IMDb Polls

Poll: Improvising is the... uh... the best!

A script gives an actor/actress a certain eloquence but sometimes it's that spur of the moment, gut instinct feeling, that moment when they are so into character, that the true magic comes out of their mouths. In order to qualify, these lines must have either been ad-libbed by the actor on screen or changed from how it was originally written in the script. I have chosen not to include lines/moments delivered by Brando, as so much of his dialogue was ad-libbed that perhaps he merits a list of his own.

In your opinion, which improvised moment in film by an actor has resonated most with you over the years?

After voting, you may discuss your unscripted thoughts here.

Make Your Choice

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    "Casablanca" Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart 1942 Warner Bros.

    "HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU, KID" Casablanca is arguably the most oft-quoted film in cinema history, and perhaps the most famous line in it is one that Bogart would often say off-set to Bergman as he taught her how to play Poker between takes.
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    Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976)

    "YOU TALKIN' TO ME?" This is one that everyone should know by now. In the Taxi Driver screenplay, Scorsese had merely written: “Travis speaks to himself in the mirror.” The rest was De Niro magic.
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    Roy Scheider in Jaws (1975)

    "YOU'RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT..." Chief Brody gets his first face-to-face with the most menacing underwater foe. How does he react? With one of the most suitable, succinct and ad-libbed lines in cinema.
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    Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980)

    "HERE'S JOHNNY!" After chasing his family into a bathroom, Jack Nicholson utters a popular late night catchphrase from The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson - and apparently going through 50 something doors in the process.
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    Joe Pesci in Goodfellas (1990)

    "FUNNY HOW?" Based on a similar situation that actually happened to Joe Pesci, the entire "funny" conversation Tommy had with Henry elicited genuine surprise from their mob friends.
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    Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

    "I LOVE YOU." "I KNOW." When Leia declares her love for Han Solo, he responds with a cold, albeit comical, "I know". Originally, Ford was to respond with "I love you too", but he insisted this line was more suitable to Han's enigmatic charm.
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    Harrison Ford and Terry Richards in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

    NO TIME FOR SWORDS Originally, Indiana Jones was going to face-off against the flashy swordsman. But Ford was sick in real life and opted for the short way out. Little did he know his laziness would lead to one of the series most beloved moments.
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    Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)

    "HEY, I'M WALKIN' HERE! I'M WALKIN' HERE!" Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight are walking down the streets of NYC when a taxi unknowingly drives through their set. Hoffman, in character, responds perfectly as his character would.
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    Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained (2012)

    "A LOT OF LIES SAID AROUND THIS DINNER TABLE HERE TONIGHT!" Leo, in Calvin Candle form, is in the midst of a heated rage when he slams his hand on the table, severely cutting it. Cut, bleeding - the man stays in character, works the blood from his hand into the scene by smearing it on a shocked Kerry Washington's face and absolutely nails the scene!
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    Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

    "I ATE HIS LIVER WITH SOME FAVA BEANS AND A NICE CHIANTI. HSSSSSSSSS!" The final hiss, or slurp, or whatever you want to call it, delivered by Hopkins's Dr. Hannibal Lecter, still haunts our dreams to this day. And with it, Sir Anthony hiss-terically triumphed his way to an Oscar.
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    Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, and Kevin Pollak in The Usual Suspects (1995)

    "GIVE ME THE KEYS..." In the scene when the criminals line up, the original intent was to establish a serious tone. But that didn't work, so instead we get a hilarious exchange of the criminals butchering their prescribed phrase.
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    Kevin Spacey in American Beauty (1999)

    "DON'T INTERRUPT ME, HONEY" In this 'game changer' of a scene, Lester Burnham finally stands up to his wife during dinner to claim back his manhood. Spacey proceeds to throw the asparagus at the wall rather than dropping it, which the script had originally written.
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    Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008)

    IT WON'T BLOW UP! Though many memorable moments of impressive ad-libbing by the late Heath Ledger, perhaps none more so than his explosive confusion. As he fiddles with his detonator, we watch in sheer awe.
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    John Belushi in Animal House (1978)

    "I'M A ZIT, GET IT?" John Belushi was always full of surprises. For the cafeteria scene of Animal House, the script was essentially blank. They just let the man go and do what he does best.
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    Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting (1997)

    "MY WIFE USED TO FART" Robin Williams had told a different story to Damon's character for each take of the scene. The one that makes it into the final cut shows the genuine reactions of both characters.
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    Matt Damon in Saving Private Ryan (1998)

    THE BARN STORY Matt Damon, though given little screen time in SPR, gives us a profound look into his character, Private Ryan, with a story that was completely ad-libbed. It's both funny and poignant, but above all feels true-to-life.
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    Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, and Matthew Modine in Full Metal Jacket (1987)

    BASICALLY ALL OF HIS ORDERS Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (played by R. Lee Ermey, an actual former drill instructor) barks hilariously brutal remarks at his recruits for roughly 40 minutes, most of which was left unscripted.
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    "A Clockwork Orange" Malcolm McDowell, director Stanley Kubrick 1971 Warner

