We are here on the Blind Side, Every film has a script, a script that should be followed as closely as possible to ensure the desired conclusion is reached. However, like bloopers, there are occasions that unscripted things happen during filming, and occasionally they make an Oscar-winning inclusion. From an interrogation scene that went slightly awry to the absurd comments that provoked unscripted emotions, here are 15 Improvised Movie Scenes that Made Actors React Out of Nowhere.
15. Batman: The Dark Knight (2008)
The iconic Joker character expanded beyond expectations when the late Heath Ledger took on the role in Christopher Nolan’s return to the DC cinematic universe in 2008.
Heath Ledger seized the character, taking him along a new and much darker path. He has been dubbed by many as arguably the best version of the character to ever grace the big screen.
With that being said it’s not surprising that his talents led to some pretty incredible impromptu moments on set and director Christopher Nolan himself has made this crystal clear.
The most notable of these scenes came during an interrogation sequence of sorts with Batman; played by Christian Bale. With Bale and Ledger both being renown for their rather intense acting styles, this was a rival match made in heaven.
The scene plays out with Joker in custody; however, Gordon and Batman’s relief is short-lived when they are informed that Harvey has gone missing. Batman then decides to interrogate Joker for information.
Joker seems unshaken by Batman’s attempt at intimidation and instead goes on to tell of his views of people as being selfish and violent, that with even a little bit of pressure, will descend into absolute madness. Joker also admits he could never kill Batman and considers him his only equal, all whilst wearing a sly grin upon his face.
This scene is one of Nolan’s favorites as he claims he could discuss it for hours. Nolan went on to say that this was one of the first scenes that Ledger played in character and he was impressed with his performance, considering it had barely been rehearsed.
With little attention in pre-production, this scene ended up becoming one of the most iconic improvised moments in Ledger’s legendary career.
14. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Edgar Wright’s 2004 comedy classic, Shaun of the Dead, is one of his most popular works ever made. The film is well known for its seamless dialogue and the chemistry of the two lead actors, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, are a testament to that.
The two are just so naturally funny and they were able to work together well, considering what was a rather tight script, according to Wright.
There is one particular scene that Wright really broke the mold with, allowing the pair to put their own unique stamp on the movie.
The scene focused on their first visit to the Winchester Pub. Frost’s role for the scene was to cheer Pegg up by letting loose some facts about the pub’s regulars.
The things that Frost would say were so ridiculously absurd that they would often trigger real emotion and laughter from Pegg. This continued through every take as Frost would say something different each time.
In the end they came out with a scene that held a host of brilliant gems like “inventor of the mobile disco” and “cock-a-cidal maniac”.
A real bonus to the viewer, Pegg’s 100% genuine laughter added a further component to the already realistic chemistry between the two.
13. Pretty Woman (1990)
Quite possibly the most light-hearted film ever made, in relation to prostitution, Gary Marshall’s 1990 film catapulted Julia Roberts into pure stardom.
When Pretty Woman is discussed, the most memorable part is a specific moment that wasn’t even meant to exist within the feature film.
According to Marshall, a then 23-year-old Roberts would often show up to sets hungover or sleepy, due to partying the night prior. Coming to work in this state soon became acceptable for her as it drew out some of her best performances.
One of the most memorable scenes was when Richard Gere gives her a necklace and then snaps the box shut; this was initially a ploy from Marshall to wake her up.
But during a take, Gere once again snaps the box shut, only for Roberts to gasp and giggle with absolute glee, a reaction that many now believe to be the most memorable part of the picture.
And just to add to the humor, Roberts didn’t know that take was going to be used in the final film as it was thrown it at the last minute.
To Roberts’s surprise, the scene was very well received by fans.
It seems strange that something as simple as a silly laugh at a box could end up being such an integral part of her career.
In fact, the scene was going to appear in the bloopers reel instead, but Gary Marshall couldn’t help himself. A lucky break for Julia indeed.
