This past February, a German shepherd named Rex became a hero after risking his own life and taking three bullets while protecting his 16-year-old owner, Javier Mercado, during an armed robbery of Mercado’s home in Des Moines, Iowa.
Before Rex proved that he was more than deserving of the PETA “Heroic Dog Award,” he had just a few quirks, or, what some might consider to be flaws. Jan Magnuson, an officer for Des Moines animal control, knew Rex pretty well before she was called to help rescue the wounded dog. This was because Rex had a reputation for being a bit of a neighborhood troublemaker.
“We had multiple complaints. Running loose, no valid dog license, aggressive towards neighbors,” said Magnuson. She explained that Rex never bit strangers, but would often charge at unfamiliar people and even bark and growl. After the complaints, the Mercado family worked with Rex to correct his behaviors. They say that, now, he typically remains on a leash, and that his barking is usually just a warning to protect his family.
Magnuson claimed that, after the burglars broke into the home, Rex flipped a switch and became a hero. “He was protecting his home and his family. I am thrilled that he survived. To be honest, when I first saw him, I didn’t think he’d make it,” she explained.
Javier was home alone at the time of the incident. “I heard a really loud banging on the door,” he said. In a state of panic, Javier began to text his family members to see if maybe they were the ones banging on the door. Javier’s brother was at the gym, and both of his parents were at work. He looked out the window and saw a Dodge Charger parked and a man standing at his door. He knew this could only mean trouble.
“I heard the sliding door just shatter,” explained Javier. “I grabbed the closest thing to me. A screwdriver, a little thing, about 8 inches long.” While Javier ran to hide in the walk-in closet and call 911, Rex began barking at the burglars ferociously. Then, Javier heard one of the men shout, “Get the dog! The dog bit me!” Suddenly, four gunshots rang out. Either two or three bullets hit Rex. “He cried every time he got hit,” described Javier.
Once the men began to hear police sirens approaching, they made their escape, leaving with a laptop, a 32-inch TV, shoes, clothes, and several electronics.
Luckily, Rex is set to make a full recovery. The family has since moved out of their Des Moines homes and is currently fundraising to pay for Rex’s medical bills. They couldn’t be happier to have their hero dog back!
On occasion, our favorite actors will put their improvisational skills to the test. They will ad lib lines, some of which became iconic lines in our favorite films. These improvised movie classics take the cake.
Richard Castellano’s Peter Clemenza goes with another henchman of Don Corleone in The Godfather to take out Paulie Gatto for attempting to kill Don Corleone. Instead of simply saying “leave the gun,” Castellano embellished a bit. Following the hit, he says, “leave the gun, take the cannoli.” His words, born from pure genius, have been uttered all over the world.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Marion Ravenwood always seemed to drag Indiana Jones into ominous situations. During Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is chasing after Marion when he runs into a sword-wielding man in black. In the scene, Harrison Ford simply pulls his revolver and shoots the man with one bullet. George Lucas’s script called for a long fight instead of the single bullet. On the day of shooting, Ford had a cold and begged Steven Spielberg to not draw out the fight.
Julia Roberts has long been considered one of the best actresses in Hollywood. No matter how successful she gets, Pretty Woman will always be her crowning achievement. Paired with Richard Gere as he tries to turn her into a classy gal, Roberts absolutely nails the role of Vivian. At one point, he shows her a box with a necklace. When she reaches for it, he snaps it closed, startling Vivian. Gere’s practical joke was unplanned, and Roberts was actually startled.
The Silence Of The Lambs
Anthony Hopkins had been acting for over two decades when he landed his most famous role. As the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, Hopkins brought pure evil to life. In a monologue directed at Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling, Hannibal describes eating a man’s liver with “fava beans and a nice Chianti.” During rehearsals for the scene, Hopkins added a sound effect which would double down on his creepiness. He added the goosebumps-inducing hissing noise.
Full Metal Jacket
R. Lee Ermey is one of the most memorable actors in any of Stanley Kubrick’s films. In Kubrick’s classic Full Metal Jacket, Ermey played a drill sergeant that no one can forget. Incredibly, Ermey, one of the most recalled characters in the film, was not even supposed to be in the film at all. He had sent Kubrick a home video of himself insulting Marines and Kubrick added him to the film. Kubrick would later admit that at least 50% of his dialogue was improvised.
