You may expect big-budget superhero movies that can make over a billion dollars at the box office to be scripted within an inch of their lives. However, filmmakers behind some of Marvel’s biggest movies are actually a little more open to improvisation than you’d think. Here’s a look at 40 times that a completely off-the-cuff quip, remark or gesture made it past the editing suite.
40. Thunderbolt Ross’ post-credit sequence
Like many scenes involving Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk’s end credits sequence was entirely improvised. Indeed, William Hurt, who plays Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, once revealed that his character’s chat with Tony Stark wasn’t actually scripted. The only guidance they were likely to have been given was to reference the “new team” the pair were putting together – aka the Avengers.
39. Hawkeye’s quip
Hawkeye and Quicksilver are constantly warring with each other, albeit in a brotherly kind of manner. So it’s easy to see why the former would joke about shooting the latter with his bow and arrow in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But you may not know that the line, “Nobody would know… last I saw him, Ultron was sitting on him,” came on the fly from actor Jeremy Renner.
38. Peggy Carter’s invasion of personal space
Hayley Atwell left Chris Evans fans green with envy with her natural reaction to seeing him shirtless in Captain America. The actress, who played Peggy Carter, reaches out to touch his pecs when his Steve Rogers character transforms from a dweeb into a musclebound hero. But her quick fondle wasn’t actually in the script.
37. Odin’s roar
The look of shock upon Tom Hiddleston’s face in Thor when Anthony Hopkins’ Odin unleashes his growl was entirely real. The moment in question occurs when Thor is banished by the Asgardian ruler. As Hiddleston’s Loki attempts to stand up for Thor, Odin makes an animalistic noise that Hopkins conjured on the spot.
36. The shawarma meal
Robert Downey Jr. is one of the M.C.U.’s most prolific improvisers. So it’s no surprise to learn that he was responsible for the Avengers all tucking into some shawarma during finale of their first big screen adventure. The actor’s character Tony Stark suggested that the team all enjoy some Middle Eastern cuisine following the scene in which he is saved from certain death by the Hulk.
35. The hammer of Thor resting on a coat rack
Humor is a vital part of the Thor movies and Chris Hemsworth has been responsible for many of their funniest moments. And in The Dark World, the superhero faces the ultimate question – where exactly does one store a magical hammer? The Aussie actor decided that the best place for such a tool was to hang it on a coat rack – much to the cast and crew’s amusement. And it seems that his on-the-fly decision stayed in the film.
34. Tony Stark’s stash of blueberries
Robert Downey Jr. sure didn’t let the filming of a big-budget blockbuster get in the way of his snack time. Indeed, while shooting The Avengers, he would reportedly hide food around the set which he could retrieve in between takes. And this squirrel-like behavior ended up making it into the film when Tony Stark offers Bruce Banner and Captain America one of the blueberries that Downey Jr. had stashed.
33. Star-Lord’s disappointment
In a rather meta move, Chris Pratt decided to acknowledge the initial unfamiliarity audiences had with the Guardians of the Galaxy gang. Indeed, in the first installment of the superhero adventure, Star-Lord is left disappointed after being captured – and it’s not just because he’s lost his freedom. Indeed, he seems far more bummed out by the fact that his captors don’t have any idea who he is.
32. “Buncha jackasses”
“Now I’m standing, you all happy? We’re all standing up now. Buncha jackasses standing in a circle.” This is one of the most memorable one-liners from the first Guardians of the Galaxy. But it didn’t come from its scriptwriters. Indeed, director James Gunn’s brother Sean – who stood in for Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket Raccoon in the film’s early stages – delivered the quip spontaneously for the scene in which Star-Lord attempts to motivate his troop.
31. Venom’s lobster tank plunge
Okay, so this particular example took a bit more preparation than your average spot of improvisation. But the Venom scene in which the titular superhero plunges into a lobster tank did come from the mind of star Tom Hardy. The British actor decided he wanted to join the crustaceans after seeing the tank for the first time on set. And after a bit of reorganization his wish was granted.
30. Deadpool and Dopinder’s conversation
The final conversation between Dopinder and wisecracking Deadpool in the latter’s first cinematic outing was entirely unscripted. The scene in question sees the hero’s chauffeur reveal that he’s kidnapped his love rival Bantu and trapped him in the trunk of his taxi cab. Furthermore, he also plans to kill him.
29. Doctor Strange’s name game
One of Doctor Strange’s funniest scenes sees the titular character reel off a list of celebrities known by just one name during a conversation with sidekick Wong. Adele, Eminem, Bono and Beyoncé are all mentioned by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who devised the name game on the spot. Wong is then discovered enjoying Beyoncé’s massive hit, “Single Ladies,” later on in the film.
