Best Film Speeches
and Monologues

1920-1931


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

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, Ger.) (Silent film)
Screenwriter(s): Carl Mayer, Hans Janowitz

Somnambulist's Introduction

Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) introduced the deadly sonambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt) to a crowd:

Step right up. Now showing for the first time: Cesare, the miraculous, twenty-three years of age, has for these three-and-twenty years been sleeping -- night and day -- without a break. Before your very eyes, Cesare will awaken from his death-like rigidity. Step right up. Step right up. Ladies and Gentlemen, Cesare will now answer any question you like to put to him. Cesare knows every secret. Cesare knows the past and can see into the future. Come up and test him for yourselves.

Metropolis (1927) (Silent film)
Screenwriter(s): Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang

Parable of Babel

Maria (Brigitte Helm) told the parable or legend of the Tower of Babel to teach the workers -- and a hidden Freder Fredersen (Gustav Fröhlich), about the importance of cooperation and unity, as she clutched her breast:

Come, let us build us a tower whose top may reach unto the stars! And on top of the tower we will write the words: Great is the world and its Creator! And great is Man! ...but the minds that had conceived the Tower of Babel could not build it. The task was too great. So they hired hands for wages. But the hands that built the Tower of Babel knew nothing of the dream of the brain that had conceived it. BABEL! BABEL! BABEL! One man's hymns of praise became other men's curses. People spoke the same language, but could not understand each other..."HEAD and HANDS need a mediator." "THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART!


All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Screenwriter(s): George Abbott

Preaching the "Glory of the Fatherland"

Play clip (excerpt): All Quiet on the Western Front

Jingoistic schoolmaster Professor Kantorek (Arnold Lucy) preached the "Glory of the Fatherland" to his classroom of young German students, who sat and listened intently at their school desks. He advocated "glory for the Fatherland," inspiring and rousing the entire class of young boys to enlist in the army and fight Germany's enemies:

You are the life of the Fatherland, you boys. You are the iron men of Germany. You are the gay heroes who will repulse the enemy when you are called upon to do so. It is not for me to suggest that any of you should stand up and offer to defend his country. But I wonder if such a thing is going through your heads? I know that in one of the schools, the boys have risen up in the classroom and enlisted in a mass. But, of course, if such a thing should happen here, you would not blame me for a feeling of pride. Perhaps, some will say that you should not be allowed to go yet, that you are too young, that you have homes, mothers, fathers, that you should not be torn away.

Are your fathers so forgetful of their Fatherland that they would let it perish rather than you? Are your mothers so weak that they cannot send a son to defend the land which gave them birth?! And after all, is a little experience such a bad thing for a boy? Is the honor of wearing a uniform something from which we should run? And if our young ladies glory in those who wear it, is that anything to be ashamed of? I know you have never desired the adulation of heroes. That has not been part of my teaching. We have sought to make ourselves worthy and let acclaim come when it would. But to be foremost in battle is a virtue not to be despised. I believe it will be a quick war, that there will be few losses. But if losses there must be, then let us remember the Latin phrase which must have come to the lips of many a Roman when he stood embattled in a foreign land: 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.' 'Sweet and fitting it is to die for the Fatherland.'

Some of you may have ambitions. I know of one young man who has great promise as a writer, and he has written the first act of a tragedy which would be a credit to one of the masters. And he is dreaming, I suppose, of following in the footsteps of Goethe and Schiller, and I hope he will.

But now our country calls! The Fatherland needs leaders!! Personal ambition must be thrown aside in the one great sacrifice for our country! Here is a glorious beginning to your lives! The fields of honor calls you.