Misspoken lines sometimes lead to the best unscripted lines. On other occasions, an actor’s reaction to things around them will lead to something memorable. In Midnight Cowboy, Dustin Hoffman’s quick reactions may have saved his life even though he went off script. As he and Jon Voight cross a street, a taxi driver failed to see the “street closed for filming” sign and drove through the scene. He almost ran them over, but, in character, Hoffman memorably shouted, “I’m walking here!”
The Third Man
Orson Welles is a legend of the film industry due to Citizen Kane, in addition to the rest of his body of work. In The Third Man, he added an unplanned monologue. He said, “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
This Is Spinal Tap
If you are looking through iTunes, you might find Spinal Tap under artists. However, the band is not real and is the fictional band at the heart of Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap. The mockumentary hilariously follows the British band through their wild rock n’ roll life modeled after 80s hair bands. Stars Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest ad-libbed so many lines in the film they were given writing credits for the film.
Good Will Hunting
A Boston undertaking was around the corner following Good Will Hunting. Boston bros Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, along with director Gus Van Sant, created one of the best films of 1997 and, in turn, also announced their introduction to Hollywood. Comedian/actor Robin Williams put his comedy improv skills to use in one of the final scenes. As he reads a letter with the line “I gotta see about a girl” from Damon, Williams exclaims, “Son of a gun. He stole my line.”
It’s always in the conversation for the greatest gangster movie of all-time, but that does not mean Martin Scorses’s classic Goodfellas rigidly stuck to his script. Due to the brilliance of its all-star cast featuring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta, Scorsese had no issue giving his actors some leeway. In one of the most quotable scenes, Liotta’s Henry Hill tells Pesci’s Tommy DeVito that he is a “funny guy.” Pesci humorously replied unprompted, “Funny how? Do I amuse you?”
When Harry Met Sally
Rob Reiner seems to have no issue with actors making up their lines. His 1989 film, When Harry Met Sally, has become a staple of the rom-com genre. In one scene, Billy Crystal tells Meg Ryan that they will be speaking in a goofy voice the rest of the day. He says various nonsense hoping that she will repeat after him. At one point he says, “I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.” Ryan instantly started laughing, and Reiner kept the line in.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Comedic genius comes in many forms. Throughout his life, Gene Wilder did everything he could to make people laugh (something he did quite well). Reportedly, Wilder only accepted the role of Willy Wonka under the condition he could do his surprise tuck-and-roll entrance in the film. The entrance forces you to quickly judge the then-mysterious Wonka only to reverse your opinion quickly. It was explained as “From that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”
Tom Hanks has decades of memorable roles in the bag, but Forrest Gump will always touch our hearts most. During his introduction to Bubba, Forrest introduces himself by saying, “My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump,” repeating the style that Bubba introduces himself. Hanks tossed the line in himself, and it fit perfectly with his character. Robert Zemeckis, the director, loved the addition and kept it in the final cut. Hanks took home an Oscar for Best Actor for the role.
There are countless hilarious lines written and delivered in the film, but there is one in particular that always stood out – the one where the Waco Kid reassures Bart after the townspeople reveal their hatred toward him. He says, “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.” Wilder improvised the line: “You know…morons,” which caused Cleavon Little to genuinely crack up once hearing the line he never saw coming.
The Empire Strikes Back
Everyone has Star Wars fever thanks to the franchise’s new releases between 2015 and 2017. The 1980 second installment to the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, is widely considered the best film in the franchise. It also has one of the most notorious improvisations of all time. Right before Darth Vader splits up Han Solo and Princess Leia, they passionately kiss. Carrie Fisher looks at Harrison Ford and says, “I love you.” Instead of responding with the expected “I love you too,” Ford replies, “I know.”
A Few Good Men
In fact, the most famous line from the film starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Kevin Bacon does not appear in the script. As Cruise’s character cross-examines Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup looking for the truth, Jessup replies, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Depending on how you look at it, Mel Brooks’ 1974 film Young Frankenstein could be seen as a comedy or a horror film. Since it errs towards a comedy, Marty Feldman tried to have a lot of fun with his role of Igor, the assistant to Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. His memorable line, “What hump?” was not in the script but Brooks loved it anyways. In addition, Feldman would move his hump to different places for comedic effect.
