In my review of the recent comedy 30 Minutes or Less I talk a little bit about improvisation and films and the delight many actors take in departing from the script in a moment of inspiration. In that movie I thought the excessive improvisation actually did the film more harm than good as it distracted from the comedy rather than adding to it. I thought it would be appropriate to re-post the recent YouTube hit from Awards Daily featuring what one user deems the “25 Greatest Unscripted Scenes in Movies,” which features numerous examples of improvisation done correctly.
The video features many iconic scenes that have fully improvised dialogue like the Drill Sargent tirade in Full Metal Jacket or the “I know you’re gay because…” back and forth from The 40-Year Old Virgin. The best cinematic improvisations come from masters like Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman who were students of Sanford Meisner and know how to use improv to make their lines as truthful as possible. Some of the moments are kind of silly for their inclusion (The Dark Knight) and others deserve to be ranked much higher (Dr. Strangelove). However, it will certainly make you smile to see the brilliant antics of the great Bill Murray.
Great moments of improvisation that were not included include Marlon Brando’s performance in Apocalypse Now, where Francis Ford Coppola said he barely even read the script and Sacha Baron Cohen’s antics in Borat, where the whole film was essentially improvised with a miraculously straight face.
Do you have a favorite improvised scene that was not included in the above video?