Did you know Robert Deniro’s most infamous line was completely improvised? Taxi Driver’s screenwriter, Paul Schrader, actually wrote in the script “Bickle speaks to himself in the mirror.” This gave Deniro a lot of room to explore his character, and he ended up making film history because of it.
One of the most moving scenes in film history belongs to Rutger Hauer from Blade Runner. His ending monologue affectionately called “Tears in the Rain” was re-written and largely improvised by Rutger in the moment. It made for an unforgettable performance audiences could really feel deep down in their soul.
“Want To Hear The Most Annoying Sound In The World?” – Dumb and Dumber
Apparently 15 percent of Dumb and Dumber was improvised. That’s according to Peter Farrelly, one of the film’s Directors. Like much of the film, the hitchhiking scene was improvised. Say it with me, “MOCK,” “YEAH,” “ING,” “YEAH” Okay that’s enough.
Ben Stiller actually forgot his line in this scene from Zoolander. After David Duchovny seamlessly outlines the corruption of the male modelling world, all Ben Stiller thought to say was “But why male models?” again. It was brilliant and conveniently stayed right in line with the character of Zoolander.
“You’re going to need a bigger boat” is a fairly nonchalant response after seeing a 25-foot Great White Shark. Perhaps that’s why it became so iconic–that and the fact that it was totally improvised by Roy Scheider in the moment. Yikes.
Zach Galifianakis improved the scene where the baby does unspeakable things to himself by the pool. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what we’re talking about. “So that was improvised not with a real baby obviously, but a doll,” begins Galifianakis. “I was like, ‘Todd , look at this.’ And Todd, the director, was like, ‘Oh, we have to put that in the movie.’”
Robin Williams is the king of improvisation, so it comes as no suprise that basically every radio broadcast from Good Morning Vietnam was completely unscripted. Just watch the movie–you can’t write that level of genius onto a page.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a cancer sufferer in 50/50, and completely shaves his head in one scene much to Seth Rogen’s dismay. Seth was flabbergasted because it simply wasn’t in the script at all.
One of the most harrowing scenes in movie history was made up completely on the spot by Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta. “That’s funny, you’re a funny guy,” chuckles Henry Hill, to which Tommy DeVito replies “What do you mean funny, the way I talk?” The whole scene was based off a real-life incident Joe Pesci had with an actual gangster.
We all remember it. Meg Ryan’s scene at Katz’s Delicatessen where she fakes an orgasm to prove women actually CAN be deceitful in bed. Secondary to that memorable scene is the punchline afterwards where the old lady says “I’ll have what she’s having.” Yeah, that was unscripted. But seriously, we’ll have what she’s having.
After blowing up a hospital in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s Joker gets confused when only a couple small explosions happen. He stands there banging on the remote for a second until all the bigger explosions start happening at once. This scene was in the script, but the delayed explosions weren’t, which helped Ledger craft a particularly fun little improv moment.
“Leave the gun” was in the script, “Take the cannoli,” wasn’t. It was a nice Italian touch that created an iconic bit of dialogue for The Godfather.
Matt Damon and Tom Hanks have an unscripted moment in Saving Private Ryan before the end battle starts. The scene involves Ryan (Matt Damon) telling a completely made-up story about his three brothers to Hanks. It turns out Steven Spielberg liked it so much that he kept it in the final cut.
I’m surprised. I didn’t know where “I’m walkin’ here!” came from, despite hearing it a billion times in my life from people. It turns out it came from Midnight Cowboy, and was completely ad-libbed by Dustin Hoffman after a NYC cab driver ignored the “FILMING” signs, cutting right into the shot. Luckily Dustin stayed in character and shouted out that line in response. Now we have film gold.
Perhaps the most iconic movie line of all time, “Here’s looking at you, kid” wasn’t anywhere in Casablanca‘s script. Apparently Humphrey Bogart said that to Ingrid Bergman in between takes when he was teaching her poker, and it leaked into the movie.
Indiana Jones was Harrison Ford’s favorite character to play. In this scene from the first movie Indy was supposed to engage in a lengthy sword fight with the gentlemen laying on the ground above. The problem was Harrison came down with an intense stomach bug the night before shooting, and asked if the scene could be less strenuous. He ended up just pulling out his pistol and shooting the assailant instead. Gold.
Jack Nicholson is one of only a handful of actors to win an Oscar on three separate occasions. In this scene from The Shining, Nicholson ad-libs “Here’s Johnnny!!” as he breaks into the bathroom. He later revealed that he stole that bit from the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
“I love you,” Leia says. “I know,” quips back Han Solo. Yeah, George Lucas did NOT write that in the original script for the movie. Han was supposed to say “I love you too,” but that wouldn’t have worked with his character at all in hindsight. We’re happy Harrison stuck with his gut on this one.
I’m starting to wonder whether every iconic movie line was actually in the script at all. Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth,” from A Few Good Men was originally “You already have the truth.” We’d say Nicholson improved on that line dramatically.
We don’t want to spend too much time talking about Silence of the Lambs (because it’s terrifying), but we will say that the infamous hissing sound Anthony Hopkins makes after some heavy dialogue was completely unscripted. It was meant as a joke, but Jodi Foster’s reaction was priceless, and the Director ultimately decided to leave it in the movie.
It was left to Robin Williams to dream up the ending line to Good Will Hunting. After a couple different variations, Robin finally uttered “Son of a bitch, he stole my line.” Matt Damon immediately knew that was the one.
When audiences were first introduced to Willy Wonka in 1971, they probably weren’t expecting him to do a somersault. But he did. Gene Wilder advocated for doing something wild, saying, “From that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”
When Richard Gere suddenly shuts the jewelry box on Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Julia’s reaction is genuine. She didn’t know Richard was going to do that, and the Director decided to keep it in the movie.
When Aragorn kicks an enemy helmet like a soccer ball in The Two Towers, actor Viggo Mortensen actually breaks his toe in the process. The resulting scream from Viggo is 100 percent authentic, and unscripted.