Dumb and Dumber
Harry and Lloyd quickly became America’s favorite idiots following their road trip to Aspen in Dumb and Dumber. Jim Carey had some experience with improv during his time on In Living Color. He had a chance to put it to use during the road trip scene in which they Lloyd makes the most annoying sound in the world. The whole scene was improvised, and the filmmakers have said that 15% of the film was improvised thanks to Jeff Daniels and Jim Carey.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
When Peter Jackson first adapted J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels to the big screen, Viggo Mortensen was yet to become a star truly. The franchise launched him into stardom and even new stars occasionally ad lib a line or two. In an emotional moment when his character Aragorn believes the two hobbits, Merry and Pippin, are dead, Mortensen kicks a helmet out of frustration and yells. The yell was real because Mortensen broke his toe on the helmet.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
In the second Harry Potter film, Harry goes over to Ron Weasley’s house for dinner. He witnesses the differing views of the Weasley parents towards disciplining their children. Molly scolds them for using the enchanted cars as Arthur acts like he wishes he was invited for the ride. According to Chris Rankin, the next line was shot “13 or 14 times, and every time it was something else.” “What exactly is the function of a rubber duck?” made the cut in the end.
Rick Moranis retired from acting in 1997, but that does not mean we have forgotten how talented he was. In Ghostbusters, he plays Louis, Sigourney Weaver’s obnoxious and chatty neighbors. In the early 80s, Moranis was a cast member on Second City TV, so we know he is a world-class comedic improviser. According to director Ivan Reitman, Moranis improvised his entire speech to his party guests in the film. Reitman said, “Rick just made all of it up as he was doing it.”
If you can find a film funnier than Caddyshack, please let us know. Almost 40 years later, we are still rolling on the floor laughing at Bill Murray’s Carl Spackler. Murray is one of the greatest comedians of his generation, and Caddyshack is exhibit A. Murray has always been a great improviser so of course his most famous scene, the Cinderella story bit, was entirely made up. Murray took the stage direction “Carl cuts off the tops of flowers with a grass whip,” and made it a classic.
Since the mid-aughts, Judd Apatow has continuously put out comedy classic after comedy classic. Knocked Up starring Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl is one of his most brilliant features. Rogan must navigate his upcoming fatherhood following a one-night stand gone awry and naturally can’t get out of his own way. Rogan, along with his pals Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, and Martin Starr improved many of their lines including the funny bit about Munich.
Bill Murray is constantly given opportunities to improvise because it comes so naturally to him. He did not have a lead role in Tootsie, but they nonetheless gave him an opportunity to shine spontaneously. Murray plays Dustin Hoffman’s roommate in the 1982 film. At the party scene, Murray went on a huge unwritten monologue following instructions from director Sydney Pollack. No one knew what he would say, but he nailed it anyway. The film made $172 million at the box office.
The Devil Wears Prada
As Miranda Priestly, a magazine editor in The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep put on one of her most memorable performances. Streep nailed the delivery of the line, “Everybody wants to be us.” The thing is, the perfect line was not in the script.
Scorcese is known for telling some of his actors to improvise for various scenes. One of the most famous lines in not only his films, but in film history came organically without a script directive. Not only was Robert De Niro not instructed to say “You talkin’ to me?” in Taxi Driver as Travis Bickle, but he was not given any instruction at all. The script only said, “Bickle speaks to himself in the mirror.” It was up to De Niro to fill in the blank.
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws almost defines the word iconic. The film was so big it spurred the term “blockbuster” for the long lines it drew at movie theaters. After Roy Scheider’s Chief Martin Brody assembles his crew, they go out on the ocean looking for the beach-terrorizing shark. When he realizes that he had been feeding bloody food to a massive great white shark, Brody tells Robert Shaw’s Quint, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” John Williams’ score only amplified the terror.
Before she became one of the hosts on The View, Whoopi Goldberg was an incredibly talented actress. Her performance in the 1990 film Ghost made her into a household name. She earned the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Oda Mae Brown, a psychic. She finds herself in contact with the ghost of Patrick Swayze’s character Sam. Sam asks her to warn his girlfriend Molly (played by Demi Moore) that his killer is still alive. Whoopi added in the line, “Molly, you in trouble, girl.”