All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Screenwriter(s): George Abbott

In the Trenches With a Dying Enemy Soldier

In perhaps the most memorable, painfully bleak scene of the film, young soldier Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) became trapped in a World War I shell hole with a mortally wounded Frenchman, and he was forced to remain with the groaning, dying man through the night as life slowly ebbed from the man. Anguished when the man died, Paul spoke to the corpse - he delivered an impassioned speech to the man, pleading for forgiveness from the corpse of the soldier he had killed. In other circumstances, the Frenchman could have been a friend or a comrade rather than the enemy:

I want to help you. I want to help you... (He listened to the dying man's screams) Stop that! Stop it! Stop it! I can bear the rest of it. I can't listen to that! Why do you take so long dying? You're going to die anyway. Oh, no. Oh, no. You won't die. Oh, no. You won't die. They're only little wounds. You'll get home. You'll be all right. You'll get home long before I will.

You know I can't run away. That's why you accuse me. I tell you, I didn't want to kill you. I tried to keep you alive. If you jumped in here again, I wouldn't do it. You see, when you jumped in here, you were my enemy - and I was afraid of you. But you're just a man like me, and I killed you. Forgive me, comrade. Say that for me. Say you forgive me! Oh, no. You're dead! Only you're better off than I am. You're through. They can't do any more to you now. Oh, God, why did they do this to us? We only wanted to live, you and I. Why should they send us out to fight each other? If we threw away these rifles and these uniforms, you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert. You'll have to forgive me, comrade. I'll do all I can. I'll write to your parents. I'll write to --- I'll write to your wife. I'll write to her. I promise she'll not want for anything. And I'll help her and your parents, too. Only forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me! Forgive me! (sobbing)





All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Screenwriter(s): George Abbott

Realities of War

Play clip (excerpt): All Quiet on the Western Front

Returning student Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) was encouraged to give a speech to his Professor's class of young students after experiencing warfare's despair. Some were at first enthusiastic to listen to him, but then thought he was a coward:

I can't say anything...I can't tell you anything you don't know. We live in the trenches out there. We fight. We try not to be killed; sometimes we are. That's all....

I've been there! I know what it's like.... I heard you in here reciting that same old stuff, making more iron men, more young heroes. You still think it's beautiful and sweet to die for your country, don't you? We used to think you knew. The first bombardment taught us better. It's dirty and painful to die for your country. When it comes to dying for your country, it's better not to die at all. There are millions out there dying for their countries, and what good is it?...You asked me to tell them how much they're needed out there. (to the boys) He tells you, 'Go out and die.' Oh, but if you'll pardon me, it's easier to say 'go out and die' than it is to do it....And it's easier to say it than to watch it happen....

It's no use talking like this. You won't know what I mean. Only, it's been a long while since we enlisted out of this classroom. So long, I thought maybe the whole world had learned by this time. Only now, they're sending babies, and they won't last a week! I shouldn't have come on leave. Up at the front, you're alive or you're dead, and that's all. You can't fool anybody about that very long. Up there, we know we're lost and done for, whether we're dead or alive. Three years we've had of it -- four years. And every day a year, and every night a century. And our bodies are earth. And our thoughts are clay. And we sleep and eat with death. And we're done for, because you can't live that way and keep anything inside you. I shouldn't have come on leave. I'll go back tomorrow. I've got four days more, but I can't stand it here! I'll go back tomorrow. Sorry.




Animal Crackers (1930)
Screenwriter(s): Morrie Ryskind

"How I Shot An Elephant in My Pajamas"

Before an audience, returning Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx), a noted African jungle explorer, recounted a hilarious account of his adventurous African safari:

Friends, I'm gonna tell you of the great, mysterious, wonderful continent known as Africa. Africa is God's country, and He can have it. Well, sir, we left New York drunk and early on the morning of February 2nd. After fifteen days on the water and six on the boat, we finally arrived on the shores of Africa. We at once proceeded three hundred miles into the heart of the jungle, where I shot a polar bear. This bear was six foot seven in his stocking feet and had shoes on....

