Best Film Speeches
and Monologues


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

Bigger Than Life (1956)
Screenwriter(s): Uncredited Nicholas Ray, James Mason, Gavin Lambert, Clifford Odets

Rant Against 50's Education in the Schools

Ill, underpaid and frustrated schoolteacher and middle-class family man Ed Avery (James Mason) deliberately delivered offensive and haughty criticisms of every tenent of 50s life in a rant-filled denouncement of the school and its failed educational policies during a PTA meeting where the walls displayed children's artwork. As a result of his inflammatory and demagoguery, some were admiring: "That young man ought to be the president of this country!...(or) the principal of this school":

Every year whole forests are cut down to supply the paper for these grotesque daubs. And we coo over them as though they were Van Goghs or Rembrandts....Childhood is a congenital disease and the purpose of education is to cure it. I see my point of view is new to many of you. But ask yourselves, how do we describe the unfortunate individual who carries his unspoiled childhood instincts into adult life? We say he's arrested. We call him a moron.

(Parents gasped, one with a daughter named Louise)

My dear lady, your Louise is a charming little creature, but we must try to examine the problem without prejudice or sentiment. The hard fact remains that your daughter, at her present stage of development, is roughly on an intellectual par with the African gorilla.

(More gasps)....

What, after all, from the Stone Age to the present day has been the greatest invention of mankind? Has anybody got a match?...(He lit his cigarette) Fire? The wheel? Safety pin? The hydrogen bomb? No, ladies and gentlemen, the alphabet. And persons like myself are required to teach these poor, bewildered kids to read by a system of word recognition as though the mighty English language were a collection of Chinese ideograms. And then we're surprised when Junior can't even wade through the comics...."The three Rs" - that's just a catchphrase. Before it's too late, we ought to get back to the real fundamentals. And I'm not just talking of primary education now. We're breeding a race of moral midgets.

(Even more gasps)

All this hogwash about 'self-expression', 'permissiveness', 'development patterns', 'emotional security'. Security - with the world ready to blow up. If the republic is to survive, we've got to get back to teaching the good old virtues of hard work and self-discipline and a sense of duty! My friends, I tell you, we're committing hara-kiri every day right here in this classroom.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Screenwriter(s): Daniel Mainwaring

Haunting Voice-Over Narration

Play clip (excerpt): Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Dr. Miles Bennell's (Kevin McCarthy) haunting opening voice-over about how the town had changed, and how his office had been besieged by patients in a near epidemic during his absence:

It started - for me, it started - last Thursday, in response to an urgent message from my nurse, I hurried home from a medical convention I'd been attending. At first glance, everything looked the same. It wasn't. Something evil had taken possession of the town...

Sick people who couldn't wait to see me, then suddenly were perfectly all right. A boy who said his mother wasn't his mother. A woman who said her uncle wasn't her uncle.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Screenwriter(s): Daniel Mainwaring

Frantic "You're Next!" Warning

Play clip (excerpt): Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The doctor's equally haunting frantic, panicked highway rant as he desperately tried to warn motorists of the omnipresent danger -- especially after seeing a flatbed truck loaded with alien pods:

Help! Wait! Stop. Stop and listen to me!...These people who're coming after me are not human!...Look, you fools. You're in danger. Can't you see? They're after you. They're after all of us. Our wives, our children, everyone. They're here already. YOU'RE NEXT!

It Conquered the World (1956)
Screenwriter(s): Lou Rusoff

Eulogy About Man's Place in the Universe

Play clip (excerpt): It Conquered the World

In Roger Corman's sci-fi/horror B-movie, Dr. Paul Nelson's (Peter Graves) surprisingly potent eulogy for Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef) and his thoughts on Man's place in the universe in a closing montage:

He learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature... and because of it, the greatest in the universe. He learned too late for himself that men have to find their own way, to make their own mistakes. There can't be any gift of perfection from outside ourselves. And when men seek such perfection... they find only death... fire... loss... disillusionment... the end of everything that's gone forward. Men have always sought an end to the toil and misery, but it can't be given, it has to be achieved. There is hope, but it has to come from inside, from Man himself.

Moby Dick (1956)
Screenwriter(s): Ray Bradbury, John Huston

The Battle of Good vs. Evil

Play clip (excerpt): Moby Dick

In Nantucket before sailing, Father Mapple's (Orson Welles) long, stirring, ranting sermon about the battle of good vs. evil in the soul of man, with nautical metaphors, reference to St. Paul, and inspired by the Jonah and the whale tale:

And God had prepared a great fish "to swallow up Jonah." Shipmates - the sin of Jonah was in his disobedience of the command of God. He found it a hard command. And it was, shipmates, for all the things that God would have us do are hard. If we would obey God, we must disobey ourselves. But Jonah still further flouts at God by seeking to flee from him. Jonah thinks that a ship made by men will carry him into countries where God does not reign. He prowls among the shipping like a vile burglar, hastening to cross the seas. And as he comes aboard, the sailors mark him. The ship puts out, but soon the sea rebels. It will not bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes up. The ship is like to break. The boatswain calls all hands to lighten her. Boxes, bales, and jars are clattering overboard. The wind is shrieking. The men are yelling. "l fear the Lord," cries Jonah, "the God of heaven, who hath made the sea and the dry land."

