Sometimes a single moment of film bursts through the boundaries of cinema and vaults into our culture’s collective consciousness, living on for decades and generations to come. In only the rarest occasions, these moments were completely unscripted and 100% improvised by the actors involved. Here are five of the best (and most surprising) improvised scenes in movie history.
5. Henry Hill Takes The Back Way (Goodfellas, 1990)
This one shocked me. Long before Children Of Men and, most recently, True Detective, Martin Scorsese pulled off one of the iconic single-shot long takes of all time. What makes the feat even more amazing is that it was only supposed to be a quick establishing shot.
"In the original concept," Scorsese said in his 2003 interview with The Fine Director’s Bullhorn magazine, “Henry and Karen were to exit their vehicle, walk to the front entrance and be escorted promptly to a waiting table.”
"See the problem was," he continues, "Ray confused his mark and walked through the wrong door. What we see is the kitchen of an actual working restaurant next door to the real shoot location. The money Henry doles out to employees was real, Ray just didn’t know the employees were real, too. That’s why the actors and cinematographer were allowed to continue walking without interference."
"When Henry & Karen finally entered the dining room, the staff members were so confused they just assumed Ray was a travelling diplomat and set him up immediately with a table. The camera, quite large and inconspicuous, was assumed to be filming Henny Youngman for an upcoming TV special."
"We were waiting on locaton next door for about 45 minutes before we finally figured out what was going on. After watching the dailies, we really didn’t see any reason to re-shoot. Plus, since the restaurant was in Long Island, all the patrons were dressed like 70’s gangsters and mob wives to begin with, so aesthetically it all worked. It was just one of those happy accidents."
4. Indy Runs For His Life (Raiders Of The Lost Ark, 1981)
One of the most famous scenes in movie history would never have happened without a common cold.
Director Steven Spielberg had initially scheduled a week-long shoot to film a complicated sequence where Indy finds and deciphers a series of Mayan clues that lead to the Ark Of The Covenant. The sequence called for hundreds of intricate booby traps for our hero to narrowly avoid.
Spielberg, however, was suffering from a nasty head cold and not much in a directing mood. His solution?
"I said ‘Let’s just roll a big rock at Harrison and see what he does.’"
The film’s hunky star, who was not aware of the change in script, did what anybody would do in that situation: he ran for his life. The results were the cinematic equivalent of the Golden Ark.
3. Dr. Kimble Didn’t Kill His Wife (The Fugitive, 1993)
Let’s keep the Harrison Ford theme going shall we?
"I didn’t kill my wife."
"I don’t care!"
One of the best exchanges we’ve seen between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.
Harrison Ford, notorious for showing up to set more than a little cranky, was not happy with the script’s long-winded plea to U.S. Marshall Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) and decided to sack it completely, opting for a quick, concise, “I didn’t kill my wife.”
Believe it or not, here is the original exchange…
Kimble: I’m tired. I’m beat-up. I’ve been living in the woods. I’m drinking rain water and eating leaves and berries, for Christ’s sake. I’m in constant fear at night. The noises you hear…the things you see. Shadows. They’re known as ‘Shadow People.’ You may have heard them described as ‘Shadow Beings’ or ‘Black Masses.’ They’re dark silhouettes with human shapes that exist in the periphery of your vision. Although rare, some cases have been known to turn violent. Multiple witnesses have reported these shadow beings jumping out, attempting to choke or punch them. Some say the spirits can be warded off with a cross or by invoking the name of Jesus. Here’s a sketch I made depicting a shadow pers-
Gerard (interrupting): I don’t care!
2. You’re Going To Need A Bigger Boat (Jaws, 1975)
While attempting to lure a deadly great white shark, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) gets his first look at the gargantuan beast. Stunned, he stands up and utters the now famous line to Captain Quint (Robert Shaw), “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
While this line exists in the script, it wasn’t actually written for Brody.
Here’s Steven Spielberg in a 1996 interview with Under The Director’s Beard magazine:
"One thing we really fought the studio on was the ‘bigger boat’ line. While the studio thought it was best said by Roy, we all believed it would be much more effective coming from the shark. We weren’t exactly pushing for a talking shark. We just wanted the shark to speak in that one instance; to just pop out of the deep blue sea and say, "You’re going to need a bigger boat, fellas." We weren’t married to "fellas" and were fine giving that up, but the studio practically begged us to omit the line altogether. In the end, Roy said it off the cuff, sort of as a wink to the original script. I think it ultimately worked for the better, I guess."
1. Meg Ryan’s Courage Being Under Fire (Courage Under Fire, 1996)
Denzel Washington is widely considered one of the finest actors on the planet. He also may have pulled off the single greatest movie improvisation of all time.
In the original script for a film called Courage, Karen Walden’s (Meg Ryan) courage is unquestioned and exalted. It was Denzel, totally acting in the moment, who decided that maybe, perhaps, her courage should come under some level of fire.
