The 32 Greatest Unscripted Movie Scenes

Published 2 years ago by , Updated August 5th, 2014 at 9:19 am, This is a list post.

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight Much to the dismay of screenwriters, movies scripts aren't always set in stone. They are often like living objects constantly evolving during the filming process. Some films, like Jaws and Annie Hall, don't even have a finished script when the cameras start to roll. Actors and actresses are regularly ad libbing, improvising or going off-script while reciting their lines. Sometimes the directors hate it - other times they love it. Occasionally the improved lines become immortalized as some of the most memorable in cinema history. Check out these 32 great unscripted scenes - you may be surprised at how many of your favorite lines were off-the-cuff.

1. Gun vs. Sword

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Director - Steven Spielberg While chasing Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) after she's been kidnapped, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) runs into a large sword-wielding bad guy dressed all in black. Instead of fighting him in what would surely be a losing whip versus sword battle, Indy simply pulls out his revolver, puts the man down with one shot and moves on. The original script called for a long sword fight but a day earlier Ford got a severe case of food poisoning and didn't have the energy to film the scene as written. After a discussion with director Steven Spielberg, the scene was changed and became an iconic part of Indiana Jones mythos.

2. Why Male Models?

Ben stiller as Derek Zoolander in ZoolanderZoolander (2001) Director - Ben Stiller In this scene involving former hand model J.P. Prewitt (David Duchovny) and the dimwitted male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), Prewitt - a conspiracy theorist - explains how the fashion industry has been behind every high profile political assassination of the last hundred years. Zoolander asks, "Why male models?" Prewitt answers with a lengthy explanation, after which Zoolander responds again, "Why male models?" Stiller forgot his original line and just repeated his previous line instead. This prompted Duchovny to ad-lib his response "Are you kidding? I just told you like a minute ago." The scene ends up reinforcing the movie's narrative of the brainless male model stereotype and Stiller turned a gaffe into one of the funniest parts of the film.

3. The Cat

Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather The Godfather (1972) Director - Francis Ford Coppola Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is more than the cold-hearted head of a powerful Italian mob family. That trait shows when he sentences a man to be beaten as retaliation for the beating of another man's daughter - all while gently stroking a cat. Thing is, the cat was never part of the original script. Some reports say that Coppola plopped the feline into Brando's lap just before filming began. Other reports say Brando found "il gatto" roaming around the set, picked him and gave him an offer he couldn't refuse (heh).

4. I Don't Care

Tommy Lee Jones as Samuel Gerard in The Fugitive The Fugitive (1993) Director - Andrew Davis In this famous showdown between Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) - a doctor wrongly accused of murdering his wife - and U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), Kimble gets the jump on Gerard in the sewers. Instead of shooting the Marshal and making things worse, Kimble pleads his case to him saying, "I didn't kill my wife!" Gerard, with a sober tone and intense look on his face, responds with a simple, but brilliant and ad-libbed, piece of dialog, "I don't care." The line wasn't part of the script but those three words reinforced to Kimble, and audiences, that it didn't matter to Gerard whether the doctor was guilty or innocent of the crimes for which he was accused. He was going to get his man - no matter what.

5. Slow Clapping

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight The Dark Knight (2008) Director - Christopher Nolan As the Joker (Heath Ledger) waits quietly alone in jail after having been arrested by Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Mayor Garcia (Nestor Carbonell) shows up to look over Gotham's latest scourge. While there he also promotes Gordon to the position of Commissioner. As the officers in the room applaud the announcement Ledger begins, unscripted, to slowly clap - never changing his facial expression. It was just a simple improvisation but one that was unsettling and darkly brilliant.

6. Spitting Blood

Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker in Robocop RoboCop (1987) Director - Paul Verhoeven When antagonist Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) is taken to the police precinct after receiving a solid whooping by RoboCop (Peter Weller), Boddicker spits a bloody glob onto the paperwork of the desk sergeant, followed by the line "Give me my f*ckin' phone call!" Smith and Verhoeven briefly had discussed the unscripted moment before filming the scene but neglected to inform the extras - which was evident by their real and disgusted surprise as the scene unfolded.

7. Necklace Laugh

Richard Gere & Julia Roberts as Edward Lewis & Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman Pretty Woman (1990) Director - Garry Marshall In what became one of the most famous scenes from the film, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) presents call girl Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) with a gorgeous and rather expensive diamond necklace. As Roberts reaches out to touch the precious jewels, Gere - in an unscripted playful moment - quickly snaps the box shut genuinely surprising her. Her laugh was so honest, and the scene so good, that Marshall decided to leave it in the film as is.