12. Good Will Hunting (1997)
Robin Williams being incredible at improv isn’t really a surprise to anyone. He is world renowned for his comedy, and his unbelievable ability to make something so unorthodox somehow make so much sense.
With that in mind it’s crazy to think that one of his best improvised moments came from his Oscar-winning performance in Gus van Sant’s 1997 film, Good Will Hunting.
This film was an incredible test of Williams acting prowess, as it was a drama where he had to play a predominantly serious role.
In one instance he bounced out a line about his wife farting in her sleep. It was a humorous and unexpected moment that was left in because, even though it was hilarious, it also symbolized the true love that he had for his late wife.
Upon the films release, actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were praised for their respective performances, however Robin Williams gained admiration for his role as therapist Sean Maguire.
Many believe that his scenes were some of the most enjoyable, particularly his scene with Will where he is worried that the girl he is dating won’t be perfect for him.
Maguire explains to Will that imperfections are what make a person unique and special, which leads Maguire to tell the humorous tale about his late wife.
It takes a truly special talent to be able to perform in such a comedic scale one minute and tone it down to a very serious, dramatic role the next. Robin William’s was an exceptional example of an actor who could adapt to any situation. Rest his soul.
11. Annie Hall (1977)
Woody Allen isn’t a person that many look fondly upon nowadays, however, his personal life aside, his work in the industry is memorable nonetheless.
His 1977 film, Annie Hall is a wonderful piece and is recognized for many feats, including one of the greatest unscripted moments in all of film
There’s a scene where Allen’s character Alvy Singer is being pressured into trying cocaine. As he is given the snuffbox, he sneezes heavily and creates a large cloud of powder.
This was an incredible reaction from Allen, although it has since been revealed that it was entirely accidental, as he had some sort of allergic reaction, causing a spontaneous sneeze.
Allen decided to keep this incredibly hilarious accident in the film but wasn’t sure if it would stay.
He was soon reassured when the film was screened to test audiences as they lapped it up; this was just the reaction Allen needed to confirm the scenes inclusion in the final cut.
A moment that wasn’t intended in the original script that got viewers giggling in a test screening, is now a staple in Woody Allen’s impactful career.
10 Anchorman 2 (2013)
The character of Ron Burgundy played by Will Ferrell has delivered comedic moments on so many occasions. Both the original film and the long-awaited sequel are brilliant and hilarious in their own way, though the second film doesn’t quite live up to the first, it is still a solid sequel which is rare in movie sequels.
The cast in the two films are clearly familiar with each other as they have impeccable chemistry and it is often obvious in places where it shouldn’t be.
Within these two films, there are far more unscripted moments than expected and most are drawn from the quirky sayings that come from the mouth of Ron Burgundy.
The news host is truly bizarre in his warmup techniques, at times pulling out some great sayings such as “Great Odin’s Raven!” whilst other times just making inhuman noises or just straight up screaming. On one of these occasions Ferrell even managed to make Christina Applegate break character for a brief moment.
The scene that hits home the most when it comes to Ferrell’s improv ability, comes during the second film. Burgundy’s relationship with Veronica has come to a halt and he takes interest in Megan Good’s character Linda.
Linda is an African American woman who takes a liking to Burgundy. That is until she takes him home to meet her family. You can surely imagine just how badly he blows it and the type of language he uses in order to cause them to become so horrifically offended.
This scene really shows the key elements of Ferrell’s acting ability. His comedic timing is on point and for the most part he really doesn’t have any clue what he’s doing. This impromptu moment really reflects the pure comedic brilliance of the two instalments, and further immortalizes Will Ferrell as a class actor.
9. Tootsie (1982)
Even with the amazing cast in Sydney Pollack’s 1982 comedy drama Tootie, it’s safe to say that Bill Murray stole the show with his incredible grasp on improv.
During a party scene, Murray’s character discusses his beliefs about theater, however there was actually no script for this moment.
Murray was tasked with telling a story and he knocked it out of the park in one of the most well put together unscripted moments in cinema.