    "I'M SINGIN' IN THE RAPE!" Kubrick, known for his meticulous methods of filmmaking, let his film's anti-hero go off script for more spontaneity. The result: A song no one will be able to listen to the same way again.
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    Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Miki Mia in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)

    "AH, KELLY CLARKSON!" Steve Carrell insisted that, for a more authentic feel - both literally and visually - he get his actual chest waxed. His reactions, along with his friends, are as genuine as they come.
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    Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber (1994)

    "YOU WANNA' HEAR THE MOST ANNOYING SOUND IN THE WORLD?" As Harry and Lloyd embark on their road-trip, they ride along in the car of a hit man trying to kill them. Once in, Jim Carrey delivers the most annoying, unscripted sound ever, to the surprise of everyone along for the ride.
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    Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner (1982)

    MONOLOGUE FROM THE HEART Many actors will tweak words in a monologue here or there. Rutger Hauer's final epiphany, said to have been improvised at parts, was memorable for its profound and tear-jerking depth.
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    David Patrick Kelly in The Warriors (1979)

    "WARRIORS, COME OUT TO PLAY-AY" For the Coney island confrontation scene, the director Walter Hill wanted David Patrick Kelly's character to, creatively, taunt The Warriors. A few bottle clinking later, and he delivers one of the more memorable singsong taunts in cinema history.
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    Peter Sellers, Peter Bull, and Gordon Tanner in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

    "MEIN FUHRER... I CAN WALK!" In a film that allowed Peter Sellers to literally be as versatile as he could, it is perhaps the final line he delivers, of both his and the film's, that many remember.
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    John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich (1999)

    "HEADS UP!" John Malkovich was hit by a can that was actually thrown by a drunk extra, unscripted and unexpected. But I guess a movie about yourself encourages genuine reactions, right?
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    Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, and John Doumanian in Annie Hall (1977)

    GESUNDHEIT When Alvy sneezes during the cocaine scene, it was originally unplanned but tested well with audiences and added the perfect element of slapstick to a rather serious scene.
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    Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs (1992)

    "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?" Given free reign for dialogue in this scene, Mr. Blonde goes full Van Gogh on Marvin and ruins how we heard "Stuck in the Middle with You" forever. We're all listening to you now, Michael Madsen.
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    Ben Stiller in Zoolander (2001)

    "WHY MALE MODELS?" Was he so into character? Or was he so forgetful? The latter admitted to the latter, but either way, his repetition and delivery of the line perfectly embodied our favorite dim-witted male fashion model.
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    Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in The Third Man (1949)

    "AND WHAT DID THAT PRODUCE? THE CUCKOO CLOCK" When Holly and Harry go up on that Ferris wheel, we are a given a brief, very Orson Welles-esque speech about Harry's insight on the history of mankind and the kind of progress (or lack thereof) that has been made.
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    Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn in Aliens (1986)

    "GAME OVER MAN, GAME OVER!" After coming up unsuccessful against the alien species, Bill Paxton's Private Hudson ad-libs a line that perfectly embodies his character's current state of mind.
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    Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox, and Bill McKinney in Deliverance (1972)

    "SQUEAL LIKE A PIG!" Ned Beatty claims to have improvised most of this scene with his tormenter, Bill McKinney, and it has been the one many have remembered from this drama-thriller.
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    Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive (1993)

    "I DON'T CARE!" Gerard finally comes face to face with Richard Kimble, as the latter is at the edge of a waterfall drop. Tommy Lee Jones then delivers a dismissive, candid response to Kimble's plead for innocence.
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    Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (1990)

    NECKLACE CASE SNAPS SHUT When Edward (Gere) snapped the necklace case down on Vivian's (Roberts) fingers, we see the genuine reactions (including some wonderful laughter) from both people.
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    Richard S. Castellano, John Martino, and Tom Rosqui in The Godfather (1972)

    "LEAVE THE GUN, TAKE THE CANNOLI" The original line was merely "Leave the gun", but Richard S. Castellano wanted to reference the cannoli Clemenza's wife warned him not too forget. He's a husband first, and a mobster second.
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    Bill Murray in Caddyshack (1980)

    "CINDERELLA STORY..." Though much of Caddyshack was improvised by Bill Murray, perhaps this story was the most memorable of moments. Ramis reportedly told Murray to pretend he was a kid pretending to be a commentator.
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    Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday (1953)

    NEED A HAND? Audrey Hepburn's reaction to Gregory Peck's "bitten-off hand" in the 'Mouth of Truth' scene was genuine. Just before the cameras rolled, Peck quietly told director William Wyler that he was going to borrow a gag from comedian Red Skelton, and have his hand hidden up his sleeve when he pulled it out of the sculpture's mouth. Wyler agreed, but Hepburn was not told. When she saw Peck's "missing hand," she let out what she later described as "a good and proper scream."