Top 10 Film Monologues Of All Time

Some of the most powerful moments in film have come from a single piece of dialogue: that perfect balance of screenwriting & performance. Dan Grant takes a look at some of the finest film monologues of all time.

The movie monologue can do a lot in a film. It helps you understand a character and it can make you feel emotions. When written and delivered to perfection, the movie monologue can stay with you for a very long time. It’s also a celebration of words as the story moves along without the aid of special effects or anything visual, it’s all words. Doing this list, I didn’t realize how many truly amazing monologues and/or speeches were out there. To limit this to ten is incredibly difficult but since this site is all about the top ten, here are the ten best film monologues.

10. JFK (Stone, 1991)

“It’s Up To You…”

JFK, Kevin Costner breaks the fourth wall,In one of the longer speeches in film history, District Attorney Jim Garrison puts it all together for the jury, explaining his version of the JFK assassination. He takes us on a journey as he breaks it all down. It’s detailed, precise and incredibly emotional. It culminates with Kevin Costner looking directly into the camera, as he delivers his last line: “It’s up to you.” He asks us, the audience, to make up our own minds. Costner delivers the speech beautifully with director Oliver Stone and editors Joe Hutshing and Pietro Scalia putting it all together in the editing room to make it as memorable and tension filled as it is.

9. Malice (Becker, 1993)

“Let Me Tell You Something. I Am God”

Malice - Top 10 FilmsThis speech has always resonated with me. Aaron Sorkin was one of the writers and as great as his body of work is this one speech might….MIGHT be his crowning achievement. Alec Baldwin delivers it furiously and flawlessly as he is being asked by a medical board if he has a “God complex”. He is being investigated for malpractice that cost a patient her ability to bear children. The proper response from him of course is to say “No, I do not.” But instead he goes on to tell the board “You ask me if I have a God complex? Let me tell you something. I am God”.

8. Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)

“The Devil’s Eyes”

Halloween - Donald Pleasance - Top 10 FilmsThis is the shortest monologue on the list but it is one of the more chilling ones. As delivered by the inimitable Donald Pleasance, his speech is more of a warning than anything else. He tells the sheriff that he met a young six-year-old Michael Myers, and behind his eyes was pure and simple evil. He tells him that there is no life in his eyes and any rudimentary sense of right or wrong has long since been evaporated. Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Halloween is that rare thing: a horror movie with a great script! This monologue gives us an insight and and understanding of what we are dealing with. Unlike other iconic horror villains, we actually get a bit of reasoning as to why Michael Myers is who he is.

7. A Time to Kill (Schumacher, 1996)

“Now Picture She’s White”

A Time To Kill - Top 10 FilmsMathew McConaughey plays a white lawyer defending a black man deep in the southern United States. Samuel L. Jackson plays the man he is defending. Directed by Joel Schumacher and written by Akiva Goldsman, this emotionally charged film about racism and hatred really cuts to the bone. It is blessed with a brilliant cast and it is punctuated by McConaughey’s brilliant delivery of his closing argument to the all white jury as he is trying to convince them to set Carl Lee (Jackson) free after he just killed two men who raped, sodomized and left his 10-year-old daughter for dead. He has them close their eyes as he recounts the story to them. He tells them, in gory detail about how they hung her, urinated on her, threw beer cans at her hard enough to rip the skin off, took turns raping her and then threw her into a ravine to die. At the end of the speech, he says, “Now picture she’s white.” It’s a moment in film that brought me to tears. And it won him the case.

6. Mississippi Burning (Parker, 1988)

“I’ll Cut Your Head Clear Off”

Gene-Hackman_top10films_mississippi-burningAnother film about racism that features a brilliant and emotionally galvanizing speech. Gene Hackman plays FBI agent Anderson alongside his partner Agent Ward (Willem Dafoe). The agents want the same thing but their approach is very different. Anderson believes in using every tool necessary to get information, Ward does everything strictly by the book. That is until Mrs Pell, played by Frances McDormand, gets the hell beat out of her by her husband, who is a suspect in the case and a police officer. Upon seeing her battered and bruised body in the hospital, Anderson no longer cares about procedure and protocol and he goes after the deputy in his own way, using his own vigilante methods. He finds Deputy Pell in a barbershop, getting a shave with a straight razor. His eyes are closed and Anderson removes the razor from the barbers hand without Pell realizing the switch, until the razor startes cutting him. With that straight razor to his throat, he goes on to tell the deputy, “Make no mistake about it deputy, I’ll cut your f****** head clean off and not give a shit how it shows up on the report sheet.” It’s a moment that we, as the audience, have all been waiting for. Directed by Alan Parker and written by Chris Gerolmo, Hackman gives one his best speeches. It also leaves the deputy shocked and unable to move.