28. Ant-Man’s conversations with the ex
It’s probably easier to list which bits of dialogue in Ant-Man’s first outing did actually come from the scriptwriters. Indeed, a number of scenes featuring Michael Pena’s storyteller were actually improvised. And Paul Rudd, Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale also got plenty of chances to let loose during the conversations between Ant-Man, his ex and her new partner.
It’s one of the most recognizable lines in the M.C.U. It’s also credited with developing Tony Stark’s character and for setting the tone of the many, many films that emerged in its wake. And yet, “I Am Iron Man,” was a simple ad-lib from the mind of Robert Downey, Jr.
26. The beard chat
During the filming of Avengers: Infinity War, an on-set Entertainment Tonight reporter wrote about an improvised conversation between Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth. The scene saw Captain America and Thor compare facial hair, with the former commenting, “Short hair now? Good choice,” and the latter replying, “Yours too. The beard very rugged.” Incredibly, this beard chat made in into the final edit.
25. “Why is Gamora?”
Dave Bautista proved that there’s brains to go with his brawn while filming Avengers: Infinity War. After Peter Quill asks, “Where’s Gamora?” and Tony Stark replies, “I’ll do you even better, who is Gamora?” Bautista’s Drax then joins in with the line, “I’ll do you one better: why is Gamora?” Screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus later revealed that Bautista came up with his meme-spawning line on his own.
24. “Hey Auntie”
In an interview to promote the Oscar-nominated Black Panther, Angela Bassett was asked to “audition” for the part of Killmonger. It was here that the actress also revealed that the man who plays the character in the film was responsible for his most iconic line. Indeed, the supervillain’s “Hey Auntie” quip came from the mind of actor Michael B. Jordan.
23. “Please be a secret door”
In the Avengers’ second cinematic outing, Tony Stark thinks aloud with the wish, “Please be a secret door, please be a secret door.” Luckily, for the billionaire inventor, there was indeed a secret door right in front of him. But it was Robert Downey Jr. who decided to add a bit of cosmic ordering to the scene.
22. Captain Stacy’s quip about Godzilla
The Amazing Spider-Man’s cast were encouraged by director Marc Webb to improvise throughout the film’s shoot. And Denis Leary, aka Captain Stacy, made sure he didn’t waste such an opportunity. After being warned by Peter Parker about the Godzilla-esque creature threatening the city, the disbelieving cop replies, “Do I look like the mayor of Tokyo?”
21. Star-Lord’s Thanos joke
In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos is tied up by Dr. Strange, Peter Parker and Tony Stark before Star-Lord appears on the scene to offer a well-timed quip. “I thought you’d be hard to catch,” utters the Guardians of the Galaxy hero, before adding, “for the record, this is my plan.” This particular line gets plenty of laughs but was thought of on the spur of the moment by Chris Pratt.
20. Thor’s cup throwing
If you look at the other actors around the table when Thor throws his cup onto the ground in his first movie, you’ll notice they nearly jump out of their seats. And that’s because they had no idea that Chris Hemsworth was going to indulge in a spot of crockery smashing. The Aussie took everyone by surprise after his character finished his first coffee, before also hilariously adding the line, “Another.”
19. Peter Parker’s web tests
Tobey Maguire took full advantage of director Sam Raimi’s fondness for improvisation while shooting the first Spider-Man. As Peter Parker tests out his powers for the first time on a skyscraper roof, the actor delivered an array of off-the-cuff catchphrases inspired by several other superheroes. These included Captain Marvel (“Shazam”) and Superman (“Up, up and away web”).
18. “He’s a friend from work”
Chris Hemsworth may have delivered the hilarious “He’s a friend from work” line in Thor: Ragnarok. But he can’t take the credit for conceiving it. In fact, the ad-lib actually came from the mind of a youngster from the Make-A-Wish Foundation who had chatted to the actor earlier in the day.
17. “Adults are talking”
Both Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. proved they were quick-thinking actors during the Avengers: Infinity War scene in which they rescue Doctor Strange from the Black Order. Holland came up with the “I’m back up” line on the spur of the moment. But not to be outdone, Downey Jr. then responded, “The adults are talking.”
16. Odin’s banishment speech
Anthony Hopkins is regarded by some as one of the greatest thespians of his generation. So it makes sense that Thor director Kenneth Branagh would allow the Oscar-winner to put his own mark on his character. Indeed, the emotive speech that Odin delivers as he banishes Thor from one of the Nine Realms was improvised by the esteemed Welshman.
15. Spider-Man’s final Infinity War scene
Spoiler alert. In one of the most tearjerking moments in the M.C.U.’s history, Spider-Man crumbles to dust in front of everyone’s eyes following Thanos’ snap in Avengers: Infinity War. And the guy who played him, Tom Holland, sure helped to heighten the emotions. Indeed, the youngster’s final line in the film, “I don’t want to go,” was improvised by Holland following a bit of guidance from director Joe Russo.
