Unscripted Movie Ad-Libs That Became Iconic – Part 3

Posted on 17 Jul 00:00


Ad-libs in a movie refer to moments when an actor (or actress) utters words that were not initially included in the script. The lines that are ad-libbed are improvised outside the screenplay. Sometimes characters make sounds that were not scripted, thus forming ad-libs. Many films have been identified by ad-libbed lines uttered by the starring characters. Ad-libs have become significant parts of movies. A mention of an ad-libbed line instantly conjures movie buffs to the classic film with that particular line.

1.  Animal House (1978)

A mere mention of John Belushi’s ad-libbed line, "I'm a zit—get it?’ momentously draws attention to the 1978 'Animal House' film. This comedy is about a trouble-making fraternity that challenges the authority of the Faber college dean, Vernon Wormer (John Wormer). John Belushi (John ‘Bluto), Tim Matheson (Eric ‘Otter’), Thomas Hulce (Larry 'Pinto'), and Stephen Furst (Kent ‘Flounder) are the stubborn fraternity members. Otter flirts with the college’s president’s wife, Mandy, and the members indulge in various college conduct violations and have bad academic standing. They even purpurate a prank that results in the death of Omega’s member’s horse. Their increasing misconduct threatens to cause their fraternity charter to be revoked. To ease the tension, they organize a toga party in which goes wildly out of control giving Wormer a perfect opportunity to expel them.

Director; Douglas Kenney, Harold Ramis, and Chris Miller wrote the script directed by John Landis and produced by Matty Simmons and Ivan Reitman.

Main cast;  John Belushi, Thomas Hulce, Stephen Furst.

Awards and nominations; the film was the first in Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies" in 1977. The Library of Congress deemed it ‘culturally and aesthetically fit,’ and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Grossing; Animal House was filmed with a budget of $3 million but grossed $141 million by the end of the year. It became the highest-grossing film of its time.

2.  When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Billy Crystal’s ad-libbed line, "I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie," diverts one's attention to the 1989 American romantic comedy 'When Harry Met Sally'. Harry and Sally graduate from the University of Chicago and share a drive to New York City. En route, they talk about relationships, and the two have varied opinions. Harry believes that a man and a woman cannot be friends as 'the sex part' eventually intervenes, Sally doesn't agree. While dining, Harry tells Sally that she is attractive; and she reacts angrily to this. According to her, Harry is making a pass, leading to their parting ways on unfriendly terms. After five years, they meet on a flight. Both have moved on; Sally is dating Harry's neighbor Joe, while Harry is engaged to Helen. Harry suggests that they become friends, but they part ways after deciding not to be friends. Six years later, they meet again, and the following events finally lead to the two getting married twelve years and three months after their first meeting.

Director; Rob Reiner directed the film. Together with Andrew Scheinman, they produced the movie from a script written by Nora Ephron.

Main castBilly Crystal (Harry) and Meg Ryan (Sally)

Awards and nominations; the movie received several awards and nominations such as Best Screenplay, Top Box Office Films, Funniest Actor, and Funniest Actress in the Motion Picture.

3.  Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Peter Sellers’ ad-libbed line, "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!" automatically conjures the 1964 black comedy 'Dr. Strangelove'. The movie satirizes the cold war fears instilled by the USA and the Soviet Union's nuclear conflicts. General Ripper (Sterling Hayden) orders Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers) to prepare an alert for an impending attack. Mandrake declines, telling him that there is no planned attack by the Soviet Union. Ripper locks himself in a room and commits suicide. Mandrake recovers Ripper's CRM radio device, and using the three codes, The Pentagon recovers all bomb headed for the Soviet Union, except Major Kong's (Slim Pickens), as missile attacks have destroyed the communication system. It is learned that the soviets have developed a 'Doomsday Machine' that automatically detonates two hours after sensing a nuclear attack on the country. Dr. Strangelove , a nuclear war expert and former Nazi who uses a wheelchair, advises President Muffley to have thousands of people living deep underground where the penetrating radiation cannot reach them. Dr. Strangelove surprises everyone by announcing that he can walk from his wheelchair. The movie ends with nuclear explosions occurring worldwide at the same time Dr. Strangelove makes his announcement.

Director; Stanley Kubrick wrote the script, directed and produced the movie.

Main cast; Peter Sellers (he plays three different roles), Slim Pickens and George Scott.

Awards and nominations; The Library of Congress considered it culturally and aesthetically fit, choosing it for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1993, Dr. Strangelove was ranked number three in the list of funniest American films. It also won BAFTA’s awards for Best Direction of Art and UN Awards.

4.  Good Will Hunting (1997)

Robin Williams’ iconic ad-libbed line, "Son of a b*tch, he stole my line", is a classic from the movie 'Good Will Hunting'. The movie is about a 20-year-old genius, Matt Denom (Will Hunting).  Although he is just a janitor, when professor Lambeau (Stellan John Skarsgård), a mathematics professor, presents students with challenging mathematics, Will anonymously solves the problem, astounding both the lecturer and students. Professor Lambeau connects Will to Sean (Robin Williams), his college roommate, currently a psychology teacher at Bunker Hill College. Through Sean, Will is helped overcome his problems and can finally express himself..

