Best Film Speeches
and Monologues


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

Adam's Rib (1949)
Screenwriter(s): Ruth Gordon, Garson Kanin

Defense of Murder

Play clip (excerpt): Adam's Rib

Amanda Bonner's (Katharine Hepburn) closing argument in court to defend the actions of her client Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday), using the principle of equality before the law. In a "revealing experiment" to reverse the couple's sex-stereotyped roles, she asked the jury to imagine the defendant Mrs. Attinger as a home-protecting man, to picture "slick home-wrecker" Miss Caighn as a predatory wolfish man (with short dark hair and a mustache), and to fantasize that Mr. Attinger was a woman (with blonde hair).

The camera showed the action through the eyes of the jurors - each of the three characters were momentarily transformed. Amanda defended the "unwritten law" - the passionate-lover defense that allowed a man to break the law to save his home by killing his wife when caught in bed with a lover. And she argued that the wife Doris [and by extension all women] was entitled to the same defense and justice in the courts that a man received, whatever that justice may be:

And so the question here is equality before the law, regardless of religion, color, wealth, or, as in this instance, sex...Law, like man, is composed of two parts: Just as man is body and soul, so is the law, letter and spirit. The law says, 'Thou shalt not kill,' yet men have killed, and proved a reason, and been set free. Self-defense, defense of others, of wife, of children, and home. If a thief breaks into your house, and you shoot him, the law will not deal harshly with you, nor indeed should it. So here, you are asked to judge not whether or not these acts were committed, but to what extent they were justified. Now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I request that you join me in a revealing experiment. I ask you all to direct your attention to the defendant, Mrs. Attinger. Now keep looking at her, keep watching. Listen carefully and look at her. Look at her hard. Now imagine her a man. Go on now, use your imaginations. Think of her as a man sitting there accused of a like crime -- a husband, who is only trying to protect his home.

Now hold it. Hold that impression and look at Beryl Caighn. Look at her. Look at her hard, a man, a slick home wrecker, a third party, a wolf! You know the type. Alright, hold that impression and look at Mr. Attinger, and suppose him a woman. Try, try hard. Ah, yes, there she is. The guilty wife! Look at her! Does she arouse your sympathy?! Alright! Now you have it! Judge it so! An unwritten law stands back of a man who fights to defend his home. Apply this same law to this maltreated wife, and neglected woman. We ask you no more: equality. Deep in the heart of South America, there thrives today a civilization far older than ours: a people known as the Loquiňanos, descended from the Amazons. In this vast tribe, members of the female sex rule and govern, and systematically deny equal rights to the men, made weak and puny by years of subservience, too weak to revolt. And yet, how long have we lived in the shadow of a like injustice?

Consider this unfortunate woman's act as though you yourselves had each committed it. Every living being is capable of attack, if sufficiently provoked. Assault lies dormant within us all. It requires only circumstance to set it in violent motion. I ask you for a verdict of not guilty. There was no murder attempt here, only a pathetic attempt to save a home.

All the King's Men (1949)
Screenwriter(s): Robert Rossen

Rousing Campaign Speech for Governor

Play clip (excerpt): All the King's Men

Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) gave a no-notes rousing, half-drunken campaign speech at a fairgrounds barbecue, during his campaign for Louisiana governor, when he threw away his prepared speech:

My friends, my friends, I have a speech here. It's a speech about what this state needs. There's no need in my telling you what this state needs. You are the state and you know what you need. You over there, look at your pants. Have they got holes in the knees? Listen to your stomach. Did you ever hear it rumble for hunger? And you, what about your crops? Did they ever rot in the field because the road was so bad you couldn't get 'em to market? And you, what about your kids? Are they growin' up ignorant as dirt, ignorant as you 'cause there's no school for 'em?

Naw, I'm not gonna read you any speech. But I am gonna tell ya a story. It's a funny story so get ready to laugh....Get ready to bust your sides laughin', 'cause it's sure a funny story. It's about a hick, a hick like you, if ya please. Yeah, like you. He grew up on the dirt roads and the gully washes of a farm. He knew what it was to get up before dawn and get feed and slop and milk before breakfast, and then set out before sunup and walk six miles to a one-room, slab-sided schoolhouse.

Aw, this hick knew what it was to be a hick, all right. He figured if he was gonna get anything done, well, he had to do it himself. So he sat up nights and studied books. He studied law, because he thought he might be able to change things some - for himself and for folks like him. Now I'm not gonna lie to ya. He didn't start off thinkin' about the hicks and all the wonderful things he was gonna do for 'em. Naw, naw, he started off thinkin' of number one.

