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Unscripted Lines That Made Movies Better



When it comes to making movies, many of us imagine that directors and producers have a crystal clear vision of the perfect film from the very beginning. However, the creative process is a lot more fluid than that. From the very start, tiny changes and massive overhauls are constantly shaping the final product. While major edits often take place in the cutting room, unexpected moments can arise during filming. In such instances, actors may spontaneously adjust their lines, leading directors to call for a retake. Yet, occasionally, an improvised line is so brilliantly conceived that it elevates the entire scene and the movie itself. These lines, though not originally in the script, are too fantastic to cut and end up becoming immortalized as part of the film’s legacy.

‘You Can’t Handle the Truth!’

One glance at this photo and you’re probably hearing the legendary line echoing in your mind: “You can’t handle the truth!!” Yet, as unforgettable as that quote may be, it wasn’t exactly as written in the script. During the courtroom scene where Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) interrogates Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson), Kaffee demands, “I want the truth!” In the original script, Nicholson’s character was supposed to reply, “You already have the truth!” But Nicholson wasn’t content with the line and instead opted to deliver the iconic version we all know and love. The extra beat that Nicholson takes after the line only amplifies its impact, making it all the more powerful.

‘She Talks in Her Sleep’

The Indiana Jones trilogy is widely regarded as one of the most cherished film franchises in history, with each movie outdoing its predecessor. The final film in the original series, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, was particularly special with the addition of Sean Connery as Indiana’s father, a winning formula for the box office. Though each film has numerous standout moments, it was an unexpected and unrehearsed quip that had the entire crew in stitches. When Indiana (Harrison Ford) and Henry Jones (Connery) are caught, Indiana questions his father on how he knew that Elsa (Alison Doody) was a Nazi. Henry quietly replies, “She talks in her sleep,” causing Indiana to break into a sly grin. The line was not in the original script, and Connery had ad-libbed it on the spot. The moment was so uproarious that the filming had to pause. Spielberg reportedly declared, “Well, that’s in,” solidifying the line’s inclusion in the final cut.

‘I’m Walkin’ Here!’

Midnight Cowboy, widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, features a scene that became legendary due to a chance encounter with a New York City taxi driver. As con artists Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) and Joe Buck (Jon Voight) stroll down a street, a real cab speeds towards them, ignoring the signs indicating a film was being shot. In response, Ratso yells his now-famous line, “I’m walkin’ here! I’m walkin’ here!” followed by an improvised remark about insurance. Despite the close call, Hoffman never broke character and effortlessly incorporated the ad-libbed lines into the scene. The moment was so seamless that it made it into the final cut of the film.

‘I Know’

The Star Wars films have universal appeal, with beloved heroes and villains, political intrigue, and fantastic creatures. While fans may have different favorite moments, many agree that The Empire Strikes Back is the best in the franchise. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie was an improvised moment by Harrison Ford. During a pivotal scene where Han Solo (Ford) is about to be frozen in carbonite, Leia (Carrie Fisher) confesses her love for him. While the script called for Han to respond with “I love you too,” Ford believed it didn’t fit his character and, with director George Lucas’s approval, improvised the perfect Solo response: “I know.”

‘Hey Malkovich, Think Fast!’

The highway scene in Being John Malkovich where an intoxicated extra throws a can at John Malkovich and hits him in the head was never planned but became one of the movie’s most memorable moments. Malkovich’s reaction was authentic, and director Spike Jonze decided to keep it in the film. The extra was given an acting credit and promoted to a regular cast member.

‘I Don’t Care’

Tommy Lee Jones won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Fugitive for his portrayal of U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard, a role that helped turn him into a star. In the famous tunnel chase scene, Jones ad-libbed the response “I don’t care” to Harrison Ford’s line “I didn’t kill my wife,” which was originally supposed to be “That’s not my problem” according to the script.

‘Funny How? I Amuse You?’

Goodfellas, the iconic mobster movie directed by Martin Scorsese, featured an incredibly talented cast who were known for their improvisation skills. One of the most memorable scenes in the film, Joe Pesci’s “Funny how?” moment, was entirely improvised. When Ray Liotta’s character tells Pesci that he’s funny, Pesci’s character takes offense and escalates the situation. The tension at the table is palpable, but Pesci manages to laugh it off. According to Pesci, the scene was something he and Liotta had come up with, and Scorsese loved it so much that he added it to the revised script.

‘You Talkin’ to Me?’

