Brian De Palma’s 1983 remake of Howard Hawks’s 1932 original Scarface is a violent and vitriolic condemnation of power. But although the remake is perhaps most well-known for Al Pacino’s legendary performance as Tony Montana, Oliver Stone’s script contains a lot of personal insight as well. We’re going to tear down the Scarface script by looking at its quotes, characters and commentary. By the end, we’ll develop an understanding of how Stone adapted a gangster epic unlike any other.
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WHO WROTE Scarface SCRIPT?
Written by Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone is a three-time Oscar winner and eight-time nominee who has served as one of his generation’s most prolific filmmakers. Some of Stone’s most acclaimed scripts include Midnight Express, JFK and Salvador — and some of his most iconic directorial works include Platoon, Wall Street and Born on the Fourth of July.
STRUCTURE OF the scarface SCREENPLAY
What is Scarface about? Here’s the story structure for the Scarface plot:
In 1980, Fidel Castro opens the Cuban border allowing Americans into the country. However, he forces the American boats to bring criminals back — two of which are Tony Montana and Manny Ribera.
Tony and Manny get sent to a refugee camp called Freedomtown where they meet two new associates, Chi-Chi and Angel. Manny negotiates a deal in order to get green cards for him and Tony. But in exchange, they have to kill a former Cuban general named Emilio Rebenga.
Plot Point One
Tony and Manny arrive in Miami to find that it’s not as glamorous as they expected. After working as dish-washers for a short time, they accept a high-risk job where they have to facilitate a drug trade with Columbians. The job goes bad and Angel is killed — but Tony, Manny and Chi-Chi escape.
Tony meets the boss, Frank Lopez, and the two develop a friendship; which becomes jeopardized when Tony pursues his girl, Elvira.
Tony cuts a deal with a big-time cocaine producer in Bolivia named Sosa. In retaliation, Lopez orders a hit but Tony escapes to a safehouse.
Tony’s sister, Gina, starts to use drugs; much to his dismay. Gina attempts to seduce Manny but he rejects her out of respect for Tony.
Plot Point Two
The group of Tony, Manny and Chi-Chi kill Lopez and his police pawn Mel. With his power consolidated, Tony marries Elvira and builds a “Shangri-La” fortress in Miami.
Tony grows paranoid that everyone is trying to undercut his business. As a result, he pushes his closest confidants Manny and Elvira away.
Build Up II
Tony is indicted on charges of conspiracy and tax evasion. Sosa tells Tony that he can keep him out of jail if he helps assassinate a diplomat in New York.
The assassination falls apart when the diplomat picks up his wife and children and Tony refuses to kill them — ultimately inciting a war between Tony and Sosa.
Tony finds Manny with Gina and kills him; which leads him to a complete mental breakdown. Rival forces storm Tony’s compound and kill Gina — then kill Tony.
Tony’s dead body lies in the fountain under a globe that reads “the world is yours.”
Scarface Script Takeaway #1
Scarface quotes present a worldview
Tony Montana has some of the most iconic quotes in cinema history. We’ve all heard, “Say hello to my little friend” and “I always tell the truth, even when I lie” but there’s another quote that isn’t as well known; and it does a great job of establishing Tony’s unique worldview.
We imported the Scarface script into StudioBinder’s screenwriting software to highlight this quote and place it in the context of the narrative. As you’re reading this scene, think about the mood that’s created as a result of Tony’s worldview — and how Manny serves the role of a foil character.
Scarface Screenplay • Read ‘Tony’s Worldview’ Scene
There’s no doubt about it: Tony Montana has a perverted worldview. When he says “This country, first you gotta get the money, then you get the power and when you got the power, then you get the women — and then, Chico, you got the world by the balls.”
In this instance, it’s not so much about whether he’s right or wrong, it’s more about how he broadly generalizes things to an unhealthy degree. In a screenwriting sense, this scene works extremely well because it establishes how Tony views the world and it puts him on a path towards achieving these goals.
Let’s see how this quote is communicated by the incomparable Al Pacino.