8. Think Fast!

John Malkovich as himself in Being John Malkovich Being John Malkovich (1999) Director - Spike Jonze Shortly after John Malkovich meets Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) on the side of the road he wanders off mad. As he does, a car passes by with a man leaning out the window. The man throws a can hitting Malkovich square in the back of the head while yelling, "Hey Malkovich! Think Fast!" - causing the Oscar nominated actor to scream out in legitimate pain. Neither the can throwing nor the reaction were scripted but the drunken extra in the car felt the opportunity was too good to pass up. Jonze thought the scene added to the character's frustration and left it in. Instead of being fired, the extra was added to the final cut of the film and given a raise.

9. The Cinderella Story

Bill Murray as Carl Spackler in Caddyshack Caddyshack (1980) Director - Harold Ramis One of the best and most quoted scenes from this film is "The Cinderella Story" where groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) mutters a story to  himself about an unknown golfer winning The Masters. This entire scene was developed by Murray on the spot saying in his 1999 book Cinderella Story: My Life in Golf: "The Cinderella Story was a spur-of-the-moment idea. 'Get me some flowers,' I said. 'Four rows of mums."

10. Most Annoying Sound in the World

Jim Carrey, Mike Starr, & Jeff Daniels as Lloyd Christmas, Joe Mentalino, & Harry Dunne in Dumb & Dumber Dumb and Dumber (1994) Director - Farrelly Brothers There are many scenes in the film that show how moronic and simple-minded best friends Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) can be but this one showed how annoying they can be on car trips - and it was entirely unscripted. Even hitman Joe Mentalino's (Mike Starr) hissy fit reaction to the scene was unscripted, which makes the scene that much funnier.

11. Know How I Know You're Gay?

Seth Rogen & Paul Rudd as Cal & David in The 40 Year Old Virgin Knocked Up (2007) Director - Judd Apatow Crafting a good and funny insult is one of the hardest things to do but Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd are two of the best - proving it in this scene of put down jokes. This entire exchange between Pete (Rudd) and Ben (Rogen) while in the car was completely ad libbed by the two actors. The scene is only a few seconds long on the final cut but as an extra on the DVD, the scene goes on for over six minutes.

12. Farting Wife

Matt Damon as Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting Good Will Hunting (1997) Director - Gus Van Sant In this scene between therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) and math genius Will Hunting (Matt Damon), Williams proves that comedic-minded actors usually give the best ad libbed scenes. The entire story about Maguire's flatulent spouse was made up on the spot by Williams and not a part of the original script.

13. Delayed Explosion

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight The Dark Knight (2008) Director - Christopher Nolan Originally, the Joker (Heath Ledger) was supposed to walk down the street while the explosion at the hospital began, get on the school bus during the scripted pause, and the bus would drive away while the explosion finished. However, Ledger stopped walking during the pause and in a moment of improvisation began fidgeting with the remote detonator in a very Joker-esque manner - bringing a slight amount of dark humor to what would have just been a serious scene.

14. Game Over Man

Sigourney Weaver & Carrie Henn as Ellen Ripley & Rebecca "Newt" Jorden in Aliens Aliens (1986) Director - James Cameron Chaos and confusion are everywhere after the first attack by the xenomorphs decimate the Space Marines and their drop ship crashes. As the crew tries to get their bearing and fully understand what just happened, Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) - ever the pessimist - laments "That's it man, game over man, game over! What are we going to do now?" The original line didn't include the "game over" part and was ad libbed by Paxton.

15. Party Talk

Bill Murray as Jeff in Tootsie Tootsie (1982) Director - Sydney Pollack During this scene, aspiring playwright Jeff Slater (Bill Murray) was required to appear to be talking throughout the entire party; however, there was no dialog written for the character. As a natural entertainer and comedian, Murray improvised the entire scene.

16. The Line Up

Kevin Pollak, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, Gabriel Byrne & Kevin Spacey as Todd Hockney, Michael McManus, Fred Fenster, Dean Keaton & Roger Kent in The Usual Suspects The Usual Suspects (1995) Director - Bryan Singer Christopher McQuarrie wrote only one line for this scene - "Give me the keys, you f*cking c*cksucker!" - it was up to the individual actors to deliver it however they wanted. McQuarrie actually plays the cop speaking with the suspects and both his line to Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro) "In English please?" and Del Toro's reaction were unscripted. According to interviews on the DVD, the laughing during Del Toro's delivery was due to his constant farting while filming - boys will be boys.

