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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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…
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!
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…
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.
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“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.
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.”
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.
The Godfather – Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli
Peter Clemenza goes with another one of Don Corleone’s men to take out Paulie Gatto for attempting to kill the Don. But instead of simply saying “leave the gun,” actor Richard Castellano embellished a bit.
Photo by Paramount Pictures
Following the hit, he said, “leave the gun, take the cannoli.” And those impromptu words have forever been repeated.
Next, which part of Full Metal Jacket do you think was unscripted?
Full Metal Jacket – the Drill Sergeant Wasn’t Even Supposed to be in the Film
Remember the drill Sergeant in Kubrick’s classic Full Metal Jacket? Well, actor R. Lee Ermey, who was one of the most memorable characters in the film, wasn’t even supposed to be in it at all!
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He sent Kubrick a home video of himself insulting Marines and Kubrick decided to add it to the film. Later, Kubrick admitted that at least 50% of his dialogue was improvised.
This Is Spinal Tap – Ad-Libbing at its Best
Contrary to popular belief, the band is not real. They are a fictional band at the creation of Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap.
The mockumentary follows the British band through their wild rock n’ roll life featured with their 80s hairdos. Stars Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest ad-libbed most of their lines in the film that they were even given writing credits.
The next movie is one of the best gangster films of all time. Wanna guess?
Goodfellas – Funny Guy
The movie that goes down as one of the greatest gangster films of all time is not exempt from the list of famous unscripted scenes. While Scorcese likes to strictly stick to the script, there was one scene in which he let go.
In one of the most quotable scenes, Ray Liotta’s character Henry Hill tells Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito that he is a “funny guy.” Pesci replied off-script with: “Funny how? Do I amuse you?” And boom. History is made.
When Harry Met Sally – Pecan Pie
Rob Reiner has no problem letting actors making up their lines. In the famous 1989 film, there’s one scene where Billy Crystal tells Meg Ryan that they will be speaking in goofy voices for the rest of the day.
Crystal goes on with random nonsense just trying to get her to repeat him. And at one point he says, “I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.” Meg Ryan instantly started laughing, and Reiner kept the line in.
Even Forrest Gump has some ad-libbed moments! See the next slide.
Forrest Gump – “People Call Me Forrest Gump”
During his introduction to Bubba, Forrest introduces himself by saying, “My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump,” in which he is basically repeating the style that Bubba presents himself.
Photo by Paramount Pictures
But Hanks threw that line in himself, and it fit just perfectly with his character. Director Robert Zemeckis loved the line and kept it in the final cut. In case you don’t remember, Hanks won the Oscar for Best Actor for that role.
The Empire Strikes Back – “I Know”
The Empire Strikes Back is considered to be the best film in the franchise. It also has one of the most famous unscripted scenes of all time. Right before Darth Vader splits up Han Solo and Princess Leia, they share a passionate kiss.
Carrie Fisher says to Harrison Ford, “I love you.” But rather than responding with the natural reaction of “I love you too,” Ford replies with, “I know.” All women felt a tiny little pang of resentment at that point we’re sure!
Lord of the Rings fan? You might not know the next scene’s behind the scenes moment.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Viggo Mortensen was able to throw in an occasional ad-libbed line or two in the movie. And one was one of the more emotional scenes from the film.
When his character Aragorn believes the two hobbits, Merry and Pippin, are dead, he kicks a helmet out of frustration and yells. His yell was very real because he actually broke his toe on the helmet!
In Ghostbusters, Rick Moranis played Louis, Sigourney Weaver’s obnoxious neighbor. Moranis was a cast member on Second City TV, being a comedian from the 80s. So he had some improvisation skills under his belt.
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According to director Ivan Reitman, Moranis invented his entire speech on the spot in the scene where he speaks to his party guests in the film. Reitman said, “Rick just made all of it up as he was doing it.”
For all those who loved Caddyshack, you might appreciate the next unscripted part!
Caddy shack – Bill Murray Stole the Show
More than 40 years after the movie came out, we’re still laughing at Bill Murray’s Carl Spackler. Murray, being one of the greatest comedians of his generation, really shines in Caddyshack.
Murray, like many comedians, has a knack for improvising. His famous scene, with the Cinderella story bit, was completely made up. Murray’s stage direction was: “Carl cuts off the tops of flowers with a grass whip,” and he turned it into a classic scene.
Knocked Up – Comedians Know How to Ad-Lib
Knocked Up starring Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl is one of funniest of Judd Appatow’s creations. The premise alone is hilarious in which Rogan must navigate his upcoming fatherhood following a one-night stand gone wrong.
Rogan, along with his real life friends Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, and Martin Starr all improvised many of their lines, including the funny bit about Munich.
Whoopi Goldberg improvised a line in one of her movies. Do you know which?
Ghost – “You in trouble, girl”
Whoopi Goldberg is another example of how Comedians know what to say and when. She also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Oda Mae Brown, the psychic in the film.