Humphrey Bogart is closely associated with his line, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” from the film. Of course, Bogart inserted the line into his dialogue on his own. According to legend, Bogart first used the line in between takes with Ingrid Bergman. He was in the middle of teaching her poker.
The Usual Suspects
No list of films with crazy twists is complete without including The Usual Suspects. One of the most iconic scenes is of a police station perp line-up. During the scene, the actors were given a pass to do what they please to create some comedy. Part of this was due to a character’s flatulence. In addition, the line “in English please,” was improvised by a cop after Benicio Del Toro slurred his words inaudibly.
The Warriors by Walter Hill did okay commercially but gained new legs as a cult classic. At the end of the film, David Patrick Kelly’s antagonist Luther says the most memorable line of the film, “Warriors, come out to play!” Between his tone and the way he is clinking bottles together set a unique tone to his words. He was never told to say the line though. Hill loved the way it came together and kept it in the final cut.
As a filmmaker, you are likely to work with a legendary actor that is known for being difficult. Francis Ford Coppola had the pleasure of working with Marlon Brando (again) in his war epic Apocalypse Now. Brando’s Colonel Kurtz only appears at the end of the film, but improvised a huge chunk of his role. He ad-libbed almost 20 minutes of his dialogue because he refused to memorize his lines. He reportedly once folded up his script into a paper hat and wore it.
It is not often that the star of the film is overshadowed by another character in the final scene. It is even rarer that this would happen to Harrison Ford, but he was in fact upstaged at the end of 1982’s Blade Runner. Rutger Hauer plays Roy Batty, a fugitive replicant, and the film’s antagonist. During his emotional monologue at the end, Hauer started by reading from David Peoples’ script but added his own flair to his speech. It’s now known as the “tears of rain” speech.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Although he has had other strong performances, Ben Stein’s most iconic moment in his career has to have been the ad-libbed economics lesson he taught in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “John Hughes, the director and producer and writer, asked me to ad-lib two scenes,” he said. “When I finished the scene, everyone on the set was gathered around and started applauding. I thought they were applauding because they’d learned something about economics. I later learned they were applauding because it was so boring.”
When it comes to audio commentaries for the DVD releases of his movies, J.J. Abrams always gives a detailed insight into the process behind every creative decision. When Karl Urban said the line “All I’ve got left are my bones” in 2009’s Star Trek reboot, Abrams confessed that line was never actually in the script. In fact, that wasn’t the only ad-lib in the movie. Simon Pegg’s Scotty also made up the line, “Can I get a towel?”
When the late wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper was given carte-blanche to say whatever he wanted during a scene in They Live!, he came up with the line, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum.” “Yeah. I couldn’t tell you what it really means either,” he said in an interview. “It was one of those – ‘Roddy, you’ve got bullets on you, you’ve got a shotgun, you’ve got sunglasses, you go into a bank, you’re not gonna rob it, say something…action!'”
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
One actor on the set of this Indiana Jones sequel noted how funny it was to see Sean Connery perform an ad-lib. “My favorite memory is Sean making up that line, “She talks in her sleep.” It was on the spot,” co-star Julian Glover said. “Harrison said, ‘How did you know she’s a Nazi?’ and he said that, and they had to stop filming. Everybody just fell on the floor and Steven said, ‘Well, that’s in.'”
Shaun Of The Dead
The men behind the hilarious zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, recently discussed a scene that the former completely improvised in the movie. Although Wright was convinced that the improv wouldn’t help move the story forward, he did admit that he couldn’t ignore it when Frost made Simon Pegg laugh with his cheeky adlib. It was just too funny. “‘Cafe au lait’, all that kind of stuff,” Frost said. “‘Cockocidal maniac,’ I think was improvised.”
Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is better known as simply Dr. Strangelove. Stanley Kubrick’s black satire touches on the threat of nuclear war and the paranoia which crippled the people around it. The film started out as Kubrick’s vague idea for a nuclear accident thriller. By using a retro-script filled with a collection of ad-libs, the film had quite a unique feel. Peter Sellers added Dr. Strangelove’s accidental Nazi salute to the character.