Oh you did! Well, this bear was anemic and he couldn't stand the cold climate. He was a rich bear and he could afford to go away for the winter. You take care of your animals and I'll take care of mine! Frozen North, my eye! From the day of our arrival, we led an active life. The first morning saw us up at six, breakfasted, and back in bed at seven - this was our routine for the first three months. We finally got so we were back in bed at six thirty. One morning, I was sitting in front of the cabin, smoking some meat...Yes. There wasn't a cigar store in the neighborhood. As I say, I was sitting in front of the cabin when I bagged six tigers...Six of the biggest tigers...I bagged them. I...I bagged them to go away, but they hung around all afternoon. They were the most persistent tigers I've ever seen.

The principal animals inhabiting the African jungle are moose, elks and Knights of Pythias. Of course, you all know what a moose is. That's big game. The first day, I shot two bucks. That was the biggest game we had. As I say, you all know what a moose is? A moose runs around on the floor, and eats cheese, and is chased by the cats. The elks, on the other hand live up in the hills, and in the spring they come down for their annual convention. It is very interesting to watch them come to the water hole. And you should see them run when they find it is only a water hole. What they're looking for is an 'elk-a-hole'.

One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know. Then we tried to remove the tusks. The tusks. That's not so easy to say, tusks. You try that some time...As I say, we tried to remove the tusks, but they were embedded in so firmly that we couldn't bust them. Of course, in Alabama, the Tusk-a-loosa. But, uh, that's entirely ir-elephant to what I was talking about. We took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren't developed. But we're going back again in a couple of weeks.



Dracula (1931)
Screenwriter(s): Hamilton Deane, John L. Balderston, Garrett Fort

Nocturnal Visitation by Dracula

Mina Seward (Helen Chandler) described to her fiancee John Harker (David Manners) a "dream" she had -- after a nocturnal visitation by batlike vampire Dracula (Bela Lugosi) while she was sleeping:

And just as I was commencing to get drowsy, I heard dogs howling. And when the dream came, it seemed the whole room was filled with mist. It was so thick, I could just see the lamp by the bed, a tiny spark in the fog. And then I saw two red eyes staring at me, and a white livid face came down out of the mist. It came closer and closer. I felt its breath on my face, and then its lips, ohhh, (whimpering)...And then, in the morning, I felt so weak. It seemed as if all the life had been drained out of me.

Dracula (1931)
Screenwriter(s): Hamilton Deane, John L. Balderston, Garrett Fort

The Legend of Dracula

Throughout the second portion of the film, eminent scientist and middle-European (Netherlands) doctor - Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) spoke about the legendary vampire Dracula. Having dedicated his entire life to battling the undead, Van Helsing explained that vampires were not pure myth or superstition. He identified Dracula as "our vampire," and then described the characteristics and habits of vampires. Later, to protect Mina (Helen Chandler) already under Dracula's influence, he gave instructions for her safety:

Gentlemen, we are dealing with the undead...Yes, Nosferatu, the undead, the vampire. The vampire attacks the throat. It leaves two little wounds, white with red centers. Dr. Seward, your patient Renfield whose blood I have just analyzed, is obsessed with the idea that he must devour living things in order to sustain his own life...I may be able to bring you proof, that the superstition of yesterday can become the scientific reality of today...

Dracula is our vampire. A vampire casts no reflection in the glass. That is why Dracula smashed the mirror...The strength of the vampire is that people will not believe in him....A vampire, Mr. Harker, is a being that lives after its death by drinking the blood of the living. It must have blood or it dies. Its power lasts only from sunset to sunrise. During the hours of the day, it must rest in the earth in which it was buried...he must have brought his native soil with him, boxes of it. Boxes of earth, large enough for him to rest in...

Miss Mina is to wear this wreath of wolfsbane when she goes to bed. Watch her closely, and see that she does not remove it in her sleep...And under no circumstances must these windows be opened tonight...You will recollect that Dracula cast no reflection in the mirror...and that three boxes of earth were delivered to him at Carfax Abbey...and knowing that a vampire must rest by day in his native soil, I am convinced that this Dracula is no legend but an undead creature whose life has been unnaturally prolonged...If you take her from under our protection, you will kill her...

