The film industry has given the world some of the best and most quotable monologues and speeches of all time. Some have been lengthy and drawn out, others short and sweet, but no matter how long it’s the context that matters and over the years we’ve enjoyed some magical and inspiring words spanning many different themes and situations that inspire us still to this day to live our lives better and approach situations with a new perspective. These are ten of the best.
For this list I looked at some of the most iconic inspirational speeches and monologues in all of film and chose what I felt were the best of the bunch. These speeches were rated based on their inspirational themes and impact as well as their ability to get their message across to great effect. More violent, aggressive, or confrontational speeches, like the “mad as hell” speech from “Network” and the “Ezekiel 25:17 speech” from “Pulp Fiction”, were not considered for this list as they are speeches I’d like to explore in future lists. Also obviously a SPOILER ALERT is in order. I am providing videos (if I could find them) for each speech as well as a short highlight line from each speech in these entires for you to enjoy.
10. “Keep Breathing” from “Cast Away”
Full disclosure, “Castaway” is my favorite movie of all time and this scene is a big reason why. Near the end of the film Tom Hanks’ Chuck Noland has been rescued from being adrift after escaping the island he spent four years surviving on with nothing but a volleyball as a companion. He finally reunites with his long lost love Kelly, finding that she moved on while he was stranded as everyone thought him dead. After a passionate kiss and reestablishing their love for each other in the rain Chuck has to let her go, realizing she has built a life he can’t be a part of anymore. In this scene he confesses his feelings to a friend and recalls his feeling of powerlessness on the island, unable to control anything, even how he wanted to die. He says that Kelly kept him alive and now that he’s home he has to learn to live without her, the one person who kept him going. However, he learned one thing from the island, one very important thing, to keep breathing, because “tomorrow the sun will rise”. It’s a powerful quote about moving on and looking forward to a better tomorrow spoken by a man now forced to live without everything he once lived for. She gave him the inspiration to live, and now he has to make the rest of his life worth it not only for him, but for her as well.
“I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly, but I was grateful that she was with me on that island. I know what I have to do now. I’ve got to keep breathing, because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring.”
9. “You’re Move Chief” from “Good Will Hunting”
Some might think this bends the rules of this list a bit, but it really doesn’t. “Good Will Hunting” contained one of the greatest monologues of all time and one that is extremely in-your-face and teaches us all a lesson about true love, compassion, and self worth. Late in the film Robin Williams’ psychiatrist Sean Maguire confronts Matt Damon’s genius janitor Will Hunting with words of wisdom that bring Hunting down to earth. Maguire fills Hunting in that he has no idea what it’s like to be in love with a dying woman, hold his best friend dying during a war, or anything that challenges him to care about anyone but himself and further challenges Hunting’s judgmental, know-it-all approach to life and understanding others saying he wants to know more about who Will Hunting is, but feels Hunting is afraid to explore that part of himself. It’s a touching, aggressive, and inspiring eye-opener of a monologue that defined an equally inspiring film and today still stands as an iconic cinematic moment, maybe even more iconic than “Good Will Hunting” itself.
“You wouldn’t know about real loss because it only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared love anybody that much. I look at you, I don’t see an intelligent, confident man, I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you’re a genius Will, no one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you.”
8. “This is you’re time!” from “Miracle”
Once in a while it’s not the script that makes the speech, but the source material that makes the script that defines a film. For the 2004 Disney sports docudrama “Miracle” the writers drew from a very real speech by Herb Brooks for an iconic moment that helped the movie live on in history, just like it’s inspiring source material. During the 1980 Olympics the American’s hockey team took on the favorite Soviet team in the medal round, with Brooks giving a riveting speech to the Americans before the took the ice. The speech is simple, inspiring, and gets your heart racing as Brooks acknowledges that the Americans would normally lose to the Soviets, but not that night. That night they were going to win. It was there time. It’s a quote that shows everyone from any walk of life that regardless of the odds, you can accomplish great things. Greatness isn’t destined, it’s earned and no matter what the odds victory is always there for those with the willpower to reach out and take it.
“There time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw ‘em. This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”
7. The father/son speech from “Pursuit of Happiness”
Simple, short, and sweet, this speech from the 2006 biopic about entrepreneur Chris Gardner and his relationship with his young son drives home the message of the entire film as a basketball game quickly delves into a heart to heart between father and son. Will Smith plays Gardner while Jaden Smith plays his son and the exchange comes off as a real conversation between the two, making it feel more authentic, sincere, and powerful. Gardner tells his son to go for everything he wants in life no matter who tries to stop him, even if that’s his own father. It’s a stripped down and real moment in an already powerful film that reminds everyone watching that faith and commitment to one’s hopes and dreams are more important than anything in this world, no matter what road blocks you have to run through to get there. It also comes right after Gardner tells his son he won’t be good at basketball because Gardner himself never was. That moment opens Gardner’s eyes to his own hypocrisy and reminds him how he felt being put down and forgotten. He doesn’t want his son, or anyone, to suffer that same fate, especially by his own hands.
“You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves they want to tell you that you can’t do it. You want something? Go get it! Period!”
