Boxes of chocolate. Jenny. “Run, Forrest, run.”
There aren’t many films more iconic than Forrest Gump. It was the second highest grossing film of 1994 (bested only by another instant-classic, The Lion King), won six Academy Awards, and has become a family-movie-night staple.
In recent years, the film has undergone a critical reappraisal, but it nonetheless continues to loom large in our cultural lexicon. What is it about the film’s screenplay that engendered such massive and enduring success? And what are its shortcomings that have become more glaring as time goes on?
Forrest Gump PDF Download
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WHO WROTE Forrest Gump SCRIPT?
Written by Eric Roth
Forrest Gump writer Eric Roth is a screenwriter who has been nominated five times for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, with the scripts The Insider, Munich, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, A Star Is Born, and Forrest Gump (for which he won the award). He has also worked on Dune and Martin Scorcese’s Killers of the Flower Moon.
STRUCTURE OF FORREST GUMP SCREENPLAY
Here is a Forrest Gump summary:
A feather floats through the sky and lands on Forrest’s dirty shoes. He’s waiting for a bus, and telling his life story to strangers: he grew up in Alabama and was very close to his loving mother.
A young Forrest meets Jenny for the first time. She’s the only kid on the school bus who will let him sit next to her. She’s the first one to say “Run, Forrest, run”– allowing him to break out of his braces.
Plot Point One
Forrest graduates college and is shipped off to Vietnam, but before leaving he sees Jenny once more. She’s working at a dive bar as a stripper/singer. She tells him to stay away from her, but softens when she hears he’s leaving.
Forrest meets his “best good friend” Bubba in ‘nam, and they plan to start a shrimp company. Forrest also meets Lt. Dan, who he ends up saving during a battle. Forrest is awarded the medal of honor, but is heartbroken by the death of Bubbah.
While inadvertently giving a speech about the Vietnam War, Forrest reconnects with Jenny. She has a new boyfriend who’s just as bad as the last. Once more, she leaves.
Plot Point Two
After Gump becomes a successful shrimp baron with Lt. Dan, Jenny returns. This time, it seems, she’ll stay, and they consummate the next step in their relationship. But, alas, she’s gone the next morning.
Heartbroken, Gump runs back and forth across the USA, building a cult following. Jenny watches all this from afar.
We’ve caught up to the Gump narrating on the bench. He leaves the bus stop and goes to Jenny’s apartment, where it’s revealed she is raising their child.
Gump and Jenny get married, but Jenny soon after dies from AIDS. Gump raises their child on his own.
Forrest Gump Script Takeaway #1
Classic Forrest Gump Quotes
Forrest Gump is filled with lines that have become so famous, at this point it’s cliché to even say them ironically. These quotes mostly come from the titular character, and this is because of Eric Roth’s extremely careful attention to Forrest’s way of speaking.
Roth has Forrest speak in a very matter-of-fact manner, a manner that comes across as refreshing in the complicated situations Forrest finds himself in. This frankness, mixed with Forrest’s undying kindness, makes for a one-man quote machine.
Let’s look at our first introduction to Gump, which we imported into StudioBinder’s screenwriting software. This opening is crucial to setting up Gump’s character and cadence while also framing the entire film– click on the image to read through the entirety of the scene in the Forrest Gump shooting script.
Forrest Gump quotes • What is Forrest Gump about?
This dialogue tells us a lot about Gump and his outlook. Firstly, he’s gregarious and generous, striking up conversation with a stranger and offering her some food (arguably, this is already a “save the cat” moment for Gump, getting the audience on the protagonist’s side through an act of kindness).
Secondly, his mental disability is clear, but not overdone. The fact that Forrest Gump isn’t outright offensive—at least, in this respect—is a near miracle, and lots of credit should be given to Roth, who treats Gump’s character with dignity and respect.
Roth imbues Gump’s dialogue with a simple wisdom. His lines are profound in their straightforward nature: “Momma always says there's an awful lot you could tell about a person by their shoes. Where they're going. Where they've been.”
Forrest Gump, messiah • Forrest Gump plot
Gump’s incescent quoting of his mother highlights both his disability and his deep connection with his mother. But furthermore, it allows Roth to create instantly memorable quotes that feel real in the moment. Of course these are memorable quotes; they’re memorable quotes to Gump.
It would be remiss not to mention the other key element to Gump’s quotability: Tom Hanks. His portrayal of Gump is crucial to the character’s staying power. Let’s take a look at how Hanks interpreted the script:
Forrest Gump opening • Forrest Gump shooting script PDF
Hanks takes Eric Roth’s homespun-wisdom-dialogue and fills it with an innocence and warmth. Immediately, the audience can’t help but root for this character.
Famous Forrest Gump quotes don’t end with “life is like a box of chocolates.” Here’s just a handful of others that are unavoidable:
“Run, Forrest, run!”
“My mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.”
“Stupid is as stupid does.”
“What is normal anyways?”
“I don’t know if we have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”
“Jenny and me was like peas and carrots.”
Throughout the Forrest Gump plot, simple wisdom by the shrimp-boatload.