Director; Gus Van Sant directed the film. The screenplay was written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and produced by Lawrence Bender.

Main cast;  Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon.

Awards and nominations;  During the 70th Academy awards, it won the Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay awards. During the Berlin International Film Festival, the film won a Silver Bear for Outstanding Achievement,

Box Office; the movie grossed $225 million from its $10 million budget, making it one of the highest grossing films during its time.

5.  The Shining (1980)

Jack Nicholson’s ad-libbed line, "Heeeeere's Johnny!" conjures the classic 1980 'The Shining' film. This psychological horror film is adapted from Stanly Kubrick's and Diane Johnson's script. Stephen King's 1977 novel entitled 'The Shining' formed the basis for the screenplay. Jack Torrance (Nicholson) takes up a job as a winter caretaker at Overlook Hotel in the Rocky Mountains despite being warned about its reputation by the hotel's manager, Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson). The chief chef, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), and Jack's young son, Danny, have in common, 'the shining' ability to communicate telepathically, and to see into the hotel’s past. Using these powers, Danny learns about Charles Grady, a bartender who killed his family and himself. Hallorann warns Danny about room 237, Danny remains curious about this warning. A month after Torrance's family moves into the hotel, Jack begins to behave erratically, and his outbursts increase. His condition continues to deteriorate. He has a nightmares and screams at his typewriter. When his wife, Wendy (Shelly Duvall), inquires about the problem, Jack says that he saw himself killing Wendy and Danny in the nightmare. Jack goes on a murderous spree and kills Halloran, but Danny and Wendy escape him. Jack gets lost in a hedge maze and freezes to death.

Director; Stanley Kubrick directed and produced The Shining from a script he co-wrote with Diane Johnson.

Main cast; Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrance, Shelly Duvall (Wendy Torrance, Danny Lloyd (Danny Torrance and Scatman Crothers (Dick Hallorann).

Awards and nominations; In 2018, the US Library of Congress considered 'The Shining' to be culturally and aesthetically significant and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was nominated for several awards; Best Director, Best Horror Film, Best Music and won the Saturn Award Best Supporting Actor (Crothers).


6.  Titanic (1997)

Leonardo DiCaprio's ad-libbed line, I’m king of the world!” turns one’s attention to the epic romance and disaster film 'Titanic'. The film is about two young people, DiCaprio (Jack Dawson) and Kate Winslet (Rose DeWitt Bukater), who, although they belong to different social classes, fall in love aboard the ship during its maiden voyage. A survivor of the 1912 Titanic shipwreck, Rose, is brought to narrate how it all happened. Rose got engaged to her fiancé Carl, making her mother, Ruth, and sister happy to now be included in the upper-class. Rose is distraught about this engagement and climbs on the stern, wanting to throw herself overboard. Jack Dawson saves Rose, and the two fall in love, although Jack belongs to the lower class. The ship hits an iceberg. Jack dies of hyperthermia, while Rose survives by holding on to a wooden panel. Presently, Rose throws away the Heart of the Ocean neckpiece at the shipwreck site. Sleeping or dead in her bed, she reunites with Jack in the Titanic’s Grand Staircase and is applauded by those who died during the shipwreck.

Director; James Cameron wrote, directed, co-produced, and co-edited the film.

Main cast; Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

Awards; upon its release in 1997, Titanic was nominated for fourteen awards, and it won eleven, including the awards for Best Picture and Best Director.

Grossing; Titanic was the most expensive movie shot in its time, with a $200 million budget. It grossed $1.84 billion, making it the first movie ever to reach the billion-dollar hallmark.

7.  The Warriors (1979)

David Patrick Kelly’s ad-libbed line, “Warriors, come out to play,” and take's one's attention to the 1979  action thriller film, 'The Warriors'. The storyline is underpinned by Sol Yurick’s 1965 novel called 'The Warriors'. Cyrus, leader of the Gramercy Riff gang, invites the gang to a midnight summit. He proposes a permanent citywide truce and alliance to this team that would allow the group to control the city together. All are happy about this, except Luther, the unbalanced and sadistic leader of the Rogues, who shoots Cyrus. Luther realizes that Fox, one of the Warriors, has seen him, and so he lies that it’s the Warrior gang that has killed Cyrus, leading to an attack on the warlord, Cleon. The gang witnesses tough times in the hands of the police officers and other gangsters. The truth is finally known when a member of another gang tells Swan, a radio DJ, that it's Luther who killed Cyrus. The attacks are called off.

Director; David Shaber and Walter Hill wrote a script that came to be produced by Lawrence Gordon and directed by Walter Hill.

Main cast; Roger Hill (Cyrus), David Patrick Kelly (Luther) and Michael Beck (Swan),

Awards and nominations; None.


Ad-libs have formed significant parts of films. The ad-libs refer to moments when a character speaks words that are not included in the main script. These lines are so essential that at their mention, attention quickly shifts to the movie with the ad-libbed lines. 

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