Ben Stiller has been a major player in Hollywood’s greatest comedies of the last few decades. As Derek Zoolander, Stiller could play to his greatest strengths as a goofball. When he meets David Duchovny’s JP Prewitt, Stiller perfectly delivers a hilarious and unintended repetition of a line. Duchovny gives a soliloquy responding to Zoolander’s question, “Why male models?” In the end, Stiller asks the question again. Fortunately, Duchovny played off of the comment perfectly, and the film became a comedy classic.
Sometimes, actors and directors are in cahoots when it comes to a shocking addition to a film. In RoboCop, Kurtwood Smith takes a beating by RoboCop in his character as Clarence Boddicker before being taken into police custody. As he approaches a desk, he spits blood on the paperwork laying in front of him. He then shouts, ” Give me my f***in’ phone call!” The line was only discussed with director Paul Verhoeven so the rest of the actors could genuinely react.
Being John Malkovich
Being John Malkovich was the feature film debut for both director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. They both earned plenty of praise and award nominations for their interesting project. The movie is quite unpredictable which boded well with any unexpected events during filming. As they filmed one scene, John Malkovich could not escape the wrath of a drunk extra. The extra threw a can at his head and shouted, “Hey, Malkovich. Think fast!” as Malkovich walks away. He then loudly cussed in real pain.
Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan is arguably the greatest war film ever, capturing all of the horrors of World War II starting with the storming of Normandy Beach. With Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Matt Damon, it was bound to be great. In one quieter scene, Hanks and Damon sit and talk about their lives in America. The scene adds some levity to a heavy film. It also included an ad-libbed anecdote by Damon about catching his brother kissing a girl.
A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick is known for his legendary yet off-kilter projects. A Clockwork Orange is quite the thriller, but is no easy watch. Kubrick was reportedly very disappointed with the many takes of the scene in which Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell) and company break into a woman’s home and attack her. He eventually told McDowell to “Just do whatever you want.” McDowell added his own taste of disturbing to the scene by breaking into song, singing Singing in the Rain throughout the scene.
John Boorman presented quite the thriller in 1972 with Deliverance. The film starred Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty as friends on a trip into the wilderness. When everything goes awry, it becomes a survival mission. The film earned three Academy Award nominations and is memorable for one disturbing scene when one of the characters gets attacked by some hillbillies. One of the attackers yells “squeal like a pig,” and begins to squeal, a line not in the script. Many take credit for its inclusion.
With enormous comedy acting and writing talent behind it, National Lampoon’s Animal House defined frat boy comedies. As the Delta house terrorize Faber College, they bring the laughs by the truckload. John Belushi, a former SNL star, completely improvised a scene in the cafeteria. The camera follows him as he piles food on his tray. When he sits with the bad guys, he puts whipped cream in his mouth, punches his cheeks as it goes everywhere and says, “I’m a zit. Get it?
Yet again, a Stanley Kubrick film finds its way on this list. No scene and line in Kubrick’s films come close to as iconic as the image of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance looking through a hole in the bathroom door as he says, “Here’s Johnny.” After taking on the job of caring for the haunted hotel during the winter, Torrance is driven to insanity. He says the line after breaking through the door with an ax. Nicholson took the line from The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.
The Fugitive has become a cable classic thanks to the intense performances of Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. Jones even picked up an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as U.S. Marshal Deputy Samuel Gerard. Gerard is in pursuit of Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) after he escapes on his way to prison. With Kimble cornered, he says ” I didn’t kill my wife.” Jones was supposed to say “That isn’t my problem,” but instead iconically replied, “I don’t care.”
In 1986, the second chapter in the Alien franchise was released. Aliens starred Sigourney Weaver yet again as Ellen Ripley on a mission into space in which she battles an extraterrestrial beast. Many believe that Aliens is better than its precursor, something that director James Cameron also achieved with Terminator 2. One of the best additions to the cast is Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson. Before his death in 2017, Paxton claimed many of his lines were improvised, including the iconic statement, “Game over, man! Game over.”
The Dark Knight
Superhero movies dominate the big screen every summer, but no super villain has ever been as menacing as Heath Ledger’s Joker. He gave the performance of a lifetime in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Unlike the rest of this list, Ledger is not on here for what he said, but for what he did. In a scene at the police station following the Joker’s arrest, Jim Gordon is promoted to Commissioner. As the applause dies down, only Ledger remains clapping, an action not listed in the script.