DVD feature, Treverrow admitted, “The idea was we’re just going to have Chris Pratt surprise [Bryce] in front of 200 people. And that’s the take that’s in the movie.”

ADVERTISEMENT

14. Steve Carell and Oscar Nuñez in The Office

After learning that one of his employees is gay, The Office’s Michael Scott does everything he can to prove that he’s not homophobic. And, yes, in one particularly cringeworthy scene, that includes kissing said employee squarely on the lips. But Steve Carell’s hilariously awkward smacker with Oscar Nuñez only occurred on the spur of the moment, as the recipient of that kiss went on to explain.

Nuñez told The A.V. Club, “We were just supposed to hug, and [Steve] kept hugging me. And that particular take, he came in really close, and I’m like, ‘Where is he going with this?’ Oh, dear, yes, here we go.” The actor revealed that he was also concerned the moment would be ruined by a guffawing cast or crew member. Luckily, though, everyone on set managed to stifle their laughs long enough for the shot to survive.

ADVERTISEMENT

13. Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth in The Last Song

It’s fair to say that Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth had one of the most high-profile on/off relationships in recent Hollywood history. And it began in unusual circumstances, too, as on the same day they met, the pair shared their very first kiss on camera. Hemsworth and Cyrus were filming the 2010 Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Last Song, in case you didn’t know.

Yet this intimate moment only came by way of a last-minute instruction from director Julie Anne Robinson. Initially, the Australian actor and the former Hannah Montana star were simply supposed to frolic in the sea for a montage scene. But Hemsworth approved! During a 2010 press junket, he explained, “It was kinda good, because I hadn’t had any time to think about or get nervous about, you know, the kiss.”

ADVERTISEMENT

12. Tommy Davidson and Jada Pinkett Smith in Woo

You wouldn’t necessarily imagine Will Smith to be the kind of guy to start a fight. He’s just too nice for that, surely! But the A-lister very nearly came to blows with Tommy Davidson following an improvised scene with his wife in Woo. Jada Pinkett Smith and Davidson had agreed to mix things up during the finale of the 1998 romantic comedy by busting some moves together. Then things eventually went off a little too off-script with an impromptu kiss.

In his autobiography, Davidson recalled how he had first leaned in for a smooch — much to Jada’s surprise. He went on, “I didn’t know this: you have to rehearse a kiss. You can’t just spring it on your co-star… And I didn’t think it was all that big of a deal.” Will certainly felt differently, however, and “went all gangsta” on Davidson. But, thankfully, the situation never turned physical. The trio are now good friends, too. All’s well that ends well, eh?

ADVERTISEMENT

11. Jillian Bell and Jonah Hill

As a star of many a Judd Apatow comedy, Jonah Hill no doubt has plenty of experience improvising. The same could be said of former Saturday Night Live writer and Eastbound and Down star Jillian Bell. And the pair put their skills to hilarious use for a memorable scene in 22 Jump Street – one that goes from confrontational to passionate and back again within seconds.

In the hit sequel, Hill’s hapless cop Schmidt and Bell’s college student Mercedes are constantly warring. But when they get into a physical fight, their relationship takes a turn for the unexpected. Before the cameras started rolling, both actors had agreed that their characters should share a kiss in between hitting each other. And we’re glad they did, as it’s undoubtedly one of the most side-splittingly ridiculous parts of the movie.

ADVERTISEMENT

10. Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield in New Girl

Although their friendship was never anything more than a platonic bromance, New Girl’s Nick and Schmidt couldn’t stop kissing each other in the quirky sitcom. During a 2013 appearance on On Air with Ryan Seacrest, Jake Johnson even joked that he’d more frequently locked lips with Max Greenfield than with any of his girlfriends. Still, he took some time getting used to his co-star’s amorous ways.

Greenfield told Seacrest, “We’ll do a lot of improv on the show, and I’ll just go in and kiss [Johnson] sometimes. [The New Girl producers] usually don’t put it in. And, finally, they put it in after about the seventh time I’d done it.” The actor added that Johnson had initially responded aggressively to being kissed without warning. Over time, though, he apparently became more relaxed about it.

