In today’s day and age where tends if not hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on movies, movies that often times all are part of a larger cinematic universe, it may surprise you to hear just how much of (at least some) of these films are actually improvised by the actors themselves as while filmmaking is an art it’s first and foremost, more and more, a business. So while it’s not a huge surprise to hear that comedies have large swatches of unscripted content, the fact that large parts of the new Star Wars and even the most recent example in Avengers: Infinity War having large unscripted scenes is equally parts surprising and amazing. So, we wanted to go through to find some of the most surprising and hilarious unscripted moments from film to share with you, putting together a top 10 list for you. We do have an 11th that we thought we’d share here, though, in that James Earl Jones, the man who famously voided Darth Vader actually improvised what is easily the most famous line in the history of filmmaking in “No, I am Your Father”. He was actually just supposed to ask Luke if he wanted to share an Uber but said that he felt compelled to take a chance, a chance that changed filmmaking forever. What was even more surprising was that Empire Strikes Back predates Uber by decades and that I’m lying. But from here on out you’ll get nothing but honesty and hilarious examples of improvised lines.
10. “AHH, Kelly Clarkson!”
While Steve Carell was relatively well known thanks to his work on The Daily Show (which was definitely in it’s prime around that time with other cast members like Louis Black and Stephen Colbert), he had yet to land the role that turned him into a household name as Michael Scott on the Office while he was filming the 40 Year Old Virgin, a film that he penned with Judd Apatow (on the heels of another collaboration between the two which was 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy). That film made Carell a star and while it was very popular at the time and was equal parts hilarious and heartfelt there was and still is one scene that people either took away or remember from the film and that was the scene in which the naturally furry Carell had his chest waxed. To make the scene as authentic as possible Carell wanted to have his chest actually waxed, something he had never done before but he figured it couldn’t be too bad as it was his chest and people get much more intimate and sensitive areas waxed all the time. So, the reaction(s) you see on screen were natural and real, as was the blood that began pooling on his chest from the ripped up hair follicles. What’s amazing, though, was that Carell was able to be funny and witty during that time, as well, coming up with lines that can’t be repeated here outside of the Kelly Clarkson line. Talk about commitment and talent.
9. The Laugh – Pretty Woman
If there’s any single film that’s responsible for turning Julia Roberts into a legend it’s Pretty Woman, the film about the prostitute with a heart of gold that is saved by Richard Gere who loves her more than he cares about what other people think. It’s a love story for the ages and you may be asking yourself why it’s on this list. The answer to that stems from the most famous scene in the film, in which Roberts’ character is receiving a gift from Gere, a large and fancy necklace that’s inside one of those large jewelery cases. While she’s rubbing her finger over the necklace Gere snaps the case shut and Roberts gives out a loud and seemingly genuine laugh, it’s a moment that seemingly made Julia Roberts an A-list star and that endeared her in the hearts of millions of people around the world. The story behind it is equally endearing as Julia Roberts was 21 years old during the filming of Pretty woman and because of that she was still sowing her wild oats by going out and partying a lot of the nights during the filming of Pretty Woman. Because of that, on the day that they filmed that now iconic scene, Roberts asked Gere if he could lightly close the jewelry box on her finger to wake her up on the first take as it might scare her enough to give her the adrenaline rush needed to get through that early morning of shooting. Instead of doing so, Gere snapped it shut on her hand, to which Roberts reacted shocked, surprised and in a now famous moment let out a genuine laugh from her stomach that made her into the 90’s biggest actress. While it may not be as funny as something that Will Ferrell would do, it was so genuine that you can’t help but smile and laugh along with it and considering that it wasn’t scripted and almost got cut from the film, it belongs on this list perhaps more than a lot of others!
8. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark: Gun beats Everything
During the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, there was a scene that was written as a decent action set piece that would’ve had the titular hero facing off against a swordsman who appeared to have all sorts of skills, showing that not only was “Indy” a brilliant archaeologist, tomb raider, whip master and a man with great taste in hats but that he also was pretty good at utilizing all weapons. However, as the film shows, Jones ended up just shooting the swordsman instead of wasting time (and potentially risking death) which was one of the biggest (if not they biggest) laughs that the film had and one of the more bad ass moments in cinematic history. It turns out, though, that that scene wasn’t actually what was scripted and while it’s hard to improvise something like that, considering all the stuff that goes into stunts (like loading guns with blanks and having the person on the other end of the gun actually reacting as if they’d been killed), this came about as close to that is as possible in that context. The story has been told many times but most recently it came up during an ‘As me Anything’ on Reddit that Harrison Ford was taking place in (I assume because Calista Flockhart forced him to). In that AMA he stated that the script called for a relatively lengthy sword fight but because he had been suffering from a relatively brutal version of dysentary at the time he could really only film scenes that were 10 minutes and under (before having to run to the bathroom to evacuate what was left of his bowels). While doing that and trying to figure out how the hell he was going to film this extensive scene it occurred to him that the more Indiana Jones-ish move would’ve been for Indy to actually shoot the swords-man and walk away. Considering they had been working on that scene for a long time (as it was basically a 2-3 day shoot just for that scene) he never thought that Spielberg would go for it but when he brought him that idea Spielberg responded “I was thinking that as well” (not because Spielberg was also pooping his brains out but because he felt the scene was “redundant”), so the rest, as they say, is Hollywood history!