17. Come Out to Play

David Patrick Kelly as Luther in The Warriors The Warriors (1979) Director - Walter Hill In this scene, the script called for Luther (David Patrick Kelly) - leader of the vicious New York gang the Rogues - to drive up and provoke rival gang The Warriors to a fight in the streets by clinking bottles together. Kelly spontaneously added the now famous line "Warriors, come out to play!

18. Take the Cannoli

Richard Castellano as Peter Clemenza in The Godfather The Godfather (1972) Director - Francis Ford Coppala Corleone family capo Peter Clemenza (Richard Castellano) orders his henchman Rocco Lampone (Tom Rosqui) to carry out a hit on Paulie Gatto (John Martino) for his betrayal of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). Castellano's original line was "Leave the gun" but drawing from an earlier scene where Clemenza's wife reminds him to bring home some cannoli, he improvised the now famous line "Take the cannoli."

19. Mein Furher, I Can Walk

Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Director - Stanley Kubrick Nuclear scientist Dr. Merkwürdigliebe or Strangelove (Peter Sellers) was confined to a wheelchair for the entire film - but Sellers decided to spontaneously stand at the very end of the film, take a couple of steps and proclaim, "Mein Führer! I can walk!" In a process known as "retroscripting", Kubrick changed much of the script he co-wrote with Terry Southern to incorporate much of Sellers' improvised dialog, including this now famously unscripted scene from the end of his black satirical comedy.

20. Remembering the Brothers

Saving Private Ryan Moment Saving Private Ryan (1998) Director - Steven Spielberg During a brief break from fighting, Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) sits with Private Ryan (Matt Damon) swapping stories about what it was like back home for them both. The story Damon tells about his brothers and the barn was made up entirely by him during filming. None of the story was part of the original script.

21. You're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

  Roy Scheider as Police Chief Martin Brody in Jaws Jaws (1975) Director - Steven Spielberg While chumming the waters in an attempt to lure the deadly great white shark within range, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) gets his first look at exactly how massive the killer shark truly is. Stunned, startled and filled with fear he stands up and utters the now famous line to Orca Captain Quint (Robert Shaw) completely off-script, "You're going to need a bigger boat.” Turns out, he was right.

22. I Know

Harrison Ford as Han Solo in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Director - Irvin Kershner As smuggler-turned-hero Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is about to be encased in carbonite, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) reveals her love for him. The script called for Leia to say "I love you" to which Solo was supposed to respond with "I love you too". Ford decided that Solo wouldn't say something like that and instead, changed the line to simply "I know."

23. Can You Hear Me Now?

Michael Madsen & Kirk Baltz as Mr. Blonde & Officer Nash in Reservoir Dogs Reservoir Dogs (1992) Director - Quentin Tarantino The script for Tarantino's violent, freshman project called for jewel thief  Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) to torture Officer Nash (Kirk Baltz) by cutting off his ear with a straight razor - however, Tarantino didn't give Madsen any specific direction what to do once the gruesome deed had been done. All of Madsen's lines and actions with the ear were improvised by him.

24. Here's Looking at You Kid

Casablanca unscripted moment Casablanca (1942) Director - Michael Curtiz The scene of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) putting Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) on a plane bound for America with the help of Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) is chock full of memorable lines but the line listed as 5th in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes wasn't even part of the original script. According to reports, Bogart said the phrase "Here's looking at you kid" multiple times to Bergman while teaching her to play poker between takes.

25. The Sneeze

Woody Allen as Alvy Singer in Annie Hall Annie Hall (1977) Director - Woody Allen Neurotic Jewish comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) is at a party when his friend passes him a small tin filled with cocaine. As Alvy takes the tin in his hands he has a violent sneeze - sending white powder everywhere. The surrounding actors’ uncontrollable laughter was spontaneous and genuine and Allen decided to leave it in the final cut of the film after it tested well with audiences. So one of the most famous sneezes in cinema history was never actually intended to be part of the final film - it actually occurred during a scene rehearsal.

26. Here's Johnny!

Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining The Shining (1980) Director - Stanley Kubrick Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duval) and her son Danny (Danny Lloyd) hide from the deranged novelist Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) in a hotel bathroom. As Jack begins chopping through the door with a fire axe and sticks his face into the splintered opening, he utters a phrase previously made popular by Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson - "Here's Johnny!" The line was not part of Kubrick's original screenplay and was improvised by Nicholson.

