If you spend any time with me, then you will quickly learn that I love movie dialogue. I memorize it, I quote it, and I'm sure I'm more than a little annoying as a result. But I don't care, because while some of us might go to the movies to see mind-blowing special effects, and others to see their favorite stars, for me it's all about the words -- which I guess shouldn't come as a surprise considering my line of work. Unfortunately in our fancy-schmancy Event Movie world, filmmakers sometimes forget how important the dialogue can be, and when it comes to letting your actor shine, there is nothing that can showcase their skill and talent like a well written monologue or speech.
So you might be wondering how I got on this tangent in the first place. Well, I recently stumbled across the website American Rhetoric, and before you knew it I had spent an hour reading some of my absolute favorite monologues and speeches from the movies. Usually when people talk about classic movie speeches, it tends to be the kind of speech that will accompany an epic like Patton, Malcolm X, or even Braveheart. But, 'prestige' films aren't the only source of great movie speeches. So I started to think about my most loved movie speeches, and like any movie fan with a need for hierarchies, I decided to put together a list.
After the jump: my top five (in no particular order), and your nominations for favorite movie speeches...
It goes to show the genius of Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky's TV news satire that here we are over 30 years later, and the message of the film is just as applicable as it was in 1976. There probably isn't a movie geek alive that doesn't recognize Peter Finch's (as the Mad Prophet Howard Beale) classic line, "I'm as mad as Hell and I'm not going to take this anymore". But, what makes Beale's breakdown so fantastic is that it is so much more than just a pop culture catchphrase, and once it sinks in that this speech has just as much resonance now as it did then, you don't know whether to laugh or cry.
I've spent years reading and studying Shakespeare, but even as someone who is supposedly educated in the work of The Bard, sometimes the heart doesn't always connect with the head. Frankly, if you are spending half your time just trying to figure out what the hell people are saying, it's not like you're going to enjoy yourself. But that is where Kenneth Branagh comes in, because there is no one that can make you feel the emotion behind the words like he can. So if you're going to talk about rousing speeches, then you can't overlook the great St. Crispin's day speech from Henry V -- and as an added bonus, this scene gives us a glimpse of a very young Caped Crusader.
Bull Durham (contains language that is NSFW)
Remember when people used to think that Kevin Costner was a sex symbol? Well, it was all because of this one clip in which our booze-soaked baseball vet sums up his beliefs for a breathless Susan Sarandon. In just under two minutes, Costner manages to make you laugh and even blush a little. Plus, I'm pretty sure this was the last time any of us thought Costner was cool.
Once you get over the shock of seeing a young and trim Alec Baldwin front and center, there is plenty to love about his infamous "I am God" speech in the crime thriller Malice. Baldwin has a natural flair for arrogance that is not only suited to drama but to his comedy as well. So even though there isn't necessarily much to recommend in the story of a labyrinthine con of malpractice insurance, this speech alone is worth the price of a rental. Because if nothing else, the last few years have taught us that Alec Baldwin is the man...and he doesn't like to be second guessed.
25th Hour (Jam-packed with language that is NSFW)
Spike Lee has always had a flair for monologues, not to mention racial slurs, and in his crime drama 25th Hour, he brings those two skills front and center. Watching Monty Brogan berate everything from his home town and his fellow New Yorkers to Enron and finally himself is one of the many great moments in this movie. But, Edward Norton's performance as uptown heroin dealer Monty Brogan moves this speech from a tirade to a moment of understanding about how we all like to blame everyone else for our problems rather than the person staring back at us in the mirror.
Sound off in the comments and tell me your favorite movie speeches...