5. A Few Good Men (Reiner, 1992)

“You Can’t Handle The Truth”

Jack Nicholson, Great Movie Lines, Top 10 FilmsAaron Sorkin’s second appearance on this list. As delivered by Jack Nicholson, this has become one of the most memorable scenes in film history. All throughout the film, Nicholson gives us hints of arrogance and comes off as someone immune to criticism. At one point in the film he tells the investigating lawyer, as played by Tom Cruise, that he eats breakfast 300 yards away from 4,000 Cubans who were trained to kill him, so flashing a badge in front of him is not going to make him nervous. All of this is set up for his vitriolic explosion where he tells the court that “yes” he did order the Code Red which resulted in a Marine’s death and he would do it again because he is Nathan Jessup and you aren’t. One of the interesting things about the speech is that every bit of it is true. We may hate men like Jessup, but we need him. It’s brilliantly written and expertly delivered by one of the iconic actors of our or any generation.

4. Network (Lumet, 1976)

“I’m Mad As Hell”

Peter Finch, Sidney Lumet, Network, Television and Film - Top 10 FilmsPaddy Chayefsky was one of the great writers of our time. This might be his greatest piece of work he ever produced. Peter Finch delivers one of the more rousing speeches and the most interesting thing about it is that the words he says are just as relevant today as they were in 1976. This man is angry. He’s mad at what America has become. There’s corruption, rioting, gangs, selfish and greedy politicians and the threat of communism. His point in this speech is that Americans (and you can say the same thing about Brits, Canadians, Australians and many others) are complacent and as long as they have their small slice of paradise, they won’t say anything about the bad air, the poisoned food, the corrupt government and business leaders and how jobs are drying up. He goes on to say that it’s time to NOT be complacent and that you need to see what’s happening right in front of you. You need to rise up, raise your fist and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!!” Peter Finch died just before winning best actor in 1976, this monologue certainly sealed the deal for him.

3. Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)

Ezekial 25:17

Top 10 Movie Monologues - Pulp Fiction - Top 10 FilmsQuentin Taratino has arguably done more to change cinema than just about any other director. In 1994 Jules and his partner Vincent, played by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, are about to kill three young thugs who stole something from the henchmen’s boss. Just before doing so, Jules recites a part of the Bible. This shows us that Jules is not to be trifled with. As he is delivering the monologue about great vengeance and furious anger, we see the horror on the kid’s face. We know this is a bad man. But it doesn’t end there. What’s interesting about this little speech is that Jules repeats in three times in the film and each time it is at a different point in his life and his journey. At the end when he tells Ringo that if you heard these words in the past, chances are you would be dead as that fried chicken, he is a completely different man than when he first says it to Brett. Pulp Fiction is a bit of a spiritual film as Jules grows from a ruthless hit-man to a man who wants to reform and get out of the “life”. It’s a terrific monologue, all three times he says it. One side note is that you easily could have had Christopher Walken’s watch up his ass speech here too. But if you have to pick just one iconic monologue from Pulp Fiction, you have to go with Ezekial 25:17

2. Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)

USS Indianapolis Speech

Top 10 Movie Monologues - Jaws - Top 10 FilmsJaws was written by Carl Gottlieb but Quint’s speech about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis was written by playwright Howard Sackler, tweaked and lengthened by writer/director John Milius and finally reworked by actor Robert Shaw. When Shaw first delivered the monologue, he was drunk on set that day and he made a mess of the scene. He flubbed his lines, forgot parts of it and generally made it very uncomfortable for director Steven Spielberg. Spielberg was relatively new to Hollywood and didn’t really want to say much to Shaw, who was a legend at this point and so he left it alone. Shaw was so embarrassed by his own actions that he went back to the hotel that night and studied the monologue, reworked it and came to the set the next day and did the piece in one take. This monologue is not only fascinating but it gives us insight as to why Quint hates sharks so much. Being on board a US warship that sank during WWII and watching your friends get devoured by sharks, would probably make anyone hate them. Shaw’s delivery is so precise and really haunting. He recounts the ordeal like it happened last week and not 30 years ago. Also brilliant about his delivery is the expression on his face. At first it looks like he is sharing a joke with Brody and Hooper. Then as the story goes along, his face changes to a more serious tone. And finally when talking about not ever wanting to put on a life jacket again, there is no more humour in that face or voice, but one of anger and terror. It’s perfect from start to finish.