14. Wiping away Dr. Strange’s tear
In one particular Dr. Strange scene, the titular – and on this occasion emotional – hero is comforted by his own clothing. Indeed, the mystical relic known as the Cloak of Levitation dabs the doctor’s cheeks to wipe away his tears. Dr. Strange might not appreciate the cloak’s interference, but the man who plays him, Benedict Cumberbatch, was responsible for the idea.
13. “That man is playing Galaga”
“That man is playing Galaga.” Out of nowhere, Tony Stark reveals that one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives is playing the Japanese arcade classic instead of doing his work in the first Avengers movie. This throwaway line wasn’t actually in the script. But director Joss Whedon was so impressed by it that he later superimposed an image of the game on the man’s screen.
12. “Another broken white boy for us to fix”
“Great! Another broken white boy for us to fix.” Delivered by Letitia Wright’s Shuri when she sees T’Challa returning with Ross, this was one of the funniest lines in Black Panther. And it was all Wright’s doing. The British actress uttered the quip after getting permission from director Ryan Coogler first.
11. Thor’s request for help
“I’m very lucky to have someone around who’s very invested in the emotionality of the scenes, but wants to have fun.” Those are the words of Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi in an interview with Empire magazine. This was, of course, a reference to Chris Hemsworth, whose “Get help” quip was just one of many improvised lines.
10. M’Baku’s animal noises
One of Black Panther’s most memorable moments occurs when M’Baku lets out various animalistic noises during negotiations with several of the main characters. And actor Winston Duke added this quirk himself. But importantly it makes sense, considering that the tribe M’Baku belongs to is renowned for being in touch with nature.
9. “I’m gonna sit here, so you move the leg”
While filming a Captain America: Civil War scene, Tom Holland couldn’t remember where exactly his character was supposed to be. But rather than stopping the shoot, a quick-thinking Robert Downey Jr. managed to inform the youngster where to sit while staying in character. His instructions, “I’m gonna sit here, so you move the leg,” fitted so well into the scene that it made it into the movie.
8. Thor’s childhood snake story
Chris Hemsworth sure was allowed to use his imagination while shooting Thor: Ragnarok. The Aussie was asked to create as many childhood stories about his time with Loki as possible by director Taiki Waititi. Hemsworth came up with six overall, with his tale about the snake deemed to be the most effective.
7. Tony Stark’s non-hug
While filming in the back of a car for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tom Holland decided that his Peter Parker character could do with a hug from Tony Stark. However, Robert Downey Jr. was having none of it. And after the pair appeared to embrace, the actor improvised the line, “It’s not a hug. I’m just grabbing the door for you. We’re not there yet.”
6. Bruce Banner touching the cradle
Mark Ruffalo might not necessarily be as renowned for ad-libbing as much as the rest of his Marvel superhero colleagues. But the man who plays the Incredible Hulk has had the odd on-set brainwave. During Bruce Banner’s abandoned house meeting with Black Widow in The Avengers, Ruffalo decided to touch the baby cradle to give the scene a bit more resonance.
5. The war chants
One of Avengers: Infinity War’s most spellbinding moments occurs just before the battle of Wakanda truly kicks off. Here, the Jabari and Wakandan tribes start chanting in a manner that instantly takes the viewer’s breath away. And yet the collective cries of “Wakanda Forever” were apparently improvised by the cast of warriors.
4. Star-Lord’s middle finger
Guardians of the Galaxy’s Chris Pratt got particularly cheeky during the scene in which Star-Lord attempts to get to grips with a new piece of tech equipment. “Oh, I’m sorry… I didn’t know how this machine worked,” apologizes the leather-jacketed hero to the watching corpsmen. By this point the character has made his feelings clear by sneakily raising his middle finger.
3. Deadpool’s avocado line
If you cast comedian T.J. Miller in your film, then you should expect to hear plenty of improvised and often downright filthy one-liners. And the comedian didn’t disappoint when he showed up in Deadpool. Indeed, Miller is responsible for one of the movie’s best quips, “You look like an avocado had sex with an older, more disgusting avocado.”
2. Wolverine’s invitation
Wolverine’s screen time in X-Men: First Class was brief. In fact, it was little more than 20 seconds. But Hugh Jackman ensured that his character still made an almighty impact. As Magneto and Xavier approach the hero in a bar to sell him on the X-Men concept, Wolverine simply responds, “Go f*** yourselves.” Jackman reportedly thought of this charming comeback on the spot.
1. Star-Lord’s Jackson Pollock quip
Chris Pratt appeared to have been given free rein while filming Guardians of the Galaxy on multiple occasions. Alongside his middle finger gesture and meta reference to his character’s lack of fame, the actor also came up with the film’s filthiest line, “If I had a blacklight, this place would look like a Jackson Pollock painting.” Even director James Gunn was reportedly shocked it made it into the final version.