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Ad Libitum At Its Finest: 10 Great Improvised Lines from the Movies

January 19, 2013  |  2:00pm
Ad Libitum At Its Finest: 10 Great Improvised Lines from the Movies

Some screenwriters are amazingly talented individuals. They create entire worlds and characters in their minds, worlds we believe in and characters we root for. Most importantly, they write dialogue that we relate to, that we quote and that makes us laugh and cry. However, sometimes, the dialogue that we so enjoy is not even the work of the screenwriter. More often than you might think, actors themselves put a little of their own ideas into a scene. The result: Some of the greatest movie lines of all time. Here are our favorite ad-libbed lines from films:

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10. Inception
Eames: “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.
Sometimes, the addition of just one word can take a movie line to the next level. While the line was already in the script, Brit Tom Hardy accidentally let “darling” slip out at the end and the director decided to keep it. Clearly a smart move as this line ended up in the trailer as well.

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9. Taxi Driver
Travis Bickle: “You talkin’ to me?”
There was no specific dialogue written for this now-iconic scene in Taxi Driver; the script simply reads “Travis speaks to himself in the mirror.” Robert De Niro improvised what is now one of the film’s most famous scenes, both Travis’ desire to and inability to connect with other people.

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8. Jaws
Brody: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
This famous line, uttered by Brody when he saw the size of his opponent for the first time, was actually not in the script. Roy Scheider came up with this line on the spot, making people laugh since the movie premiered in 1975.

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7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry: “Don’t worry, I will be…”
Said to Lucius Malfoy toward the end of the film. Apparently, Jason Isaacs, the actor who played Malfoy, felt he should add something to the end of his conversation with Mr. Potter. Without warning, he says, “Well let’s hope Mr.Potter will always be around to save the day.” Without missing a beat, Daniel Radcliffe squared his shoulders and stated this line right back. OK, so not an iconic line, but Radcliffe was, like, 12 when this was shot, so we thought he deserved some recognition.

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6. The Godfather
Peter Clemenza “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.
The first part was in the script, but Richard Costellano changed the line when he added the cannoli part. Evidence of the influence actors can have on pop culture, Costellano gave viewers a line they would remember for years.

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5. Casablanca
Rick Blaine: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Apparently, there was no line like this in the script at all. This infamous line is something that Bogart said to Bergman on the set while teaching her to play poker. As if the scene didn’t already have the audience on the verge of tears, Bogart’s sweet line guaranteed we’d be watching credits with tear-stained cheeks.

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4. Midnight Cowboy
Ratso: “I’m walking here!!”
Only in New York: A real-life taxi driver ignored the barricades and filming signs around the area and drove straight through filming, almost hitting Dustin Hoffman. Lucky for him, and us, he has quick reflexes. His quick thinking and improvised acting introduced us to this notorious scene in cinema giving New Yorkers a reputation that’s lasted for 43 years and counting.


3. Goodfellas
Joe Pesci: “Funny, how?... Funny like a clown, like I amuse you?... Like I’m here to fucking amuse you?”
Who in the audience wasn’t holding their breath when the unpredictable Pesci suddenly switched his mood at that dinner table? Well it seems the actors were just as surprised when Tommy DeVito started questioning poor Liotta. DeVito provides excellent insight into his character, a gangster who can explode at the drop of a hat.

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2. When Harry Met Sally
Lady in Restaurant: “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Not a total ad-libbed moment, but this line was definitely not in the script. Billy Crystal came up with it right before they shot the scene and told the extra (director Rob Reiner’s mother) to slip it in. Good thing: the comedic timing and inflection adds so much to the scene.

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1. Blade Runner
Roy Batty: “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
It’s one of the most famous soliloquies in cinema, but most everyone was shocked to learn that their favorite part was ad-libbed by Rutger Hauer. Clearly this is a prime example of improvisation at its finest and why it pays to have intelligent actors.

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