I feel compelled to tell you guys, right away, that this list will not contain any “rebel goes on to lead a rag tag army of social castaways who he then empowers with a contrived speech minutes before the epic battle scene” speeches. No, rather, this list will focus on speeches that made us shift in our seats from discomfort due to the subject matter.
Or the kind of speech that changes the way you think, ever so slightly. This list will focus on kind of speeches people who do not quote movies go out of their way to quote, the kind of speech that gets stuck in your subconscious and rattle around in there for days. These are, in my opinion, six of the greatest movie speeches ever written.
Fight Club: Very pissed off
What can I say about this speech that hasn’t been said by writers far more articulate than myself? To say I have a slight obsession with this speech would be underselling it just a little. For me, this speech was a bucket of cold water thrown over me while I was sound asleep. My entire span of my twenties, summed up in under two minutes, by somebody other than me. In hindsight, I don’t think it hurt that the speech was given by Brad Pitt at his pinnacle of coolness. Everything about it just spoke to me.
From the insomnia to the controlled insanity of working a job that slowly kills you, it is all first world problems, and they had never been better summarized or rallied against. For those who may have missed it, here it is, in all it’s glory:
This typography version of the speech is somehow even cooler.
Also worth noting, this is the only speech that I, a confessed cinephile, have ever memorized. Hell, I was that guy who had this is my ring tone for a while. It is also (obviosuly) the speech that inspired this list. Fight Club is as amazing a film today as it was over a decade ago, and this speech only cements that fact.
Schindler’s List: One more
Leave it to Liam Neeson to deliver a speech that clearly does not feel like a speech, and hits you right in the gut regardless. In a movie already steeped with incredibly emotional moments, for many, this moment was the most emotional. The moment when this man, who has already done so much, wishes he could have done more.
You can FEEL him feeling like he did not do enough, and you almost want to reach in the screen and embrace him, all the while reminding him of what an impact he had and that he is a hero to many. But you do not get to, and that is what makes this moment have even more of an impact.
While quite a few of the speeches on this list seem to be driven by anger or hate, this one is on the opposite spectrum of that. This is a moment of sadness, of helplessness. This is a moment when one man, even though he had saved so many, realized he could have potentially saved even one more, and it tears him apart. And as the viewer, it tears us apart with him. It shows the fragility of this one man, who, up to this point, was almost like a superhero in his conviction.
Voldemort was kind of always a prick, even when he had a nose.
I remember seeing this speech and saying to my girlfriend at the time: You know, that scene had so much impact, I cannot help but think someone should write a script around Oscar Schindler taping broken glass to his hands and fighting Nazi wolves. Suffice it to say, she weeded though that idea and pitched a decent script.
Some of you may cry foul for this being on a list of “cool” speeches, but it has a place here for how utterly convincing it was. And if a man having the urge to save more of his fellow humans is not cool, than nothing is.
25th Hour: F*ck you
Edward Norton may not have gotten the seminal Fight Club speech, but he got his chance at an awesome monologue just a few years later with the underrated Spike Lee film: 25th Hour. More of a tirade than an actual speech, it is still brutal in its microscopic views of race relations in New York city, delivered with unflinching brutality by Norton, face in the camera, as if he is calling every one of us out.
It is a very Fight Club moment, actually.
Though not politically correct, it is an incredibly raw and effective glimpse at the insight into one mans psyche as his world begins to cave in around him, with only himself to blame. And make no mistakes about it, different people have very different reactions to this speech. Some find it too hate fueled to be digestible, but not every movie speech is supposed to inspire. Some are just supposed to piss us off, and for that reason, this speech is as brilliant as it is effective.
Again, some of you may contest this speech being “cool” because it seems more like a racist rant than a speech, but it is cool for how few f***s (or how many in this case) are actually given. Also, no demographic is safe in this speech, and there is something very anarchistic about that.
Glengarry Glen Ross: Coffee is for closers
Just so we are all on the same page, let it be known that amount of screen time a character has is not inversely connected to the power a speech will have on the audience. Case in point: the Alec Baldwin speech in Glengarry Glen Ross. His screen time clocks in at just under ten minutes, but that is a scene, and a speech, that is almost impossible to shake after hearing.
For me, this was the moment that put Alec Baldwin in the ‘People you do not f*ck with” category. A category inhabited by very few. The speech is actually embedded in my mind now, subconsciously. Whenever someone offers me coffee, I also hear Alec Baldwin, chiming in, telling me coffee is for closers.
Coffee has never tasted the same to me.