7. The Joker’s Clap
Sometimes an actor can transcend a role and basically create a performance that is so good that it’s a work of art and while some say that people only (or mainly) lavish praise on Heath Ledger’s turn ast the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight, there’s no denying that whether not he had lived or died that role would’ve ended up making Ledger the hottest actor in Hollywood. His role as the Joker is so good that you barely recognize the actor inside the character, as it’s as if he almost became a completely different person and that’s because he adopted not only a new voice but a new way of acted out his mannerisms, laughing, moving, basically everything. Because of that, he was also improvising a lot on the set and because of that he was basically creeping the F out of some of his coworkers with a great example being the genuine reaction that Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred (played by Michael Caine) gave when he opened the elevator during the fundraiser for Harvey Dent and saw the Joker with his sawed off shotgun. That was actually the first time that Caine saw Ledger as the Joker at all, on or off camera, and so his reaction of fear and surprise was genuine, but that was something that Ledger and Nolan cooked up together. A better example of Ledger’s brilliance that he came up with on his own came after then Lieutenant Gordon came back from “the dead” and was promoted to Commissioner Gordon. After the room full of police officers stopped applauding the promotion the camera pans over to Ledger’s Joker who was still feverishly applauding the new commissioner. That wasn’t in the script and was something that Ledger thought up on the spot, bringing one of the few laughs to the otherwise dark film and showing people that he played the best Joker that there ever was and really every will be. It’s just that damn good.
6. Good Will Farting
It’s probably not a huge surprise to hear that the late, great Robin WIlliams was an improv master and while Good Will Hunting, the film that won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor is a drama there is one scene that is so heartfelt and funny that upon hearing that it was entirely improvised and thus genuine you’ll probably exclaim “I KNEW IT!”. The scene in question revolves around Robin Williams discussing his dead wife and how she’s wake herself up by farting, and even though Matt Damon is one of the best actors of his generation you can tell that those weren’t acted laughs but genuine, nostril flaring all-out gut busting laughs and that’s because that’s exactly what they were. The scene in the movie was completely improvised and had Williams as Damon/Will Huntings psychiatrist, who was discussed that he loved his wife so much that when she’d awake herself by passing gas super loudly he didn’t have the heart to tell her that she did it so he always took the blame. Because his wife in the film had passed away and because of how genuine it felt on screen, there was a layer of sadness or emotion behind it that made the scene even that much more special, which probably went a lot way towards landing Robin Williams his first Oscar after being nominated three times previously. How do you like them apples, indeed.
5. “Peter!” from Amazing Spider-Man 2
Say what you will about Amazing Spider-Man 2, a film that underperformed to the level that that rebooted “grittier”/”Story you were never told” that starred Andrew Garfield as the better Spider-Man of the two at the time (with Tobey McGuire being the better Peter Parker), but one things most people can agree upon is that the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy was really well done in those films. Perhaps that’s because the actors that played each role in Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were actually in a long term relationship with one another and because of that their love for one another played well on the screen. Because of that, the death of Gwen Stacy at the end of the final Amazing Spider-Man, regardless of how you felt about the pacing and uneven tone of that film, was a gut punch that was extremely well done with Garfield giving the performance of a lifetime as he pleaded with his love to not be dead after his webs were a split second too late to save her from hitting the concrete bottom of the clock tower they were inside of. Before that happened, though, actually pretty much right before then, Peter/Spidey had needed Gwen’s help to magnetize his web-shooters so they wouldn’t become overloaded by Electro’s powers and after Gwen assisted in magnetizing them he webbed her hand to the hood of a squad car so she wouldn’t follow him to the power plant to confront Electro. Once she realized that she had been webbed, she screams out “PETER!” and quickly covers her mouth as she clearly had just blurted out the alias of Spider-Man, something that no one knew. However there’s more to that scene than that as the script called for Stone to actually blurt out something more neutral like “Stop” or “Wait!” or my favorite theoretical “Oh No You Dee-ent”, but after a take or two Stone, being the professional that she is, went with the Peter line followed by the immediate horror that overcame her face and that’s the take that Director Marc Webb ended up using. And we’re all the better for it.