27. Like Tears in the Rain

Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in Blade Runner Blade Runner (1982) Director - Ridley Scott As ex-blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) attempts to "retire" the replicant known as Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), he finds himself in a precarious position. The battle worn replicant shows mercy on Deckard rescuing him from the edge of the building - only to "die" shortly after giving a moving monologue. As he reminisces about his past he says, "All those moments will be lost in time...," but then Hauer adds the unscripted and philosophical phrase " tears in rain."

28. I'm Walking Here!

Jon Voight & Dustin Hoffman as Joe Buck & Ratso in Midnight Cowboy Midnight Cowboy (1969) Director - John Schlesinger As want-to-be gigolo Joe Buck (Jon Voight) and crippled scam artist Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) cross a street in New York City, a REAL NYC taxi cab driver who ignored all the "Street Closed for Filming" signs drives through the scene. Obviously this wasn't scripted and Hoffman's response and actions were all improvised, in character, as a result.

29. Singing in the Rain

Malcolm McDowell as Alex in A Clockwork Orange A Clockwork Orange (1971) Director - Stanley Kubrick Alex (Malcolm McDowell) breaks into a happy song as he and his "droogs" perform a bit of "ultra-violence" and rape. Reportedly Kubrick filmed this scene several times and wasn't happy with it each time - until he told McDowell to just "do anything he wanted". McDowell decided to belt out "Singing in the Rain" and Kubrick was so pleased with how much better the scene became that he acquired the rights to use the song immediately.

30. You Talking to Me?

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver Taxi Driver (1976) Director - Martin Scorsese When screenwriter Paul Schrader wrote this scene it simply said "Travis talks to himself in the mirror" - there was no specific dialog given. Everything that insomnia-plagued taxi driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) says during his faux-conversation was improvised by De Niro on the spot. To this day, whenever someone walks by a mirror they can't help but utter his now famous line "You talking to me?"

31. Hsssss!

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Director - Jonathan Demme The famous "hssssss" sound made by Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) during his story about eating a liver with "fava beans and a nice Chianti" to FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) wasn't in the original script. Apparently it was something Hopkins did during rehearsals to creep out Foster - and Demme decided leaving it in was the best way to creep out his audience too.

32. Drill Sergeant

R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sargent Hartman in Full Metal Jacket Full Metal Jacket (1987) Director - Stanley Kubrick Originally, R. Lee Ermey wasn't even cast in the role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman but after Ermey submitted a tape of himself spewing insults at group of Royal Marines for 15 minutes straight, Kubrick cast him immediately Ermey wrote 150 pages of insults and Kubrick estimated that 50% of the character’s dialog was improvised by the former drill instructor.

32 of the Greatest Unscripted Movie Scenes

Harrison Ford as Han Solo in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back As long as there are movies made then there will be actors improvising lines, actions and entire scenes. We can only hope that they will be as good as the ones we just showcased. If you want to watch some of these scenes, then be sure to check out the excellent video mashup made by the folks over at Mew Lists.



What are some of your favorite unscripted movie scenes? Tell me about them on Twitter - @MoviePaul.


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  1. Roy Batty didn’t deactivate himself. He died. They were biological and only had a short life span. That’s why they were fighting so hard. to spend that time doing what they wanted.

  2. Umm im so confused

  3. No scene will ever be better than the chestburster scene in Alien (1979) where the chestburster pops out of Kane while he’s lying on the table. None of the cast members asides from John Hurt knew they were going to be using pumps and squibs to simulate blood splatters, so when the scene actually happened, everyone reacted out of genuine fear, especially Veronica Lawrence, who was so shocked she fell over and started crying when she received a face full of gore ;P

    • Alien is actually one of my favorite movies, and I had no idea that the cast members were unaware that there would be blood splattered on them! No wonder Veronica sounded so genuinely freaked out in that scene lol!

    • It made ALien stand out as the “worst” ( just most gross)movie I’ve ever seen. Had nightmares for weeks!

  4. Here’s Johnny was not in the original script, but was also not improvised. The same scene occurs in another much lesser known film. Jack must have taken the lead from another actor busting through the bathroom door to kill his screen wife. I forgot the title as I only saw a still, but the article mentioned that the original was even better.

  5. One to add… The funny talking scene from When harry met Sally – Totally unscripted, you can even see Meg Ryan look to the director, because she is confused the direction the scene is taking.

  6. Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd also do the “Know How I Know You’re Gay” scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but with different insults (I don’t know if that was also unscripted or not).

  7. how is the “you think i’m funny” scene from goodfellas not in this list????