The famous “You talkin’ to me?” line from Taxi Driver was actually ad-libbed by Robert De Niro. In the scene, Bickle talks to himself in the mirror before confronting a pimp, but the script provided no specific lines for De Niro to say. The actor improvised the iconic dialogue on his own.

‘You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat’

The line “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” from the movie Jaws, became one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, but it was not part of the original script. Chief Martin Brody (Roy Schneider) says the line after he sees the huge great white shark for the first time. Schneider actually came up with the line himself, but it had been a running joke on the set for a while. The producers of the film were very cheap, so the small boat was all they could afford, and whenever something went wrong, crew members would say “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Schneider used the line during filming, and it worked so well that it was included in the final cut.

‘I’ll Bet You Could Suck a Golf Ball Through a Garden Hose’

Despite being a Best Writing Oscar nominee, Full Metal Jacket’s most memorable character, the drill sergeant, never had scripted lines. R. Lee Ermey was initially employed as a technical advisor for the production crew because of his background as a Parris Island Marine drill instructor. After Kubrick couldn’t find an actor to embody Ermey’s drill sergeant persona, he cast Ermey and instructed him to behave as he would in real boot camp. According to Kubrick, over half of Ermey’s lines were impromptu.

‘Take the Cannoli’

In The Godfather, after Paulie Gatto’s betrayal, he is killed by Peter Clemenza and a henchman. As Clemenza returns to the car, he instructs the henchman to leave the gun, a scripted line. However, Richard Castellano, who played Clemenza, added the now-famous line, “Take the cannoli.” Francis Ford Coppola, the director, loved the line and chose to include it in the final cut of the film.

Hannibal Lecter’s Hissing Sound

The hissing sound made by Hannibal Lecter in the movie Silence of the Lambs is a memorable moment in cinematic history. It’s often assumed that this chilling sound was a deliberate choice by the filmmakers, but in reality, it was a spontaneous addition by actor Anthony Hopkins. In the original script, Lecter was simply supposed to smile at Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), but Hopkins felt that the character needed something more menacing. He came up with the hissing sound himself, and director Jonathan Demme loved it so much that he kept it in the final cut of the film.

‘He Stole My Line’

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s breakthrough film, Good Will Hunting, features a heartwarming moment at the end thanks to an ad-lib by Robin Williams. Dr. Sean Maguire (Williams) recounts the story of how he met his wife, using the line “Sorry guys, I gotta see about a girl.” At the film’s close, Will Hunting (Damon) uses the line in a note to Maguire about his trip to California to fix his relationship with Skylar. Williams was only supposed to stand in the doorway as the voiceover repeated the line, but he ad-libbed, “Son of a b*tch. He stole my line.” The unplanned moment made it into the final cut and added to the film’s charm

‘People Call Me Forrest Gump’

Forrest Gump’s character development was aided by a memorable ad-lib by Tom Hanks. During his time in the Army, Forrest meets Benjamin Buford Blue, who goes by “Bubba”. While the script simply called for Hanks to introduce himself, he decided to imitate Bubba’s introduction and added, “People call me Forrest Gump.” Director Robert Zemeckis appreciated the line and its seamless incorporation into the character, ultimately choosing to keep it in the film.

‘Like Tears in Rain’

The final scene of Blade Runner sees Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) fighting for his life against the replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). However, as Batty’s time comes to an end, he spares Deckard’s life. The original script included a long soliloquy, but the night before filming, Hauer changed his lines without informing director Ridley Scott. Hauer’s revised version included the line, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain,” which perfectly encapsulated the humanization of the replicants and became one of the most iconic lines in sci-fi film history.

‘Want to Hear the Most Annoying Sound in the World?’

When Jim Carrey made it big in films, many were already familiar with his hilarious performances on the sketch comedy show In Living Color. In Dumb and Dumber, Carrey showcased his brilliant off-the-cuff humor, particularly in the scene where Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) pick up a hitman hitchhiker. Director Peter Farrelly revealed that the entire scene was improvised, including Lloyd’s memorable “most annoying sound in the world” and the duo’s impromptu rendition of “Mockingbird.”

‘…And I’m All Out of Bubblegum’

In the horror-action movie They Live!, directed by John Carpenter, pro wrestler and actor Roddy Piper delivered an iconic line that has become a cult favorite. When Nada (Piper) walks into a bank to confront some aliens hiding amongst humans, he says the memorable line, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick a** … and I’m all out of bubblegum.” Piper later revealed that Carpenter gave him the freedom to improvise and say whatever he wanted, and he couldn’t explain the meaning behind the line. Despite its ambiguous nature, the line has been parodied numerous times since the movie’s release.

