Best Film Speeches
and Monologues


Best Film Speeches and Monologues
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Description of Film Speech/Monologue

High Noon (1952)
Screenwriter(s): Carl Foreman

All For Nothing - A Tin Star

In the western town of Hadleyville, beleaguered Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) went to the townspeople at the local church to gain support to help him defend the town against vengeful gunslingers about to arrive: ("It looks like Frank Miller's comin' back on the noon train. I need all the special deputies I can get"). Mayor Jonas Henderson (Thomas Mitchell) summed up the debate by first complimenting Kane. He then stated that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) was the town's concern and problem. A violent shoot-out would also create a bad image for Hadleyville up North, especially for financial growth and investment support from Northern business interests. But then he concluded by advising Kane ("a mighty brave man, a good man") to flee town for the good of the local economy:

What this town owes Will Kane here it can never repay with money - and don't ever forget it. He's the best marshal we ever had. Maybe the best marshal we'll ever have. So if Miller comes back here today, it's our problem, not his. It's our problem because this is our town. We made it with our own hands out of nothing. And if we want to keep it decent, keep it growing, we've got to think mighty clear here today. And we've gotta have the courage to do what we think is right, no matter how hard it is.

All right. There's gonna be fighting when Kane and Miller meet and somebody's gonna get hurt, that's for sure. Now, people up North are thinking about this town - thinking mighty hard. Thinking about sending money down here to put up stores and to build factories. It'll mean a lot to this town, an awful lot. But if they're gonna read about shooting and killing in the streets, what are they gonna think then? I'll tell ya. They're gonna think this is just another wide-open town and everything we worked for will be wiped out. In one day, this town will be set back five years. And I don't think we can let that happen.

Mind you, you all know how I feel about this man. He's a mighty brave man, a good man. He didn't have to come back here today. And for his sake and the sake of this town, I wish he hadn't. Because if he's not here when Miller comes, my hunch is there won't be any trouble, not one bit. Tomorrow, we'll have a new Marshal. And if we can all agree here to offer him our services, I think we can handle anything that comes along. And to me, that makes sense. To me, that's the only way out of this. Will, I think you'd better go while there's still time. It's better for you, and it's better for us.

Shortly later, aging, discarded, arthritic, and embittered ex-marshal Matt Howe (Lon Chaney, Jr.) gave his cynical opinion to Kane about his past profession as a life-long 'tin-star' lawman:

It's a great life. You risk your skin catchin' killers and the juries turn 'em loose so they can come back and shoot at ya again. If you're honest, you're poor your whole life, and in the end you wind up dyin' all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothin'. For a tin star.

The Marrying Kind (1952)
Screenwriter(s): Ruth Gordon, Garson Kanin

The Importance of Thinking

Newlywed Florence 'Florrie' Keefer (Judy Holliday) delivered an epiphany, with flashback, about the beauty of thinking while honeymooning in Atlantic City with her new postal-worker husband 'Chet' (Aldo Ray). She was speaking to her mother Mrs. Derringer (Phyllis Povah) and sister Joan Shipley (Sheila Bond):

Because everybody gets in a rut. Take me. A rut! But down there in Atlantic City, I got into a lot of thinking. You know what I mean? I don't mean just stewin' around - I mean thinking. And to tell you the truth, I was surprised by how enjoyable it was! Well, you take most people, including me. They hardly ever get to do any thinking - when do they get the time? Or if you do get the time, there's the movies or the radio or you play a game of cards, but no thinking. Down there it was my first chance in I don't know how long, and I've made up a rule: I'm gonna do at least a half hours of thinking every day, all by myself. Just quietly. ("What are you going to think about?") I don't know. Everything.

From Here to Eternity (1953)
Screenwriter(s): Daniel Taradash

Decision to Put Aside Boxing

Private Robert "Prew" Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) explained his decision to never box again:

Some of the guys are puttin' me over the jumps 'cause I don't want to fight...yeah, on the boxing team. I don't want to box. I don't even want to think about it...see, I used to fight, middleweight. And I was pretty good and they know it...I used to work out with this guy Dixie Wells. He's a real good friend of mine. Loved to box. People on the outside had their eye on him. He was gonna come out of the Army and go right up to the top. Well, one afternoon, he and I were sparrin' around in the gym, you know, kind of friendly-like. And, he must have been set pretty flat on his feet 'cause I caught him with a, no more'n ordinary right cross, and uh, he didn't get up. He didn't move. He was in a coma for a week, and uh, finally, he did pull out of it. Only the thing was that he was blind. Well, I went to see him at the hospital a couple of times and finally I just couldn't go back. The last time he and I started talking about fighting, and uh, he started to cry. And seein' tears comin' out of those eyes that couldn't see anything.

