It’s always fun to hear about when a movie actor improvised a line. Movie actors don’t necessarily have as much time to dive deep into their characters the way television actors do. Yet, they still understand their characters’ motivations and personalities to such an extent that they can deliver incredible improvised lines.
Amazingly, so many iconic lines that became pop culture references were actually ad-libbed by the actors. It goes to show what great actors can do when they’ve learned everything about their characters and are allowed to be creative. Giving actors room to take chances allows for iconic dialogue to be born.
10/10 “Nobody Would Know” – Jeremy Renner
Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Jeremy Renner didn’t have much of a chance to explore his character during the first Avengers film. After a brief cameo in Thor, Renner’s Clint Barton wound up as a brainwashed puppet for the majority of the MCU’s first team-up film.
However, that didn’t stop Jenner from learning what he could about Hawkeye and adding that knowledge to his scenes in the sequel. His friendly rivalry with Pietro leads him to contemplate killing the speedster. Renner then improvised the line, “Nobody would know. Nobody. The last I saw him, an Ultron was sitting on him. Yeah, he’ll be missed, that quick little b**tard. I miss him already.”
9/10 “I Know” – Harrison Ford
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back is often considered the best film in the original Star Wars trilogy, and is certainly one of the most impactful of the franchise. It has one of the most famous plot twists in cinema and the important line, “I am your father.“
Another great line in The Empire Strikes Back is Han Solo’s response to Leia’s love confession. While the script originally called for Han to respond to Leia with “I love you, too,” the line felt wrong to Harrison Ford. He changed the line to “I know” instead, and it is now considered one of the most romantic exchanges in the film.
8/10 “I Need A Vacation” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
After The Terminator was released in theaters, the T-800 was thought of as relentless, lethal, and frightening. Once the sequel came out, however, the Terminator was humanized in a humorous way.
No longer the robotic villain, Schwarzenegger had the chance to develop his character in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. His career was already full of one-liners, which is probably why he was able to improvise one of the funniest quotes in the film. After getting beaten to a pulp by the T-1000, the T-800 looks at John Connor, sighs, and says, “I need a vacation.”
7/10 Aragorn’s Scream – Viggo Mortensen
Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
One of the most popular and well-known bits of trivia in the Lord of the Rings franchise is Aragorn’s scream. In an emotional outburst, Aragorn kicks a metal helmet across a field. A few seconds later, he screams loudly and falls to his knees.
While it seems like Viggo Mortensen was delivering an emotional sequence as Aragorn, the reality was that the actor broke two of his toes when he kicked the helmet. His scream and subsequent collapse were a reaction to the pain, but the director decided to keep it in The Fellowship of the Ring.
6/10 “I’m Walking Here!” – Dustin Hoffman
Today, it isn’t uncommon for a film production crew to close off a street or public area to execute their scene as smoothly as possible. That’s probably why it’s hard to imagine a car rushing into frame and nearly running over the actors. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy.
While crossing a New York City street, a hurried taxi driver sped towards the crosswalk and nearly hit Dustin Hoffman. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it elicited a very real and angry reaction from Hoffman. The line, “I’m walking here!“, would go on to be replicated, referenced, and reused in cinema and television alike.
5/10 “You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat!” – Roy Scheider
Many people are aware of the production and budget problems that Jaws faced. One of the main issues was that the shark kept breaking down. This forced Steven Spielberg to remove the shark from several scenes, delaying the characters’ reactions to the killer.
When Scheider’s character finally sees the shark, his remark, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” was not in the original script. Instead, it was a commonly-used phrase on set that was uttered whenever something went wrong. Scheider tried implementing the phrase throughout Jaws, and it stuck in this scene.
4/10 “Take The Cannoli” – Richard Castellano
“Leave the gun, take the cannoli” is a classic line from The Godfather, and only the first half of it was in the original script. Castellano added, “take the cannoli” after it was suggested to him by his wife, Ardell Sheridan. Sheridan also played Castellano’s wife in The Godfather.
In an earlier scene, Sheridan asks Clemenza (played by Castellano) to pick up some cannolis. The improvisation helped make Clemenza read as more brutal and cold, as he was only focused on dessert after just killing someone.
3/10 “Why Is Gamora?” – Dave Bautista
Avengers: Infinity War
The Guardians of the Galaxy teaming up with the Avengers was one of the most anticipated plotlines in Avengers: Infinity War. With the chaos Thanos left behind as he hunted for the Infinity Stones, it’s no surprise that the Guardians came to blows with Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange.
Star-Lord, focused solely on finding Gamora, demands to know where she is. Tony Stark has no idea what Quill is talking about and asks, “who’s Gamora?” Dave Bautista interjected with his improvised and perfectly in-character line, “why is Gamora?” It made the scene funnier than it already was, and became a favorite among MCU fans.
2/10 “Here’s Looking At You, Kid” – Humphrey Bogart
While Casablanca won an Oscar for its script, the iconic “Here’s looking at you, kid,” was never in the original dialogue. Humphrey Bogart ad-libbed the line during the Paris flashback scene, which then prompted the phrase to be added a few more times to Casablanca.
The reality is that Bogart would say those exact words to his co-star Ingrid Bergman off-camera while he was teaching her how to play poker in between takes. He added the line during filming, not knowing it would become a classic pop culture reference.
1/10 “I’m Hearing This, And I Want To Hear This” – Emily Blunt
The Devil Wears Prada
Opinions about who the true villain of The Devil Wears Prada is has changed as often as the thoughts on the movie’s fashion. One thing that has not changed is how much fans love Emily Blunt’s character, who’s also named Emily. The sassy, fashion-focused, and career-conscious assistant shifts from an antagonistic character to a supportive friend, but her sharp wit never falters.
Blunt revealed that the line “I’m hearing this, and I want to hear this” was something she overheard a mother saying to her daughter. She decided to recreate it for The Devil Wears Prada, adding it on the spot.