‘You Know … Morons’

Gene Wilder was a master of improvisation, and his brilliance shines through in Blazing Saddles. In one memorable scene, Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) realizes that the townspeople are still racist towards him, even though he is now law enforcement. The “Waco Kid” (Wilder) tries to comfort him with a bit of humor. “You have to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know…morons.” Wilder added “You know…morons” to the script, causing Little to burst out laughing. In the scene, you can see Little looking at the crew, wondering if he ruined the shot. However, his laughter made the scene perfect. If you haven’t seen Wilder’s films yet, do yourself a favor and stream them.

‘The Horror’

Apocalypse Now is a film renowned for its improvisation, and Marlon Brando’s performance is no exception. The legendary actor not only showed up on set overweight but also largely made up his lines as he went along. Director Francis Ford Coppola had to come up with creative ways to hide Brando’s figure, including close-up shots and loose black clothing. As they shot the film, Coppola and Brando collaborated on a new script, with Brando contributing about 50 percent of the final lines heard in the movie. This included his iconic soliloquy on the horrors of war, which was entirely ad-libbed. The result was a performance that added to the film’s sense of chaos and unpredictability, cementing Brando’s status as one of the greatest actors of all time.

‘OK, Who Brought the Dog?’

Rick Moranis, who retired from acting in the late 90s to care for his family, was known for his great improvisational skills. In the 1984 classic Ghostbusters, toward the end of the movie, Louis Tully (Moranis) throws a party for many of his clients. Director Ivan Reitman has said that the entire scene was ad-libbed by Moranis, who made it all up as he went along.

‘I’m King of the World!’

The iconic line in Titanic, where Leonardo DiCaprio exclaims, “I’m the king of the world!” is hard to believe was improvised. However, it was never part of the original script. In fact, DiCaprio first said the line when he boarded the boat before the shoot. Director James Cameron was so taken with the line that he decided to include it in the script to infuse some carefree joy into the romantic scene.

‘Here’s Lookin’ at You, Kid.’

The most iconic line from Casablanca that is still widely quoted today was not originally in the script. During an on-set break, Humphrey Bogart taught Ingrid Bergman how to play poker and jokingly said the now-famous line to her. The director liked it so much that it was added to the script, becoming one of the most memorable moments in cinema history.

‘I’m Singing in the Rain.’

The film A Clockwork Orange, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is famous for its disturbing and violent scenes, as well as surreal and dystopian sequences. One of the most memorable moments of the film is a classic musical number that takes on a sinister tone. However, this scene was not originally written in the script. It was actually actor Malcolm McDowell who spontaneously started singing during the home invasion scene. Kubrick was impressed with the ad-lib and insisted on keeping it in the final cut of the film.

‘Mein Fuhrer, I Can Walk!’

The movie Dr. Strangelove is a satirical film that comments on military life and acts as an anti-war film. Peter Sellers is the standout star of the movie, portraying the mad scientist known as Dr. Strangelove. Interestingly, the film contains numerous ad-libbed lines that are noteworthy. The most famous line of the movie is spoken by the Nazi doctor at the end of the movie, and it was actually improvised by Sellers. Despite being made up on the spot, Sellers delivered the line so convincingly that it has become a defining moment of the film.

‘And He Invented the Mobile Disco.’

Nick Frost’s ad-libbed descriptions of local pub-goers in Shaun of the Dead were a standout moment in the film. All of his lines were made up on the spot, with no input from the writing team. Frost’s comedic talent and improvisational skills brought a unique charm to the film, and it’s possible that the pub-goer descriptions would have been different with a different actor.

‘I’m a Zit. Get It?’

John Belushi’s introduction in Animal House was unconventional, but it was his ad-libbed line that made his character so charming. Belushi added the line as a way to endear his character to the audience, and it ended up becoming a defining moment in the film’s success.

‘And What Did That Produce? The Cuckoo Clock.’

Orson Welles’ unforgettable performance in The Third Man was further elevated by his improvisation skills. The screenplay was written by renowned writer Graham Greene, but Welles was not afraid to add his own personal touch. One of his most memorable scenes was an entirely improvised speech, which ended up being included in the final cut.

‘I Am Hearing This, and I Want to Hear This.’

Emily Blunt’s ad-libbed line in The Devil Wears Prada added an unexpected twist to the movie. The line, delivered during a caustic phone conversation, was inspired by a real-life event that Blunt overheard off-set, where a mom told her child the same thing.