It wasn’t just a moment either; it was a full-blown monologue. Murray plays Dustin Hoffman’s play writing roommate and he spares no detail in this scene.
It’s very clear that he understood the arty, pretentious type when preparing for this scene as upon further viewing it’s still hard to believe that he isn’t following a script.
8. Tears in the Rain – Rutger Hauer | Bladerunner (1982)
Death monologues in film are always moving in some way, whether they come from a hero or a villain. However, for replicant Roy Batty, a role-played by Rutger Hauer, this was really something special.
In the original script of Ridley’s Scotts 1982 Sci Fi film Bladerunner, there was an apparent death speech for Hauer’s character, however he felt that the speech was far too Opera-like which didn’t seem to fit into the mold of the concluding narrative.
He went off and reworked it on his own without telling director Ridley Scott. When the time finally came, he delivered a new and improved speech during the final day of shooting.
It was so moving that the entire cast and crew applauded, the power of his speech even moved some to tears.
The late great Rutger Hauer is now famous for his wonderful improv skills and the brilliant “Tears in the Rain” death speech.
Hauer has said that this final moment for his character showed that he wanted to “make his mark on existence by dying, showing Deckard what a real man is made of”.
As far as death monologues go, this is up there with the likes of William Wallace.
7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Maybe not improv or entirely accidental, but this moment from Peter Jackson’s 2002 fantasy feature must be included in the list of improvised movie scenes.
The scene in question is when Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortensen, believes his friends have been killed.
He kicks a helmet and falls to his knees in a moment of great despair. However, it should be noted that this reaction wasn’t entirely due to his characters emotions, rather because he broke a couple of toes at the time.
The reaction from Viggo was so intense and realistic of someone who had just lost someone special that Jackson had no reason or intention to change it, so it remains.
Looking back on it now, the scream seems so realistic and authentic. No wonder really. It’s hard not to wince at the thought of him breaking several bones to draw out such an incredible performance.
6. 50/50 (2011)
The 2011 comedy drama 50/50 is a wholesome and humorous look on what is a horrific disease. The story revolves around Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays a cancer-stricken Adam.
It focuses on his struggles, and the role his best friend Kyle plays in helping him through the illness.
Kyle is played by Seth Rogen; who has spoken about the film at length since its release. He revealed that the head shaving scene was completely impromptu and wasn’t included in the original script.
This is the same scene that has made its way into the films posters and trailers. The concern on set was that they’d only get one crack at it, however they gave it a go and it all went off without a hitch.
Every part of the scene was done in one take, including all the dialogue and Rogen’s hilarious reactions. All are completely genuine, and on the spot, which is why this film belongs amongst the best in impromptu comedy.
Director Jonathan Levine said it was a stressful experience since that all occurred on the first day of shooting and it was Gordon Levitt’s first scene with Seth. Certainly, a risky decision but one he is very proud of.
5. Goodfellas (1990)
Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mobster classic was impeccable from top to bottom.
With an incredible cast, featuring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent and countless others, coupled with invigorating storytelling and Goodfellas had the recipe for success.
The film follows the life of a young Henry Hill who is keen to climb the ranks of crime, from petty theft to full on New York street-running gangsters.
The iconic “You Think I’m Funny?” scene was actually completely drawn from Joe Pesci’s time working in a restaurant. He had told a Mobster that he was funny, but the mobster grew annoyed with Pesci’s attitude. Although he wasn’t involved with the Mafia during his life, Pesci was influenced by their appearance and reputation.
Scorsese loved the story and decided to include it in the script. During shooting he allowed Pesci and Ray Liotta to improvise the scene as he felt that it would carry more life, drawing from Pesci’s experience.
Scorsese even went so far as not to inform the other actors in the scene of what was about to unfold, ensuring he drew out their genuine emotion and reaction.
4. The Departed (2006)
Another Scorsese flick, although twenty-six years on. The story follows an undercover cop who is pulled into the underbelly of an infamous Boston crime family. Just like other Scorsese films, it is stacked with talent, including Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio.