ADVERTISEMENT

9. Gemma Whelan and Indira Varma in Game of Thrones

One of the most eagerly awaited moments of “Stormborn,” the second ep of Game of Thrones’ seventh season, was the kiss between Indira Varma’s Ellaria Sand and Gemma Whelan’s Yara Greyjoy. You’ve probably guessed by now, though, that the pair weren’t originally supposed to lock lips at all. In 2017 Whelan told Entertainment Weekly, “It just seemed like something we should do. It was meant to be a suggestion [of flirting], and then it became more sexual than we expected because it seemed right.”

But the pair’s spontaneity also affected an unsuspecting stunt double. You see, as Whelan injured her back during filming of the pivotal scene, her stand-in had to take part in that on-screen kiss, too. And the prospect was something the woman appeared to find terrifying, according to Varma. The actress said, “I don’t think [the stuntwoman had] ever been put in that situation before. She’s used to falling over and being attacked and all the stunts, but to be kissed by an actress was a bit beyond her.”

ADVERTISEMENT

8. Dylan O’Brien and Holland Roden in Teen Wolf

While appearing at Madrid’s Showtime Con 2 event in 2017, Holland Roden revealed a secret that shocked Teen Wolf fans to their very cores. The kiss that started everything between her character, Lydia, and Dylan O’Brien’s Stiles hadn’t been scripted. In fact, she’d had no idea that her co-star was even going to plant a kiss on her cheek.

And that one innocent peck snowballed into one of the show’s key romances. Yes, as audiences started to “ship” the couple online, producers realized that there could be something in the idea. Much to fans’ delight, then, “Stydia” soon became a genuine storyline in the hit teen drama.

ADVERTISEMENT

7. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Woody Harrelson certainly wasn’t afraid to reveal his true feelings for one of his Hunger Games co-stars in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. In 2016 the star admitted, “I have a crush on Elizabeth Banks. I’m not going to lie. I think she’s a beautiful woman, I think she’s a marvelous actress, and I just love her as a person.” Little surprise, then, that Harrelson decided to steal a kiss from the actress in the sequel.

Harrelson later said of that smooch, “[Elizabeth] didn’t know I was even going to do it. I just kissed her.” And apparently Banks had few qualms about the actor’s opportunism. According to a reporter from the Associated Press, the star deliberately kept forgetting her lines during the scene in question so that she got to enjoy even more kissing time with Harrelson.

ADVERTISEMENT

6. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher in The Last Jedi

Of course, not all spontaneous on-screen kisses are moments of pure passion. For example, The Last Jedi sees Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker tenderly plant a peck on the forehead of Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia after telling her, “No one’s ever really gone.” It was an improvised scene that went on to pack an emotional punch with audiences. As Star Wars aficionados know, the film was only released in theaters after Fisher’s untimely death, making the beautiful display of affection even more poignant.

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight in 2018, Hamill revealed that he had felt the unscripted kiss was the right thing to do at the time. He said, too, that the scene would always be “really momentous… because Luke was saying goodbye to his sister forever.” Owing to Fisher’s death, though, Hamill has never been able to bring himself to watch this farewell.

ADVERTISEMENT

5. Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams in American Hustle

In American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence’s Rosalyn Rosenfeld starts arguing with Amy Adams’ Sydney, the mistress of her conman husband. But their bathroom altercation takes a turn for the unexpected when Rosalyn kisses Sydney wildly before laughing cruelly. And no one was more surprised at this impromptu moment than the film’s director, David O. Russell.

Yes, in 2013 Russell told Vanity Fair that while he’d been pitched about the idea of a kiss between the two women, he had had no idea exactly when it would occur. Then, at a press conference for the movie, Adams explained that she’d been behind the spontaneous act. She was keen to praise Lawrence, though, for her commitment. In Adams’ eyes, the smooch “didn’t just feel like a moment where two girls are going to kiss on screen – it felt emotional.”

ADVERTISEMENT

4. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow

Back in 2014, Edge of Tomorrow screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie told Film School Rejects that he had found it difficult to find a natural place in the movie for the two leads to kiss. He continued, “[It] always felt false. It always felt like they weren’t focused on what was really important.” And, in fact, the idea was almost junked completely until Emily Blunt stepped in.