Mr. Harker. I have devoted my lifetime to the study of many strange things, little-known facts which the world is perhaps better off for not knowing....Our only chance of saving Miss Mina's life is to find the hiding place of Dracula's living corpse and to drive a stake through its heart...

(To Dracula) Should you escape us, Dracula, we know how to save Miss Mina's soul, if not her life...And I will have Carfax Abbey torn down stone by stone, excavated a mile around. I will find your earth box and drive that stake through your heart.




A Free Soul (1931)
Screenwriter(s): Becky Gardiner

A Drunken, Heart-Stopping Defense

According to various sources, this pre-Code film concluded with a 14-minute, uninterrupted monologue scene played by Best Actor-winning Lionel Barrymore (as Stephen Ashe) that was set in a courtroom - it was the longest take in a commercial film, accomplished by using two cameras simultaneously. He was defending his daughter Jan's (Norma Shearer) noble ex-fiancee Dwight Winthrop (Leslie Howard) from charges of murdering her ex-lover/gambler Ace Wilfong (Clark Gable), in order to preserve Jan's honor.

Stephen Ashe argued for temporary insanity (because of Ace's lethal threats), although Dwight claimed non-payment of a gambling debt as the reason for the murder. His client was acquitted, but Stephen collapsed of a heart attack as he finished his eloquent defense:

...I'm going to ask you to listen with your hearts. Dwight Winthrop knew that from the cradle on, through all her years, Jan Ashe listened to one man, only one, her father. Dwight Winthrop knew this too, that she placed no moral value on this ugly thing until the result and the punshment threatened the rest of her life. You who have sons should pray that they might have the nobility and kindness of this young man. And you who have daughters must believe with him that she was not to blame. It was through her father that she met this gambler, this beast. Her father endorsed this unholy friendship, and when this man threatened the rest of her life, this father wasn't there to protect his daughter. All this Dwight Winthrop knew. All this was caught in the whirlpool of his love. The poor boy went insane. And he's not guilty of cold, deliberate murder. There's only one breast that you can surely pin the responsibility of this crime on. Only one! Stephen Ashe is guilty and nobody else. Stephen Ashe. Your honor. I --


M (1931, Ger.)
Screenwriter(s): Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang

"Who Knows What It's Like To Be Me?" - Confessions of a Homicidal Pedophile

Child-murderer Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) delivered an agonizing "I must!" defense of his actions in front of an underworld kangaroo court:

What do you know about it? Who are you anyway? Who are you? Criminals? Are you proud of yourselves? Proud of breaking safes or cheating at cards? Things you could just as well keep your fingers off. You wouldn't need to do all that if you'd learn a proper trade or if you'd work. If you weren't a bunch of lazy bastards.

But I, I can't help myself! I have no control over this! This evil thing inside me, the fire, the voices, the torment!... It's there all the time, driving me out to wander the streets, following me, silently, but I can feel it there. It's me, pursuing myself. I want to escape, to escape from myself. But it's impossible. I can't escape. I have to obey it. I have to run endless streets. I want to escape, to get away. And I'm pursued by ghosts. Ghosts of mothers. And of those children. They never leave me. They are there, always there. Always, except when I do it. When I - Then I can't remember anything.

And afterwards I see those posters and read what I've done. Did I do that? But I can't remember anything about it. But who will believe me? Who knows what it's like to be me? How I'm forced to act -- How I must! -- Must!-- Don't want to -- Must! -- Don't want to, but must! And then a voice screams -- I can't bear to hear it! -- I can't go on, I can't go on ...





Best Film Speeches and Monologues
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Introduction
1920-1931 | 1932-1935 | 1936-1937 | 1938-1939 | 1939
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