A well-received comment at Why don't rebels take Stormtroopers' armor? says, regarding the original Star Wars:

Luke couldn't see a thing in that helmet because it didn't fit him, literally, that was an unscripted line Mark Hamill said when he didn't know the cameras were still rolling.

I didn't know that. How much of the spoken dialogue* in any of the Star Wars movies was improvised, either intentionally or unintentionally like this? "Star Wars movies" includes episodes 1-7 and Rogue One. I can limit it to the original trilogy if that's too broad. Lines in deleted scenes also count.

(*or physical actions the actors might have done that weren't scripted but it's documented that the director said to leave it in)

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    Off the top of my head, Han's "I know" to Leia and his dialogue over the com about manufacturing blasters on the Death Star were both improvised. Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 0:38
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    You'd be amazed what random production events make it into the final cut. In It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey points his drunk uncle towards his uncle's house and sends him off-screen. There's suddenly a terrific crash. A stage hand dropped some film pans. The actor playing the uncle then yells "I'm alright! I'm alright!" from off-screen. It was so amusing, it was kept in the movie.
    – Machavity
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 17:09
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    Also, famously, in The Sound of Music's scene when Maria is approaching the Von Trapp home for the first time after being hired, she's singing and trying to encourage herself about the new assignment when she almost falls on her face. Julie Andrews actually tripped while filming, and the timing was so serendipitous that they kept the take (source: DVD extra feature) Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 5:45

1 Answer 1


Just to point out

Q: Did you ad lib Han's famous line "I know"?

A: It's not really an ad lib, it was a suggestion, and movie making's a real collaborative process at its best. You don't ad lib it, you suggest it and then you try something in rehearsal and then you agree. So it was my suggestion, because I thought it was more of a character line than what was written, but the director and Carrie and I all thought it was a good idea at the time so we did it.
AMA with Harrison Ford

That said, the following are generally accepted to be unscripted lines.

Episode 4

"I can't see a thing in this helmet"
Mark Hamill

"Everything is under control. Situation normal. [What happened?] Uh... had a slight weapons malfunction. But, uh, everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine We're all fine here, now, thank you. How are you? [We're sending a squad up.] Uh, uh, negative. We had a reactor leak here now. Give us a few minutes to lock it down. Large leak... very dangerous."
Han Solo [with responses]

Episode 5

"I know"
Han Solo

Episode 7

"So who talks first? You talk first? I talk first?"
Poe Dameron

Rogue One

"Quiet! And there's a fresh one if you mouth off again."

"I'll be there for you. The captain said I had to."

"Are you kidding me? I'm blind!"
Chirrut Imwe

It should be noted, the ad libbed nature of Han's conversation with the intercom in Episode 4 is because Ford deliberately failed to memorize those lines. He wanted it to feel more panicked and authentic. Presumably he had a general idea of what the script was, but obviously didn't follow it perfectly.

Its is "known" that Lucas dislikes improvisation and wants his actors to stick to the script. This could account for more ad libbed lines in the Original Trilogy than the Prequels (when he was a much bigger name). I could not find any definitive source for this assertion though. Perhaps it is telling that all intentionally on-camera improv was Ford, as Hamill and Fisher were both young and less likely to push pack.

Ford has spoken about how hard it was to get Lucas to change his mind about the script. Supposedly the "I know" line was Ford's idea and it was like pulling teeth to get Lucas to allow him to use it instead of the original line which, according to Lawrence Kasdan's original handwritten draft that he donated to the Writer's Guild of America, was "Just remember that, 'cause I'll be back".

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    So glad Ford was able to convince Lucas. The original line is horrible. Which script did you pull that from? Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 19:47
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    Lawrence Kasdan's original handwritten draft that he donated to the Writer's Guild of America.
    – amflare
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 19:54
  • Only one of my most hated, atmosphere breaking lines from ep 7 was ad-libbed? Darn.
    – n_b
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 19:29

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