When Scenes are Both Unscripted and Unforgettable: The Hollywood Classics
Sometimes, the most memorable parts of movies are in reality unscripted. Those one-liners that you love to use, even today? Well, a lot of them were made up on the spot. Let’s go through the most famous ones.
1. Casablanca – ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’
The 1942 romantic classic film Casablanca is considered one of the best of all times. Along with the stellar performances by silver screen legends Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, the masterpiece set in World War II-era Morocco had one of the most memorable lines in Hollywood history.
When Rick tells Ilsa: “Here’s looking at you, kid,” the phrase was immortalized. But the original dialogue was different. Bogart used this line regularly when playing poker behind the scenes with Bergman.
2. Taxi Driver – ‘You talking to me?’
One of the most memorable lines in film history was actually improvised. Robert De Niro’s performance in the 1976 film Taxi Driver still has people impersonating him more than 50 years after its release.
Remember De Niro’s memorable line “Are you talking to me?” The legendary part of the scene was made up on the spot. The script included vague instructions for De Niro to talk to himself in the mirror. And the rest is history.
The next movie is a creepy classic. Find out which part is adlibbed.
3. The Shining – ‘Here’s Johnny’
Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror flick The Shining is by far one of the most terrifying movies of all time. And one of the most memorable lines was during the climax of the movie. When Jack Nicholson’s character Jack Torrance says “Here’s Johnny!” it became a catchy two-liner. Amazingly, it was completely unscripted.
Nicholson said the line after popping his head through the bathroom door that he axed through. When asked about the line, Nicholson explained that the phrase was taken from the popular introduction of Johnny Carson on the TV legend’s 1950s variety show.
4. The Godfather – The Cat
The eternal classic 1972 mobster saga, The Godfather was a remarkable film for many reasons. While most of the masterpiece was planned, there was at one magnificent scene that was indeed unrehearsed.
The Godfather Wiki
Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) has a scene where he explains about friendship to undertaker Bonasera (Salvatore Corsitto). The mafia boss is seen nonchalantly holding a cat. According to director Francis Ford Coppola, he actually found the stray cat on set and gave the actor the offer he couldn’t refuse.
The next ad-lib is from an Oscar-winning WWII drama.
5. Saving Private Ryan – The Barn Story
There’s a scene in the Academy Award-winning film Saving Private Ryan where Private Ryan and Captain Miller swap stories of back home in the middle of a demolished street in the middle of France.
Damon delivers a bittersweet monologue about three brothers, a girl back home and a barn. And once you know that none of it was in the script, it becomes all the more impressive. After a successful role in Good Will Hunting, Damon was apparently confident enough in his storytelling skills to wing it.
6. American Beauty – Dinner Scene
The film American Beauty is an American classic that won more than one Oscar that year. The suburban America drama definitely intense and at least one emotion scene was the result of adlibbing. Do you remember the dinner scene?
Actors Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening and Thora Birch were given a rough outline of the notorious dinner scene. What Spacey did was unscripted: he throws the plate. And the shocked reactions of the co-stars are true and genuine.
Everyone knows this famous scene from the next movie…
7. Midnight Cowboy – ‘Hey! I’m walking’ here!’
Dustin Hoffman’s famous line in Midnight Cowboy is his most recognized line from the Oscar-winning film. The legendary quote was not in the original script. It was in reality born from an actual near-accident with a taxi!
The cameras started rolling on the scene and a cab quickly passed by Hoffman and co-star Jon Voight, almost hitting them. Hoffman’s initial reaction was to shout: “Hey! I’m walkin’ here.” Filmmaker John Schlesinger loved it and kept it.
8. A Few Good Men – ‘You can’t handle the truth!’
Jack Nicholson seems to be good at this. The most famous line from the 1992 legal drama A Few Good Men was unprepared. Colonel Jessup yells out “You can’t handle the truth!” at Lt. Kaffee in the movie’s most iconic scene.
The Pioneer Woman
The film’s original screenplay had Nicholson line as: “You already have the truth.” But Nicholson changed it to an impromptu adaptation that gave it that extra push, and it became one of the most well-known lines of all time.
Next, a gigantic movie with a huge one-liner.
9. Titanic – ‘I’m the king of the world!’
James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster Titanic won a whopping 11 Oscars. The epic film is full of pop culture references, but the most famous line was a makeshift part said by Leonardo Dicaprio.
When Jack first boards the ship, he runs to the front, climbs the railing and yells “I’m the king of the world!” The actor essentially improvised the line. It turns out that Cameron liked the line so much that it made the final cut.
10. Dumb and Dumber – The Most Annoying Sound
Comedians are usually good at improvising. And when it comes to comedy greats like Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, ad-libbed scenes are a piece of cake. The 1994 comedy Dumb and Dumber was about 15% improvised, including the scene in the truck.
Lloyd Christmas says: “Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” And he belts out an obnoxious, irritating sound. The hitchhiking character responded with an explosive reaction that was absolutely genuine and stayed in the film.
If you want to see one of the best improvised parts of a horror classic, see what’s next…
11. The Silence of the Lambs – The Hiss
Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) delivers an eerily creepy hiss at the end of his monologue. And you can probably, at this point, guess what we are about to say. Yup, it was adlibbed.
At the end of his monologue, and after “some fava bean and a nice Chianti,” Hannibal makes a disturbing sound at Clarice (Jodie Foster). As it turns out, the infamous hiss was actually somewhat of a prank. Hopkins tried it out in rehearsals to freak Foster out. It definitely works!
12. The Dark Knight – Slow Clap
Heath Ledger’s most impressive performance was as Batman’s antagonist, the Joker, in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight. Ledger immersed himself in the character.
His acting method approach led to the movie’s brilliant moment, which was unscripted. As the Joker sits alone in jail, he overhears police officers praising Jim Gordon after getting a promotion. That’s when Ledger starts an impromptu slow clap without so much as changing his cynical facial expression. RIP Heath. You were loved.
Next, another late great actor’s fabulous skills at work…
13. Good Morning Vietnam – The Broadcasts
Robin Williams is another example of how comedians are excellent ad-libbers. That said, his popular 1987 film Good Morning Vietnam is one instance where you can see his skills at play.
New York Times
“Goooood morning Vietnam! Hello campers, remember Monday is Malaria day! That’s right, time to take that big orange pill,” Williams would keep going. And, of course, it was all improvised as was most of his broadcast dialogue. It’s amazing to see what he was capable of. RIP Robin.
14. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – The Red Carpet Rollout
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a classic for the generations to come since its release in 1971. The legendary Gene Wilder agreed to the title role, but on the condition that he could add his own surprise entrance in the film.
Wilder makes a grand somersault-filled entrance on the red carpet when walking towards all the children and people at the gates. He later explained why he did it: “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”
15. Bridesmaids – Air Marshall Interrogation
The comedy Bridesmaids was so hilarious, and part of what makes it so is that most of the cast are comedians and simply comical women. And Melissa McCarthy’s standout performance was in=part unrehearsed.
The entertaining mid-air exchange between McCarthy and “Air Marshall John” (Ben Falcone) made laugh out loud, no doubt. McCarthy and Falcone are married in real life, and she improvised the amusingly suggestive scene. Falcone admitted that he laughed so hard that he ruined multiple takes.