It can take a screenwriter years to finish writing a script. Sacrificing so many hours to perfect the dialogue, and make sure every scene advances the story. Then an actor walks in and spews a line of brilliance. It can drive a writer mad, but you can’t fault an actor for taking the leap. Sometimes it can lead to cinema magic.
Here is a list of 27 unscripted moments from your favourite television shows and films.
27. Jaws (1975) “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
When Police Chief Brody is chumming the water to lure in the great white shark, the actor, Roy Sceider got his first look at exactly how massive the killer shark was. Causing the stunned actor to utter the now famous line, Youre going to need a bigger boat.
26. Scrubs (2001-2010) “The Janitor”
The Janitor from Scrubs seemed to live in a reality all his own. He was a confident weirdo, who seemed destined to make the life of Zach Braff’s character, J.D., a living hell from day one. The actor who portrayed him Neil Flynn had studied improv in Chicago. When he was cast in Scrubs, he was told to improvise… Everything. Basically, whatever came out of his character’s mouth was made up by the actor.
25. Pretty Woman (1990) “The Necklace”
One of the most iconic moments from the film is when Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) presents call girl Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) with a gorgeous and expensive diamond necklace. When she reaches out to touch it and Gere quickly snaps the box shut genuinely surprising her, causing Roberts to laugh.
The director loved the moment so much, he decided to leave it in the film. Giving us one of the most iconic movie moments.
24. Community (2009-2015) “Nicholas Cage”
In the Introduction to Teaching episode, Abed Nadir, played by Danny Pudi begins taking a on actor Nicolas Cage. He is about to give a presentation about Cage to the class, and that’s when “sexy cat” was born. Pudi suddenly starts acting like Nicolas Cage, and he doesn’t hold back. The stunned looks on everyone’s faces in the class are genuine, because the moment was unscripted.
23. Bob’s Burger’s (2011- ) “The Thanksgiving Song”
Bobs Burgers is a show that comes along once in a generation. Okay, that may be an overstatement, but it is REALLY good. One of the things that makes it really good is it’s original songs. You guessed it, a song or two has been improvised by the actors. One of them being the holiday classic, don’t deny yourself this joy,The Thanksgiving Song, which was entirely improvised in the recording booth by John Roberts, who voices Linda.
22. Tootsie (1982) “Bill Murray Party Banter”
There are some actors who can be just told to “go” and then they spew out genius. It is a skill that very few can truly master, but it is not lost on Bill Murray. The comedic actor’s talent can be seen when his character was required to talk throughout an entire party scene, however, there was no dialogue written for him. He was simply asked to come up with the dialogue off the top of his head.
21. The Godfather (1972) “Take the Cannoli.”
The Godfather is one of the most iconic films in the history of cinema. With so many talented actors on set, there is no surprise some of the quotable lines from the film were actually improvised.
When Corleone family capo Peter Clemenza orders his henchman to carry out a hit on Paulie for his betrayal, his line in the script is Leave the gun. The actor, Richard Castellano was so in character he remember a scene from earlier scene where his wife reminds him to bring home some cannoli, and he improvisedTake the cannoli.
20. Taxi Driver (1976) “You talking to me?
In screen writing classes you’re told to show not tell, but if rules weren’t broken we wouldn’t have some of the most iconic movie moments. When screenwriter Paul Schrader was writing Taxi Driver he wrote, or left out, a famous line from his film.
In the script it states insomnia-plagued taxi driver Travis Bickle talks to himself in the mirror. Allowing Robert DeNiro to spew out the line You talking to me?
19. Star Wars Episode V: Empire Strikes Back ( 1980) “I know.”
When Han Solo is about to be encased in carbonite, Princess Leia professes her love for him by saying, I love you. In the script Solo is supposed to respond, I love you too”.
Harrison Ford believed this response would be out of character for Solo, so he changed the line to,I know.
