Without a doubt, some of the best moments in great films are when an actor just goes off and delivers a great monologue. While we all memorize our favorite catchphrases from films, it’s the monologues that move us, frighten us, and inspire us. But what are the best movie monologues of all time?
Whether in classic cinema or contemporary cinema, from Gregory Peck to Christopher Walken, there are so many great actors who’ve delivered great monologues that we still can’t get enough of today.
Let’s go down the list and analyze some of the best movie monologues and what they conveyed and how we feel about them today. If you’ve seen these movies you’ll want to see them again – if not, these monologues will convince you to watch the whole movie!
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GREED IS GOOD
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” are the exact words that Gordon Gecko states but this has often been shortened to “greed is good” by fans of this great monologue. It’s a short monologue, running just above 2 minutes.
In this monologue, the character discusses how greed can save the economy, how it can save companies, and how it can save the failed corporation called the United States of America.
This monologue is a perfect summation of the greedy mentality that we saw arise in the 1980s America and that still plagues the country today. While the character is a villain, Michael Douglas has stated this is one of the characters whom fans love the most and many feel that the “greed is good” monologue actually inspired a few people to pursue careers in the stock market!
If you love Oliver Stone’s films then this is one of his masterpieces. He directed the film as well as wrote the screenplay, so the “greed is good” monologue must also be credited to him. This short monologue is likely to be studied by cinephiles, film historians, American history enthusiasts, and economists alike for a long time.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
When a sports team is feeling down, they need a good coach to motivate them. Sometimes, a great pep talk for sports can also inspire you for anything you wish to achieve in your life.
And that’s exactly what Al Pacino’s speech in Any Given Sunday does. This is four minutes of absolute brilliance – you almost wish a Presidential speech could be this based!
He starts off slowly and discusses how sometimes he struggles to even look at himself in the mirror. But he talks about how life is a struggle and one must fight to gain an inch in order to succeed. He is pushing his team to fight for that extra one inch.
Once again, this is an Oliver Stone gem of a film and he co-wrote the screenplay with John Logan. As the speech progresses, the team gets more and more pumped and the scene ends with them storming out the locker room ready to play the game and win it!
Just show this scene to a group of your closest friends and watch the expression on their faces. Then, you’ll understand why this is one of the best movie monologues of all time.
INHERIT THE WIND
A courtroom is the perfect place for an actor to give a great monologue and maybe that’s why so many actors love playing lawyers – dreaming of the time when they’ll get to deliver one of the best movie monologues of all time.
Spencer Tracy did precisely that in Inherit The Wind. In this riveting courtroom drama, he plays Colonel Drummond who has to defend a teacher named Bertram Cates who is being punished for teaching evolution as opposed to creationism in a public school.
Colonel Drummond has to take on a conservative and religious town and convince them that Mr. Cates shouldn’t be punished. Toward the end of the film he gives a great monologue in which he discusses the importance of allowing people to think and question things – lest we go back to the barbarism of a previous era, when dissenters were burned at the stake.
The monologue is short but it’ll resonate with you for a long time. It’s arguably one of Spencer Tracy’s best roles and this monologue shows how powerful rhetoric can be and why we need it to invoke change in our society.
THE GOLD WATCH
Sometimes, a monologue is so good that it becomes one of the highlights of a film even if the characters reciting it is only seen once. Such is the case for Captain Koons in Pulp Fiction played by Christopher Walken. This film truly is a masterpiece and has so many great actors and almost every sentence is memorable.
Yet, Christopher Walken’s short monologue where he discusses the significance of the gold watch sticks in our mind to this day. It’s the mark of a great actor and great writing by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary that this monologue is still remembered – and perhaps recited by aspiring actors.
The scene itself is almost shockingly simple. For most of the scene, we only see a close-up of Captain Koons – so we have no choice but to pay attention to the monologue. It’s truly a masterclass in great acting and how being a master of language can draw an audience in – even when there’s not a lot of action going on – in an otherwise action-packed film!
VIOLA DAVIS IN “FENCES”
In recent times, we’ve not seen too many great monologues as so many films today have become fast-paced and focused more on special effects. But the film Fences, based on the play of the same name, is a masterclass in acting and there’s not a single bad performance.
Denzel Washington’s character in the film is imposing and fearsome and the only character who is able to stand up to him is his wife, played by Viola Davis. In one scene in the film, she stands up to him and criticizes him for his anger and how he pushes his resentment on their son.
The scene is powerful and it’s almost 3 minutes of a nonstop monologue played by Viola Davis – easily one of the best actresses of her generation. When it comes to contemporary cinema, we can’t think of a better monologue than in Fences.
ATTICUS FINCH’S FINAL STATEMENT
Once again, the courtroom is a great venue for any actor to deliver a powerful monologue. And few monologues are as powerful as Atticus Finch’s final statement in To Kill A Mockingbird. Played by Gregory Peck, one can’t imagine any other actor bringing the classic literary character to life.
In this almost 8-minute monologue, Atticus Finch tries to convince the court that Tom Robinson is not guilty – and that he did not rape Maella Ewell. He discusses that the reason for the hatred toward Tom Robinson is because of racial prejudice and nothing else. He discusses the horrors of racism so prevalent in their society – but he also contrasts this with discussing the power of the law and the courts, stating that he isn’t idealistic but he knows that their culture ultimately stands for justice.
He shows sympathy for the victim who has obviously been a victim. But he also shows sympathy for a man who’s life is in danger because of a false accusation.
If you want to hear a great monologue and learn the power of rhetoric, you’ll find it in this scene. Truly a masterclass of acting and without a doubt one of the best movie monologues of all time.
THE DAMN TRUTH – JFK
Of course, not all great courtroom monologues are based on fiction. Some of them, reflect what was actually said.
Lawyer Jim Garrison brought a case to suggest that the government was behind the murder of President Kennedy. This was depicted in the film JFK in which Kevin Costner played Jim Garrison. One scene, toward the end of the film involves the character giving a monologue in the courtroom discussing the assassination of President Kennedy and the importance of the truth – and challenging the government.
This powerful scene reminds us about what it means to be an American and why it is important to challenge our government. Jim Garrison brings up the need to even replace the government.
“THEN I WOKE UP”
To wrap up, a more gentle monologue that still has power is the final scene in the film No Country for Old Men. In this scene, Tommy Lee Jones returns home and tells his wife about a dream he had.
He ends the story of the dream by saying “Then I woke up” and then the film promptly ends.
The monologue is verbatim from the novel by Cormac McCarthy. The monologue is a reflection on how things were and how things are now. This is a moving scene but perhaps it’s a monologue that’s not as straightforward as the other ones mentioned in this video.
It’s one that we expect will perplex audiences and one will have to see it again and again to decipher the meaning of the film. Unlike the other monologues mentioned in this video, this one is more layered and you’ll have to try to interpret it as you wish.
Are you a fan of any of these films? These are some of the finest achievements of American cinema and we think that part of their success are that they contain some of the best movie monologues of all time.
Now, here’s what we’d like to hear from you:
Do you think that today’s films have any great movie monologues?
Or are today’s films too fast-paced and don’t seem to care about offering great movie monologues?