Just as her character, Rita, is about to bid farewell to Tom Cruise’s Cage, Blunt plants a kiss on the A-lister’s lips. McQuarrie revealed that this came totally on the fly, saying, “It was not in the script. It was not even discussed.” But Blunt had a good explanation for her sneaky smacker. McQuarrie claimed that he’d asked Blunt why she’d chosen such a moment, only for the star to reply, “It just felt right. It felt right, and I did it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

3. Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis in Top Gun

Tom Cruise has a reputation for being such a complete professional that it’s hard to imagine him ever forgetting a line. But although he’s super-famous, he’s still human. And, fortunately, the star had a novel method for disguising his sudden memory loss while filming a scene for 1986 classic Top Gun. He simply kissed his co-star instead.

Yes, the first smooch between Cruise’s Maverick and Kelly McGillis’ Charlie was never in the original script. But when the leading man failed to remember his next line during the streetside showdown with his co-star, he decided to turn their argument into something more passionate. And the rest, as some people say, is blockbuster history.

ADVERTISEMENT

2. Neil Patrick Harris and Burt Reynolds in B.L. Stryker

The kiss that Burt Reynolds planted on a young Neil Patrick Harris back in the 1980s had quite the effect. It turned the Doogie Howser actor gay! Well, not really, even if Harris does make a joke to that effect in his 2014 memoir. The peck in question came while filming an episode of Reynolds’ short-lived detective series B.L. Stryker.

In Choose Your Own Autobiography, Harris explains, “As a joke at the end of one take, Burt leans over and kisses you square on the mouth. The crew thinks this is very funny, but it makes you uncomfortable. Uncomfortable and, it will ultimately turn out, gay. Burt Reynolds’ kiss makes you gay.”

ADVERTISEMENT

1. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation

It’s one of the most talked-about movie moments of the 2000s. Bill Murray’s Bob whispers into the ears of Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte in the final scene of 2003 rom-com Lost in Translation. Then the pair share a kiss. And while, sadly, we never learn the words Bob utters, we do now know that this climactic smooch was entirely unscripted.

In a 2013 chat with The Daily Beast, director Sofia Coppola said, “I remember sometimes [Murray] would spring things on [Johansson], and it was fun to get her reaction.” That wasn’t the only time Murray flexed his improv skills in the acclaimed movie, either. Apparently, he also came up with all the dialog in the sushi bar scene – where his only direction was to make Johansson laugh.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even heartwarming kisses can’t redeem some flicks, though. Picture the scene: you’ve got your favorite chair, a cozy blanket pulled under your chain and – the pièce de résistance – a beloved movie on the tube. Bliss! Until… About halfway through the picture, you begin to wonder: is this classic film problematic now? Come to think of it, are there a bunch of other cherished flicks that have aged terribly as well? And if that’s the case, is it time to stop watching these treasured cinema classics altogether?

20. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

ADVERTISEMENT

Stanley Donen’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers won over 1950s cinema-goers and reviewers in toe-tapping style. The movie musical even scored five Oscar nominations and took home one for Best Music (natch). These days, though, Brides is not just “Barn Raising,” it’s pretty eyebrow-raising, too…

In 2012 a positive review of the flick in the Chicago Reader called the film “profoundly sexist.” That probably has something to do with the plot involving guys kidnapping women so that the abducted gals will marry them. In short, not the kind of movie that would ever get made today. Yikes!

19. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

ADVERTISEMENT

Directed by Blake Edwards, Breakfast at Tiffany’s bagged a couple of Oscars for its music and made a lasting impression on the American public. The National Film Registry even opted to preserve the romantic comedy as a flick with “enduring importance to American culture.” It seems that the board of selectors must have turned a blind eye to the movie’s depiction of a Japanese man…

The character in question is Mr. Yunioshi, a Japanese photographer played by Mickey Rooney. Yup, a white guy in “yellowface.” In 2008 the Council of Asian Pacific Islanders Together for Advocacy and Leadership said the performance kept alive “offensive, derogatory and hateful racial stereotypes,” much to Rooney’s shock. And even the director has confessed that he should have recast the role.