A pivotal scene in the film comes when Nicholson’s character’s boss suspects a rat amongst the mob. While the young recruit talks tough to throw them off the scent, Nicholson felt the scene needed an extra bit of flavor. Without informing Scorsese or DiCaprio, Nicholson pulled out a gun from under the table.
This visibly changed the entire tone of the scene as it clearly rattled a still in-character DiCaprio. The realistic tension and emotion were used effectively to deliver an even better version, compared to the intended script.
Martin Scorsese says that he still shudders when he rewatches the scene and Nicholson’s delivery of “I smell a rat” before pulling out the weapon.
Nicholson’s’ adlib performance and the genuine terror of DiCaprio helped Scorsese on his path to receiving an Oscar for best director, just one of the four Oscars the 2006 film received.
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Spielberg’s 1998 film, Saving Private Ryan, is a wonderful look at the gruesome nature of war and its effects on the human mind after the fact.
Near the end of the film, Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, who play Captain Miller and Private Ryan respectively, have a heart-to-heart whilst they wait for the inevitable. Ryan tells a small story about spying on his older brother who was with a rather unattractive girl in a barn.
It does feel after a while that Ryan is rambling, but it accurately depicts his perspective on his relationship with his brother’s.
The interesting part about this tale is that it wasn’t in the script at all. Apparently, Matt Damon, completely adlibbed the whole story and Spielberg felt that even with its rambling feel and rather uninteresting nature, it somehow seemed to fit the character so much more.
So long story short he decided to keep it in. Aside from its obvious faults, it is easy to see why the storyline fits so well with a naive youngster like private Ryan who has been brought to the forefront of such an incredible operation.
2. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Another Scorsese flick? Who saw that coming?
Yes, Scorsese seems to have a bit of a reputation with improvisation in his films and his 2013 flick, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, is no exception.
Apparently a fair chunk of this film was improvised, which says a lot about Scorsese’s faith and trust within his actors. There are a couple of scenes in particular that really showcase actors getting to express themselves without a script.
The most noteworthy of those is when Margot Robbie slapped DiCaprio. This was one instance where she let the emotions get the best of her and she really let him have it. She hit him a lot harder than planned, however Scorsese and DiCaprio thought it was brilliant.
Scorsese has since praised Robbie for her “comedic genius, all bets-off feistiness, grounded, hardscrabble toughness and emotional daring”.
DiCaprio claimed he enjoyed working with her and this was quite obvious given their rather intense on-screen chemistry.
1. Fast and Furious 6 (2013)
Dwayne Johnson has really evolved since his time as a professional wrestler. As an actor he has become a notable talent, with a natural ability to step into a role, bringing plenty of emotion and charisma to it.
In the 2013 film Fast and Furious 6, he didn’t miss a beat and at times added that little bit of extra brilliance to a scene or a specific line. He was on form and the actors around him played off his obvious talent.
There was one particular scene where he acted straight up without a script, and it caused a moment of absolute hilarity, whilst also fitting the narrative perfectly
During the film when Hobbs arrives at the barbecue, Roman remarks that they “better hide the baby oil,” and Hobbs responds with “you better hide that big ass forehead.”
Dwayne Johnson improvised Hobbs’ line, resulting in Ludacris spitting out his drink and Tyrese Gibson lost for words. These were both completely genuine reactions as they were stunned by this rather cheeky off-the-script moment from Dwayne.
The whole cast and crew cracked up laughing as Hobbs wasn’t even meant to have a response, but like most of the moments on this list, it was just too good to keep out of the final product.
In typical big screen style, often it’s not what you have scripted that turns out to be the most award-winning moment you capture on film. Some have included these little gems in the final cut, others may have regretted the day they didn’t. Whatever the decision, these were some of the all-time improves that made the cut, and we’re glad they did. Also, check out our other cool stuff showing up on screen right now. See you next time!