12 Iconic Movie Lines That Were Ad-Libbed on the Spot
Sometimes a piece of movie history is born out of the most random moments.
1. "Here's looking at you, kid" – "Casablanca" (1942)
With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 99%, "Casablanca" is a timeless classic. However, not everyone knows that one of its most famous lines, "Here's looking at you, kid," was a spontaneous addition by the charismatic Humphrey Bogart. In reality, Bogart would say the line to Ingrid Bergman while teaching her poker between takes. Director Michael Curtiz loved it so much, he decided to incorporate it into the script, resulting in one of cinema's most iconic farewells. Imagine a poker game casually birthing a piece of movie history!
2. "I'm king of the world!" – "Titanic" (1997)
One of the most meme-worthy movie lines ever, "I'm king of the world!" was not originally scripted in the "Titanic." With the movie's massive budget and equally grand expectations, director James Cameron decided on the spot to have Leonardo DiCaprio shout the line in the prow scene. The ad-lib line resonated with audiences and became synonymous with the film's success. With the film now boasting an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's safe to say that Cameron and DiCaprio truly did become kings of the cinematic world.
3. "You can't handle the truth!" – "A Few Good Men" (1992)
"A Few Good Men," holds a solid 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is fondly remembered for the intense courtroom exchange between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. While the line "You can't handle the truth!" was in the script, Nicholson's delivery was pure improvisation. The power and raw emotion behind his words turned the line into an unforgettable moment in film history. It's reported that the extras in the courtroom scene were taken aback by Nicholson's impromptu intensity.
4. "I'm walking here!" – "Midnight Cowboy" (1969)
With an 89% score on Rotten Tomatoes, "Midnight Cowboy" holds a reputation as a cinema classic. A lesser-known fact is that the line "I'm walking here!", yelled by Dustin Hoffman's character, was not in the script. As they were filming, a real taxi ignored the production signs and almost hit Hoffman. Without breaking character, Hoffman banged on the taxi and yelled the now-iconic line. It was a golden moment of ad-libbing, resulting in one of the most authentic reactions in movie history.
5. "Warriors, come out to play" – "The Warriors" (1979)
"The Warriors" is a cult classic known for its unique storytelling and stylish aesthetics, holding a solid 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. A less known fact, however, is that the iconic line, "Warriors, come out to play," was improvised by actor David Patrick Kelly. The actor used the line to taunt his rivals in an eerie, sing-song voice, even adding the creepy sound of clinking beer bottles for an extra unsettling touch. His improvised taunt became one of the most iconic moments of the film, echoing in the minds of viewers long after the credits rolled.
6. "You're gonna need a bigger boat" – "Jaws" (1975)
We all remember the moment Chief Brody, played by Roy Scheider, comes face-to-face with the gigantic shark in "Jaws." His reaction, "You're gonna need a bigger boat," has become an iconic line in film history. Yet, not many know that Scheider ad-libbed it, impressing Steven Spielberg with his improv skills. The line perfectly encapsulated the fear and tension in the film, contributing to its Rotten Tomatoes score of 97%. And, let's not forget the impact it had on beach tourism post-release.
7. "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli" – "The Godfather" (1972)
In one of the pivotal scenes of "The Godfather," a classic boasting a 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating, the line "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli" wasn't entirely in the script. While the first part was scripted, Richard Castellano (playing Clemenza) added the part about the cannoli. He did this in homage to his on-screen wife, who had asked him to bring some home earlier in the film. This off-the-cuff addition perfectly blended dark humor with the film's overarching themes of loyalty and family ties.
8. "I know" – "Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
The romantic exchange between Princess Leia and Han Solo in "The Empire Strikes Back" was meant to end with Solo responding "I love you too." However, Harrison Ford felt that the line didn't resonate with his character's roguish charm. So, when Leia confessed her love, Ford ad-libbed the response, "I know." This unexpected response became one of the most memorable moments in the "Star Wars" saga (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) and solidified Han Solo's image as a lovable scoundrel.
9. "Like tears in rain" – "Blade Runner" (1982)
"Blade Runner," a sci-fi classic with a respectable 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, is replete with stunning visuals and profound philosophical undertones. One of its most striking moments is Rutger Hauer's improvised monologue as the replicant Roy Batty. The script only mentioned Batty's experiences, but it was Hauer who added the hauntingly poetic line, "like tears in rain." His improvised addition deepened the scene's emotional impact and elevated Batty's character from a typical antagonist to a tragic figure.
10. "Why don't you make like a tree and get out of here?" – "Back to the Future" (1985)
"Back to the Future," a fun-filled sci-fi adventure boasting a 93% Rotten Tomatoes rating, isn't necessarily known for its improvisation. However, one memorable line came from the mind of actor Thomas F. Wilson, who played Biff Tannen. He creatively mangled the common phrase "Make like a tree and leave" into "Why don't you make like a tree and get out of here?" This intentional mistake added an extra layer of humor to his character and became one of the most famous lines in the franchise.
11. "I'll have what she's having" – "When Harry Met Sally" (1989)
Rom-com "When Harry Met Sally," sitting at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, is perhaps most famous for its deli scene. Meg Ryan's, erm, enthusiastic sandwich enjoyment prompts a nearby patron (actually director Rob Reiner's mother) to say, "I'll have what she's having." While not an actor, she delivered the line perfectly, which was, in fact, suggested by Billy Crystal. It quickly became one of the most iconic quotes in movie history, underlining the humor in an already hilarious scene.
12. "I'm funny how?" – "Goodfellas" (1990)
With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%, "Goodfellas" is one of Martin Scorsese's best-loved films. Among its memorable lines, Joe Pesci's "I'm funny how?" is perhaps the most iconic. The unsettling scene was based on a real-life experience Pesci had with a mobster, and it was Pesci's idea to incorporate it into the film. The result? An intense scene where Pesci's character Tommy DeVito goes from jovial to terrifying in a heartbeat, catching both the audience and his co-stars off guard.