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You Won't Believe These Legendary Film Scenes Were Improvised

FUN FACTS June 21, 2016 By Hugo

The first Hollywood movie was made in 1910. It was a silent film directed by the so-called inventor of Hollywood, D.W. Griffith and was titled, "In Old California." And while not much is known about it other than it being the subject of various trivia questions; what it spawned was a new fictional medium: the feature film. 

the dark knight clapping

Over 100 years later, thousands upon thousands of film have been churned out. Some were good, some were okay, and the majority, well, they won't be remembered in a hurry. Still, when Hollywood gets it right, the movie leaves a lasting impression on you for years to come. What's more, many involved a significant amount of improvisation- even in the scenes beloved by millions.

Here are 10 examples.

1. Taxi Driver (1976)

One of cinema's most iconic phrases was spawned from none other than the legendary actor himself. Yes, instead of following Paul Schrader's words, De Niro improvised from the short description of, 'Travis speaks to himself in the mirror.' Genius.



2. The Shining (1980)

Whenever you're adapting a Stephen King novel, the lines are going to be intense and profoundly disturbing. But screenwriters Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson didn't write Jack Nicholson's iconic line, "Here's Johnny." 



The memorable scene, which sees Nicholson's character attempting to kill his son and wife by smashing an axe into the locked bathroom door was completely improvised. In fact, the legendary actor came up with the line after watching The Johnny Carson show. Ed McMahon's famous catchphrase, "Here's Johnny" was often used to introduce the star presenter, which gave Nicholson the idea.

3. Good Will Hunting (1997)

When Good Will Hunting was released, it was the talk of the town and made stars of its two leads and co-writers, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. But it was the late Robin Williams performance as the friendly and wise psychology teacher Sean Maguire, that captivated audiences and critics. The performance would give Williams an Academy Award for lead actor. 



And, as this endearing improvised scene between Damon and Williams shows, the artist could make light of anything, even if it involved a "farting wife."

4. Dumb and Dumber (1989)

When the Farrelly Brothers wrote the famous comedy "Dumb And Dumber," they probably knew what they were in for when they hired the highly erratic funnyman, Jim Carrey. Nonetheless, it probably came as a slight shock when their scene involving the hitman Joe Metalino (Mike Starr), Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels)  in the front of a truck became completely improvised. 


Initially, the scene merely asked the lovable idiots to test the thug's patience over a dispute about jelly beans. But it seemed the most annoying sound ever had a far more appealing ring to it. Apparently, Mike Starr had no idea of the intended improvisation.

5. The Dark Knight (2008)

The late Heath Ledger rightfully won a posthumous Oscar for his hair-raising performance in Christopher Nolan's second movie of the famous Dark Knight trilogy.

And though the writing by Christopher Nolan and his screenwriter brother, Jonathon Nolan, was nothing short of spectacular, The Joker's (Heath Ledger) overt and creepy clapping directed towards Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is nothing short of genius. 

6. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Dustin Hoffman is as accomplished an actor as anyone in Hollywood, and he showed his improv range to hilarious comic effect when he almost got ran over by a taxi during a scene walking down a New York street with his co-star, Jon Voight. 


"I'm walking here," he exclaims to the taxi driver, who is seemingly unaware he has just played a part in one of history's most iconic cinematic scenes.

7. The Godfather (1972) 

In a scene which leaves you guessing what on Earth will happen next, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), while petting an adorable kitty, begrudgingly agrees to the beating of a man after a bitter father comes into his office pleading for revenge for the beating of his daughter. 


But why the cat? Is it relevant? Well, Francis Ford Coppola didn't think so. In fact, rumor has it that Brando discovered "Il Gatto" roaming around the set and decided to give him an experience he'd never forget.

8. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

If you're a Star Wars aficionado (and of that, there are many), then you'll probably already know the story behind the famous scene which sees Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) tell a rather dashing Han Solo (Harrison Ford) that she "loves him."


However, George Lucas had originally scripted Hans Solo's reply as, "I love you too." But it didn't seem to have the pathos required for such a powerful scene and left Lucas placing his hopes in Ford's improvisation skills. "I know," came his reply on the next take, which fitted perfectly with his ever pragmatic and rational Solo character.

9. Caddyshack (1980) 

Bill Murray's character Carl Spackler hilariously daydreams of winning The Masters at Augusta in one the film's most memorable scenes. Commentating the whole way through his imagined path to victory, little does anyone know the scene was unscripted.


"The Cinderella Story was a spur-of-the-moment idea," Murray said, years later. "Get me some flowers,' I said. 'Four rows of moms." Completely random, but oh so funny!

10. Jaws (1975)

Filming a movie about a killer shark in the midst of the ocean isn't an easy gig. That's probably why producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown often warned Spielberg and co that, "You're gonna need a bigger boat."



Yes, sometimes the best lines come from the unlikeliest of sources.

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