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Greatest Classic Drama Speeches: 9 Memorable Monologues

Image: Greatest Classic Drama Speeches: 9 Memorable Monologues
The Great Dictator, 1940. (imdb.com)

By    |   Thursday, 30 Apr 2015 04:20 AM

A great dramatic speech should grab and hold a film-going audience’s attention. It can sum up the movie at the end or set the tone for what is to come.

If done incorrectly, classic drama speeches can be boring, hammy, or unintentionally comedic – not what the writer and director had in mind for a riveting drama. But when done well, the drama can grip the audience and bring them into the film.

The following are nine of the greatest classic drama speeches on film:

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“The Great Dictator” (1940)

Charlie Chaplin seems best known for his silent Little Tramp portrayals. While there is slapstick in “The Great Dictator,” which is a spoof of Adolf Hitler, this is the most serious film made by Chaplin. In it, he plays a Jewish barber who is mistaken for a dictator.

The script was written prior to the start of World War II. By the time the film was released, the war in Europe was underway.

Chaplin concludes the movie with a classic, dramatic, impassioned speech to a group of soldiers.



“Braveheart” (1995)

A war-painted Mel Gibson, portraying Scottish fighter William Wallace, gives one of the most rousing and well-known speeches in movie history. Trying to pluck up the courage of the Scottish rebels against the English, Gibson rides up and down the line on his horse, emphasizing that this is a fight for freedom, telling his men that the English never can take away their freedom.

Gibson begins the speech by acknowledging his character has passed from reality to myth in his own time. The Scots believe Wallace was a giant with almost supernatural powers. But Gibson transitions to the fact that, like the fighters he is addressing, he is a man who only wants his freedom.

Here is Wallace’s speech:



“Patton” (1971)

The image of George C. Scott standing in front of an oversized American flag, playing the role of General George Patton, has a lot to do with this being a memorable speech. But the words he speaks while addressing his troops define Patton and set the tone for the rest of the movie.

This is Patton’s speech:


Patton's Opening speech to the troops - George... by josephwouk

“Henry V” (1989)

A couple of disclaimers: First, of course, Shakespeare wrote most of this dialogue. Second, the Kenneth Branagh film might not be as popular with some as the Laurence Olivier version, which was made in 1944.

But Branagh captures the moment perfectly. As English monarch Henry V, he is trying to motivate his men – many poor, fearful, outnumbered by the enemy, and worn out by the campaign – for what will be the decisive battle. Known as the “Feast of Crispin” speech, it contains the famous line, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” It motivates his men and is capable of moving the most deatched moviegoer.

This is Henry V’s speech:



“Network” (1976)

It’s amazing that a movie made almost 40 years ago still can resonate with audiences today. Peter Finch’s performance as disgruntled news anchor Howard Beale earned him an Oscar. The speech, penned by Paddy Chayefsky, gave him enduring fame, with his, “I’m mad as hell and not gonna take this anymore” refrain becoming a 1970s catchphrase.

The classic dramatic speech from an exasperated Beale expresses his concern about the value of money, job security, the environment, commercialism and crime. Just substitute iPad, Internet connection, and SUV for toaster, TV, and steel-belted radials and you are transported from 1976 to today.

This is Beale’s speech:



“Wall Street” (1987)

As Howard Beale became a symbol of the 1970s, Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko became a true symbol of the 1980s with his “greed is good” line from a speech to shareholders.

But it’s not just that one line. Gekko, as ruthless a Wall Street trader as there is, has the charisma to pull off his crimes. He woos the underappreciated shareholders at Teldar Paper while tormenting the board of directors.

Here is Gekko’s speech:



“Casablanca” (1942)

Humphrey Bogart, playing Rick Blaine, doesn’t give the longest or most emotional speech, but it is widely remembered. Bogart is staying in North Africa to fight against Nazi tyranny. He is seeing off one-time lover Ilsa, portrayed by Ingrid Bergman, encouraging her to get on the plane with her husband and go to the United States while he remains.

It’s not a pure uninterrupted monologue, as Ilsa does have a few lines to break up Bogart’s speech. But it is a classic drama speech, and has some of the most-repeated and parodied lines in movie history.

This is Blaine’s speech:



“On the Waterfront” (1954)

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Most people know the line, “I coulda been a contender,” and that it comes from the classic drama “On the Waterfront.” But Marlon Brando, playing Terry Malloy, delivers it as part of his speech, summing up to his brother Charley, played by Rod Steiger, how throwing fights made Terry money in the short term but ruined him in the long run.

This is Malloy’s speech:



“Cool Hand Luke” (1967)

Like Bogart, Strother Martin’s famous lines are short and contained an oft-parodied phrase. “What we have here is failure to communicate” is a line that became a popular catchphrase and is even mocked by Paul Newman’s Luke character at the end of the film. The line from the speech even has its own Wikipedia page.

Martin, as the prison captain, is trying to get Luke on to what he believes is the right track of conformity. Luke resists and is brutally clubbed down by Martin.

This is Martin’s speech:



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A great dramatic speech should grab and hold a film-going audience's attention. It can sum up the movie at the end or set the tone for what is to come. If done incorrectly, classic drama speeches can be boring or unintentionally comedic.
classic, drama, speeches, films, movies, monologues
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Thursday, 30 Apr 2015 04:20 AM
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