The Original Ending of ‘When Harry Met Sally...’ Was a Major Bummer

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan star in 'When Harry Met Sally...' (1989).
Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan star in 'When Harry Met Sally...' (1989). / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc

In a movie packed with iconic sequences, the ending of Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally... (1989) stands out. The romantic comedy concludes with the title characters reuniting at a New Year’s Eve party, where Harry (played by Billy Crystal) professes his love for Sally (Meg Ryan) in an endearing speech. The scene solidifies the movie as a feel-good classic, but according to the director, it almost wasn’t included.

As People reports, When Harry Met Sally... was originally supposed to end on a depressing note. In a 2019 appearance on Couchsurfing, Reiner told host Lola Ogunnaike that Nora Ephron’s first draft didn’t end with Harry and Sally getting together. This story reflected the state of Reiner’s love life when he signed on to the project.

“I was single for 10 years and making a mess of my personal life,” he said in the interview. “And [in] the first draft of the script, the draft we were going to shoot, Harry and Sally don’t get together. They meet each other years later and walk their separate ways.”

It didn’t take long for the director to have a change of heart. While making the movie he met his now-wife, photographer Michele Singer, and the script’s outlook on love took an optimistic turn. “I fell in love and said: I see how this works,” Reiner said on The Late Late Show With James Corden in 2016.

Though Ephron penned the screenplay, Billy Crystal helped craft the quotable speech his character delivers at the end. The star improvised throughout the production of When Harry Met Sally... , including a line that made Ryan laugh out of character. (It was good enough that Reiner decided to include it in the final cut.) You can read more facts about the romantic comedy here.

Looking for a new movie to watch, or at least a movie that’s new to you? Mental Floss’s new book, The Curious Movie Buff: A Miscellany of Fantastic Films from the Past 50 Years, offers behind-the-scenes details and amazing facts about some of the greatest movies of the past half-century. And it’s available now at your favorite place to buy books, or online right here.