One of the things that set a good movie apart from a great one is the screenplay. A well-written movie has crackling dialogue and an intriguing plot, and you find yourself quoting your favorite moments over and over as those fantastic lines become a part of the pop culture lexicon.
However, sometimes those famous lines aren’t in the screenplay at all. Instead, they were spur of the moment lines that the actors thought of in a bit of improvisation, without realizing they were about to make movie history.
9“Warriors, come out and play!”
The Warriors is one of those classic, late-night cable movies that just seems to get better with age. Directed by the great Walter Hill, it is a pretty simple story about a street gang falsely believed to have killed a gang leader who is trying to unite all of the gangs in New York City.
This leads to every other gang in the city trying to hunt down and kill the Warriors throughout one harrowing night, and frankly, it’s flat out awesome. But the most iconic line of the whole movie was actually improvised on the spot by actor David Patrick Kelly, who plays the leader of the final gang the Warriors must contend with, as he starts clanging bottles together while taunting out a car window, “Warriors, come out and play!”
8“Game over, man!”
Aliens was the wildly successful sequel to, well, Alien. It’s often thought of as one of the best sequels in movie history, and there are some folks who think it actually surpasses the original.
In the movie, Bill Paxton (not Pullman – trust us, we double checked) plays a Space Marine who thinks he and his cohorts are badasses until Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley shows up to teach them a thing or two, and when they start getting wiped out by the titular aliens, Paxton veered away from the script to utter what has become one of the most famous sci-fi movie quotes of all-time, as, panic-stricken, he shouts, “Game over, man!”
The movie The Shining is one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever put to film, and in it, a crazy as all hell Jack Nicholson slowly goes mad and begins to terrorize his family at a remote mountain hotel.
The single most iconic image of the film is Nicholson’s face peering through a small hole in a door, just after his character has taken an axe to try to chop his way in. When the bug-eyed, clearly insane Nicholson pushes his face through the hole to threaten his wife and son, he shouts out “Here’s Johnny!” in reference to Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, and that ad-libbed line has gone down as one of the most famous in horror movie history.
6“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”
It’s kind of amazing that a quote from The Godfather would only be sixth on our list, but there have been a ton of great improvised lines in movie history.
Still, one of the most often quoted lines from arguably the most quotable movie of all-time takes place after Corleone family muscle Clemenza and one of his underling’s murder a rat in the middle of nowhere, at which point Clemenza says to his henchmen, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
The part about leaving the gun was in the script, but actor Richard Castellano improvised the bit about the cannoli, in reference to an earlier scene in which Clemenza’s wife has to remind him not to forget to bring the Italian dessert home with him.
5“I’m walkin’ here!”
The movie Midnight Cowboy has the distinction of being the first and only X-Rated movie to ever win Best Picture. It also has one of the most famous lines of dialogue ever uttered, which happened to make it into the film because of a reckless cab driver who decided he didn’t have time for a movie production.
In the famous scene, Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman are attempting to walk across a busy New York City street, and the production had actually shut down the street for filming but the aforementioned cabbie decided to ignore the barriers and policemen holding up traffic and started across the intersection, nearly running smack into Hoffman.
Hoffman, trying to stay in character, improvised “I’m walkin’ here!” but it’s a moment so real you can hear him slip out of his character’s voice and into his real, much deeper voice.
Han Solo is simply one of the smoothest, most badass dudes in film history. Every guy has always wanted to be him, and women went crazy for the scruffy-looking nerf herder, whatever the hell that means.
Anyway, throughout the original Star Wars trilogy, there was one line that summed Han up better than any other, and that’s when he’s about to be frozen in carbonite and taken to Jabba the Hutt.
Leia looks at him and says, “I love you.” In the script, Han was supposed to say, “I love you, too” but Harrison Ford knew that simply wasn’t the kind of guy Han was, so he tossed aside that line and said, simply, “I know.” And so, so many women swooned upon hearing that line.
3“You Talkin’ to me?”
Movie quotes don’t get much more famous than the classic, epic scene in which Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, stares into a mirror and starts trying to act like a tough guy.
He has an imaginary conversation with an adversary who isn’t there and outcomes that iconic line, “You talkin’ to me?” This wasn’t even a case where DeNiro veered away from the movie script, either, because as written in the screenplay, there was no dialogue.
It said, simply, “Bickle speaks to himself in the mirror” and it was left up to DeNiro to just sort of wing it. In retrospect, it turns out that was the best decision they possibly could have made.
2“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”
Jaws is one of the all-time classic combinations of action, adventure, horror, and thriller, and it was more or less the first real summer blockbuster in movie history. Ultimately, the story boils down to man versus beast, with a beast in this case taking the form of a very large, very hungry Great White shark.
Toward the end of the film, as the main trio of Brody, Hooper, and Quint are out hunting for the shark, Brody, played by Roy Scheider, is the first to lay his eyes on the impossibly large fish and, after backing slowly into the main cabin in terror, improvises the now legendary line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
1“Here’s looking at you, kid”
When it comes to fantastic dialogue, it doesn’t get any better than Casablanca. Simply put, it’s arguably the greatest film ever written. However, amazing as it sounds, the most famous line of dialogue in the entire movie wasn’t even in the screenplay but was instead improvised by Humphrey Bogart.
The entire script was written at a pretty frenetic pace, as the shooting was taking place while it was still being penned, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that some of the stuff was dialogued.
However, Bogart had apparently been teaching Ingrid Bergman how to play poker when they weren’t shooting and would often say, “Here’s looking at you, kid” and, as luck would have it, he decided to throw that into the scene in which Rick says goodbye to Ilsa, and the rest is cinematic history.