Also note worthy is Jack Lemmon in this scene, who you feel like you are projected inside, cringing as he does. It is an uncomfortable moment that is driven home by amazing writing and an uncompromising delivery.
True Romance: Sicilians
Fans of this site will already know I am a huge Walken fan, so it would only be foolhardy NOT to include one of my favorite Walken moments. Though his time on screen is fleeting, much like Alec Baldwin’s in Glengarry Glen Ross, it is one of the best scenes in a film already full of memorable moments and cameos (Gary Oldman with dredlocks for the WTF win). Though do not mistake it for a “Walken” speech. It is definitely a Dennis Hopper moment all the way.
And while I will not quote any of what makes this speech remarkable (I am assuming you guys can figure out why) I will say that picking one monologue from a Tarantino movie was an incredibly difficult choice. I went with this scene because any time it is on, no matter what, people will stop what they are doing to watch it, completely enthralled. It is risque and offensive, but the tension in the scene is palpable, and this final act of defiance from Hopper’s character, and the choice to protect his son at the cost of his own life, is a treat to watch.
The tension in this scene is so deliciously genuine. Delicious like eggplant. Yeah, I went there,
Though many think the speech is improvised, it was not, and had been an exchange Tarantino claims he actually had with a black roommate he used to live with. It is also noteworthy for being one of Tarantino’s favorite speeches in any of his movies. That is saying something when you sit down and realize how many great speeches were written by him.
This is another case where some people may not find this speech to be “cool”, but coolness peaks at maximum when Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken are having any kind of verbal exchange, and if you do not know that, than I pity you, ever so slightly.
Blade Runner: Tears in the Rain
In the 80’s, there were very few actors even remotely as cool or as intense as Rutger Hauer. Though I know I may catch some heat for that, I stand behind it. Between Blade Runner and The Hitcher alone, I was terrified and compelled by this man. There is something steely and cold about him, no matter who he plays, so casting him as a replicant was one of my favorite casting choices of all time (only recently one upped by Peter Dinklage as Tyrion on Game of Thrones, but I digress).
He accepts his fate and you see that in his eyes. Not many actors could convey that as effortlessly as Rutger Hauer did in this scene.
This intensity and mystery Rutgetr Hauer had about him was only hit home by his “death speech” in Blade Runner. From the cinematography of the scene (has rain ever looked better?), to his (partially improvised) speech, it still boils down to being one of the most infinitely watchable scenes in movie history, and a final speech I still feel as awed by now as I was the first time I saw it.
He may be a Hobo with a Shotgun to the new generation, but to me, he will always be Roy Batty. The replicant who reflects on his own life and impending death, knowing the resounding insignifcance he, and thusly all of us, will have on the world.
It may the look in his eyes when he says “Iv’e seen things”, his blood running down his face. It may be the fact that the scene doesn’t quite play out the way we expect it to. It might even be the look on Harrison Ford’s face, which I think is his finest moment of acting. I don’t know why the scene is so dynamic, but I think it is all those reasons.
That particular speech in Blade Runner had such an impact on me. I sometimes think that is the moment when I stopped looking at movies like “Wheeeeeee!” and started looking at movies like “Wow!”.
Al Pacino The Devil’s Advocate “Absentee Landlord” speech. Yes, it is over the top. Yes, it is pure insanity. And yes, it is everything we love about Pacino.
Christopher Walken “Watch” speech from Pukp Fiction. This one is Walken at his best, but it has been talked to death by now. I knew if I did not atleast mention it that someone would have called me out, though.
Peter Finch “Mad as Hell” speech from Network. This speech is brilliant, and would be just as fitting on Fox news now as it was talking about life’s downward spiral in general back then.
Still as poignant today as it was 35 years ago.
Alec Baldwin “I am God” speech in Malice. It was written by Aaron Sorkin, so what did you expect? The man has mastered dialogue and Baldwin nails it, again. The man is a born closer.
Dr Stangelove final speech. ” aint much of a hand at making speeches” still might be my favorite opening line to a speech ever.
It was not until I started putting together this list that I realized what a massive undertaking it was. There were hundreds of speeches to wade through, and inevitably, I may have missed one or two (hundred) that you guys like, but I can honestly say this has been my favorite list to make for this site so far. Simply because I got to experience all of these amazing moments again.
The strangest side effect of all of this , though? They have all meshed into one giant, politically incorrect speech in my head. I am apparently mad as hell at the Sicilians for making me buy Ikea furniture and forcing me to do blue collar work for Oscar Schindler while Alec Baldwin doesn’t let me have coffee because I hid a watch in my ass too long.
Minor setback, all told.