18. Good Will Hunting (1997) “The Farting Wife Story”
There is no doubt the late Robin Williams was a master improviser. An unskilled actor may have been hesitant to ad-lib a few lines, let alone an entire story, in a scene with the writer himself. The story Will Hunting’s therapist tells him about his flatulent wife was entirely improvised by Williams.
17. Casablanca (1942) “Here’s looking at you kid.”
It’s hard to think the most memorable movie quote in cinema history wasn’t in the original script. The famous line Heres looking at you kid was inspired by a poker game between takes. Bogart uttered the phrase multiple times to Bergman while teaching her to play poker.
16. A Clockwork Orange (1971) “Singing In the Rain”
Stanley Kubrick is a director notorious for pushing his cast and crew to their limits. To call him a perfectionist would be an understatement. When filming the famousultra-violence scene, Kubrick couldn’t get the scene where he wanted it. In frustration he told actor Malcolm McDowell, who plays Alex, to do anything he wanted.
The actor decided to sing Singing in the Rain throughout the shocking scene. Kubrick loved it so much he immediately went out and acquired the rights to the song.
15. Resevoir Dogs (1992) “Ear Removal”
Reading a Quentin Tarantino script is like no other, and the script for Resevoir dogs is no different. Tarantino wrote the scene where Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) tortures Officer Nash (Kirk Baltz) by cutting off his ear with a straight razor. However, in the script Tarantino didn’t give any more detail than that. Since Madsen didn’t have any direction of what to do after the ear was “removed”all of his lines and actions, from that point on, are improvised.
14. Full Metal Jacket (1987) “Drill Sergeant Insults”
It’s hard to imagine anyone else besides R. Lee Ermey in the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. The former drill sergeant submitted a tape for his audition, which consisted of him spewing insults at group of Royal Marines for 15 minutes straight. He was cast immediately and Kubrick loved what he wrote so much, he asked him to write 150 pages of insults to use in the film. Kubrick admits that 50% of the characters dialog was improvised by Ermey.
13. The Office (2005-2013) “The Infamous Kiss”
When you place a group of comedians on a set, a game of who can make the other actors break character first begins. The scene where Michael Scott and Oscar Martinez kiss was only supposed to be a hug, but when the camera’s began rolling Steve Carrell went off script and went in for a kiss. He was only trying to make his costar laugh, but when the actor didn’t break they continued the scene. Carrell may have failed making Nunez laugh, but the rest of the cast and crew were in stitches the whole time.
12. Zoolander (2001) “Why male Models?”
You might remember the exchange where former hand model J.P. Prewitt, a conspiracy theorist played by David Duchovny, explains to Derek Zoolander how the fashion industry is behind every high profile political assassination. Zoolander asks, Why male models? Prewitt answers with a lengthy explanation, after which Zoolander responds again, Why male models?
During the scene Stiller forgot his original line and opted to repeat his previous line, causing Duchovny to ad-lib his response Are you kidding? I just told you like a minute ago.
11. Sherlock (2010- )”Apologies on behalf of my… thing.”
Sherlock Holmes is an iconic character, leaving any actor who portrays him with huge expectations. When the pressure builds you’re bound to slip up and forget a line or two. This is exactly what happened to Benedict Cumberbatch while filming an episode from season three, “The Sign of Three”. In the scene, Watson falls asleep drunk while he and Sherlock work a case. Cumberbatch forgot his line, and blurted out, “Apologies on behalf of mything.”
10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) “Animal Crackers”
There are some loves that just aren’t meant to be, as well as some lines of dialogue. We get a mixture of the two in Buffy’s second-season episode “What’s My Line, Part 2.” Willow (Alyson Hannigan) runs into Oz (Seth Green) by a school vending machine. What follows is a funny bit of dialogue about the monkey animal cracker being the only animal cracker with pants. The improvised moment comes when out of nowhere Oz compliments Willow’s eyes. From that moment on, the adorable exchange was improvised.
9. Mars Attacks (1996) “An Alien Language”
In Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks, no dialogue was written for the Martians. Actor Frank Welker had to make up the dialogue during filming.