‘Picture a Girl Who Took a Nosedive From the Ugly Tree.’

The famous story narrated by Matt Damon in Saving Private Ryan was not written in the script, but instead improvised on the spot. The story, which might seem like simple chitchat between soldiers, was delivered with a frightening level of realism, adding to the authenticity of the film.

‘Why Male Models?’

Ben Stiller’s forgetfulness during a scene in Zoolander turned out to be a happy accident. In the scene where Zoolander discovers the evil plot, Stiller forgot his line, but instead of calling for a cut, actor David Duchovny stayed in character and responded with, “You serious? I just told you that a moment ago.” The improvised line fit perfectly and added to the comedic timing of the scene.

‘Game Over, Man. Game Over.’

The famous line “Game over, man. Game over!” from the movie Aliens has become a popular catchphrase, referenced in video games, TV shows, and movies. However, it was not originally included in the script. Actor Bill Paxton ad libbed the line to add more intensity to the scene, and director James Cameron decided to keep it in the final cut of the film.

‘Kelly Clarkson!’

The infamous waxing scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin was known for its realism and the genuine pain Steve Carell experienced. The waxing was real, with no fake hair or wax used, which made the scene even more memorable. Carell’s impromptu scream of “Kelly Clarkson!” during the painful ordeal added a comedic element to the scene that made it an instant classic.

‘I Didn’t Know You Could Read.’

Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, added an extra insult to his character’s barbs towards Harry. In a scene where Harry was disguised as Goyle, Malfoy’s surprise at Harry’s ability to read was actually an improvised line by Felton. Despite not being in the original script, the line was deemed fitting for the character and kept in the final cut of the movie.

‘I’ve Been Impaled.’

Animated movies usually do not have ad-libbed lines due to the challenges that animators face in syncing the character’s mouth movements to the dialogue. However, in Frozen, Josh Gad improvised Olaf’s line “Oh, I’ve been impaled” which ended up in the final cut.

‘I’ll Have What She’s Having.’

The fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally is a memorable moment in film history. It was a bold move that helped to bring sexual themes to the forefront. The scene was made even better by Billy Crystal’s suggestion of the zinger line, which was quickly approved by the filmmakers.

‘Know How I Know You’re Gay?’

The scene in Knocked Up where two characters try to guess if the other is gay was full of improvised jokes and insults that made it into the final cut. The actors involved had a great time ad libbing and playing off each other’s reactions.

‘I Need a Vacation.’

Terminator 2 was a meticulously crafted movie with a lot of high-stakes action and drama. Despite all the planning and preparation, there was one line that ended up being completely unplanned. Arnold Schwarzenegger ad-libbed the line “I need a vacation” after the T-1000 crashes into the liquid nitrogen truck and shatters into pieces, and it was so well-received that it made it into the final cut of the film.

‘It’s Such a Fine Line Between Stupid and Clever.’

The mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap chronicled the lives of a fictional 80s hair metal band, and it was a hilarious ride. The three main actors were experts at injecting realistic ad libs into the script, and they didn’t hold back when it came to improvisation. Their level of freedom with improvisation surprised even the writers and directors. Because of the sheer amount of improv that made it into the final cut, all three leads were credited as writers at the end of the film.

‘And I…Am…Iron Man’

Marvel Studios revolutionized movie storytelling by bringing beloved superheroes to the big screen through their sprawling, decade-long film series. It all began with Iron Man in 2008, a surprise box office hit, thanks in part to Robert Downey Jr.’s signature portrayal of the character. Downey Jr.’s journey with Marvel culminated in Avengers: Endgame, where he was given one of the most iconic moments in the series. In the climax, after tricking Thanos, Iron Man says, “And I…am…Iron Man.” This line wasn’t originally in the script, but was suggested by the directors during reshoots. It was a callback to the original Iron Man film, and added the perfect touch to a scene that was lacking.

‘I Don’t Wanna Go’

On our list of memorable ad libs in movies, we can’t forget Tom Holland’s heartbreaking line as Spider-Man in Avengers: Infinity War. As he fades away into nothingness, he delivers the line “I don’t wanna go,” which was not originally in the script. Holland later revealed in a 2019 interview that he had a technique for crying on cue, which involved repeating a certain phrase over and over again. In this case, he used “I don’t wanna go” as his emotional trigger and decided to say it out loud during filming. The improvised line ended up being so powerful that it made it into the final cut of the movie and became one of the most memorable moments in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

‘What an Incredible Cinderella Story …’

In the classic film Caddyshack, one of the most memorable moments is Bill Murray’s “Cinderella Story” monologue, which was completely ad-libbed. Director Harold Ramis explained that the script simply called for Carl to be outside practicing his golf swing and cutting flowers with a grass whip. Murray, a skilled improviser, spoke about the scene and said he was “wired” into what he was talking about, and improvising about golf was easy and fun for him. He also mentioned the great crowd of people present, which helped make it an entertaining and memorable moment in the film.