Glen or Glenda (1953)
Screenwriter(s): Edward D. Wood, Jr.

About Transvestites and Men's/Women's Clothing

Play clip (excerpt): Glen or Glenda

After a Young Man and a Young Woman made comments about how the Creator gave us birth as either boys or girls, The Narrator/Dr. Alton (Timothy Farrell) in voice-over responded about how nature can make mistakes. An example of transvestitism was illustrated with the story of conflicted cross-dressing Glen/Glenda (Edward D. Wood, Jr.), shown in women's clothing looking at items in a shop window, and lounging at home:

Are we sure? Nature makes mistakes, it's proven everyday. This person is a transvestite. A man who is more comfortable wearing girl's clothes. The term transvestite is the name given by medical science to those persons who wear the clothing of the opposite sex. Many a transvestite actually wishes to be the opposite sex. The title of this can only be labeled 'Behind Locked Doors'. Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even the lounging outfit he has on, and he's the happiest individual in the world. He can work better, think better, he can play better, and he can be more of a credit to his community and his government because he is happy. These things are his comfort.

But why the wig and makeup? He dares to enter the street dressed in the clothes he so much desires to wear. But only if he really appears female. The long hair, the makeup, the clothing, the actual contours of a girl. Most transvestites do not want to change their life, their bodies, many of them simply want to change the clothing they wear to that as worn by the opposite sex. Glen is engaged to be married to Barbara, a lovely intelligent girl.

Shortly later, the Narrator continued, in voice-over, to discuss how men's clothing was restrictive and uncomfortable (and hats even caused baldness), while women's clothing was attractive, comfortable, fluffy and fine. In the animal kingdom, he noted that it's the male that is adorned to attract females' attention:

Modern man is a hard-working human. Throughout the day, his mind and his muscles are busy at building the modern world and its business administration. His clothing is rough, coarse, starched, according to the specifications of his accepted job. At home, what does modern man have to look forward to for his body comfort? The things provided for his home, a wool or flannel robe, his feet encased in the same thick, tight-fitting leather that his shoes are made of. These are the things provided for his home comfort. It doesn't look so comfortable, does it? And get the hat - or better still, get the receding hairline. Men's hats are so tight they cut off the blood flow to the head, thus cutting off the growth of hair. Seven out of ten men wear a hat, so the advertisements say. Seven out of ten men are bald.

But what about the ladies? Yes, modern woman is a hard-working individual also. But when modern woman's day of work is done, that which is designed for her home comfort is comfort. Hats that give no obstruction to the bloodflow, hats that do not crush the hair. Interesting thought, isn't it?

Just for comparison, let's go native, back to the animal instinct. There in the lesser civilized part of the world, it's the male who adorns himself with the fancy objects, such as paints, frills, and masks. The true instinct. The animal instinct. Bird and animal life. Is it not so that it's the male who is the fancy one? Could it be that the male was meant to attract the attention of the female? What's so wrong about that?

Where is the animal instinct in modern civilization? Female has the fluff and the finery, as specified by those who design and sell. Little Miss Female, you should feel quite proud of the situation. You, of course, realize that it's predominantly men who design your clothes, your jewelry, your makeup, your hair styling, your perfume. But life, even though its changes are slow, moves on.

There's no law against wearing such apparel on the street, as long as it can be distinguished that man is man and woman is woman. But, what is it that would happen were this individual to appear this way on the street? You're doing it now - laughing. Yet, it's not a situation to be laughed at.

Thus, the strange case of Glen, who was Glenda, one and the same person. Not half-man, half-woman, but nevertheless, man and woman in the same body, even though by all outward appearances, Glen is fully and completely a man.

Julius Caesar (1953)
Screenwriter(s): Based upon William Shakespeare's play, Joseph L. Mankiewicz (uncredited)

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears" - Mark Antony's Thoughts on His Friend, the Assassinated Tyrant Caesar

Play clip (excerpt): Julius Caesar

Mark Antony (Marlon Brando) gave an address to the Roman citizenry following the death of tyrannical Julius Caesar (Louis Calhern), who had been stabbed by Brutus (James Mason) and other conspirators. He confronted an angry crowd that at first sided with Brutus and the others:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious. If it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Caesar answered it. Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest (For Brutus is an honorable man. So are they all; all honorable men) Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me: but Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man. He hath brought many captives home to Rome whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honorable man. You all did see that on the Lupercal, I thrice presented him a kingly crown - which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition!? Yet, Brutus says he was ambitious; And, sure, he is an honorable man.

