Remember the scene where Richard Gere gives a necklace to Julia Roberts? The actress was holding her hand out to take it when Richard suddenly shut the box. This wasn’t in the script, just like Julia’s reaction.
There’s a scene in this movie where Joe Bradley pretends that the Mouth of Truth has bitten off his hand. It was pure improvisation on the part of Gregory Peck, and Audrey Hepburn’s reaction was authentic.
From Dusk Till Dawn
George Clooney used to joke about his hopeless bachelor status, not only in real life but in movies too. For instance, in From Dusk Till Dawn, when Salma Hayek laid him on his back, put her heel on his chest, and said she’d make him her slave, George improvised with a phrase, "No thanks! I’ve been married."
In one of the most memorable scenes where Vito Corleone explains his idea of friendship to the undertaker Bonasera, he’s holding a cat in his lap. It turned out the animal wasn’t a part of the plot — it wandered onto the film set, and Marlon Brando simply took it in his hands.
"Here’s Johnny!" said Jack Nicholson’s character while hacking his way into the bathroom with an ax. The scene has become iconic, yet it was totally impromptu: the actor took the phrase from Johnny Carson who began his show with it every night.
Every fan of Die Hard must remember the death scene of the antagonist, portrayed by Alan Rickman: he realizes his plan is ruined while falling down from the roof of a building. It turns out that the director suddenly pushed the actor to the green screen, catching him unawares — and that’s why it all came to be so realistic.
Another improvisation by Jack Nicholson. When shooting the scene of a conversation between his character and DiCaprio’s, he suddenly took out a pistol, scaring Leo noticeably. There’s a reason, though, why everyone loves DiCaprio: he managed to use the unexpected emotions to his advantage, and the scene turned out to be even better than in the script.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Schwarzenegger’s character isn’t the most talkative guy, and that’s probably why the actor decided to make the script a bit better. The phrase that has since become iconic, "I need a vacation," wasn’t in the script initially — it was Arnold’s idea, and James Cameron left it in the final cut.
Lost in Translation
If you’ve seen this movie by Sofia Coppola, then you probably remember the final scene with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. The script had the characters just holding each other in their arms, but it came out differently: first Murray whispered something in Scarlett’s ear, and then they even kissed.
Good Will Hunting
Robin Williams was the king of improvisation thanks to his standup background. In Good Will Hunting he tells Matt Damon’s character a story about his departed wife, who’d had bowel issues, sometimes broke wind, and once even woke herself up.
Williams invented this whole story on the go. By the way, not only Damon was laughing: you can notice that the image shakes a bit — it’s the cameraman giggling too.
Léon: The Professional
Gary Oldman is also a huge lover of improvisations, and this was of particular success during the shooting of Léon: his talk with Mathilda’s father was impromptu and aimed to make the opponent nervous. The Beethoven story was made up on the spot. In fact, each take was a different one.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Johnny Depp had worked hard on his image of Captain Jack Sparrow and wasn’t afraid to experiment. In the second movie, Sparrow’s song and dance about the jar of dirt was completely made up. He also improvised several iconic phrases, among which “Now bring me that horizon“ and a rhetorical question, ”You’re not a eunuch are you?"