But somethin' came to him on the way. How he could do nothin' for himself without the help of the people. That's what came to him. And it also came to him with the powerful force of God's own lightning back in his home county when the school building collapsed 'cause it was built of politics' rotten brick. It killed and mangled a dozen kids. But you know that story. The people were his friends because he'd fought that rotten brick. And some of the politicians down in the city, they knew that, so they rode up to his house in a big, fine, shiny car and said as how they wanted him to run for Governor....And he swallowed it. He looked in his heart and he thought in all humility, how he'd like to try and change things. He was just a country boy who thought that even the plainest, poorest man can be Governor if his fellow citizens find he's got the stuff for the job. All those fellas in the striped pants, they saw that hick and they took him in...

There he is! There's your Judas Iscariot! Look at him! ...Look at him....! (Chaos) Now, shut up! Shut up, all of ya! Now listen to me, ya hicks. Yeah, you're hicks too, and they fooled you a thousand times just like they fooled me. But this time, I'm gonna fool somebody. I'm gonna stay in this race. I'm on my own and I'm out for blood. Now listen to me, you hicks! Listen to me, and lift up your eyes and look at God's blessed and unfly-blown truth.

And this is the truth! You're a hick, and nobody ever helped a hick but a hick himself! Alright, listen to me! Listen to me! I'm the hick they were gonna use to split the hick vote. Well, I'm standin' right here now on my hind legs. Even a dog can learn to do that. Are you standin' on your hind legs? Have you learned to do that much yet? Here it is! Here it is, ya hicks! Nail up anybody who stands in your way! Nail up Joe Harrison! Nail up McMurphy! And if they don't deliver, give me the hammer and I'll do it myself!

Battleground (1949)
Screenwriter(s): Robert Pirosh

An Answer to the $64 Question: "Was This Trip Necessary?" -- "There Was Nothing Left to Do But Fight" - Against the Nazis and Fascism

The Chaplain (Leon Ames) delivered an outdoor sermon during an inter-faith service for soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division when they were trapped in the wintry, besieged French city of Bastogne during WWII's Battle of the Bulge:

Now it's nearly Christmas, and here we are in beautiful Bastogne enjoying the winter sports. (laughter) And the $64 dollar question is: 'Was this trip necessary?' I'll try to answer that, but my sermons, like everything else in the Army, depend on the situation and the terrain. So I assure you this is gonna be a quickie! 'Was this trip necessary?' Well, let's look at the facts. Nobody wanted this war but the Nazis. A great many people tried to deal with them, and a lot of 'em are dead. Millions have died for no other reason except that the Nazis wanted 'em dead. So, in the final showdown, there was nothing left to do except fight.

There's a great lesson in this. And those of us who've learned it the hard way aren't gonna forget it. We must never again let any force dedicated to a super-race, or a super-idea, or super-anything become strong enough to impose itself upon a free world. We must be smart enough and tough enough in the beginning to put out the fire before it starts spreading. My answer to the $64 dollar question is, yes. This trip was necessary.

As the years go by, a lot of people are gonna forget, but you won't. And don't ever let anybody tell you you were a sucker to fight in the war against fascism. And now, Jerry permitting, let us pray. Let us pray for this fog to lift. Almighty God... (artillery drowned him out) The organist is hitting those bass notes a little too loud for me to be heard. So let us each pray in his own way, to his own God. (Many of the men knelt)

The Fountainhead (1949)
Screenwriter(s): Ayn Rand

Closing Testimony and Summation to a Jury

Play clip (excerpt):The Fountainhead

Architect Howard Roark (Gary Cooper) made a closing summation (of author-screenwriter Ayn Rand's treatise on Objectivism) to a jury, defending his destruction of housing project buildings that had perverted his original design plans - his words were so powerful that the jury found him not-guilty:

Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light, but he left them a gift they had not conceived and he lifted darkness off the earth. Throughout the centuries, there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. The great creators, the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors, stood alone against the men of their time. Every new thought was opposed. Every new invention was denounced. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid, but they won. No creator was prompted by a desire to please his brothers. His brothers hated the gift he offered. His truth was his only motive. His work was his only goal. His work, not those who used it. His creation, not the benefits others derived from it. The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things and against all men. He went ahead whether others agreed with him or not, with his integrity as his only banner. He served nothing and no one. He lived for himself. And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.

Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. But the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. The man who thinks must think and act on his own. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be subordinated to the needs, opinions, or wishes of others. It is not an object of sacrifice. The creator stands on his own judgment - the parasite follows the opinions of others. The creator thinks - the parasite copies. The creator produces - the parasite loots. The creator's concern is the conquest of nature - the parasite's concern is the conquest of men. The creator requires independence. He neither serves nor rules. He deals with men by free exchange and voluntary choice. The parasite seeks power. He wants to bind all men together in common action and common slavery. He claims that man is only a tool for the use of others, that he must think as they think, act as they act, and live in selfless, joyless servitude to any need but his own.