Forrest Gump Script Takeaway #2
Favorite Forrest Gump Characters
Like with its quotes, Forrest Gump characters are iconic: Bubba, Lieutenant Dan, Mrs. Gump, Forrest, Jenny.
In Gump, characters operate in a sort of folklore logic, specifically Forrest and Jenny. The simplicity of their arcs is what makes their story so easy to latch onto. These are characters bound by destiny, a crucial theme in the film.
To understand how important destiny is to these characters, take a look at Lieutenant Dan. He believes his destiny has been tampered with, and thus his life begins to spiral. This scene between Gump and Dan is illustrative of this fixation:
Forrest Gump shooting script PDF
Dan’s first line outlines the crux of every characters’ arc in the Forrest Gump screenplay: “We all have a destiny. Nothing just happens, it’s all part of a plan.” How better to describe Forrest’s life? He’s destined to succeed. No matter what he does, it ends up being the right decision at the right time.
This type of character arc could be boring– a character constantly winning lacks tension. But Gump’s disability makes him an underdog to root for, an unlikely success story.
Jenny provides the other side of this coin. She is constantly losing– no matter what she does, it’s the wrong move. But this arc doesn’t work as well as Gump’s because Jenny starts out losing (she is born into poverty with a pedophilic father). So, unlike Gump, where his character and arc seem at odds, a conflict which is inherently interesting, Jenny’s lot in life plays directly into her arc. She starts down on her luck and… continues to be down on her luck.
Mrs. Gump also has a line about destiny, though unlike Lt. Dan’s line, it doesn’t seem to ring true in the context of the movie. “I happened to believe you make your own destiny,” she says on her deathbed.
But for Jenny, this doesn’t seem to be true. No matter what, she can’t escape the abusive men that she started out with. Her destiny seems out of her hands.
Jenny, unable to escape her past • Forrest Gump ending
If we’re supposed to take Mrs. Gump’s word at face value, the message of Jenny’s storyline is even more troublesome. She’s choosing to ruin her life, over and over and over again?
So while Roth writes Forrest with respect and empathy, that same tact is lacking in Jenny’s character– she’s the naive hippy, the drug addict, the punching bag. It’s a thankless role that only exists to serve Gump’s story.
Nevertheless, the destiny grafted onto each character allows for a fable-like story that sticks in the audience's mind. The simplicity is a double-edged sword.
Forrest Gump Script Takeaway #3
Forrest Gump Plays Nostalgia
Whether you like Forrest Gump or not, it’s undeniable that it is a movie which defines the zeitgeist of 1990’s America.
Post-Soviet Union, the overwhelming feeling in the United States was that of “the end of history”– the century was coming to a close, foes had been vanquished, America’s culture was dominant on the world stage.
The Forrest Gump screenplay serves as the perfect send off to a turbulent hundred years that led to the United States as a superpower. Beyond a love story between Gump and Jenny, Gump is a “remember when?” of the 20th century.
This type of “wait, this is that!” scene is played again and again in the Forrest Gump script. It’s a sort of meta-wink, with Gump matter-of-factly describing what happened in an unassuming manner. He doesn’t realize he’s playing a role in major historical events, but the audience does.
Let’s take a look at one such scene, as Forrest is running across the country:
Forrest Gump script PDF
Here we have the origin of the iconic “Shit Happens” bumper sticker. The Forrest voiceover plays it off like it’s nothing, which only makes the realization more satisfying for the audience. It’s a set-up (Forrest steps in poop) and punchline (this coincidence leads to a famous slogan), except instead of a joke it’s a cultural moment.
This set-up/punchline approach is everywhere in the film. Take, for example, the Elvis scene:
Forrest Gump and Elvis • Forrest Gump Screenplay
Here, Roth smartly uses Gump’s leg braces as a set-up to the punchline– that he was the inspiration for Elvis’s legendary dance moves.
This Zelig-esque quality to Forrest Gump is undoubtedly a massive part of the film’s success. Baby Boomers were able to look back at the history they lived through, a pleasant trip down memory lane.
And key to this 20th century recap is that it’s through the eyes of Gump– a near-apolitical figure who sees things almost only in a positive light. Seeing this fraught history through child-like eyes is far more appealing, and more wide-reaching, than a film which takes a firm angle on the events it’s depicting.
Roth takes this to extremes. When Gump is asked to speak about Vietnam, the microphone cuts out. This way, he’s not anti-war or pro-war. He’s neutral.
Of course, it’s impossible to be completely apolitical, and indeed Forrest Gump has a very particular view of the past. Take, for example, all the “bad crews” Jenny falls into– almost all of them are symbols of the counterculture (hippies, Black Panthers, even disco). By the ‘90’s, Boomers had largely soured on the radicalism of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Thus, so does Gump.
The result is a watered-down and rosey-colored view of the past fifty years, one which is heart-warming, inspiring, and misleading. Simplicity is a double-edged sword.
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Forrest Gump was one of the last of its kind– even Eric Roth admitted it would be impossible to do a sequel in the 21st century. If you want to continue reading screenplays, we have similar titles like The Lorax, Back to the Future, and When Harry Met Sally in our screenplay database. Browse and download PDFs for all of our scripts as you read, write and practice your craft to become the next great screenwriter.