In the scene where her character finds herself in contact with the ghost of Sam, Sam asks her to warn his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) that his killer is still alive. Whoopi then added the line, “Molly, you in trouble, girl.” A fitting addition if you ask us!
The Usual Suspects – the Line Up
This movie needs to be on many lists, including one of the craziest twists of all time. But one of the most iconic scenes is also unscripted – the police station line-up.
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For the scene, the actors were given the freedom to do what they want in order to create some comedy. Part of this was due to one of the character’s flatulence. Also, the line “in English please,” was improvised by a cop after Benicio Del Toro slurred his words.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – The Economics Lesson
Ben Stein’s most iconic career moment was when he ad-libbed the economics lesson he taught in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “John Hughes, the director and producer and writer, asked me to ad-lib two scenes,” he said.
“When I finished the scene, everyone on the set was gathered around and started applauding. I thought they were applauding because they’d learned something about economics. I later learned they were applauding because it was so boring.”
Django Unchained – An Accident
Leonardo DiCaprio accidentally cut his hand open while filming the scene but decided to keep acting anyway, and he even went on to smearing the blood all over Kerry Washington’s face!
Leo said that afterwards, the cast and crew gave him a standing ovation. He kept acting because “it was more interesting to watch Quentin’s and Jamie’s reaction off-camera than to look at my hand.”
The next movie scene is a disturbing one, and one off-script.
A Clockwork Orange – A Disturbing Scene
A Clockwork Orange is a thriller of a movie, but is not easy to watch. Kubrick was reportedly really disappointed with many of the takes from the scene in which Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and company break into a woman’s home and attack her.
Photo by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Kubrick eventually told McDowell: “Just do whatever you want.” McDowell added his own spin on disturbing to the scene by breaking into song, by singing “Singing in the Rain” throughout the scene.
The Fugitive – He Doesn’t Care
Tommy Lee Jones picked up an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as U.S. Marshal Deputy Samuel Gerard. Gerard is searching for Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) after he escapes on his way to prison.
When he was finally cornered, Ford said: “I didn’t kill my wife.” Jones was supposed to say “That isn’t my problem.” But instead, he replied with “I don’t care.”
Next – even animated films can be unscripted!
Aladdin – Robin Williams Went Off-Script
Even animated movies have unscripted parts! Apparently, Robin Williams ad-libbed many of his lines and the animators loved it.
Photo by Walt Disney Pictures
Disney animator Eric Goldberg commented on how much Robin Williams improvised. He said: “Did I see Robin doing any improvisation? That would be like saying, ‘Did you see the pope wearing his vestments?’ He turned into a game show host, an evangelist.”
The 40 Year Old Virgin – The Chest Waxing
Remember the iconic chest waxing scene? Steve Carell’s chest was actually being waxed for the very first time, and he didn’t think it was going to hurt. Therefore, all of his reactions were genuine.
Before shooting, he said, “I’m sure most of what I’m going to be doing out there is acting and not reacting… I’m not going to try to imagine the pain, because I’m sure what I can imagine will be worse than what I’m going to experience.” He was clearly wrong.
Blade Runner – The Tears in Rain Speech
Rutger Hauer improvised most of his speech at the end of the movie, and it made the screenwriter a little bit jealous. David Peoples, one of the screenwriters, didn’t know how to react when Hauer started to go off-script.
“He looked at me like a naughty little boy, like he was checking to see if the writer was going to be upset… I was a little upset and threatened by it. Later, seeing the movie, that was a brilliant contribution of Rutger’s… It is absolutely beautiful.”
Clueless – Keepin’ it Real
Donald Faison improvised the line “I’m keepin’ it real” during the scene where his head is being shaved. He said it was based on something he heard a kid in his neighborhood say.
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He said: “Some kid in my neighborhood said, ‘Just keep it real. Just make sure you keep it real.’ And I was like, ‘Oh. That’s what the kids are saying now?’ And so I put that in there myself.'”
Pretty Woman – The Jewelry Box
In an interview, director Garry Marshall revealed something fun about the scene in which Richard Gere gives Julia Roberts the necklace.
When the box snapped on her fingers and she laughs in shock – that wasn’t part of the plan. But it was too good to take out of the film.
Zoolander – Why Male Models?
The hilarious comedy involves an unscripted moment that people have no idea was actually not in the script.
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After David Duchovny’s speech about the corruption of the modelling world, Ben Stiller admitted that he forgot his line and so he asked “Why male models?” again. The timing was perfect and too funny to take out.
The Third Man – An Unplanned Monologue
Orson Welles added an unplanned monologue. He said, “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance.”
“In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” None of that was in the script and it ended up becoming a major monologue in the film.
Crazy, Stupid, Love – the Dancing Scene
Hannah (Emma Stone) and Jacob (Ryan Gosling) share an amazing evening together at Jacob’s bachelor pad, where he woos her with his Dirty Dancing lift – and it wasn’t in the script.
The two went on to be in another movie together and it was all about dancing! You may have heard of it – it’s called La La Land.