Again, the sailors mark him. But wretched Jonah cries out to them to cast him overboard for he knew that for his sake this great tempest was upon them. Now behold Jonah, taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea, into the dreadful jaws awaiting him. And the great whale shoots to all his ivory teeth. Like so many white bolts upon his prison. And Jonah cries unto the Lord out of the fish's belly. But observe his prayer, shipmates. He doesn't weep and wail. He feels his punishment is just. He leaves deliverance to God. And even out of the belly of hell, grounded upon the ocean's utmost bones, God heard him when he cried. And God spake unto the whale. And from the shuddering cold and blackness of the deep, the whale breached into the sun and vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. And Jonah, bruised and beaten, his ears like two seashells, still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean.

Jonah did the Almighty's bidding. And what was that, Shipmates? TO PREACH THE TRUTH IN THE FACE OF FALSEHOOD. Now Shipmates, woe to him who seeks to pour oil on the troubled waters when God has brewed them into a gale. Yea, woe to him who, as the Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself a castaway. But delight is to him who against the proud gods and commodores of this Earth stands forth his own inexorable self, who destroys all sin, though he pluck it out from under the robes of senators and judges! And Eternal Delight shall be his, who coming to lay him down can say:

- O Father, mortal or immortal, here I die.
I have striven to be thine,
more than to be this world's or mine own,
yet this is nothing
I leave eternity to Thee.

For what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Screenwriter(s): Michael Wilson, Carl Foreman

Welcome to British POWs - "Be Happy in Your Work"

Japanese Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) delivered a threatening, ominous address to recently-captured British POWs in his jungle camp, instructing that officers would work as well as the other prisoners, and warning everyone about impossible escape:

I am Colonel Saito. (He stepped up on a box to view the prisoners and address them.) In the name of his Imperial Majesty, I welcome you. I am the commanding officer of this camp, which is Camp 16 along the great railroad which will soon connect Bangkok with Rangoon. You British prisoners have been chosen to build a bridge across the River Kwai. It will be pleasant work requiring skill, and officers will work as well as men. The Japanese Army cannot have idle mouths to feed. If you work hard, you will be treated well. But if you do not work hard, you will be punished!

A word to you about escape. There is no barbed wire, no stockade, no watchtower. They are not necessary. We are an island in the jungle. Escape is impossible. You would die. Today you rest. Tomorrow you will begin. Let me remind you of General Yamashita's motto: 'Be happy in your work.' Dismissed!

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Screenwriter(s): Michael Wilson, Carl Foreman

A Personal Reverie About Years of Military Service

British Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) and Japanese Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) met mid-span on the beautifully engineered, completed River Kwai bridge as the sun set, exchanging views and reflecting on its magnificent beauty ("a beautiful creation" and "a first-rate job"). As Saito stood behind him, Nicholson leaned over one of the guard rails and looked out over the river while delivering a personal reverie about his years of military service. He reflected on his "good life," particularly as a regular officer in India (the ultimate destination of the Japanese railroad route that he had helped to construct):

I've been thinking. Tomorrow it will be 28 years to the day that I've been in the service. 28 years in peace and war. I don't suppose I've been at home more than ten months in all that time. Still, it's been a good life. I love India. I wouldn't have had it any other way. But there are times when suddenly you realize you're nearer the end than the beginning. And you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents, what difference your being there at any time made to anything, or if it made any difference at all really. Particularly in comparison with other men's careers. I don't know whether that kind of thinking is very healthy, but I must admit I've had some thoughts on those lines from time to time. But tonight -- tonight!

He accidentally dropped his stick into the river.

Blast! I must be off. The men are preparing some sort of entertainment.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Screenwriter(s): Richard Matheson

"I Still Exist!" Speech

Top Pick

Play clip (excerpt): The Incredible Shrinking Man

Scott Carey's (Grant Williams) final narrated soliloquy as he shrank out of sight (and stood before a window screen), but realized that he was still important in the scheme of the universe:

I was continuing to shrink, to become... what? The infinitesimal? What was I? Still a human being? Or was I the man of the future? If there were other bursts of radiation, other clouds drifting across seas and continents, would other beings follow me into this vast new world? So close - the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet - like the closing of a gigantic circle. I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens. The universe, worlds beyond number, God's silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of Man's own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature that existence begins and ends is man's conception, not nature's. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I STILL EXIST!

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Screenwriter(s): Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman

Hunsecker's Degrading of Falco - "Match me, Sidney"

Powerful and unethical Broadway columnist J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) provided a critical, vitriolic and degrading description of slimy press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis):

Mr. Falco, let it be said at once, is a man of forty faces, not one. None too pretty and all deceptive. You see that grin? That's the, uh, that's the charming street-urchin face. It's part of his helpless act. He throws himself upon your mercy. He's got a half-dozen faces for the ladies. But the one I like, the really cute one, is the quick, dependable chap - nothing he won't do for you in a pinch. So he says! Mr. Falco, whom I did not invite to sit at this table tonight, is a hungry press agent and fully up to all the tricks of his very slimy trade.

He then challenged him with the famous line, holding out his cigarette:

Match me, Sidney.

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Screenwriter(s): Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman

Farewell to a Possessive Brother

Play clip (excerpt): Sweet Smell of Success

Susan Hunsecker (Susan Harrison) quiet, firm farewell to her powerful but possessive brother J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster), who tried to end her relationship with jazz musician Steve Dallas (Martin Milner), before she walked into the bright sun as an independent woman:

I'd rather be dead than living with you. For all the things you've done, J.J., I know I should hate you. But I don't. I pity you.

Best Film Speeches and Monologues
(chronological, by film title)
1920-1931 | 1932-1935 | 1936-1937 | 1938-1939 | 1939
1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943-1944 | 1945-1947 | 1948 | 1949 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952-1954
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