I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, but here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause: what cause withholds you then to mourn for him? Oh judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts. And men have lost their reason. Bear with me. My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, and I must pause till it come back to me....

Trouble Along the Way (1953)
Screenwriter(s): Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose

Troubles with the Game of Football

Financially-distressed Saint Anthony's College in NYC was floundering financially and was threatened to be closed within six months. The Catholic school's kind-hearted, elderly Rector, Father Burke (Charles Coburn), decided to recruit an experienced, yet cynical and bitter ex-football coach named Steve Aloysius Williams (John Wayne) to build up a winning football program so that its ticket sales for games would support the school. Williams had already experienced disfavor among his sports colleagues and remained bitter about the sport - and vowed to never repeat the experience.

[Note: This was the film in which it was stated: "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."]

While Williams was playing pool (he was a bookie in a billiard hall), Father Burke urged him to join the school as the new coach. The reluctant Williams explained how football had been developed from very shaky roots, but ultimately had become America's most enduring sport. At first, Williams was uninterested and declined the offer after giving this explanation:

Oh, it's a fine game, football - noble game. Originated in England in 1823. An enterprising young man named William Webb Ellis - who studied for the ministry, by the way - found his team behind in a soccer game. So he picked up the ball, and ran through the amazed opponents for a thoroughly illegal touchdown. And that's how football was born - illegitimately.

So, it moved to America where someone took advantage of a loophole in the rules and invented a little formation called the Flying Wedge. So many young men were maimed and killed by this clever maneuver that President Roosevelt - Theodore Roosevelt - had to call the colleges together and ask them to make the game less brutal. He was, of course, defeated in the next election....

In spite of this setback, football became an industry. The price of a good running back often surpassed the salary of a professor. And when some righteous committee unearthed this well-known fact, there was always a coach that took it on the chin. I just got tired of pickin' myself up.

By film's end, Williams was accused by Father Burke of using dubious, underhanded, unscrupulous and dishonest methods to build a winning team, including "buying players, forging records, dividing profits, and laughing at us who were naive enough to have had confidence in you."

The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Screenwriter(s): Stanley Roberts

"Ah, but the Strawberries" Paranoid Testimony

Play clip (excerpt): The Caine Mutiny

Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) gave a paranoid, unstable testimony during tough cross-examination from Lieutenant Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) in the court-martial trial of two of his officers, Lieutenant Stephen Maryk (Van Johnson) and Ensign "Willie" Keith (Robert Francis), as he became increasingly unhinged, and rotated steel ball bearings in his hand:

...He was no different from any other officer in the ward room, they were all disloyal. I tried to run the ship properly, by the book, but they fought me at every turn. The crew wanted to walk around with their shirt tails hanging out, that's all right, let them. Take the tow line, defective equipment, no more, no less. But they encouraged the crew to go around scoffing at me, and spreading wild rumors about steaming in circles, and then old yellow-strain. I was to blame for Lt. Maryk's incompetence and poor seamanship. Lt. Maryk was the perfect officer, but not Captain Queeg.

Ah, but the strawberries, that's, that's where I had them, they laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, with geometric logic, that a duplicate key to the ward room icebox did exist, and I've had produced that key if they hadn't pulled the Caine out of action. I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officer. (He paused - looked at all the questioning faces that stared back at him, and realized that he had been ranting and raving.) Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory. If I left anything out, why, just ask me specific questions and I'll be glad to answer them.

On the Waterfront (1954)
Screenwriter(s): Budd Schulberg

Sermon on the Docks - Railing Against Corruption

After the death of protesting longshoreman Kayo Dugan (Pat Henning) who threatened to expose racketeering in the waterfront Mob, crusading Father Barry (Karl Malden) preached a "Sermon on the Docks" in the hold of the ship at the scene of the murder. He retaliated against apathy and keeping silent:

Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calvary. They better wise up. Takin' Joey Doyle's life to stop him from testifying is a crucifixion. And droppin' a sling on Kayo Dugan because he was ready to spill his guts tomorrow - that's a crucifixion! And every time the mob puts the crusher on a good man, tries to stop him from doing his duty as a citizen - it's a crucifixion. And anybody who sits around and lets it happen, keeps silent about something he knows has happened, shares the guilt of it just as much as the Roman soldier who pierced the flesh of Our Lord to see if He was dead.

