Film actors and actresses—especially the most creative ones—will deviate from a script more often than you’d think. Some of the most iconic movie lines were improvised. Here are a few of them.
“I’m the king of the world!” When Leonardo DiCaprio stood on board the Titanic (1997) he felt giddy enough to shout out this line. Director James Cameron loved it and added it to the script.
“Here’s looking at you, kid.” During the filming of the 1942 classic, Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart used this line as he taught Ingrid Bergman how to play poker offscreen. Can you imagine the film without it?
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Just about everyone knows this line from Jaws (1975), the film that created the “summer blockbuster.” Roy Scheider ad-libbed the line during a few different scenes, until Steven Spielberg finally gave up and added it to the script. Scheider’s understated delivery comes right after he and the other shark hunters realize how freaking enormous Mr. Great White actually is. Perfectly placed, ya think?
“Here’s Johnny!” Jack Nicholson, as crazed hotel caretaker Jack Torrance in The Shining (1980), destroyed nearly five dozen doors in his (and director Stanley Kubrick’s) quest for perfection. The scene finally made it in, but the iconic line almost didn’t, as Kubrick had no clue that it was Ed McMahon’s nightly introduction to Johnny Carson.
“Game over, man, game over!” The late, great Bill Paxton (loved the guy) made up this line in Aliens (1986). James Cameron—who obviously loved input from his actors—added it to the script.
“Did your parents have any children that lived?” Actor F. Lee Ermey, a former drill sergeant in real life, spouted this unscripted insult during the war movie, Full Metal Jacket (1987).
“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” The first half of that line was in the script of The Godfather (1972), but actor Richard Castellano added the second half as a gag. It became one of the film’s most popular and iconic lines.
“Oo, oh, oh god…” Okay, it’s hard to duplicate the entire fake orgasm performed by Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally (1989), but yes, it was ad-libbed (brilliantly), as were many other lines by her and co-star Billy Crystal throughout the film. (“I’ll have what she’s having,” so said the Older Woman Customer.)
“I don’t want to go.” A heart-wrenching—and ad-libbed—line spoken by Spider-Man (Tom Holland) at the end of Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
“I need a vacation.” A simple enough line, but it came from Arnold Schwarzenegger near the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) as robotic body parts hang out from what is left of him after his battle with the T-1000 cyborg.
“All those moments will be lost in time…like tears in rain. Time to die.” The entire death monologue by replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) in Blade Runner (1982) was unscripted. No one in the crew or cast knew what he was going to say or do, and he brought a number of them to tears.
“You can’t handle the truth!” Another ad-libbed gem from Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men (1982). He changed it from the scripted line, “You already have the truth.”
“Are you talking to me?” In Taxi Driver (1976) awesome actor Robert DeNiro’s entire monologue in front of the mirror was improvised. Heck of a job, I’d say.
“I know.” Remember when Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) tells Han Solo, “I love you,” in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), just before he’s flash frozen? The script’s response was, “I love you too.” Harrison Ford thought it too mundane, so his ad-libbed two-word comeback was perfect.
That’s it for now. I assure you there are so many more. Let’s hear it for creativity!