Top 15 Movie Speeches
By midlandsmovies, Jun 13 2015 07:41PM
15. The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
Shouty Al plays a corporate version of the devil running a New York law firm who informs Keanu Reeves’ plucky young solicitor he is in fact the son of Satan. And the best way to do it is via a ferocious speech with Lucifer’s linguistic lips delivering a verbal onslaught against God’s absence and why the 20th Century is all his. Pacino delivers an outstanding OTT performance with the bellowing histrionics we know and love to hate.
14. Wednesday’s Thanksgiving speech Addams Family Values (1993)
A summer camp retelling of Thanksgiving with a twist as Wednesday Addams (played by a brilliant young Christina Ricci) goes off-script to ruin/improve the saccharine sweet children’s play. From the deadpan delivery to the shocked parents, this comedy speech rewrites history so the picked upon outsiders turn the tables on the popular Sarah Miller with the scene ending with the burning of the pilgrims’ village and the production breaking down into typical Addams’ chaos.
13. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
A heck of a motivational speech from Alec Baldwin as he delivers the ABCs of selling (Always Be Closing) as he heckles and abuses the sales force in this 90s office film. David Mamet’s script builds from advice on hot leads to a swearing and abrasive speech about losers and how much money he makes. Even as others are questioning his techniques, he waxes about how much his gold watch costs (we’ll see another one of those later) and continues berating them with Pacino and co on the receiving end. See the influence of this speech in little seen Boiler Room (2000) where Ben Affleck tells a group of young wannabe investors a similar story about what their earnings could be if they listen up closely.
12. Return of the King (2003)
On the fields of Pelennor comes a call to arms by King Théoden along a line of horseback soldiers as he stirs them up for one last inspiring fight against Sauron’s orc hordes. By the end of the speech, Bernard Hill is literally hoarse (pardon the pun) in the throat as he pushes his sword towards the invading armies that he and his battalion are about to take on. With hints of Shakespeare’s infamous battle speech from Henry V (Brannagh and Olivier’s both different but equally awesome) and the end of Snyder’s 300 (2007) the historical pre-battle cry is a movie staple that peaks with a later entry in this list.
11. Wall Street (1987)
With echoes of this speech appearing in Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street (2014), the provoking words of Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko explaining that “greed is good” pervaded the 80s money making boom period. As the film’s villain, investors have since reimagined him as a folk hero using this and his other mantras (“lunch is for wimps”) as part of an induction into the ruthless world of stock markets. Corporate and capitalist to a fault, the film’s speech is so well delivered by Douglas, who avoids raising his voice barely above normal which gives the whole delivery a rational and even more powerful significance.
10. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The first narrator entry on the list sees Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor summarise the postponement of the nuclear judgment day. Her message contains warnings to future generations to heed the lessons learnt and not forget the memories of those involved in the battle whilst delivering a message of hopeful optimism and expectations of the world’s prospects. The “rebirth” or “new start” speech is one we’ll be visiting again later on and the film’s subject matter of time travel and the importance of actual births means director Cameron couldn’t have provided a more appropriate ending to his sci-fi classic. (there's no copy of this speech online so the video is of the alternative cut version).
9. A Few Good Men (1992)
The heated courtroom clashes in this film culminate in a flustered Jack Nicholson admitting to a Code Red to military lawyer Tom Cruise as he attempts to defend a death in the barracks that are under his command. Written by the West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin, Nicholson’s follow up speech about the struggles and price of freedom shows how he goes into a metaphorical battle every day to defend sovereignty and liberty. Like a preacher at the pulpit, Nicholson delivers his well rehearsed sermon to the courtroom flawlessly but the cold reality of his words only serve to undermine his defence rather than convince the court.
8. Finding Nemo (2003)
One of the more intimate speeches on the list is this moving marine talk from the forgetful fish Dory, as she tries to encourage Marlin, a clownfish who has all but given up hope of finding his missing son Nemo, to continue his search with her. The brilliant Ellen DeGeneres provides the madcap voice for the film but in this private piscine moment, she explains how being with Marlin helps her remember. The best speeches don’t have to be all screams and flourishes as the oceanic oral stylings of Dory moves adults and children with her honest and frank confession. A pearl in the sea.
