Movies are planned years in advance with the majority of films not even beginning to production without a highly polished script. However, many of the most iconic moments in movie history were the result of an actor improvising their lines after gaining the trust of their director.
1. Taxi Driver
Perhaps the most famous lines in movie history, “You talkin’ to me” has been imitated and reworked on numerous occasions. Robert De Niro was given a simple stage direction of his character, Travis Bickle talking into a mirror which morphed into a classic scene.
1997 blockbuster, Titanic cemented Leonardo DiCaprio as a leading man with his much-loved, “I’m the king of the world” line becoming iconic. DiCaprio shouted the line when first arriving on the recreation of the ship and was liked so much, director James Cameron found a place for it in the script.
Throughout the movie, Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick refers to Ingrid Bergman as “kid.” The line, “Here’s looking at you, kid” was initially said by Bogart when he and Bergman played poker offscreen. Bogart liked the line so much he brought it to the 1942 classic.
4. The Empire Strikes Back
Still recognized as the classic of the series, “Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back” is known for the moment Princess Leia tells Han Solo she loves him. Harrison Ford was supposed to reply, “I love you too” but felt it was out of character for Solo. Instead, he simply said, “I know” and went down in movie history.
5. This is Spinal Tap
Christopher Guest is known for creating improvised comedies with a loose script, but his most famous must be, “This is Spinal Tap.” The movie includes the classic line, “It’s a fine line between stupid and clever” which has become as iconic as any in film history.
6. The Silence of the Lambs
Sir Anthony Hopkins deservedly won an Oscar and hit the Hollywood A-list for his turn as Hannibal the Cannibal opposite Jodie Foster. A dedicated stage actor prior to his Hollywood breakthrough, Hopkins wanted to keep Foster unsettled between takes and began to use the hiss which became iconic as part of the “… with a nice chianti” line.
7. His Girl Friday
Cary Grant stars in this 1940 fast-talking screwball comedy alongside Katherine Hepburn. Grant ad-libbed the line, “The last man to say that to me was Archie Leach.” The irony being, Grant’s real name was Archibald Leach.
8. Shaun of the Dead
Now seen as a genre-bending classic, “Shaun of the Dead” comes from the minds of Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, and director Edgar Wright. Many lines were improvised during the filming of this first part of the Cornetto trilogy, including “and he invented the mobile disco” when describing the clientele of The Winchester pub.
9. Being John Malcovich
Starring John Cusack and Cameron Diaz, this cult favorite includes the line, “Hey Malkovich, think fast.” The actor is hit in the head by a beer can as the line is shouted from a moving car, the car was simply supposed to drive past Malkovich without incident.
10. The Warriors
Another cult favorite, “The Warriors” includes many iconic lines, none more so than “Warriors, come out to play.” Actor David Patrick Kelly improvised the line after feeling merely clinking together bottles would not provoke the gang into a fight.
Logan Sekulow is a renowned producer and director.