Look at history. Everything we have, every great achievement has come from the independent work of some independent mind. Every horror and destruction came from attempts to force men into a herd of brainless, soulless robots, without personal rights, without person ambition, without will, hope, or dignity. It is an ancient conflict. It has another name - 'The individual against the collective.' Our country, the noblest country in the history of men, was based on the principle of individualism, the principle of man's 'inalienable rights.' It was a country where a man was free to seek his own happiness, to gain and produce, not to give up and renounce. To prosper, not to starve. To achieve, not to plunder. To hold as his highest possession a sense of his personal value, and as his highest virtue his self-respect. Look at the results. That is what the collectivists are now asking you to destroy, as much of the earth has been destroyed.

I am an architect. I know what is to come by the principle on which it is built. We are approaching a world in which I cannot permit myself to live. My ideas are my property. They were taken from me by force, by breach of contract. No appeal was left to me. It was believed that my work belonged to others, to do with as they pleased. They had a claim upon me without my consent, that it was my duty to serve them without choice or reward. Now you know why I dynamited Courtland. I designed Courtland. I made it possible. I destroyed it. I agreed to design it for the purpose of seeing it built as I wished. That was the price I set for my work. I was not paid. My building was disfigured at the whim of others who took all the benefits of my work and gave me nothing in return.

I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life, nor to any part of my energy, nor to any achievement of mine, no matter who makes the claim! It had to be said - The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing. I came here to be heard in the name of every man of independence still left in the world. I wanted to state my terms. I do not care to work or live on any others. My terms are - A man's right to exist for his own sake.

Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
Screenwriter(s): Harry Brown, James Edward Grant

Words to Recruits: "I'm Gonna Get the Job Done"

Play clip (excerpt): Sands of Iwo Jima

Tough Marine Sgt. John M. Stryker (John Wayne) addressed his combat soldiers, a new batch of recruits to fight in the Pacific theatre of the war as a rifle squad. He was determined to harshly mold them into fighting men:

My name is Stryker, Sergeant John M. Stryker. You're gonna be my squad - a rifle squad. Three of us have seen action: Corporal Dunn, Charlie Bass, and myself. You're gonna learn from us. In boot camp, you learned out of a book. Out here, you gotta remember the book and learn a thousand things that have never been printed, probably never will be. You gotta learn right and you gotta learn fast. And any man that doesn't want to cooperate, I'll make him wish he hadn't been born. Before I'm through with you, you're gonna move like one man and think like one man. If you don't, you'll be dead.

Now, you guys have had a nice, easy day. I hope you enjoyed it because it's the last one you're gonna get for a long time. You joined the Marines because you wanted to fight. Well, you're gonna get your chance, and I'm here to see that you know how. If I can't teach you one way, I'll teach ya another. But I'm gonna get the job done. Any questions? That's all.

The Third Man (1949, UK)
Screenwriter(s): Graham Greene

Opening Voice-Over Narration

Play clip (excerpt): The Third Man

The opening monologue given by Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), with two versions of the speech (this is the original UK version):

I never knew the old Vienna before the war with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm. Constantinople suited me better. I really got to know it in the classic period of the Black Market. We'd run anything if people wanted it enough - mmm - had the money to pay. Of course, a situation like that does tempt amateurs but you know they can't stay the course like a professional. Now the city - it's divided into four zones, you know, each occupied by a power: the American, the British, the Russian and the French. But the center of the city that's international policed by an International Patrol. One member of each of the four powers. Wonderful! What a hope they had! All strangers to the place and none of them could speak the same language. Except a sort of smattering of German. Good fellows on the whole, did their best you know.

Vienna doesn't really look any worse than a lot of other European cities. Bombed about a bit. Oh, I was gonna tell you, wait, I was gonna tell you about Holly Martins, an American. Came all the way here to visit a friend of his. The name is Lime, Harry Lime. Now Martins was broke and Lime had offered him, some sort, I don't know, some sort of job. Anyway, there he was, poor chap. Happy as a lark and without a cent.

The Third Man (1949, UK)
Screenwriter(s): Graham Greene

Ferris Wheel Ride "Cuckoo Clock" Speech

Play clip (excerpt): The Third Man

Harry Lime (Orson Welles) delivered the famous 'cuckoo clock' dialogue after a ferris wheel ride with Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten):

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long, Holly.

Best Film Speeches and Monologues
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