Isn’t it annoying for screenwriters when they spend years trying to perfect natural sounding lines and some movie star comes along and makes it all up on the spot? Their random inclusion often becomes much more famous than anything else in the movie! Let’s take a look at these iconic improvised movie scenes by actors from famous films.
1) Iron Man – “I am Iron Man”
Tony Stark’s catchphrase perfectly sums up his swagger but it was all Robert Downey Jr‘s brainchild. Going off-script to invent the line and the ad-lib gave Marvel the confidence they needed to think outside the box. They quoted “It inspired us to go further in trusting ourselves to find the balance of staying true to the comics and the spirit of the comics but not being afraid to adapt and evolve and to change things.”
2) Avengers: Infinity War – “I don’t want to go”
Possibly the most emotional moment in the MCU to date, Peter Parker’s lip quivering dialogue delivery in the arms of Tony Stark sold the whole horrific ending of Infinity War. Apparently just told to act like he doesn’t want to go and Tom Holland improvised the scene and made up his terrifying last line.
3) The Shining – “Here’s Johnny!”
Making a joke that most people don’t get anymore, Jack Nicholson improvised this now-famous line after director Stanley Kubrick made him do multiple takes with different lines of dialogue. The line is actually a reference to the popular catchphrase used on the intro to the Johnny Carson Show but viewers outside of America had no idea that Nicholson was referring to the show. Luckily, Nicholson’s terrifying movie version of the line has now become more famous in its own right.
4) Captain Phillips – “Look at me. I am the captain now”
One of the biggest and most impactful lines in Captain Philips and the one that got Barkhad Abdi his big break was actually an ad-lib. The line goes, “Look at me. I am the captain now,” and actor Barkhad Abdi quoted “I became the character. I tried to get to be that guy for that moment.. had to come out with all I got. I used a lot of imaginations.”
5) Taxi Driver – “You talking to me?”
Paul Schrader’s original screenplay for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver actually included a scene that just said, “Travis talks to himself in the mirror.” Allowing Robert De Niro free reign to improvise with his character, Scorsese watched as the scene took shape on set with De Niro doing extended takes in front of the mirror, gradually getting more unhinged before he finally got to the version used in the film.
6) The Godfather – “Leave the Gun. Take the cannoli.”
This iconic film with Marlon Brando as the main character follows the story of a crime dynasty. The movie had strong themes about the importance of family. After the Godfather is nearly killed in a hit, Paulie, one of the underlings responsible, has to be taken out. One of the Godfather’s lieutenants, Peter Clemenza is charged with the task, stopping to pick up cannoli on the way to the job. During the execution scene, Castellano came up with this unscripted gem after the deed is done “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
7) Jaws – “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”
This summer blockbuster revolved around the plot of getting rid of a killer shark. In an attempt to cut costs, the producers were notoriously stingy. One of the support boats was too small to handle its job, so everyone on set continually joked about it. The catchphrase “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” became the cast and crew’s saying for anything that wasn’t going well. Scheider tried improvising the line with a few scenes during the filming, but the one that made the cut was when he first sees the shark.
8) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – Gun vs Sword Fight Scene
This classic action movie was first in the hugely successful series. There’s a scene when Indy survived an exhausting chase through the casbah, only to be confronted by a swordsman brandishing his scimitar. At first, Indy stands ready for battle, then gets a disgusted look on his face and pulls out his revolver to finish the job. After three months of shooting in 130-degree heat in Tunisia, Ford was fighting dysentery. The scene originally entailed three more days of shooting but Ford, desperate to be done with it suggested this ending instead.
9) Titanic – “I’m the king of the world”
The most famous bit in James Cameron’s romantic disaster movie wasn’t even in the script. When the then-22-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio first climbed up to the front of the fake ship on set, he apparently threw his arms wide and shouted the line, presumably thinking about how famous he was about to become. Most of the gaffers probably thought he was a bit of an idiot, but Cameron liked it so much that he added it into the film.
10) Goodfellas – “I’m funny how?”
Joe Pesci’s infamous rant was actually based on something that really happened to him. Working as a waiter in a New York restaurant as a kid, Pesci once made the mistake of telling a notorious mobster that his joke was funny. The scene in the movie, that Pesci improvised on entirely with Ray Liotta, was apparently exactly how it went down in real life.
So here are the most iconic improvised movie scenes.