Sunday, July 1, 2012

What Are Your Top Ten Movie Speeches?

By:  Dennis Sherrard

I admit it.  I'm a movie buff. Since I was a little kid I have loved going to movies.  I still do, and just saw a great movie called Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson, and starring Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton and two fairly new young actors who played the lead parts.  Their names are Jared Gilman, who plays Sam, and Kara Hayward, who plays Suzy. If you see one film this year, go see this.  It will make you smile.

But, this article is about movie speeches.  You know, the monologue one of the characters make that stays with you long after the movie and is one of those things that will make you stop when you're flipping channels on the boob tube just to watch it again.   We all have our favorites. Some are inspiring, some are sad, some are laugh out loud funny, some are just flat cool.   I'm listing my Top Ten here for you along with the clips.  Tell me what yours are.  There are so many great movies with these types of monologues, it would be easy to create a Top 100, but for brevity sake, I'm going with my Top Ten. And yes, there's quite a few sports speeches in here. Hey, it's my list,  tell me yours.

So, on with the show;

10.  V For Vendetta - a 2005 Sci-Fi movie from Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name.  Set in the not too distant future, the World has gone to hell, and the United Kingdom moves forward under a totalitarian regime called Norsefire, headed by the odius dictator Adam Sutler.  The central character, only known as "V", has infiltrated the main broadcast company in London and taken over the emergency channel, which airs over every television within the UK.   V's message is rousing and one that all of those concerned about autocratic governments should listen closely to as it describes what we give up under the guise of "security".   Here's "V's" speech:

9. Trainspotting - Danny Boyle's tour de force about heroin use and addiction in Edinburgh, Scotland was released in 1999 and started a young Ewan McGregor, who takes us on a journey of funny, tragic, and finally redemptive places.  Ewan's character, Renton goes through so much during the course of the film, as does his mates, played by other actors you'll recognize as big stars now.  Anyway, at the start of the film, Renton gives us a voice over monologue as the cast is introduced that is terrific.  Take a listen, and "Choose Life":

8. The Grapes of Wrath - John Ford's classic telling of the Steinbeck novel was released in 1940, to an audience just coming out of the Great Depression and about to embark on a devastating World War.  The speech by Henry Fonda as the beaten down Tom Joad is heartbreaking and inspiring.  Fonda once said this role was one of his favorites and it is one of mine.  Fox owns the clip of Henry Fonda making the speech, but here is a fairly good rendition of the speech.  Here's "I'll Be There":

7. Pride of the Yankees - Released 1942, Gary Cooper as the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig.  While Cooper was a little old to play the young Lou Gehrig it didn't matter when it came to the speech he gave at the end, basically a word for word copy that Gehrig himself made when he had to retire from the game due to an illness now bearing his name that eventually killed him.  Gehrig set the standard for retirement speeches, and the short phrase, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth", still sends chills down my spine when I hear it.   Fun note:  Look for the very real Babe Ruth in the clip, just to the left of Cooper as he begins to speak.   Here's Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig.  Get the tissues out, you're going to need them:

6. Animal House - John Landis' 1977 masterpiece about the Delta Tau Chi fraternity house set in the  early 1960's was a monumental hit and has become a cult classic.  The movie had some amazing lines and sight gags in it. (Who knew you could use a chains saw to get a dead horse out of a dean's office?)  The moview starred Tim Matheson, Peter Reigert, Tom Hulce, Kevin Bacon, and others, but it was John Belushi's Bluto Blutarsky's inspiring call to battle that is my favorite clip from the film.  Feel the pride swelling up inside you as Bluto exhorts his brothers, who have all but given up to the draconian actions of the sinister Dean Wormer.  I give you brother Bluto:

5. Shawshank Redemption - The 1994 release adapted from a short story by Steven King was a story of a man wrongly accused of murder, who spends over 20 years in prison while trying to maintain his hope and some sense of humanity.  Tim Robbins gave a remarkable performance as the wrongly convicted Andy, and his speech sitting with Morgan Freeman, as Red, the wise friend of Andy's doing a long sentence for murder that brings forward the best part of the film to me.  "Get busy living or get busy dying". Indeed Andy.  Indeed.

4. The West Wing - "20 Hours in America", OK, I know, I know, the West Wing isn't a movie, it was a TV series.  So sue me, this is my blog.  Anyway, I have to include this because it is just one of my favorite speeches in any medium.  The set up is a speech President Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen is doing for some non-descript audience, so pretty much just a campaign speech discussing a recent terrorist attack on the country.  However, a terrible fire has just occurred at a University in the midwest and the President speaks to the courage of the young people who braved the fire to try and rescue their fellow students.  One of Aaron Sorkin's best scene's on television in my opinion and worth of inclusion here.  Tell me I'm wrong. I double-dog dare you:

3. Network - 1976 was a big year for movies.  Star Wars was released and took top billing at the box office, but it was the film Network that was my favorite that year.  Paddy Chayefski's brilliant screenplay along with Peter Finch's maniacal turn as Howard Beale, the veteran newsman going through a complete nervous breakdown on air made this a film that was both prescient (see Citizen's United and corporate influence in government today) and timeless.   We all know Howard Beale's rant "I'm Mad as Hell and I'm Not Going to Take it Anymore!",  but it is the speech made by Ned Beatty, as Arthur Jensen, the chairman of the conglomerate that Beale works for that is worth it's weight in gold.  Take a listen, as Mr. Jensen sets Howard straight on how the world works.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird - Released in 1962, Harper Lee's southern gothic novel about a wise lawyer in Alabama was autobiogaphical.  Told from the young daughter's perspective (nicknamed "Scout"), the movie follows Atticus Finch's defense of a black man who was accused of raping a white woman.  Harper Lee's book was one of my favorite's when I was a young man, and Gregory Peck's portrayl of Atticus Finch is absolutely spot-on.  Here is his summation of the defense during the trial of Tom Robinson:

And,  my number One movie speech is:

1.  Field of Dreams - Kevin Costner was the star of this movie, adapted from W.P. Kinsella's novel, "Shoeless Joe Comes to Iowa", that tells the story of a farmer, Ray Kinsella, who starts to hear voices in the cornfield telling him crazy things like "If you build it, he will come".  Costner's, Ray, gets more and more of these signals that sends him off to build a baseball diamond right in the middle of a cornfield, get himself into financial difficulties with a brother-in-law who wants to foreclose on his house, meets a bunch of ghosts who play baseball, starting out with Shoeless Joe Jackson, a member of the infamoust 1918 Chicago "Black Sox", who were accused of throwing the World Series to the Reds that year.  Ray is also drawn by the voices to travel to Boston and find Terrence Mann, a reclusive, J.D. Salinger type author who has a connection to this wonderful game of baseball.  Convincing Terrence Mann to leave Boston, make a swing by 1972 era Minnesota, then return back to Iowa, "Terry" all of a sudden has a brainstorm on how to save the ball field and the homestead.  Here is "People will come Ray".  My all time favorite Movie speech.  Enjoy James Earl Jones wonderful monologue here:

So, there you have it.  My all time favorite speeches from film.  Please, let me know what you think and tell me what your favorites are. 


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