Geeks is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.
How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.
How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.
To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.Show less
For that great scene, these actors put the “improve” in improvement. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for another top 10 improvised movie moments.
For this list, we’ve chosen movie scenes or lines that were ad-libbed or otherwise changed by an actor in the heat of the moment.
Subscribe to WatchMojo—Ranking Pop Culture Since 2006
#10: Show Tune “The Warriors” (1979)
For the Coney Island confrontation between this film’s rival gangs, Director Walter Hill wanted David Patrick Kelly’s character Luther to taunt The Warriors from his 55 Cadillac, and he gave him free reign to do it any way he wanted. Kelly clinked three bottles together in one hand and delivered the legendary singsong taunt that we’ve come to know. According to Kelly, it was a childhood bully that inspired the chant. It also helps that he’s a musician blessed with the singing chops for the line.
#9: Just Kickin’ It “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002)
Showbiz is dangerous. During a particularly emotional scene in the adaptation of Tolkien’s trilogy, Viggo Mortensen’s character Aragorn breaks down when he comes to the realization that two of his hobbit friends might be dead—and he expresses himself by kicking a nearby helmet. Turns out his breakdown was not only emotional, but also physical, because after too many takes of kicking solid metal he broke two toes. The shot chose for the final cut of the film was the toe-breaker, because you can’t fake the intensity of the actor’s excruciating pain.
#8: The Barn Story “Saving Private Ryan” (1998)
Matt Damon only shows up towards the end of this epic war film, and he’s so preoccupied with survival, we barely get to know his character—except in this scene, which was improvised by the actor. As Ryan and Captain Miller quietly await more fighting, Private Ryan reminisces about his lost brothers in a spontaneous tale. Damon obviously thinks the story is as funny as we do, but once he realizes it’s the last time his family was together, the scene a bittersweet feel, made more impressive when you remember it was ad-libbed.
#7: The Zit “Animal House” (1978)
When a director gives a comedian like John Belushi a little wiggle room, anything can happen. But, it’s almost guaranteed to be funny. John Landis knew that when Bluto began dumping food onto his tray, something magical might occur, so he let the cameraman follow him for the rest of the scene. Everything Belushi did in the cafeteria was unscripted, and since the cast and crew weren’t in on his joke or its disgusting punchline, the reactions captured on camera were real. It’s classic Belushi, and possibly the flick’s most famous scene.
#6: Blood, Sweat & Smears “Django Unchained” (2012)
When injured on the job, most people would take a 30-second breather before continuing with their day. Not Leonardo DiCaprio. He got so into character for Django Unchained that when he slammed his hand down onto a table during a tense scene, smashing a glass and cutting his hand so badly he required stitches; he just kept right on with his racist rant. DiCaprio even worked the blood into the scene by smearing it across an obviously mortified Kerry Washington’s face. Apparently, the room erupted in a standing ovation after the take.
#5: Hair & Make-Up “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005)
Some say a comic is only as good as his ability to improvise. By that logic, this film features some stellar comedians, as it has many unscripted moments. Everything from Steve Carell’s genuine pain-induced curses at having his very hairy chest waxed, to Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen’s gay joke barbs were off-the-cuff. And if you’re a fan of the “you know how I know you're gay” back-and-forths, you should check out the extended DVD scenes, where the two try to outdo each other for several minutes—all ad-libbed, of course.
#4: Meta, Ford “Blade Runner” (1982)
It’s completely natural for actors to tweak their lines for a monologue, but rarely do they go beyond grammar or sentence structure to resonate this much with the character and audience. Though there were previous scripted versions of this soliloquy, Rutger Hauer mainly improv’d the depth and philosophical musings of Roy Batty’s last words—and gave us even more reason to ask the question “what is human?” It might sound a little cheesy on paper, but it isn’t when it’s delivered as a replicant leader’s dramatic final epiphany.
#3: Sword to a Gunfight “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
Actors aren’t immune to travel troubles, and even a tough-guy like Harrison Ford submitted to dysentery while filming Raiders in Tunisia. That’s a big reason this scene was altered. Originally, Indy was supposed to engage the showoff-y swordsman in a choreographed swordfight where the adventurous archaeologist would disarm him with his whip. But Ford was sick and just wanted to shoot the guy. Though it wasn’t improvised while cameras rolled, that move impacted the franchise in a big way, and the scene is one of the series’ most iconic and hilarious moments.
#2: The Most Annoying Sound in the World “Dumb and Dumber” (1994)
As dumb-dumbs Harry and Lloyd head on their cross-country road trip, they meet all sorts of people—including a hit man who’s trying to kill them. Well, sucks to be that guy, cause car rides with these two mean sing-alongs, hitsies-backsies and the most annoying sound in the world. That last one was injected into the film by Jim Carrey on the fly, and you can see in Jeff Daniels’ reaction that he was not expecting it. Even the hit man’s outburst was unscripted; proving that sometimes unplanned is best.
Before we reveal our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
- Clear Your Head, 50/50 (2011)
- Gesundheit, Annie Hall (1977)
- Serious Business, The Usual Suspects (1995)
- So Low, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- Heads Up, Being John Malkovich (1999)
#1: Look Out, Bellow “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932)
This jungle-living ape-man originated in a series of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels, where his signature sound was described as “the victory cry of the bull ape.” When it came to bringing that noise to the screen, Olympic swimmer and once competitive yodeler Johnny Weissmuller was the first actor to succeed where others had failed. Tasked with inventing a call to summon his jungle crew, Weissmuller—and apparently some Hollywood sound editing trickery—combined to create one of the most celebrated, imitated, re-used and easily recognized soundbites in film history.