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Yet Another Top 10 Improvised Movie Moments

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Matt Wende

You know how the old saying goes: if it ain’t on the page… no worries, the actor can just make something up! For this list, we’re taking a look at even more incredible film moments that were not in the original script, and that the actors improvised or ad-libbed either in rehearsal or on the shoot day. Our list includes scenes from “The Breakfast Club”, “Reservoir Dogs”, “Aliens”, and more! Join WatchMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Yet Another Improvised Movie Moments.


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Script written by Matt Wende

Top 10 Yet Another Improvised Movie Moments

You know how the old saying goes: if it ain’t on the page… no worries, the actor can just make something up! Welcome to, and today, we’re counting down our picks for Yet Another Top 10 Improvised Movie Moments.

For this list, we’re taking a look at even more incredible film moments that were not in the original script, and that the actors improvised or ad-libbed either in rehearsal or on the shoot day. If we missed a big one you think should be on here, be sure to check out our first two lists on the same topic.

#10: “I Don’t Care”

“The Fugitive” (1993)

There’s no shortage of iconic improvised moments, but this is surely one of the greatest! Harrison Ford’s character has been accused of murdering his wife, but it wasn’t him - it was the one-armed man. Wrongfully convicted of the murder, Dr. Kimble breaks free when his prison bus crashes. On the run, he gets the jump on Tommy Lee Jones’ US Marshal, but Kimble doesn’t pull the trigger, instead yet again professing his innocence. Tommy Lee Jones’ improvised reply is simple, honest, and memorable, saying a lot about his character with just three words.

#9: Sharing Scene

“The Breakfast Club” (1985)

“The Breakfast Club” has gone down in history as one of the all-time great teen dramas. In spite of having written the script, writer/director John Hughes did not mind letting the actors improvise with his lines. In the movie’s most emotional and pivotal sequence in which the five students in detention share their stories, the actors were allowed to go off-script. Incredibly, all five of them brought a nuanced level of truth to their characters throughout the scene, allowing it to stand out from the rest of the film.

#8: “Can You Hear Me Now?”

“Reservoir Dogs” (1992)

Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut put him on the scene in a big way with its sharp dialogue, colorful characters, and signature ultra-violence. This wonderfully unsettling moment was a unique blend of the director’s vision and the actors’ input. During the infamous ear-cutting scene, Michael Madsen was given almost no direction, and as the cameras rolled on his first take and he heard “Stuck in the Middle with You” for the first time, he made up his dance sequence on the spot, and made up dialogue post ear-removal. It’s not the violence in the scene that’s so disturbing, it’s Mr. Blonde’s nonchalance to it.

#7: On the Spot

“When Harry Met Sally…” (1989)

On the lighter side of improvisation… during the making of “When Harry Met Sally…,” screenwriter Nora Ephron and director Rob Reiner were having a frank discussion about relationships, at which point it was pointed out to Reiner that women fake their climaxes at times. Reiner thought it would be hilarious to add a sequence exploring this in the script, and so the actors made it work. Turns out, the funniest line in the whole movie - as delivered by none other than Rob Reiner’s mother – was Billy Crystal’s idea. In Katz’s Deli, where the scene was filmed, a sign has been placed above that legendary table to commemorate the historic moment.

#6: “I Can Walk”v

“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964)

Originally envisioned as a serious drama, director Stanley Kubrick actually had to lie to actor George C. Scott, telling him they were only doing practice takes, to get his over-the-top silly performance out of him. Peter Sellers, on the other hand, was given free reign over his three characters, and made magic happen with them, particularly the eponymous Dr. Strangelove, the former Nazi nuclear weapons expert. This includes resisting his impulsive Nazi salutes and referring to the president as Mein Führer throughout the film, but it’s his final hilarious moment comes when he leaps out of his wheelchair and proclaims his sudden miracle that really seals the deal.

#5: "I Got a Jar of Dirt"v

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (2006)

When Jack Sparrow was given the jar of dirt, he was unsure of its power, but when he comes face to face with Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman, he can’t help but flaunt it a little. The script simply had Jack Sparrow calling Davy Jones a fish-head with some schoolyard level taunting, but that didn’t sit well with Johnny Depp. The reactions of the rest of the actors are genuine confusion and surprise, as Depp falls down the stairs, only to get up and sing the infectious little ditty to further taunt Jones.

#4: "Game Over, Man"

“Aliens” (1986)

Bill Paxton was a long-time collaborator with James Cameron, even appearing as a punk at the beginning of “The Terminator.” In “Aliens,” Cameron cast Paxton as Hudson, the comic relief character to relieve the film’s tension. It was during a rehearsal that Paxton, assuming his character would have grown up playing video games before joining the Marines, threw out his most memorable line. Cameron loved it and made sure it made its way into the final film. A smart move, considering what was originally in the script was just a simple “Jesus… Jesus… I don’t believe it.”

#3: Cocaine Sneeze

“Annie Hall” (1977)

Not only was this scene improvised, it was accidental! In a scene showcasing just how out of touch Alvy’s character is, he and the titular Annie Hall are hanging out with some friends when one of them pulls out some cocaine and offers it to the group. While marveling at just how expensive the amount of cocaine he’s holding is, Alvy takes a little in his nose to try it. At that point, Allen genuinely sneezed, blasting cocaine everywhere. The scene ends with the room’s awkward silence being drowned out by our laughter.

#2: “Leave the Gun…”

“The Godfather” (1972)

Paulie was Don Vito Corleone’s personal chauffeur and bodyguard, until he sold out to a rival criminal enterprise. After calling in sick to facilitate the Don’s assassination attempt, he’s taken out by Peter Clemenza, his old mentor, to drive him on an errand, and pick up Clemenza’s wife’s favorite cannoli. While stopped in the countryside, Paulie is executed with three shots to the head. Clemenza has no remorse for the traitor, but given the character’s esteemed Italian heritage, actor Richard Castellano improvised his famous line, as not to waste any good Cannoli.

#1: He Knows…

“Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

How does a scoundrel respond to a hard-won confession of love? Harrison Ford was given a lot of liberty while shooting his final scenes for “Episode V.” In discussions between him and director Irvin Kershner, it was decided that his scripted line, “I love you too,” just didn’t work. So, Harrison Ford came up with his line, and simply replied: “I know.” In the shooting script, it was written that Solo would say, “Just remember that, ‘cause I’ll be back.” This was also scrapped when the director came to the realization that Solo didn’t know if he’d be back or not and gives the scene its wonderfully melancholy feel.

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