18. The Goonies (1985)

ADVERTISEMENT

Everybody loves The Goonies, right? This is a flick that sparked from the brain of movie-making genius Steven Spielberg and has gone on to win over audiences for 35 years. Directed by Richard Donner, the adventure classic was a box-office smash on release and remains a cult favorite to this very day. Yet there’s no denying that it is now seen as being somewhat problematic…

Why? Let us count the ways. First, there’s the “monster” – a guy with facial abnormalities called Sloth (played by John Matuszak). Then there’s the kid named Chunk (Jeff Cohen) who is forced to reveal his stomach and do the “truffle shuffle.” And we haven’t even mentioned the film’s stereotyping of its Italian and Asian characters (oh, wait, we just did!). So while the movie may be a classic, it is also – as described by the Independent – an “item from another time.”

17. Peter Pan (1953)

ADVERTISEMENT

Disney brought Peter Pan to the big screen in 1953 – and it was far from the first version of this classic tale. The original play came out in 1904, after all, and the novel hit bookshelves seven years later. Yet the animated film – directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske – still earned a cool $7 million at the box office. But these days, the movie is somewhat troublesome to modern eyes.

If you’re thinking that’s because of the movie’s depiction of Native Americans… you’re absolutely right. USA Today had a damning view of the movie’s “portrayal of a band of Indigenous people.” And Marc Davis, one of Peter Pan’s animators, even admitted on an official commentary that the filmmakers wouldn’t use these characters now.

16. West Side Story (1961)

ADVERTISEMENT

The American Film Institute lists West Side Story as the 51st-best movie in U.S. motion picture history. There are plenty of people who would agree with that ranking, too. Seriously, this is a musical – directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins – that bagged an incredible ten Oscars after its release. It also introduced the world to beloved songs and dances that have been imitated endlessly. So… what’s the problem?

In January 2019 Steven Spielberg found out the answer to that when he fielded questions about his 2021 remake of West Side Story. One critic, Mario Alegre, described the original flick as “a very sensitive film for Puerto Ricans because of their portrayal in it.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, Alegre meant the movie’s immigrant characters being “stereotypically fiery Latinas” and “gang members.” For his part, Spielberg plans to redress the balance.

15. Grease (1978)

ADVERTISEMENT

What’s not to love about Grease? Randal Kleiser’s hit musical earned $200 million on its initial release and has continued to rake in cash ever since. Its best-selling soundtrack also shifted millions of copies and has been lighting up weddings for decades. Yet if you really stop to consider the plot of the movie, what message is Grease trying to convey to the audience?

According to some critics, it’s a pretty problematic one. Why? Well, you’ve got lyrics such as the notorious “Did she put up a fight?” in the song “Summer Nights” – arguably implying it’s okay to force yourself on a lover. And then you’ve got the ending where Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy effectively transforms into a harlot to get her man. Is that really the kind of attitude we want our children to have?

14. Forrest Gump (1994)

ADVERTISEMENT

People just love Forrest Gump. The American Film Institute ranks the movie as the 76th-best U.S. picture ever made, and IMDB users reckon it’s the 12th-best film of all time, period. Forrest also ran home to half a dozen Oscars – including ones for director Robert Zemeckis and star Tom Hanks – and scored an incredible $660 million at the global box office. Yes, people sure do love Forrest Gump… right?

Not everybody loves this romantic drama, no. In fact, GQ has called Forrest Gump “poisonous.” IndieWire also claimed that the flick is now “even more problematic than it used to be.” The main issue is that Hanks’ Forrest is celebrated and rewarded for passively following orders, while Robin Wright’s Jenny suffers and dies for questioning authority. For a supposedly apolitical movie, that seems like a loaded message.

13. The Searchers (1956)

ADVERTISEMENT

The Searchers sees director John Ford reuniting with star John Wayne to produce what is for some one of the greatest movies ever made. Yep, even though the film was only a modest success at the time, its influence has really been felt through the decades. Director Martin Scorsese, for instance, considers Ford’s opus as a “touchstone” of cinema. But even Scorsese admits that the picture is “troubling” to say the least…

The reason is that the film’s central character is… Complicated. After all, the movie sees Wayne’s Ethan Edwards on a mission to basically murder his niece after she’s kidnapped by Native Americans. And because the audience follows this protagonist from beginning to end, it raises a crucial debate. As Roger Ebert asked, “Is the film intended to endorse [the character’s] attitudes, or to dramatize and regret them?”