6. The Janitor’s Speech from “Rudy”
No secret that biographical films have a lot of deep and powerfully inspiring quotes in them and 1993’s “Rudy” is no exception. At one point in the story Sean Astin’s Rudy Ruettiger, a real life dreamer who sought to play football at the University of Notre Dame despite obstacles standing in his way, is considering throwing in the towel when Fortune, the stadium’s janitor played by Charles S. Dutton, challenges Rudy’s dedication. As Rudy receives a harsh and much needed dose of reality from Fortune the black janitor reveals that he himself had to watch the game from the sidelines in his own youth. He stresses to Rudy that after everything he has faced he should have learned by now that life is not about impressing or living for others, it’s about living for yourself and becoming who you want to be. It’s a lesson we can all appreciate especially as Fortune reveals his own regrets for letting his emotions and the opinions of others get the best of him.
“In this lifetime, you don’t have to prove nothing to nobody except yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen”
5. Sam’s Speech from “The Two Towers”
While Sean Astin was the target of the “Rudy” speech, here he is the one who gives the inspiring words as Samwise Gamgee in the closing scene of the second “Lord of the Rings” film, “The Two Towers”. After saving Frodo from a Nazgul Sam is nearly killed by his friend but manages to bring him back to sanity. When Fordo doubts his ability to complete his mission of destroying the one ring Sam gives a lengthy inspiring monologue that provides hope for humanity, telling Frodo that what they are trying to accomplish is worth the pain and suffering and that the world deserves to be saved. He recalls the adventures and stories they have been told their whole lives and how the heroes of those stories never turned back because they were holding on to the hope that there was still good in the world worth fighting for. Movie speeches don’t get much deeper than that.
“It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come.”
4. The Test Speech from “Lean On Me”
Already a powerful monologue, this speech from 1989’s “Lean on Me” was made even more powerful by the delivery by Morgan Freeman’s Joe Louis Clark. Based on a true story of a principal trying to help his school and students succeed in the face of a threat of the state taking over the New Jersey school, Freeman delivers a intense speech of equality and community in the face of adversity. As students prepare to take the minimum basic skills test that will determine the fate of the school, Freeman’s Clark unites everyone, regardless of color or background, showing that everyone has the same stakes. Noone is separated, noone is alone, and everyone rises and falls together. He also inspires the students by telling them that their fate and their worth is not determine by a number. Everyone’s own worth is determined by their effort and dedication to what they want to be. It’s an underrated speech that, in today’s world, is actually quite timely.
“You are NOT inferior! Your grades may be. Your school maybe have been. But you can turn that around and make liars out of those bastards in exactly one hour when you take that test and pass it and win!”
3. “Freedom!” from “Braveheart”
Freedom is the name of the game in this iconic scene from the Best Picture winning “Braveheart”. Mel Gibson’s William Wallace prepares to lead his fellow Scotsmen against King Edward I of England in a battle for independence and gives one of the cinema’s most famous inspirational speeches to get his soldiers riled up for the fight ahead. Wallace tells the men that they can run. They don’t have to fight. But, could they live with themselves in the end dying on their beds instead of for their freedom on the battlefield? His speech explains that their battle is for more than just their lives, it’s for everything they stand for and strive to be. It’s their one chance to fight for their independence. He implores them, and the viewers, never to squander such an opportunity as you may live on, but the regret of cowering before your oppressor will do more harm than anything you will face on the preverbal battlefield before you.
“Dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take out lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!!!”
2. “Carpe Diem” from “Dead Poets Society”
Let me start by saying “Dead Poets Society” is a massively quotable inspirational film and this speech from Robin Williams’ John Keating to his students is possibly the most iconic in the movie. It has become a pop culture go-to for students and free spirits to draw from in their own lives ever since it graced the silver screen. The monologue introduces the term carpe diem, meaning “seize the day”. As Keating asks students to view photos of previous students of the school he shows them that these men were no different from them, all of them had dreams and goals and they didn’t wait. They seized their opportunities. He asks his students to live up to their legacy and to seize every day in their lives like it was their last. It’s a theme that permeates the entire film and drives home the film’s inspiring message of self-discovery, open-mindedness, and identity in the face of societal roadblocks and expectations.
“Carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”
1. “The Final Speech” From “The Great Dictator”
In my opinion the greatest speech of any kind in all of film. This closing speech to “The Great Dictator” sees acting legend Charlie Chaplin, as a Adenod Hynkel, a not-so-subtle representation of Adolf Hitler who rules over Tomainia in place of real-world Germany. In his closing speech he addresses the world in a four minute monologue telling everyone that this world can be shared by everyone. Brutally honest and unapologetic, this speech is a call to all of humanity that we have lost our way and have forsaken each other and our own humanity for the sake of greed and want. This is a movie speech that, above all others on this list, everyone needs to experience. It’s one that calls for change in the world and for a better tomorrow by all men and one guaranteed to give you goosebumps as you watch the fantastic and iconic delivery by Chaplin and allow it to take full hold of your emotions. This speech doesn’t just ask you to be a better person, it asks the world to be better than it has been and all this during the 1940s after World War I and World War II ripped the world apart.
“In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: ‘the Kingdom of God is within man’ – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.”