While we all quote them, not many of us know that some of the most famous lines in movies were actually improvised right ton the spot. Actors have this amazing talent of getting to know the characters they are playing. Sometimes when the camera is rolling, they tap so far into their character and create memorable lines that have been remembered ever since, or sometimes they just forget their line and go with it. But no matter what caused the improvised line, here are some of the most famous lines in movies that were completely made up on the spot.
1 “Here’s Johnny” from the Shining
One of the scariest movies out there is the source of one of the most famous lines in movies that was improvised. When Jack Nicholson chopped his way into the bathroom door, he improvised the line based off of the late night show with Johnny Carson. The line was made up completely on the spot and has haunted us ever since.
2 “You Talkin’ to Me?” from Taxi Driver
The script for this movie said for Robert De Niro’s character to simply talk to himself in the mirror. De Niro took it a step further and tapped into his insomnia-stricken taxi driver to create such a notable scene. Screenwriter Paul Scrader has never taken credit for this line.
3 “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” from Casablanca
This is easily one of the most infamous quotes from any movie, but it wasn’t in the script. Apparently, Humphrey Bogart would say the phrase to Bergman when he was teaching her how to play poker. When it came time to film the scene where the two lovers must say goodbye to each other, Bogart threw the line in, leaving it to live in infamy.
4 “You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat” from Jaws
Who could ever forget this line in this unforgettable movie? The joy of this line is that it was completely unscripted. Roy Scheider improvised this line after seeing how large the shark was in comparison to the boat they were riding in. The line became one of the most memorable parts of the movie.
5 “Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli” from the Godfather
In the world of “The Godfather,” killing someone can be a normal part of life. So when the original script just called for the line, “Leave the gun,” Richard Castellano decided to have fun with it. He played off a previous scene where his wife asked him to get cannoli. He tweaked the original scene to “Leave the gun, take the cannoli,” and created a famous scene from a famous movie.
6 “Why Male Models?” from Zoolander
When Ben Stiller asks a former male model why male models have been influencing history in the past few years, he gets a very detailed answer. Following the explanation, Stiller goes on to ask, “Why male models?” While many thought it was just part of the script to make Zoolander seem as dumb as possible, actually Stiller had just forgotten his lines. He improvised by repeating his previous line and ended up with one of the funniest parts of the movie.
7 “I Know” from Star WarS Episode V
Steven Spielberg had originally intended for Han Solo to respond with the typical “I love you too” when Princess Leia professed her love. But Harrison Ford isn’t one to play by the rules. He thought that Han Solo wouldn’t say something like that, so he replied with “I know.” Pretty badass move if you ask me.
8 “I’m Walking Here” from Midnight Cowboy
Any time a cab almost hits me in NYC, I can’t resist the urge to yell, “I'm walking here.” Dustin Hoffman's famous line from the movie Midnight Cowboy wouldn’t have happened if an actual New York cab driver had not ignored the “Street Closed for Filming” signs. He almost ran into Hoffman and his reaction, still in character, became the iconic line that many of us still say today.
9 "Singin' in the Rain" from a Clockwork Orange
Until Director Stanley Kubrick told Malcolm McDowell to “do whatever he wanted,” he had been unhappy with every take of a very violent scene. But then McDowell broke out in “Singin' in the Rain.” Kubrick was so happy with the scene after that, he immediately called in to get the rights to use the song. That scene is one of the most famous scenes of that iconic movie and has left a lasting, although unnerving, impression on pop culture since.
10 "Mein Fuhrer! I Can Walk!" from Dr. Strangelove
Stanley Kubrick directed Dr. Strangelove and he is one of those people who hates breaking from the script. He actually made Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman run over the script of one scene over 100 times on the set of Eyes Wide Shut to make it perfect. However, when Peter Sellers improvised this now famous line, Kubrick saw the value in it and included it in one of the most memorable final scenes in movie history.
11 "like Tears in Rain" from Blade Runner
One of the greatest soliloquies was never even a part of the script! Rutger Hauer altered his lines and delivered the speech on set without anyone's knowledge. The crew and the cast were so moved that at the end of the soliloquy they gave him a round of applause while others even teared.
12 "Game over, Man" from Aliens
Sometimes just adding a few words can make all the difference. In sci-fi favorite Aliens, Bill Paxton's Private Hudson has a pessimistic view of what's going to happen after the xenomorphs first attack. His freak out wouldn't have been quite so memorable if it hadn't included the infamous line, “Game over, man, game over!” but that wasn't originally part of the script. The scene wouldn't have had such an enormous impact without it, though.
13 "Funny How?" from Goodfellas
The story of how this line came to life is actually really interesting. The inspiration came from a real life occurrence of when Joe Pesci told a mobster he was funny while working at a restaurant and the mobster in return became really angry. Scorsese then allowed Pesci and Ray Liotta to improvise the scene. However, the catch was that he didn't let the other actors know and therefore got the chance to catch their real reactions on tape.
I am sure that even if you have not seen all of these movies or heard all of these lines, the majority of them sound familiar to you. What did you think of these famous movie lines that were made up on the spot? Do you know of any other famous improvised lines? Do you think these lines are so famous because they were made up or because they are just good movie lines?
This article was written in collaboration with editor Vladlena Lee.
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