Best Film Speeches
and Monologues

1948


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

Force of Evil (1948)
Screenwriter(s): Abraham Polonsky, Ira Wolfert

Making My First Million Dollars

Young, successful, and on-the-make Wall Street lawyer Joe Morse's (John Garfield) opening voice-over (during a high-angle camera view of towering skyscrapers surrounding St. Andrew's Church near Wall Street):

This is Wall Street and today was important because tomorrow, July Fourth, I intended to make my first million dollars, an exciting day in any man's life. Temporarily, the enterprise was slightly illegal. You see I was the lawyer for the numbers racket.

Hamlet (1948)
Screenwriter(s): Based upon William Shakespeare's play, Laurence Olivier (uncredited)

"To Be Or Not To Be" Speech

Perhaps the greatest, best-known Shakespearean monologue of all-time - Laurence Olivier's rendition (dubbed the "suicidal" version by film scholars) of the Danish prince Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy in his Best Picture-winning version of the bard's iconic play:

To be, or not to be: that is the question; Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them. To die, to sleep; No more; And by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to - 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub. For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come....

This soliloquy is the most used monologue ever and subject to endless interpretations, having also been performed memorably by Nicol Williamson (the "amused" rendition), Mel Gibson (the "distraught" rendition) and Kenneth Branagh (the "calculating" rendition).


Hamlet (1948)
Screenwriter(s): Based upon William Shakespeare's play, Laurence Olivier (uncredited)

Gravedigger Scene Speech

The "other" famous monologue from the Bard's classic tale was the gravedigger scene in which Hamlet (Laurence Olivier) and Horatio (Norman Wooland) came across a gravedigger (Stanley Holloway) digging Ophelia's grave. Hamlet noticed a skull on the ground - identified by the gravedigger as the skull of old English jester Yorick, someone known to Hamlet as a youth:

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, but now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rims at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your songs, your gambols, your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? Quite chap-fallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber, tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come; make her laugh at that.

[The scene was also memorably parodied in Steve Martin's L.A. Story (1991).]





L.A. Story (1991)

The Lady From Shanghai (1948)
Screenwriter(s): Orson Welles

"Hall of Mirrors" Speech

Crippled husband Arthur Bannister's (Everett Sloane) ominous speech to blonde femme fatale wife Elsa (Rita Hayworth) in the Hall of Mirrors at the film's conclusion, before firing commenced:

...I presume you think that if you murder me here, your sailor friend will get the blame and you'll be free to spend my money. Well, dear, you aren't the only one who wants me to die. Our good friend, the District Attorney, is just itching to open a letter that I left with him. The letter tells all about you, lover. So you'd be foolish to fire that gun. With these mirrors, it's difficult to tell. You are aiming at me, aren't you? I'm aiming at you, lover. Of course, killing you is killing myself. It's the same thing. But you know, I'm pretty tired of both of us.


The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Screenwriter(s): John Huston

"Gold Fever" Speech: "I Know What Gold Does To Men's Souls"

In a Tampico flophouse before a gold expedition began, grizzled prospector Howard (Walter Huston) delivered a wise description of "gold fever," gold's worth, and the seductive, "devilish" lure of gold. He recalled his past gold quests all over the world, ending his tales of experience (when he witnessed "what gold does to men's souls") by describing how the noble, friendly, and solid intentions of gold-seekers always vanished after gold was discovered:

Gold in Mexico? Why sure there is. Not ten days from here by rail and pack train, there's a mountain waitin' for the right guy to come along, discover her treasure, and then tickle her until she lets him have it. The question is, are you the right guy? Aw, real bonanzas are few and far between that take a lot of finding. Say, answer me this one, will ya? Why's gold worth some twenty bucks an ounce?...

A thousand men, say, go searchin' for gold. After six months, one of 'em's lucky. One out of the thousand. His find represents not only his own labor but that of 999 others to boot. That's uh, 6,000 months, uh, 500 years scrambling over mountains, goin' hungry and thirsty. An ounce of gold, mister, is worth what it is because of the human labor that went into the findin' and the gettin' of it....Well, there's no other explanation, mister. Gold itself ain't good for nothin' except for makin' jewelry with, and gold teeth.

Aw, gold's a devilish sort of a thing anyway. You start out to tell yourself you'll be satisfied with 25,000 handsome smackers worth of it, so help me Lord and cross my heart. Fine resolution. After months of sweatin' yourself dizzy and growin' short on provisions and findin' nothin', you finally come down to 15,000 and then 10. Finally you say, 'Lord, let me just find $5,000 dollars worth and I'll never ask for anything more the rest of my life.'...Yeah, here in this joint, it seems like a lot. But I tell you, if you was to make a real strike, you couldn't be dragged away. Not even the threat of miserable death wouldn't keep you from tryin' to add $10,000 more. $10,000, you'd want to get 25. $25,000, you'd want to get 50. $50,000, a 100. Like roulette. One more turn, you know, always one more...

I've dug in Alaska and Canada and Colorado. I was with the crowd in the British Honduras where I made my fare back home and almost enough over to cure me of the fever I'd caught. Dug in California and Australia. All over the world practically. Yeah, I know what gold does to men's souls...

That's gold, that's what it makes us. Never knew a prospector yet that died rich. Make one fortune, he's sure to blow it in tryin' to find another. I'm no exception to the rule. Aw sure, I'm a gnawed old bone now, but say, don't you guys think the spirit's gone. I'm all set to shoulder a pickax and a shovel anytime anybody's willin' to share expenses. I'd rather go by myself. Going it alone's the best way. But you got to have a stomach for loneliness. Some guys go nutty with it. On the other hand, goin' with a partner or two is dangerous. Murderers always lurkin' about. Partners accusin' each other of all sorts of crimes. Aw, as long as there's no find, the noble brotherhood will last. But when the piles of gold begin to grow, that's when the trouble starts.






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