Who doesn’t like a good rousing speech or monologue in a movie? There are those that get your blood rushing, those that make you think and those that just leave you speechless. Acting like stage-play asides in which characters tell the audience exactly what and how they think, it is always risking dedicating time to a monologue. The right voice must carry it, the words must hit the right notes and it must be preformed by the right actor. The following 10 actors do their parts remarkably, giving the proper gravity and emotional heft to the words in the script. Insuring that they have the proper impact and resonance for their audience.
Any online media sites, like youtube, always have slews of movie monologues and speeches uploaded because people clearly gravitate towards them. Words delivered powerfully can change, shape and mold perceptions. They are able to condense our feelings and wants into something tangible; the sound of a great orator.
Honorable Mention: “I have been reborn” from Michael Clayton
I have to highlight Tom Wilkinson’s opening rant in Tony Gilroy’s 2007 ethical lawyer drama, in which Tom Wilkinson’s Arthur Edes suffers a crisis of morality during a high-profile civil lawsuit. He calls his one true friend Michael Clayton in order to finally spill his guts on what he has been doing for nearly all his life as a defender of shady and deadly business practices. It is a highlight performance in a career full of them, this is the way to open a movie.
10). JFK: “It’s up to you”
Many a great speech has come from courtroom arguments and speeches in film, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Few Good Men, Judgement at Nuremberg to name a few. It is Oliver Stone’s controversial Masterpiece JFK that grand sweeping speechifying has never been better. Kevin Costner plays New Orleans Attorney Jim Garrison as he uncovers a vast conspiracy that assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Kevin Costner, in one of his finest acting moments, delivers the best closing argument in a cinematic courtroom scene at the trial of one the people he believes is an integral part of the conspiracy.. His passion for his cause is undeniable as his voice cracks at several points talking directly to the jurors, and the film’s audience itself, about the importance of fighting and asking for the truth.
9). Good Night and Good Luck: “…merely wires and lights in a box”
In George Clooney’s second directorial effort legendary radio and t.v personality Edward R. Murrow has a war of words with the 1950’s communist crusader Senator Joe McCarthy. David Strathairn shines in his portrayal of the broadcaster, and he is at his absolute best reciting Murrow’s own words. The Speech that bookends the film is the highlight of the many great speeches that he delivers as he calls for a the news and media at large to better inform it’s audience, the general public, of the real issues hitting the world. His want for a greater purpose for the greatest communication device at the time echoes all the way to present day.
8). Talk Radio: “Why do you keep calling?”
The monologue that inspired the making of this list, with an outstandingly witty Eric Bogosian playing Dallas shock-jock Barry in Oliver Stone’s 1988 criminally forgotten Talk Radio. Barry goes live late at night 5 days a week and listens to the masses whine, complain, make cringe-worthy social commentary and overall spout vile and anger at the host. Through it all Barry just shoots it all right back at them with the same vigor, it is what he is best at. But a man can only take so much crap before he is pushed to the limit, and it is there when Barry finally breaks down and asks his listeners exactly why do they keep doing this to him every night over and over again. It is one of the finest film character breakdowns ever, as he pleads for people to stop with constant din of negativity.
7). Persona: “…I went to the beach alone.”
Ingmar Bergman’s 1967 surreal identity masterpiece Persona features two of the very best female performances he ever directed. Bibi Andersson plays Alma a kindly nurse treating actor Elisabeth Vogler, Liv Ullmann, for a seemingly sudden mental breakdown while performing. When the two are sent to a seaside cottage in order to aid in Elisabeth Vogler’s recovery, Alma tries to break the ice and relate to her patient by recounting an erotic escapade she had years ago. Bergman masterfully decided not to actually show the scene allowing Andersson’s narration to do all the work as she recalls her sexual encounter in graphic detail. Some audiences and critics have stated it is the most erotic scene ever captured on film regardless of what is not shown, and it’s hard to argue with them.
6). Patton: “We’re going to go through them like crap through a goose!”
Just as with courtroom movies many a great speech has been made in war movies. It is in Patton that George C. Scott gives the best ever as the titular legendary WWII General. It is the first instance we have that Scott was born to be the titular leader of men. The speech that begins the film has been parodied the world over for it’s over-the-top grandiose saber rattling. Nonetheless, this is how men win Oscars, and then not attend the ceremony out of spite for the ‘meat-market’ that it is.
5). Network: “You have Meddled with Primal Forces of Nature, Mr. Beale!”
With a film full of quotable lines, bitting satire and social commentary it’s hard to choose the best moment. However, Arthur Jensen’s, Ned Beatty, delivers that in his grand rant to Howard Beale, Peter Finch, who is trying to buck the system of seemingly endless corruption at his news network. Jensen just doesn’t see as corruption, in a sweeping speech on globalization, economics and the future that he is trying to build.
4).Taxi Driver: “You talking to me?”
Well, you knew this had to be on here, the countless parodies and homages in the years after has only cemented it’s status as an iconic film moment. Director Martin Scorsese was shooting from the floor up at Robert De Niro and asked him to “Just keep saying stuff. Just keep talking” and so De Niro did just that. The result is the revered actor giving it his all as his Travis Bickle descends into homicidal madness, from this point forward splitting into a new identity. One that is molded by the urban decay, depravity and violence surrounding him, taking it upon himself to do something about it.
3). Jaws: “…like a doll’s eye…”
Out of all the classic horror moments from Spielberg’s Jaws the one that always stands out as most chilling for myself is the Alpha Male Capt. Quint recalling his experience being a part of the crew on the doomed USS Indianapolis in WWII. Robert Shaw grimily recalls the tragic fate of several of his fellow sailors, picked off one by one by the sharks attracted to the sinking of the vessel. It took Shaw two days to shoot the scene one of them he was drunk off his rocker the other fine and sober. The scene was spliced together using the two days and there is no way of knowing which parts were when he was drunk, all the more showing that Shaw knew, even while blasted, what gravity to give this true horror story.
2). Field of Dreams: “Ray… people will come, Ray…”
James Earl Jones gives a voice to the fans of Baseball and to those who cherish the past, further making the poignant Field of Dreams into a beautiful mosaic of the generational gaps and bridges. When farmer Ray Kinsella builds a baseball field over his perfectly good corn, in hopes that it will bring back disgraced White Sox player Shoeless Joe Jackson to play once again, the bank threatens to foreclose unless he signs it over. As he contemplates giving up on the field, iconic 60’s writer Terrance Mann gives him all the reason to keep it. All the elements come together, James Horner’s score, Jones’ voice and camera work, to form a pitch perfect speech on Baseball, the progression of time and above all hope. A genuine miracle of a scene and movie.
1). The Great Dictator: “I don’t want to be an emperor…”
You know, I could talk about the context on when this movie was released, how its passionate director Charlie Chaplin chose to take a stand against tyranny when the rest of his adopted home of America was complacent and idle, how it encapsulates everything that makes the name Chaplin resonate to present day, or how it is the finest speech ever delivered on celluloid. But I’ll just let its iconic star do all the talking, take it away Charlie…