Scarface Quotes • Watch Tony’s Worldview Scene
When writing your own screenplay, think about how Stone used dialogue to communicate the worldview of his protagonist.
There are a lot of other great Scarface quotes — here are some of the best.
- “Say hello to my little friend.” - Tony
- “I always tell the truth, even when I lie.” - Tony
- “Every day above ground is a good day.” - Mel
- “Nothing exceeds like excess.” - Elvira
- “All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break them for no one. Do you understand?” - Tony
- “You don’t have the guts to be what you wanna be.” - Tony
- “You wanna know what capitalism is? Getting fucked.” - Tony
- “I’m Tony Montana. You fuck with me, you fuckin’ with the best.” - Tony
Scarface Script Takeaway #2
The Scarface ending is thematic
The ending of Scarface is one of the most legendary endings in cinema history. It’s energetic, emotional and exhilarating — all because of an explosive final gun-fight between Tony and Sosa’s men.
Let’s read through the Scarface ending again — but this time, with a special focus on the final pieces of imagery. Think about the role that the “world is yours” fountain plays throughout the script and why it might be the perfect prop for overt symbolism.
Scarface Screenplay • Read the Scarface Ending Scene
The “world is yours” fountain serves as a symbol throughout the third-act of Scarface for Tony’s worsening need for adoration and control. It’s also a vehicle for the theme of “boundless ambition leads to corruption.”
Now think about the blocking and staging of this scene. Tony begins standing above the fountain; quite literally “atop the world.” But when he’s shot, he falls over the balcony and into the water below.
Through this, Tony obviously dies, but metaphorically speaking, he loses the world that he worked so hard to control.
Let’s look at the scene from the film to see how this blocking and staging came together in de Palma’s final cut.
Scarface Movie Script to Screen • Watch the Scarface Ending Scene
Tony’s fall into the water could be viewed as baptismal — with blood washing away as he lays face down. Religion doesn’t play a huge role in Scarface, so perhaps it’s not accurate to say that Stone had that in mind when writing the ending. But still, it’s a very purposeful way of framing Tony’s final moments.
Scarface Script Takeaway #3
Scarface characters aren’t all bad
Perhaps it’s not fair to say that all Scarface characters are bad — but most Scarface characters are bad; or at least they do immoral things. But even though most characters in Scarface commit capital crimes or engage in purely hedonistic lifestyles, they still have moments of redemption.
- Tony proves that he has a sliver of humanity when he decides not to kill the diplomat and his family.
- Elvira demonstrates mercy when she refuses to get pregnant with Tony’s child because neither of them are fit to be parents.
- Manny initially rejects Gina’s advances out of respect for Tony.
None of these characters are especially good natured, but they’re just noble enough to not be completely despicable.
If there’s one character in Scarface who consistently acts morally, it’s Tony’s mother. Let’s take a look at the scene where she confronts Tony to see how her worldview is antagonistic to his.
Scarface Screenplay • Read the Scarface ‘Mother’s House’ Scene
Tony and his mother have a very contentious relationship. In many ways, this contention is rooted in the concept of complacency. Tony believes you have to take what you want and his mother believes you have to earn what you want. We see Tony take a lot throughout Scarface; including Gina’s freedom, Lopez’s girlfriend, and business from Omar. Tony believes he deserved everything he got, while his mother believes he cheated hardworking people.
And deep down, Tony knows his mother is right. Tony climbed to the highest highs of wealth, but it made him miserable and vindictive.
This next scene shows how Tony finally found himself a victim of his own parasitic worldview.
Scarface 1983 Script to Screen • Watch the Scarface ‘Self-Realization’ Scene
In many ways, this scene is a perfect example of how to use external conflict to feed internal conflict. Tony is constantly battling the world and himself to achieve an unachievable goal of perfection.
Consider framing a scene in your script in a similar way. It’s never a bad idea to be conscious of external and internal conflict, because when they’re communicated effectively, they can add a lot of tension to your story.
Read and download more scripts
Scarface does an excellent job of showing us how to write a thematically expressive gangster movie. If you want to continue reading screenplays, we have similar titles like The Irishman, The Departed, and Goodfellas 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.