1. Rocky Balboa (Stallone, 2006)

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows”

Top 10 Movie Monologues - Rocky Balboa - Top 10 FilmsThe story of Rocky is one of the great tales of the American dream. Here’s a man who started from nothing, maybe even less than nothing, and he went all the way to becoming the world champ. Rocky has always been about hope and a burning desire to succeed. By the time we got to the sixth film, many of us, myself included, wondered what could Sly Stallone possibly bring to the table that we haven’t all seen before. Turns out, a lot. This monologue he delivers to his son is one that we could all benefit from because it’s not about boxing, it’s about life. He tells his son that “it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” When life deals you a raw deal and you look to blame someone else, that’s a cowards way out. Stallone is one of the most underrated and gifted writers of the last 40 years and this monologue is the greatest ever put on film in my opinion.

Here it is in its entirety:
“I’d hold you up to say to your mother, “this kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.” And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did.

“But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.

“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

“Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life…Don’t forget to visit your mother.”

I know there are dozens of great monologues that are not included here. There’s films like On the Waterfront, Any Given Sunday, Good Will Hunting, Silence of the Lambs and so many others. This list is personal, as it should be. So what do you think? What should have made the list in your opinion?

Written & Compiled by Dan Grant

What are the best movie monologues in your opinion?

About the Author
Dan Grant is an author and horror film fan from Canada. His first novel Terrified and Defenseless is now available for e-download from Amazon. Follow Dan on Twitter @baumer72.

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  1. Sam Dickinson Reply

    how can you miss out the speech from The Great Dictator

  2. D.S. Reply

    no Glengary Glen Ross? Really? Coffee is for closers fellas.

  3. Angus Reply

    good choices but a personal favourite of mine sadly didn’t make it: chaplin’s “great dictator” speech. “Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in.” – AMAZING!

  4. Brie Reply

    The best I’ve experienced is Robin Williams’ “seize the day” speech in Dead Poet’s Society – incredible acting and writing.

  5. ArchE Reply

    Oh gosh…I despair. Why does everyone forget Ned Beatty’s scene-chewing wisdom in his show-stopping “primal forces” speech. “You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it!”

    I must agree with the writer though – Paddy Chayefsky was a genius.

  6. Hawk Reply

    Network could have appeared about five times but I can’t criticize your choice. It’s a film full of great quotes and memorable speeches – probably the best screenplay of any film ever.

    Nice number one too – a bold choice but I agree, it’s a great one.

    I would have had the “watch” speech by Walken for Pulp Fiction but like Network, there’s a few possibilities.

    Cool list.

  7. Wendell Reply

    Some great ones, here. Others I love:

    Capone’s “Teamwork” speech in The Untouchables

    Tony’s “Say hi to the bad guy” in Scarface ’83

    “Inches” by the coach in Any Given Sunday (hey, another Pacino)

    Mr. Smith’s “Humans are a disease” in The Matrix

    The string of racist monologues in Do the Right Thing

  8. Dan Reply

    Terrific selection of movie monologues, Dan. There’s a real sense of great performance and screenwriting coming together perfectly in moments like these.

    I’m glad you put Rocky Balboa at number one for the principle reason of highlighting a talent Stallone rarely gets the credit for. Yes, he’s a terrific action star but unlike Arnie, Van Damme, Tom Cruise and many other stars, he’s also a terrific writer and director. Rocky is an exceptional piece of work and Rocky Balboa is arguably the best sequel to ever come out of the franchise. The piece of dialogue you highlight is obviously so personal to Stallone but that’s what makes it so good. It resonates brilliantly.

    Other favourites you highlight here include that great speech in Network, Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, Costner breaking the fourth wall in JFK, and of course, Quint in Jaws (nice anecdotal story about how that monologue was written by the way).

  9. Dan Grant Reply

    Angus: When I was doing research for this, The Great Dictator monologue came up on almost every list. So you are certainly not alone is your opinion on that one.

    ArchE: I have not seen this film you speak of, sorry.

    Wendell: All terrific choices you have there and all were considered but it’s so difficult to narrow it down to just ten.

    Dan: Thanks for the kind words and nice job on the touch ups….as usual. And yes, the Quint monologue is a fascinating story, in fact (and as big a Jaws fan as you are, I’m kind of guessing you have read it already) a lot of my behind the scenes knowledge of the film comes from reading Carl Gottlieb’s Jaws Log, which was written while on set. It’s an absolutely intensely fascinating and detailed read about what went on behind the scenes to get the movie right.

    As for the Rocky speech, I’m glad you like it as well, and you are correct, it was a very personal speech from Sly, especially considering where his career was at this point.

    • ArchE Reply

      It’s a scene from Network, Sir.

  10. Callum Reply

    Loved Rocky Balboa. And I mean LOVED it! It’s my favourite Rocky film believe it or not. Because of that I can only say – well done for putting Rocky’s speech at number one!