With some off-the-cuff remarks and some subtle facial expressions, Washington completely changed the plot, arc, conclusion, and even title of the film to give us the story of a deceased soldier’s courage coming under fire. 27 new characters were even conceived, cast, and introduced as a result of Washington’s little ad lib. Not bad, Mr. Washington. Not bad.
2013 is heating up, and that can only mean one thing: time to hit the beach! But before you fret the winter-weight and don the sarong, here’s a few, um, larger sun-targets to make you feel better about yourself.
Look at the rack on…oh wait. It’s a dude!
Quick! Somebody help that beached whale! Oh wait….
Nice try with the one-piece….but we can still see those cankles!
Towel? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Yet I still feel I’m missing something….oh I know…A TAN!
If the male-pattern-baldness didn’t already slay the ladies, I’m sure jeans at the beach will seal the deal.
Nice. Keep it classy you frigging train-wreck.
ENOUGH! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! I need a fresh dose of vitamin H(unk) to settle my queasy stomach.
Aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh. That’s more like it. Here’s hoping your summer rocks, with plenty of fun, sun, and sandy beaches. Oh, and don’t forget the SPF!
- Dan Clyne
Leaps By Dre
Two years on Twitter, and all I have to show for it is a bunch of stupid, meaningful friendships with ridiculously talented people.
If I left you off, consider it a unconscionable oversight on my part or maybe this is the push you need to post an avi with your whole head. But to all of you, whether we met two years ago or today: I honestly hope you have as much fun squandering your immeasurably precious time with me as I do with you.
You goddamned pack of degenerates,
First Row: @blaudiablogan, @Hadzilla, @nachosarah, @MaryKoCo, @caricevhouten, @pattonoswalt, @ixSEANxi, @DothTheDoth, @EricDaDadourian, @MostlyPregnant, @WowItsStephen, @TheThomason, @JennyPentland, @MmeSurly, @GreenishDuck, @SeanBlazed, @DadBeard
Second Row: @DJRotaryRachel, @mzeld, @robwhisman, @robfee, @andylevy, @andylassner, @lawblob, @HonkyTonkRobot, @Spotzwoj, @sucittaM, @RoryNotRoy, @fightforfood, @matthewdolkart, @RowdyBowden, @SunnyMabrey, @tylerschmall, @nickwiger, @bazecraze, @thejoshpatten
Third Row: @KarenKilgariff, @JoshMalina, @eliyudin, @ecareyo, @BoobsRadley, @ShittingtonUK, @vladchoc, @DO(G, @MiahSaint, @lanyardtwerk, @sweet_toof, @briangaar, @ashley_barnhill, @NickBossRoss, @Discountdracula, @NicCageMatch, @UncleDynamite, @gneicco
Fourth Row: @pants, @danieleastman, @TheFearBoners, @JoeyPositivity, @bobbyfinger, @LouisPeitzman, @bridger_w, @TheNardvark, @Leemanish, @TurboGrandma, @GriffLightning, @Lisa_Bizzle, @cee_ryan, @MindyFurano, @Smethanie, @ezeddaly, @weedguy420boner, @fart, @BrianBeckner
Fifth Row: @lianamaeby, @janeurysm, @ariscott, @seriouslyemily, @curlycomedy, @Manda_like_wine, @frenchielaboozi, @AaronFullerton, @lafix, @Ahm76, @ceejoyner, @EvanJKessler, @johnfreiler, @UNTRESOR, @IanWearsPants, @BeerBatterBeard, @Chelsea_Elle, @johntoconnor
Sixth Row: @someskirt, @Nickadoo, @ShawnHatosy, @Kalarlis, @glenna_opt, @ChaseMit, @Superfluously, @danCLYNE, @ThatRamosGirl, @coolsexguy, @duplicitron, @diarrhea, @SamuelMoen, @Kendragarden, @MaraWritesStuff, @trumpetcake, @Sassypantssss, @TheBosha
Seventh Row: @senderblock23, @juliadavidovich, @SCbchbum, @RockabillyJay, @ebrawley, @SnarkToast, @CoreyNotKori, @EliTerry, @sgavinesq, @longwall26, @batsly, @asimplemachine, @MarcusTheToken, @TheDairylandDon, @Zackblows, @rachow, @donni, @fleshcake, @kingofalltweets, @KenJennings, @madamezooble
Eighth Row: @m_suit, @butterwolf, @ConorTripler, @giromide, @kramediggles, @Nardster, @markleggett, @AmberTozer, @SeanINCypress, @RexHuppke, @joshy_beck, @hobo_hands, @lazerdoov, @klickitatstreet, @toddmarrone, @Kyle_Lippert, @OhNoSheTwitnt, @BillMc7
Ninth Row: @Glynner85, @primawesome, @Llib_Notlaw, @Mickey_McCauley, @Pauly_Miller, @DeuceRadio, @Ty_Schutz, @SteveHuff, @Busocco, @CockShittington, @TyCutt, @HudsonDickchest, @DrunkSocialite, @MandySlamberg, @iheartsoups
This is amazing but I’m not paying $50 for prints.
