A tremendous amount of time, effort, and money are put into scripting films. Despite that, sometimes the best and most memorable moments come from a little bit of spontaneity. Here are some examples of great comedic moments (and genuine human reactions) that never appeared in any screenplay.
1. Annie Hall // The Cocaine Sneeze
The script for Annie Hall didn’t call for one of the greatest jokes in the film, which is packed start-to-finish with them. Woody Allen decided to just give the gag a try as the camera rolled and you can see Diane Keaton’s reaction, as she immediately buries her face in her hands.
2. The 40-Year-Old Virgin // The Chest Wax Scene
One of the most memorable scenes in The 40-Year-Old Virgin occurs when Steve Carell takes a friend’s advice and decides to have his chest professionally waxed. While the scene itself was planned, the camera captures Carell’s true reaction to having hair ripped off of his body for the first time in his life. The pained reactions of the other actors in the scene are also genuine. Click here if you’d like to see an extremely NSFW account of the filming of that scene.
3. Zoolander // Why Male Models?
As David Duchovny’s character explains an international assassination plot involving the fashion industry, Ben Stiller’s character, Derek Zoolander, asks “Why male models?” prompting Duchovny to explain the entire conspiracy. The second time that Stiller asks “Why male models?” it’s because he actually just forgot his next line. Duchovny’s response worked perfectly, so the filmmakers kept it in.
4. Dr. Strangelove // Mein Führer
At the very end of this Stanley Kubrick classic, the titular wheelchair-bound character miraculously stands up and proclaims that he can walk. This scene was an unscripted moment added by the legendary Peter Sellers.
5. Caddyshack // The Cinderella Story
In the clip above, Caddyshack writer-director Harold Ramis explains the genesis for the famous “Cinderella Story” scene starring Bill Murray’s inept assistant groundskeeper, Carl Spackler.
6. Dumb and Dumber // The Most Annoying Sound in the World
“You wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” Well, the film’s screenwriters apparently didn’t because this line and the ensuing screech that Lloyd Christmas lets out were not in the script—they just sprung wildly from the twisted mind of Jim Carrey.
7. Pretty Woman // The Necklace Case
It’s perhaps the most famous (and parodied—see here and here) moment from the 1990 megahit rom-com, but Richard Gere was never supposed to snap that necklace case closed on Julia Roberts’s hand. He did it on a whim and her genuine, startled reaction and laugh were too good for the filmmakers to leave out of the final product.
8. Shaun of the Dead // The Crowd at the Winchester
Early in this zombie comedy classic, Nick Frost’s character, Ed, tries to convince his depressed buddy Shaun just how interesting the people all around them really are. When Shaun asks for evidence, Frost begins improvising the backstories of several of their favorite tavern’s colorful customers. Check out his off-the-cuff work beginning at the 1:24 mark of this NSFW clip.
9. 50/50 // The Shaved Head Scene
Throwing out an ad-libbed line of dialogue is one thing; shaving off all the hair on your head is a whole new level of improvisation. According to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, the scene where Gordon-Levitt’s cancer-stricken character buzzes his head was completely unplanned.
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest // The Jar of Dirt
Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow was apparently not supposed to fall down the stairs. But he manages to hop right back up and continue the scene by breaking out into a bit of improvised singing about his mystical jar of dirt.
11. Good Will Hunting // The Farting Wife
Sure, it’s cheating to include this clip since Good Will Hunting isn’t technically a comedy. But since it stars master improviser Robin Williams, it fits nicely here. The entire story Williams tells about his sleeping wife’s penchant for noisy gas was completely improvised. Matt Damon is a great actor, but even he couldn’t have faked a reaction that genuine.