4. Dropping the Power Stone
As we learned in both Guardians of the Galaxy and the more recent Avengers: Infinity War, the most powerful of the Infinity Stones is the Power Stone, an item that is so powerful that it’s capable of destroying most anything that it touches up to and including planets. That’s perhaps why Thanos decides to go for it before the other Infinity Stones in Infinity War as it’d make his job a lot easier as he went through the rest of the Stones and also because it has the capability of increasing how powerful the other stones in the Infinity Gauntley were as well. The plot of the first Guardians movie is that Thanos has tasked Kree religious zealot Ronan the Accuser with retrieving the stone for him, along with the help of a couple of his “children” in Gamora and Nebula and in exchange Thanos promosed to destroy the planet of Xandar, a liberal planet that rubs the fundamentalist Ronan the wrong way (as Xandar has been at war with his Kree for years). However, once Ronan sees how powerful the Stone is, he realizes that he doesn’t need Thanos to destroy Xandar as he’d be able to simply add it to his gigantic hammer and touch it to the surface of Xandar himself. The only problem becomes from the fact that a Ravager named Star-Lord (Who?) ended up finding the Infinity Stone first, which starts out the plot of the movie, but considering how powerful the stone is you’d think that the characters in the movie would’e treated it with kid gloves but there’s a scene that shows just how screwed the Galaxy was (that the Guardians were their last/only hope), as it shows Star-Lord almost dropped the Orb (that contained the purple Power Stone) before presenting it to the Collector (who was portrayed by Benecio Del Toro and who also already was in possession of the red Aether/Reality Stone (Del Toro was, I mean, not the Collector, as we all know that Benecio Del Toro is one of the masters of the universe)). It turns out that Chris Pratt actually accidentally almost dropped the orb, but because he caught it out of frame and before it hit the ground and also because it was hilarious, Director/Writer James Gunn kept it in the film.
3. Thor: The Dark World – Hanging a Hammer
In Avengers: Age of Ultron there are all sorts of debates between the human Avengers as to whether or not inanimate objects need to be worthy to lift Thor’s enchanted hammer Mjolnir after the vibranium android Vision manages to lift it. Because he’s not exactly human, they surmise that it’s the same as if an elevator were able to carry the hammer up a couple of floors, “The elevators not worthy” is the consensus. They could’ve also wondered whether or not a coat rack is worthy as in the much maligned (at least in terms of MCU properties) Thor – The Dark World, Thor hangs Mjolnir to a coat rack at Jane Fosters apartment in London, England. Considering the fact that Mjolnir was forged in the heart of a dying star (something we were told in the original Thor by Odin and then shown in Avengers: Infinity War by Thor and Peter Dinklage), you’d think that Mjolnir would be extremely dense and thus heavy but then again homes in London were built hundreds of years ago out of real would so perhaps they’ve just got some really good screws holding up that coat rack. The scene was hilarious and actually improvised by Hemsworth himself, something that there definitely wasn’t enough of in the first two Thor films. It was actually scenes like that that lead the Director of the third Thor Film Taika Waititi to give Hemsworth more freedom in front of the camera as he said that Hemsworth was not only incredibly good looking but charming and hilarious as well. That lead to upwards of 80% of the third film, Ragnarok, being improvised and the audience was all the better for it. So, it’s that scene that you have to thank for the genius that was Ragnarok. So, Piss off, ghost!
2. Melissa McCarthy’s Bridesmaids
Melissa McCarthy very well could be the biggest comedic star on the planet right now but up until 2011 she wasn’t very well known outside of her work on Gilmore Girls and the relatively short-lived sitcom Samantha Who. 2011 was her breakout year as she was cast in the sitcom Mike and Molly in late 2010 and she co-starred in the smash hit Bridesmaids alongside Kristiin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper and Rose Byrne. In that movie she played Megan Price, and she was so hilarious in this semi-raunchy comedy that she was actually nominated for an Oscar. Think about that, she was nominated for an Oscar in a film where she pooped in a toilet and screamed that it was like lava was coming out of her. Perhaps not surprisingly, being a method actress, she actually did defecate real magma, actually, the truth is that she actually improved most of her dialogue in that film with the best example coming from the scene on the airplane where she identifies the air marshal and attempts to seduce him while he denies being an air marshall and seems relatively disinterested. The apex of the scene comes when McCarthy shows her physical talents by putting her leg well above her head to showcase the “heat” coming from her neither regions. While this movie was in no means flattering to McCarthy in terms of her looks or skills with the opposite sex (although she does land her man in the end), it really was an amazing role that showed the world that a new superstar had landed and that super star loved to adopt like all the puppies). So the next time you re-watch Bridesmaids just keep in mind that McCarthy was making up what you’re seeing on the fly, that’s just so amazing and really shows why she’s the funniest person on the planet.
1. Milk was a bad choice- Anchorman
There wouldn’t be a top list of improved moments from movies with Anchorman. Anchorman is probably the most iconic and beloved comedy of the 00’s and there’s a good reason (or 100 good reasons) for that as it’s hilarious from top to bottom, mainly because it’s Will Ferrell firing on all cylinders while surrounded by some of the top comedic minds of that time. While it’s really hard to find one moment that tops them all (and even harder to comprehend how they ever got this film completed, as the blooper real is hysterical (“the Human Torch was denied a bank loan…. The HUMAN Torch was Denied.. The Human Torch…”)), it really just boils down to personal taste and what tickles your funny bone the most. When it comes to us here at BabbleTop it has to be the moment where Ron, in the middle of 100 degree weather, was chugging milk with a full beard in what was basically a way by co-writer and director Adam McKay that Ron had hit rock bottom (and because it just looks gross). The improv came on the last take when Ron adds to the scene “It’s so damn hot… Milk was a bad choice…” as he continues to down that milk. It’s hilarious on so many levels and just goes to show you that peak Will Ferrell was (and can still be) the funniest man ever.