  11. Ruth Reply

    Great list! I REALLY need to see A Time to Kill, somehow it escaped me. The one thing I thought of when it comes to great monologue is Christoph Waltz in the opening of Inglourious Basterds.

  12. Dan Grant Reply

    D.S.: I had coffee is for closers on my list….but then I realized it’s more of a conversation he has with the whole Glengarry team, so I had to remove it…..believe me, it’s one of my favourite speeches of all time, but it’s broken up into several parts….coffee is for closers…..see this watch…..and so on. ABC gentlemen…ABC.

  13. Dan Grant Reply

    Sam: Yep, Great Dictator is a great speech but it’s so tough to have just ten…..so it just made the list. Sorry.

    I even wanted to add one from Tequila Sunrise, Russel’s speech to Pfeiffer in her restaurant when she finds out how much of a scum bad he is…but again, only ten.

  14. Ross Reply

    Lee Strasberg’s monologue in the Godfather Pt 2 after Mike asks him who gave the order to kill Frankie Five Angels was another classic.

  15. John Hodson Reply
  16. Film Vibes Reply

    REALLY great list!!!

  17. Denton Reply

    Great list. Great number one.

  18. Caz Reply

    great list! That Rocky one is so powerful!

  19. Jon Reply

    Great list. Some of my favorites are John Hannah’s eulogy in Four Weddings, Ingrid Thulin’s direct address to the camera in Winter Lights, and, though very short and perhaps not a legit speech, Orson Welles’ “cuckoo clock” monologue from The Third Man.

  20. Dan Grant Reply

    I don’t remember that part from Network. In fact, I haven’t seen that film in ages. I do however remember the mad as hell speech, which is why it’s included here and the other speeches are not.

    Some other films that were considered but missed the cut:

    The hen house, outhouse, doghouse speech from Fugitive
    Jerry Maguire…I’m looking for my wife
    Nothing is over from First Blood
    Inches…..Any Given Sunday

  21. Silvana D'Abate Reply

    good choices of monologues from various classic iconic films!

  22. Alex Withrow Reply

    Love every monologue listed here – great work. Costner’s fourth wall break of “It’s up to you” is absolutely perfect.

  23. Evan Crean Reply

    Some great monologues here. Big fan of the ones from A Time to Kill, Mississippi Burning, A Few Good Men, Pulp Fiction. One I’d include on my own list with be Alec Baldwin’s speech in Glengary Glen Ross.

  24. Dan Grant Reply

    Evan: I had the Glengary speech in my initial list, but when it looked it all over, it’s more of a conversation. Coffee is for closers, and see this watch and ABC and set of steak knives is part of a conversation he has with Ed Harris. And because of this I just couldn’t include it. But it’s no doubt one of the best exchanges I’ve ever seen. David Mamet is brilliant.

  25. Neal Damiano Reply

    Some really great and interesting choices here, Dan Grant.
    You and I approach writing top 10 lists in a very similar fashion, fearlessly , how can I not admire that?!
    Now I have not seen Rocky Balboa , after reading this monologue I most definitely will give it a viewing.
    There are only two I would add- Alec Baldwin in Glengary Glenross the beginning three prizes speech, simply amazing.
    Christian Bale in American Psycho the ending monologue in his head as he’s watching the Reagan news telecast on tv. He describes his indifference to what’s he has done and the lack of better understanding of himself he has gained no further knowledge. It’s simply breathless!

  26. Neal Damiano Reply

    Oh, I have to add one more (laughing)
    Joe Mantegna in David Mamet’s ” House of Games ” the ending when she is about to shoot him and he stubbornly won’t beg for his life. So good!!

  27. Dan Grant Reply

    Neal: Thanks for the kind words, you know how I admire your work as well.

    I have mentioned this several times in the comments, but for you (lol)…..I agree with you about Glengarry. But I viewed it as more of a conversation as the brilliance of it is split into several pieces. It is undoubtedly one of the coolest exchanges and I had it on my list but removed it for the reason mentioned.

    I too love House of Games.

    You really need to see Rocky Balboa, it’s a terrific, terrific film.

  28. Dan Grant Reply

    Kind of off topic but if you guys like the speech from Rocky Balboa, you should see Creed. Such an epic film.

  29. Dan Grant Reply

    I just recently listened to the whole speech from the Great Dictator and yes it is incredibly powerful. Perhaps if I had done this list now, I’d have it on there….but I really have no idea how I’d remove any of the films from this list.

  30. Jason Reply

    How about the “Greed is good” speech from Michael Douglas in Wall Street?…a great reflection on the time..

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