8. The Simpsons (1989- )”Hank Scorpio’s Hammocks”
The Simpson’s broke the mold in 1989, when it became the first primetime animated comedy for adults, and almost thirty years later the groundbreaking show shows no signs of stopping. They’ve had some pretty amazing moments and would you believe some of them were unscripted?
In the episode You Only Move Twice, guest-star Albert Brooks plays Hank Scorpio, Homers eccentric new boss, who asks Homer to come up with some of his own ideas to improve the company. Homer comes up with the idea of a hammock to use at work for when the workers are tired. Thus, an iconic moment was born when Brooks improvised the entire bit about where the hammocks can be purchased.
7. Friends (1994-2004) “The World’s Worst Hangover!”
Friends is one of the most beloved shows of all time. It spanned a decade and gave us 263 episode of great moments. Playing a character for this long allows an actor to get to know their character well enough to know how they’d react in any given situation. This is exactly what happened to Jennifer Aniston, and it allowed for a great unscripted moment in the episode The One After Vegas.
Ross and Rachel woke up after a drunken evening in Sin City with no idea they had gotten married to each other the night before. When they were informed about it, Aniston responded with the improvised line, This isnt a marriage, this is just the worlds worst hangover!
6. Goodfella’s (1990) “Funny how?”
Martin Scorsese has given us one of the greatest gangster movie’s in the Goodfella’s, but if it weren’t for Joe Pesci, we wouldn’t have one of the iconic scenes from the film.
In a scene where Henry Hill tells violent mafioso Tommy DeVito, Pesci’s character, hes a funny guy. Pesci replies,Funny how? The tense moment is broken when Hill laughs, realizing Devito is messing with him. Pesci improvised the line during rehearsals for the film, based on a personal experience he had. Scorsese loved it so much he incorporated it into the film.
5. Parks and Recreation (2009-2015) “Star Wars vs. Marvel”
Patton Oswalt is a comedian/writer, who makes a lot of money in Hollywood punching up scripts. He’s the go to guy if you want to add some humor to that bland script of yours. So, it’s no surprise that he was asked to improvise while appearing in season 5 episode “Article Two” of Parks and Recreation. To prevent city council members from voting on a subject near and dear to him, his character gives a speech about the idea of an insane crossover movie between the Star Wars and Marvel universes. The whole speech was impressively improvised.
4. Being John Malcovich (1999) Hey Malkovich! Think Fast!
The scene when John Malkovich meets Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) would have turned out differently had it not been for a drunk extra on the set. As Malcovich wanders off mad, a car passes with a man inside who throws a can that hits Malkovich in the back of the head while yelling, Hey Malkovich! Think Fast! Malcovich screamed out in genuine pain because the moment wasn’t scripted.
While the rest of us face a meeting with human resources for showing up drunk to work, this extra was added to the final cut of the film and given a raise.
3. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) “Sword Fight”
You might be thinking “what sword fight?” Exactly. The original script had a long sword fight between Indiana (Harrison Ford) and the swordsman in black. However, a day before the shoot, Ford got terrible food poisoning and dysentery. To accommodate, Spielberg changed the scene to include the swordsman’s impressive pre-fight moves, and then having Indiana shoot him.
2. Dr. Strangelove (1964) “Mein Fuhrur, I can walk.”
Dr. Strangelove has gone down in history as a satirical masterpiece. Although the film had many creative people behind it, there is no denying it wouldn’t have been what it is without Peter Sellers. There is often debate of whether or not the actor should get a co-writer credit because of the amount of improvisation he did in the film.
The British actor plays 3 characters in the film. However, the greatest improvised moment comes while he is playing a wheelchair-bound nuclear weapons expert, who has past associations with the Nazis. At the end of the film the actor stood up from his chair forgetting his character was disabled, and shouted Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!
1. The Dark Knight (2008) “Hospital Explosion”
In the Dark Knight, the joker was meant to walk away while the hospital exploded, but instead he stopped walking and in a moment of improvisation, he began smiling and fidgeting with the detonator.