12. Gone with the Wind (1939)

ADVERTISEMENT

The long-lasting love for Gone with the Wind really speaks for itself. Victor Fleming’s Civil War epic – which clocks in at almost four hours – has apparently raked in more money than any other picture ever made. It was critically acclaimed, too, taking home ten Oscars (two of which were honorary awards). Yet even at the time of its release, Gone with the Wind proved controversial.

To sum up the issue, HBO Max added a warning to the movie that states Gone with the Wind “denies the horrors of slavery.” The picture has also been accused of presenting a rose-tinted view of the American south before the Civil War. It’s a legacy that has certainly inspired plenty of discussion – and a deeper understanding of the issues involved.

11. American Pie (1999)

ADVERTISEMENT

American Pie, from directors Paul and Chris Weitz, scored a sensational $234 million at the global box office. The comedy’s outrageous setpieces – such as the infamous “warm apple pie” scene – probably had a lot to do with this. That success also inspired three theatrical sequels as well as a – still ongoing – franchise of spin-off films. Yet not everyone looks back on American Pie fondly.

Even the plot – about four boys doing whatever they can to lose their V-cards – has come under fire in recent times. But the worst offender for many is the spy-cam sequence featuring Shannon Elizabeth’s exchange student, Nadia. In 2019 the star told Page Six, “If this had come out after the #MeToo movement, there would definitely be a problem.”

10. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

ADVERTISEMENT

The message of the Bill & Ted movies – and yes, there is a message to these comedy titans – is, simply, “be excellent to each other.” Yet these days Stephen Herek’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (from director Peter Hewitt), come prefaced with warnings that viewers could find them “offensive.” So what’s the problem?

In September 2020 stars Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter explained the issue. Winter told Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review that the warnings refer to “slurs that [they] had in both of the first two movies.” Reeves and Winter endorsed the caveat, with Winter explaining that the words used are “totally disparaging and not appropriate terminology.”

9. Animal House (1978)

ADVERTISEMENT

Animal House, from director John Landis, was the one of the biggest box-office hits of the 1970s. And its cultural impact was so big that in 2001 it joined the National Film Registry alongside such movie giants as The Sound of Music and Jaws. Yet the Library of Congress had to defend its decision to include the movie at the time. The comedy has only gotten more controversial since too.

In 2018 Vice published an article with the headline, “Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Animal House by Tossing It in the Trash.” USA Today also asked whether we should still laugh with the movie in the time of #MeToo. After all, this is a flick that sees its “heroes” objectifying women left, right and center. USA Today’s assessment? “We’ll just put Animal House on double-secret probation.”

8. Crocodile Dundee (1986)

ADVERTISEMENT

Here’s a startling fact for you: Crocodile Dundee is still the highest-grossing Australian movie at the Aussie box office ever. Yep, that’s right: the comedy took in more than AUS$10 million more than its closest rival. And it was a smash in the U.S., too – even picking up an Oscar nomination for its screenplay. These days, though, Peter Faiman’s fish-out-of-water flick leaves a lot to be desired.

One of the eyebrow-raising elements of the original movie – there are, incredibly, three pictures in the Crocodile Dundee franchise – sees the main character twice grabbing people’s crotches. And how are these moments explained away in the movie? The female protagonist says, “It’s okay; he’s Australian.” Well, we’re glad she cleared that up – otherwise we’d be worried!

7. The Breakfast Club (1985)

ADVERTISEMENT

Star Molly Ringwald credits writer-director John Hughes with creating the teen movie. Before flicks such as The Breakfast Club, Ringwald argued in The New Yorker, there wasn’t much out there for kids to relate to. And plenty of people agree. The comedy’s been ushered into the National Film Registry, after all. Yet even Ringwald says watching The Breakfast Club is “troubling” today.