7. Braveheart (1995)
Well, hardly surprising is this often imitated speech from mad Mel and his painted face war cry as he addresses the Scottish clans to motivate them into fighting against the dastardly English. Exciting and passionate, Mel as William Wallace uses local dialect to remind them that this battle is part of their own history. Spearheading the revival of war speeches for the modern punter, the talk to the natives may have become clichéd in the subsequent years but the best ones who set the trend so often do.
6. Independence Day (1997)
If we’re talking rousing speeches then none get the loins stirring more so than this call to arms in the closing stages of an alien war. With Earth’s last stand all but lost and humanity hanging by a thread, who would have thought reliable everyman Bill Pullman (as the US President) would come good at a crucial moment for civilization! With more holes than Swiss cheese and twice as cheesy, the exciting enthusiasm pulls this one through to a high ranking on effort alone and its influences were seen in Idris Elba’s similar vocalisations at the climax of Del Toro’s Pacific Rim (2013).
5. Dead Poets Society (1989)
With the sad loss in 2014 of funny-man turned Oscar winning actor Robin Williams, this movie set in a private school discusses creativity, growing up and the past and the future. With “eyes full of hope”, Williams drops his jokey persona to tell the boys under his tutelage they should “seize the day” and communicate some honest truths to the pupils that life begins now as they will soon be “food for worms, lads”. A quiet and understated speech in comparison to some of Williams’ more brash deliveries from the movie, the delicate wordplay and gentle speaking ensure the theme has even more veracity.
4. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Christopher Walken stares down the lens as he tells the audience (sat in as the young Butch) how he kept a gold watch safe from the savage Viet Kong during the war. From the lurid details (multiple P.O.W.s kept the watch hidden in a very secretive place) to the personal touches about a birthright, the scene shows the importance of an important macguffin that turns out to bite Butch in the bum (excuse the unfortunate parlance). Walken delivers with all the intensity he can muster and although gentle, spares no harsh truths in his manner of speaking. Funnily, Walken was on the end of an equally brilliant speech from Dennis Hopper (also written by Tarantino) in Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993) as he patiently gets told the history of his Sicilian heritage in the most callous language possible.
3. Trainspotting (1996)
An uplifting speech from ex-junkie Renton as he steals the money from a London cocaine deal from his “mates” before deciding to go straight for a fresh start in this UK classic. The narration in McGregor’s Scottish tongue is matter of fact but his character’s wry smile suggests a new beginning is in the offing and one that could only occur by removing himself from the toxic relationships of his past. Not forgetting his old pal Spud, Renton decides in the end to not destroy his life with drugs although the whole thing could be an ironic twist as we end on the dance track Born Slippy and McGregor’s big smile.
2. JFK (1991)
After almost 3 hours of conspiracy theories and multiple explanations for the President’s demise, Oliver Stone ends his film with an elongated courtroom speech from the prosecution side as District Attorney Jim Garrison (a never better Kevin Costner) appeals to the jury (representing the American public) for the truth. Whether you believe in any of the suggestions put forward is another debate but Costner sums up (over 9 long minutes) Stone’s criticism of large Government and the constant fight against those in power with an authentic appeal to always seek the answers from the political state. With Costner close to tears, the cinematic courtroom summary can be seen in films such as A Time to Kill where Matthew McConaughey’s impassioned plea stirs up similar emotions.
1. Gladiator (2000)
This rousing film by Ridley Scott gets not just one but two immortal speeches in one movie. The first is a Braveheart-esque inspirational speech to the troops before a battle in Germania: “Fratres! Three weeks from now, I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled, for you are in Elysium, and you're already dead! Brothers: What we do in life echoes in Eternity”. The second (and perhaps more famous) is once the former leader is sold into Gladiatorial slavery and comes face to face with the man responsible for his predicament as “The Spaniard” is re-introduced to his enemy Commodus in the Colosseum. “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” Stating his plans to take revenge for the killing of his family, Crowe secured an Oscar for his performance as the motivating and stirring Gladiator trying to make put Rome right from the point of a slave.