One of the key tools of modern comedy filmmaking is improv, and we have talked a lot about this at Co.Create. While a tight script is great for getting a movie green-lit, one of the foundations of comedy is spontaneity. According to a new round-up of the greatest improv’d movie scenes of all time, though, it’s also one of the keys to great drama.
Created by the movie-obsessed YouTubers at CineFix, “Top 10 Improvised Scenes in Movie History” includes the famously unscripted Spinal Tap and a selection from Judd Apatow’s off-the-cuff crew, but also looks beyond toward a wealth of well-known non-comedic roles. Marlon Brando’s dark, haunted rant in Apocalypse Now, for instance, was invented by the actor and coached by director Francis Ford Coppola. Other dramatic scenes include the climactic confessional at the end of The Breakfast Club, in which all the characters reveal their backstories (as dreamed up by the actors).
In addition to giving viewers a new appreciation for these actors’ talents, and these directors’ foresight, this video also offers a bunch of trivia that will make great anecdote-fodder at your next bar birthday party. Apparently, the immortal “How am I funny?” scene from Goodfellas is the result of Joe Pesci passing on to Martin Scorsese a half-remembered story about an offended gangster. The director decided to have Pesci and Liotta recreate this story in his movie, but he neglected to tell the other actors on set as much.
Of course, the No. 1 in this top 10 is unfortunately timely–which was perhaps the inspiration for putting this compilation together right now. The recently departed Robin Williams never met a script that he couldn’t manage to leave his personal stamp on. The clip ends with a series of Williams’s best-remembered lines that were his own contributions. If you didn’t know these were his ideas already, it may be a surprise, but if you’ve enjoyed what he was capable of over the years, it shouldn’t be.