Although some of the workers reacted with hostility and yelled at him to go back to his church, Father Barry preached that his church was anywhere that the longshoremen worked. He also believed that the longshoremen were selling their souls every day to the Mob. He tried to convince them to testify against their corrupt employer, and he denounced the union bosses who benefited off the labors and kickbacks of the workers:

Boys, this is my church! And if you don't think Christ is down here on the waterfront, you've got another guess coming!...Every morning when the hiring boss blows his whistle, Jesus stands alongside you in the shape-up. He sees why some of you get picked and some of you get passed over. He sees the family men worrying about gettin' the rent and gettin' food in the house for the wife and the kids. He sees you sellin' your souls to the mob for a day's pay....And what does Christ think of the easy-money boys who do none of the work and take all of the gravy? And how does he feel about the fellows who wear a hundred-and-fifty dollar suits and diamond rings, on your union dues and your kickback money? And how does He, who spoke up without fear against every evil, feel about your silence?...

You want to know what's wrong with our waterfront? It's the love of a lousy buck. It's makin' the love of the lousy buck - the cushy job - more important than the love of man! It's forgettin' that every fellow down here is your brother in Christ! But remember, Christ is always with you - Christ is in the shape up. He's in the hatch. He's in the union hall. He's kneeling right here beside Dugan. And He's sayin' with all of you, if you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me! And what they did to Joey, and what they did to Dugan, they're doin' to you. And you. You. ALL OF YOU! And only you, only you with God's help, have the power to knock 'em out for good.

On the Waterfront (1954)
Screenwriter(s): Budd Schulberg

Taxi-Cab "I Coulda Been a Contender"

Top Pick

Play clip (excerpt): On the Waterfront

Disappointed longshoreman Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) spoke to his mobster brother Charley (Rod Steiger) in the back seat of a taxi-cab. Charley told Terry that he had heard a rumor that Terry might testify in court: "The grapevine says that you got a subpoena." Charley advised him to keep his mouth shut and not testify ("be a cheese-eater") about what he knew about the corrupt union bosses - or else! Terry was offered an easy loft job ("a boss loader slot...on the new pier") worth up to $400 a week, promising: "You don't do anything and you don't say anything." But Terry was uncertain and agitated about the conditions, especially when his brother threatened there would be serious consequences - and even held a gun on him.

Terry faced up to the fact that he has made nothing of his life - he blamed his brother instead of his manager for his failings. Terry was reminded of how he was given "a one-way ticket to Palookaville" in his boxing days when he knew he had a winner inside himself, but was told to lose in fixed fights. He realized that his brother betrayed him and sold him out to Palookaville (a reference to a palooka, an inferior or average boxer) for a quick profit, with these words expressing his terrible loss:

It wasn't him, Charley! It was you. You remember that night in the Garden, you came down to my dressing room and said: 'Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson.' You remember that? 'This ain't your night!' My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors in a ball park - and whadda I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville....

You was my brother, Charley. You shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me - just a little bit - so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money....You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let's face it. (pause) It was you, Charley.

Sabrina (1954)
Screenwriter(s): Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor, Ernest Lehman

An Introduction to the Chauffeur's Daughter and the Larrabees - "This Was As Close to Heaven As One Could Get on Long Island"

In the film's post-credits opening (in voice-over), pretty chauffeur's daughter Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn) introduced the grounds of the large Larrabee estate on Long Island, and the many servants to take care of the lifestyle required:

Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some 30 miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate. The estate was very large indeed and had many servants. There were gardeners to take care of the gardens, and a tree surgeon on a retainer. There was a boatman to take care of the boats, to put them in the water in the spring and scrape their bottoms in the winter. There were specialists to take care of the grounds -- the outdoor tennis court and the indoor tennis court, the outdoor swimming pool and the indoor swimming pool. And there was a man of no particular title who took care of the small pool in the garden for a goldfish named George.

Also on the estate, there was a chauffeur by the name of Fairchild, who had been imported from England years ago. together with a new Rolls-Royce. Fairchild was a fine chauffeur of considerable polish like the eight cars in his care. And he had a daughter by the name of Sabrina.

It was the eve of the annual six-meter yacht races, and, as had been tradition on Long Island for the past 30 years, the Larrabees were giving a party. (Sabrina spied on the party, climbing a tree for a better view) It never rained on the night of the Larrabee party. The Larrabees wouldn't have stood for it.

There were four Larrabees in all -- father, mother and two sons. Maude and Oliver Larrabee were married in 1906, and among their many wedding presents was the town house in New York and this estate for weekends. The town house has since been converted into Saks Fifth Avenue. Linus Larrabee, the elder son, graduated from Yale, where his classmates voted him the man most likely to leave his alma mater $50 million. His brother David went through several of the best eastern colleges for short periods of time and through several marriages for even shorter periods of time. He is now a successful six-goal polo player, and is listed on Linus's tax return as a $600 deduction.

Life was pleasant among the Larrabees, for this was as close to heaven as one could get on Long Island.

Best Film Speeches and Monologues
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