  8. Actually, Rutger Hauer’s entire monologue was ad-libbed in Blade Runner (as per Paul Sammon’s making-of book, Future Noir). The script supposedly called for a four-page monologue where Batty would go into detail about a variety of different elements, but Hauer didn’t like how drawn-out it was, and more or less improvised an incredibly cut-down speech that made brief references to elements before with the famous “tears in rain” quote (which was added in the second runthrough of that scene, IIRC).

  9. #32 should be “Drill Instructor” not Drill Sergeant. Drill Sergeants work for the Army. “Full Metal Jacket” is about Marines.

    • Also — they aren’t “ROYAL Marines” – they are UNITED STATES Marines. Full Metal Jacket obviously isn’t in the UK!

      • Full Metal Jacket was filmed in England, London to be specific, including all of the Vietnam part. So Royal Marines might be correct.

        • Royal Marines would still be incorrect. The story is about the United States Marine Corps, the location of filming wouldn’t change the nationality of the Marines.

          • Actually it is correct. The Royal Marines references his audition video, not the film.

  10. What about the famous scene with Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger in the cab from On the Water Front…the whole conversation was unscripted and included nany great lines the most famous of which was “…I coulda been a contendah…”


  11. Ummm … how about ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ all of the radio rants were unscripted and all Robin William.

  12. Lee Ermey was the technical advisor on full metal jacket. As such it was he who illustrated more than once the type of language used by gunnery sergeants when talking to recruits. Several candidates tried for the role but none could produce the retoric as fluently as Lee. Eventually, Stanley accepted that Lee would be best placed to play the drill instructor despite being some 20 years too old. I know because I was there!

  13. almost any line from This is Spinal Tap (it was completely unscripted save for the toast/speech and some others).

  14. Number 17- Sort of. Kelly was not asked to use beer bottles, he was asked to think of a way to provoke the Warriors. He went for a walk and found empty beer bottles. So the whole thing was unscripted.

    My source is The Warriors (The Ultimate Director’s Cut) DVD.

  15. The ” you talking to me” adlib was nicked from a Springsteen concert De Niro had attended just before filming. Bruce would ask the audience the question in virtually the same tone, whilst they where shouting ” Bruuccccce” at him.

  16. In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) sees the pile of burned orc corpses and believes Merry and Pippin to be dead, so in anger he kicks a helmet, screams in agony and falls to his knees.
    The script only told him to kick the helmet, but he broke his toe when he kicked it – hence the scream.

    In Titanic, when the ship is sinking and Jack and Rose climb over the fence on the rear end of the ship, Rose (Kate Winslet) smiles and says “This is where we first met.” – that was unscripted as well.

  17. Regarding Taxi Driver, what’s really interesting is the story Clarence Clemons told in his book, Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales, about his friendship with DeNiro.
    It seems that DeNiro admitted to Clarence his inspiration to use the line “You talking to me?” came from Bruce (using it in concerts) asking the question to audiences when “surprised” by applause, and I’m pretty sure Bruce picked up from a John Wayne movie.

  18. Murray ad-libbed his entire part in Caddy Shack, not just what’s covered here. The movie was supposed to be a Chevy Chase vehicle, Murray stole it. (Dangerfield wasn’t bad though, nor was Ted Knight as Judge Elhue Smails.)

  19. “What do you mean I’m a funny guy. Funny how? Funny like I’m here to amuse you?”

  20. You forgot all those great improv lines by Denzel Washington in, Training Day. Most of what is seen in Training Day is not in the shooting script.

  21. Billy Crystal’s farwell of “HAVE FUN STORMING THE CASTLE” from Princess Bride is ad libbed.

  22. David Patrick Kelly from the warriiors used to get harassed by his gang member neighbor who used to pound on his door and say “daaaaaaave” in the same singing voice he did on the scene.

  23. Saving Private Ryan scene was very sad

  24. In Wayne’s world, when they’re in Rob Lowe’s apartment and he’s ordering chinese food, Mike Myers yells out “I’ll have the cream of some young guy”. This was made up by Mike Myers on the spot and you can see Dana Carvey losing it in the background…classic line from the movie

  25. Most greatest works come suddenly and without any intention. The role of joker is the Dark Knight is one of the greatest role in film history. Blog about movies online .

  26. What about the “I’ve got a jar of dirt!” scene from of of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (I forget the name)?

  27. The Bill Murray scene in Ghostbusters where William Atherton (Peck) asks what the magic word is with the reply being “Please” was completely ad-libbed and one of my favourites. You can see Atherton right after trying to say his lines but is starting to crack up.

  28. One of many traits that Ledger pulled that made TDK one of the best movies of all time.