Improvisation isn’t solely found on the stage or in a comedy club. Although the continually changing environment of the theater is a ripe field for amazing improv moments, a more structured environment can still yield amazing results. On a movie set, you often have the luxury of doing multiple takes of a scene, often the directors will demand it. However, some improvisational scenes are so fantastic they made the final cut and are present in the films we can watch today.
Considered one of the most impressive and notable films of all time. The film is filled to the brim with love, action, and tension. The chemistry of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman was ripe for a plethora of memorable one-liners. The most famous being their emotional goodbye, that is found nowhere in the script.
The Dark Knight
By far one of Christopher Nolan’s most notable films, The Dark Knight has some of the best improvisational scenes in modern movie history. The film includes an incredibly impressive and spine-tingling performance by Heath Ledger as the prolific villain, the Joker. Ledger actually improvised a considerable portion of his scenes, and Nolan kept a good amount of them in the final cut. One example is when the Joker, who is locked in a cell, sarcastically claps for Gordon’s promotion. The clapping was not in the original script, but Nolan liked it so much that he kept it in the final cut of his film.
The Shining, originally a novel penned by Stephen King, set a huge standard for the horror genre in both print and on the big screen. The movie includes an electrifying performance from Jack Nicholason as a father who slowly descends into madness in the haunted Overlook Hotel, where he and his family are caretakers over the harsh winter. The most famous line from the Shining comes from a scene where Jack is attempting to break through a door to attack his wife, Wendy. He sticks his head into the gap and yells out, “Here’s Johnny!” Which was never contained in the script. The improvised line has become a pop-culture staple in the film industry.
Improv scenes aren’t just for moments when a scene takes an unexpected turn or a line is forgotten. They often come out of an actor’s ability to adapt and become part of the moment. Whether it’s the stage or a movie set, improv always has a place in an actor’s heart.