The craggy knots along an old oak tree………wind……a hand palms a smooth stone along a flowing river…….wheat………A man turns and whispers ‘character arc’……a curious muskrat scanning a riverbed for lunch…..wheat……wisps of a young woman’s sandy blonde hair….wind……water…….a child’s red wagon vacant atop a suburban lawn.
All in all I give it a hazy recollection of seashells collected at a beach.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to scale back any anger or resentment I may naturally produce when something I don’t like, respect, or understand breaks through and becomes massively popular. I realize this will always happen and I’ve matured enough to know that my opinion doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. It’s just not for me. And then I move on.
But every now and then something bothers me to the point where my mood changes whenever I’m reminded of it. Sometimes I’ll see people I like and respect enjoying it, and all of the sudden my perceived reality changes. I lose confidence that I’m a real human on a real planet, living a physical existence of consequence.
The most recent example of this is the song “Some Nights” by fun.
Let’s get the first and most obvious criticism out there: The song is a blatant rip-off of “Cecilia.” If Simon & Garfunkel had blown just a little more money on drugs, they’d be in a courtroom right now rightfully demanding royalties. Now I understand that every popular song is ripping off of something from the past. It’s extremely difficult to present something that people see as unprecedented, especially in the world of pop music. But there are varying degrees of ripping something off. You can be influenced by something, much like Kid A was influenced by a mix of 80’s European techno and classic jazz. You can borrow from something, like Pearl Jam’s ‘Given To Fly’ borrows from Zep’s ‘Going To California.’ Or you can just make a carbon copy and present it as your own, like ‘Ice Ice Baby’ does with ‘Under Pressure.’ This is what Some Nights does with Cecilia. It’s not just the melody, the percussion, or the harmonics. The entire arrangement is exactly the same. They’ve just replaced Simon’s lyrics with Whoa-oh-oh’s.
And that’s another thing. I’m really beginning to hate Whoa-oh-oh’s. This is all Arcade Fire’s fault. When they dropped ‘Wake Up’ on an unsuspecting public, it floored us. It has a chorus so urgent, charging, unyielding, and anthemic it doesn’t even need lyrics. In fact, lyrics would only hurt it. Never before has Oh-ohhhh-oh-whoa-oh-oh meant so much. But now it’s the easiest way for “Indie” bands (and I use quotes because it no longer means Independent. It’s just an arbitrary term applied to music made by people consciously attempting to look poor,) to put their songs in commercials. Anyone seen that Olive Garden commercial? The one about the pasta bowls? The song that, at least in the 30 seconds it plays in the ad, is entirely Whoa-oh-oh’s? I find myself humming that song from time to time. I don’t know who does it, I don’t care to know. The point is I catch myself humming it and instantly think about Olive Garden. It’s effective, and it probably took that band a day to compose. Does that mean it’s good? Of course not. It’s slyly capitalizing on the fact that human beings repeat catchy melodies to themselves in moments of boredom, nervousness, whatever the case, but don’t always remember the words. So why not eliminate the words altogether so that people can mindlessly sing “Whoa-whoa-oh-whoa-ohhhh-oh-whoa” to themselves while they wait for the Olive Garden valet to bring back their Civic? It’s laziness that gets rewarded. It’s not reading the book but getting a B on the book report.
But Some Nights does have lyrics, and this is the main reason I hate the song. The hook of the song, although stolen, is quite anthemic. So this is their anthem song. It contains the line “This is it boys, this means war!/What are we waiting for?” Yeah! Get up and fight! Wait, what are we fighting? The answer to that, unfortunately, won’t be found within the song. In fact the whole thing is a vague admission that he’s bored with what he does for a living, including a line I perceive to refer to the very song he is singing, (“five minutes in and I’m bored again.”) When Bruce Springsteen wrote ‘Dancing In The Dark,’ he was able to present a glossy, commercialized hit about the absolute boredom he felt churning out glossy, commercialized hits. It was clever and surprisingly self-deprecating. I’m not so sure this is fun.’s intention here. The song is all over the place. One moment it’s fighting the world, the next it’s cowering in a corner. I don’t believe this is a clever commentary on the highs and lows of the music industry, or the emotional roller-coaster of our nation’s medicated youth. This is Vague Rock. When you keep your subject matter vague, it can be about anything. This is exactly how Bono can write a hit he first presents as a love letter to his recently-deceased father, and then, a few months later, re-brand it as the official song of the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand. The song is big, catchy, and all about whatever subject will bring it the most exposure. It’s a homing pigeon out to find the YouTube video that will get it on Glee and then off to the Grammys. It’s Amber Rose.
I realize some of you may like the song, and I sincerely don’t mean to offend you. Just give me credit for writing a whole post about why I hate fun. without mentioning the ridiculous way they spell their name. Thank you.
Not every college basketball player has what it takes to become a household name, but a select few resort to the next best thing: Having a name so ridiculous, college fans remember it clearer than the names of certain co-workers or relatives. Here are my top ten favorite REAL college basketball…