‘Everyone Wants to be Us.’

In the climactic limo conversation scene in The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep’s character, Miranda Priestly, was originally supposed to say, “Everyone wants to be me.” However, Streep suggested changing it to “Everyone wants to be us,” in order to reinforce the theme that Anne Hathaway’s character, Andy, was transforming into a version of Miranda herself.

‘Alright… Alright… Alright’

Matthew McConaughey’s famous line “alright… alright… alright” in Dazed and Confused wasn’t originally in the script. Instead, it was inspired by Jim Morrison’s stage banter on a live Doors album. McConaughey explained in an interview how he came up with the line: “So right before we’re about to go I’m like, ‘What is Wooderson about?’ And I go, ‘He’s about you, know, his car, he’s about gettin’ high, he’s about rock ‘n’ roll and pickin’ up chicks.’ I go, ‘I’m in my car, I’m high as a kite, I’m listenin’ to rock ‘n’ roll …’ Action … and there’s the chick. Alright, alright, alright … three out of four.” The improvised line has since become one of the most iconic moments in the film.

‘Molly, You in Danger Girl’

During the production of the popular supernatural romance film Ghost, Whoopi Goldberg added her own flair to the script to make it more suited to her personality. One of her contributions was changing a simple line to the more distinctive “Molly, you in danger girl!”

‘I Love Lamp’

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is widely considered as one of the most quotable movies of the century, and one of its most famous lines was actually an impromptu addition. According to Steve Carell, who played the character Brick Tamland in the film, director Adam McKay told him to improvise more lines since there were none in the script. Thus, the iconic lines “I ate a big red candle” and “I love lamp” were born. The latter was an off-the-cuff remark made by Carell while staring at a lamp, and Will Ferrell, who played the titular character Ron Burgundy, immediately picked up on it and incorporated it into the scene.

‘Yippee-Ki-Yay BLEEP’

Bruce Willis’ famous catchphrase from Die Hard, “Yippee-ki-yay, a–hole,” was originally written by screenwriter Steven E. de Souza. However, according to de Souza, Willis decided to change the line slightly during filming. On the final take, Willis ad-libbed the word “motherf—er” at the end of the line, which surprised and amused the crew. Although the studio was nervous about leaving the profanity in the film, they decided to keep it after the positive reaction it received during the first test screening. The line has since become a permanent and iconic part of the Die Hard franchise.

‘I’m Totally Buggin’ Myself’

Paul Rudd’s memorable line in the 1995 film Clueless was actually improvised. It was a callback to his co-star Donald Faison’s catchphrase, “I’m bugging.” Faison revealed that when Rudd said it, no one expected it, and the laughter at the end of the scene was genuine. Rudd and the cast even tried to come up with different versions of the line but couldn’t stop laughing.

‘Not You, I Don’t Even Know You’

Actress Heather Matarazzo revealed in an interview that her famous line in Princess Diaries was actually an ad-libbed suggestion from producer Debra Martin Chase. Matarazzo explained, “Debra Martin Chase, who was one of the producers, was like, ‘Say something like, Not you, I don’t even know you.’ That was the kind of set, where it was just collaboration, and just wanting to make the best film possible, and a lot of laughs and a lot of love.”

‘Have Fun Storming the Castle!’

Billy Crystal revealed in an interview that he improvised numerous lines during his appearance in the beloved classic movie The Princess Bride. Crystal shared, “We ad-libbed a lot of stuff like ‘Have fun storming the castle’ and ‘Don’t go swimming for an hour — a good hour.’ There were many hilarious moments that unfortunately did not make it into the final cut.”

‘You Can’t Watch Meg Ryan for Two Hours and Not be Thinking about Another Girl’

The director of the 2003 film How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Donald Petrie, revealed in an interview that one of the movie’s most famous lines was ad-libbed to enhance the chemistry between the lead actors. Petrie said, “Chemistry can be great, but if it happens at the water cooler when the cameras aren’t rolling, you’ve got nothing…So I’d go over to Kate and say, ‘Okay, in this next take, don’t tell Matthew, but do this.’”

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