The main issue for Ringwald is that Judd Nelson’s character, Bender, “harrasses” Ringwald’s Claire all through the movie. And far from being punished, Bender and Claire actually hook up at the film’s feel-good climax. In her New Yorker article, Ringwald ponders whether this is really the right message – especially in the age of #MeToo.

6. Dumbo (1941)

ADVERTISEMENT

Ah… Where to start with Dumbo? On the one hand, the animated adventure is an Oscar-winning early Disney classic that has – according to the Library of Congress – an ever-relevant message about self-belief. But, on the other hand, the movie – which has at least half a dozen directors – is widely panned as being exceptionally problematic.

Part of the problem is the crow characters, the leader of whom is called Jim Crow – and actually voiced by a white man. But then this is not even the most troubling part of the production. No, this comes during the “Song of the Roustabouts,” in which black characters sing lyrics such as “We never learned to read or write.” Sheesh!

5. Trading Places (1983)

ADVERTISEMENT

John Landis’ Trading Places made Empire’s list of the best comedies ever made. The flick also ranked highly on Rotten Tomatoes’ tally of the greatest Christmas movies. It propelled Eddie Murphy into the limelight, too, and even scored Jamie Lee Curtis a BAFTA. So it seems likely that this picture holds a warm spot in many people’s hearts. But, looking at it through a 2020 lens, is it too problematic to love?

The scene that even fans of the movie point out as troubling is the one where Dan Ackroyd dons Jamaican garb. There doesn’t even appear to be a reason for this within the world of the movie, making it even more baffling. And that’s probably why Sky tacked on a disclaimer to Trading Places saying that the comedy is “outdated.”

4. Flash Gordon (1980)

ADVERTISEMENT

Critic Roger Ebert summed up Flash Gordon by calling it kind of “fun” as well as “ridiculous.” It’s this type of half-hearted praise that likely doomed Mike Hodge’s space opera at the box office. Yet the movie has had a prosperous afterlife and is now beloved by a passionate cult audience. This is despite what The Guardian calls the movie’s “‘yellow peril’ paranoia.”

What does the paper mean by this? Simply, the film’s main villain is not a blood-thirsty gang of little green men or one-eyed aliens. No, our heroes are battling to save the universe from… A guy who comes from Asia. It probably doesn’t help that Ming the Merciless is played by Max von Sydow – a very talented, but very white actor.

3. Sixteen Candles (1984)

ADVERTISEMENT

Star Molly Ringwald and writer-director John Hughes teamed up for beloved teen romance Sixteen Candles in the early ’80s. The film would lead the way for other fondly remembered Hughes hits such as The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But these days even Ringwald finds Candles hard to watch.

There are two parts of Sixteen Candles that raise the most eyebrows. The first is the terrible treatment of an exchange student called Long Duk Dong (played by Gedde Watanabe). The second is a sequence where an unconscious female character (Haviland Morris’ Caroline) is callously passed from boy to boy. In 2018 Ringwald told NPR that this is “definitely not acceptable now.”

2. Lady and the Tramp (1955)

ADVERTISEMENT

Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske’s Lady and the Tramp features what AMC called a quintessential movie moment. The scene? Where the lovable Tramp nudges his last meatball over to Lady – and seals the deal with an accidental kiss. But do you know what scene didn’t make it on to the “iconic images” list? Yup, we’re talking about those cats.

In Lady and the Tramp the cats are called Si and Am, and they basically feature every offensive Asian stereotype you could think of. These “Siamese Cats” are also voiced by white star Peggy Lee. It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that their notorious song and appearance were dramatically altered for the 2019 remake.

1. Holiday Inn (1942)

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2018 former British prime minister Theresa May declared Holiday Inn to be her “favorite festive film.” She described the Mark Sandrich-directed musical as a “real holiday classic.” May’s reasoning likely has to do with the movie featuring the first on-screen appearance of the Oscar-winning song “White Christmas.” But Holiday Inn is more often remembered these days for another musical number…

There’s a chance, though, that you may never have seen Bing Crosby performing the song “Abraham” while watching Holiday Inn. This is because the scene is deemed so offensive that it has been snipped out of many TV prints of the picture. After all, watching actors sing and dance in blackface is hardly what you want when you’re enjoying a roast turkey on Christmas Day.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT