Best Film Speeches
and Monologues


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

American Beauty (1999)
Screenwriter(s): Alan Ball

"My Name is Lester Burnham" Opening Speech Voice-Over

Top Pick

Play clip (excerpt): American Beauty

Foreshadowing his own death, in the film's opening voice-over, depressed, middle-aged suburban father Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) introduced his neighborhood and some of the film's characters, including himself, while admitting that he would soon die:

My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. This is my life. I am 42 years old. In less than a year, I will be dead. Of course, I don't know that yet, and in a way, I'm dead already. Look at me, jerking off in the shower. This will be the high point of my day. It's all downhill from here. That's my wife Carolyn. See the way the handle on those pruning shears match her gardening clogs? That's not an accident. That's our neighbor, Jim, and that's his lover, Jim...Man, I get exhausted just watching her. She wasn't always like this. She used to be happy. We used to be happy. My daughter, Jane. Only child. Janie's a pretty typical teenager - angry, insecure, confused. I wish I could tell her that's all going to pass, but I don't want to lie to her...Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser. And they're right. I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn't always feel this -- sedated. But you know what? It's never too late to get it back.

American Beauty (1999)
Screenwriter(s): Alan Ball

"There's So Much Beauty in the World" - A Plastic Bag Dancing in the Wind

Play clips (excerpt): American Beauty (short) American Beauty (extended)

In partial voice-over, Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) described for his neighbor friend Jane (Thora Birch) a videotape that he had filmed - of a plastic bag "dancing" in the wind:

Do you want to see the most beautiful thing I've ever filmed? It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing, and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was just, dancing with me, like a little kid beggin' me to play with it - for fifteen minutes. And that's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember - I need to remember. Sometimes, there's so much beauty in the world - I feel like I can't take it, like my heart is just going to cave in.

She took his hand and then kissed him.

American Beauty (1999)
Screenwriter(s): Alan Ball

At the Moment of Lester's Death: "It's Hard to Stay Mad When There's So Much Beauty in the World"

Play clip (excerpt): American Beauty

As the film came to its end, Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) delivered a voice-over at the moment of his death (after being shot in the head by gay neighbor Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper)), describing some of the meaningful experiences of his life (with a montage of images, some black and white from the past) - and despite his death, he expressed his feelings of "gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life":

I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars. (gunshot) And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. (gunshot) Or my grandmother's hands and the way her skin seemed like paper. (distant gunshot) And the first time I saw my cousin Tony's brand-new Firebird. And Janie. And Janie. And Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain, and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry: you will someday.

Any Given Sunday (1999)
Screenwriter(s): John Logan, Oliver Stone

"We Can Climb Outta Hell, One Inch At A Time...Life's This Game of Inches..."

Play clip (excerpt): Any Given Sunday

Aging coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) inspired his football team, the Miami Sharks, before their last game (shown on screen) in the playoffs against the Dallas Knights:

I don't know what to say, really. Three minutes 'til the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Now either we heal as a team or we're gonna crumble, inch by inch, play by play, until we're finished. We're in hell right now, gentlemen, believe me. And, we can stay here, get the s--t kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell, one inch at a time.

Now, I can't do it for ya. I'm too old. I look around. I see these young faces, and I think, I mean, I made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make. I, uh, I pissed away all my money, believe it or not. I chased off anyone who's ever loved me. And lately, I can't even stand the face I see in a mirror. You know, when you get old in life, things get taken from you. I mean that's, that's, that's part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losin' stuff. You find out life's this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game - life or football - the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast, and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game, every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when we add up all those inches, that's gonna make the f--kin' difference between winnin' and losin'! Between livin' and dyin'! I'll tell ya this - in any fight, it's the guy who's willin' to die who's gonna win that inch. And I know if I'm gonna have any life anymore, it's because I'm still willin' to fight and die for that inch. Because that's what livin' is! The six inches in front of your face!!

Now, I can't make you do it. You gotta look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes! Now I think you're gonna see a guy who will go that inch with ya. You're gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows, when it comes down to it, you're gonna do the same for him! That's a team, gentleman! And, either we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That's football, guys. That's all it is. Now, what are you gonna do?

The Big Kahuna (1999)
Screenwriter(s): Roger Rueff

Advice, Wasted on Youth

Play clip (excerpt): The Big Kahuna

In the film's final scene, the three industrial lubricant salesmen, desperate Phil (Danny Devito), cynical and argumentative Larry (Kevin Spacey), and new guy Bob (Peter Facinelli), prepared to leave their hotel after a manufacturers' convention.

The film's final voice-over monologue (known as the "Wear Sunscreen" essay) before and during the credits was taken from a newspaper column by Mary Schmich, published by the Chicago Tribune on June 1, 1997. The essay also appeared in lyric form in Baz Luhrmann's 1998 music single, Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen). [The beginning and end of the monologue varied slightly from the original.]

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are NOT as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday. Do one thing every day that scares you. Sing. Don't be reckless with other people's hearts, don't put up with people who are reckless with yours. Floss. Don't waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself. Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. Stretch. Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don't. Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't, maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't, maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else's. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions, even if you don't follow them. Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Don't mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85. Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth. But trust me on the sunscreen.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Screenwriter(s): Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez

The Apology Scene

Play clip (excerpt): The Blair Witch Project

One of the student film-makers, Heather Donahue (as Herself) filmed herself in the darkness, now feeling totally vulnerable and in danger. She apologized to the parents of her fellow students, to other cast members (Mike and Josh), and to her own family, as she cried in intense fear:

I just want to apologize to Mike's mom, and Josh's mom, and my mom, and I'm sorry to everyone. I was very naive. (Scared and looking away from camera) I am so, so sorry for everything that has happened. Because in spite of what Mike says now, it is my fault because it was my project, and I insisted, I insisted on everything. I insisted that we weren't lost. I insisted that we keep going. I insisted that we walk south. Everything had to be my way, and this is where we've ended up. And it's all because of me that we're here now. Hungry, cold, and hunted.

I love you mom and dad. I am so sorry. (hyperventilating and crying) What was that? I'm scared to close my eyes and I'm scared to open them. (more hyper-ventilating and sobbing) I'm gonna die out here.

Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Screenwriter(s): Duncan Kennedy, Donna Powers, Wayne Powers

"Nature Can Be Lethal..."

In the face of disaster, financier Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) delivered an impassioned rousing speech for survival:

Enough! That's enough now, from all of you! You think water's fast? You should see ice. It moves like it has a mind. Like it knows it killed the world once -- it got a taste for murder. When the avalanche came, it took us a week to climb out. And somewhere, we lost hope. Now I don't know exactly when we turned on each other, I just know that seven of us survived the slide... and only five made it out. Now we took an oath that I'm breaking now. Swore that we said 'twas the snow that killed the other two. But it wasn't. Nature can be lethal, but it doesn't hold a candle to man. Now you've seen how bad things can get and how quick they can get that way. Well, they can get a whole lot worse! So we're not going to fight anymore! We're going to pull together and we're gonna find a way to get outta here! First, we're gonna seal off this--

He was shockingly grabbed, crunched, and split in half by a giant super-intelligent shark.

Election (1999)
Screenwriter(s): Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

Campaign Promises

Overachieving and obsessive high school student body Presidential candidate Tracy Enid Flick (Reese Witherspoon) offered typical campaign rhetoric during her Carver High School election speech:

Poet Henry David Thoreau once wrote, 'I cannot make my days longer, so I strive to make them better.' With this election, we here at Carver also have an opportunity to make our high school days better. During this campaign, I have spoken with many of you about your many concerns. I spoke with Eliza Ramirez, a freshman, who said she feels alienated from her own homeroom. I spoke with sophomore Reggie Banks who said his mother works in the cafeteria and can't afford to buy him enough spiral notebooks for his classes...

I care about Carver and I care about each and every one of you, and together we can all make a difference. When you cast your vote for Tracy Flick next week, you won't just be voting for me. You'll be voting for yourself and for every other student here at Carver. Our days might not be any longer, but they can sure be better. Thank you.

Election (1999)
Screenwriter(s): Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

"Who Cares About This Stupid Election?"

In retaliation, Tammy Metzler (Jessica Campbell) entered the student body presidential race at Carver High School (Omaha, Nebraska), defiantly denounced the election and promised to dissolve the student government. She earned a standing ovation from the student audience in the school gym, although soon after, student officials suspended her and disqualified her as a candidate:

Who cares about this stupid election? We all know it doesn't matter who gets elected president of Carver. Do you really think it's gonna change anything around here;. Make one single person smarter or happier or nicer? The only person it does matter to is the one who gets elected. The same pathetic charade happens every year, and everyone makes the same pathetic promises just so they can put it on their transcripts to get into college. So vote for me, because I don't even want to go to college, and I don't care, and as president I won't do anything. The only promise I will make is that if elected, I will immediately dismantle the student government, so that none of us will ever have to sit through one of these stupid assemblies again! (Cheering) Or don't vote for me. Who cares? Don't vote at all!

Election (1999)
Screenwriter(s): Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

"Pre-Election Prayers"

Over-achieving, nominated high school student body Presidential candidate Tracy Enid Flick (Reese Witherspoon) delivered a prayer the night before the election, followed by prayers of two others involved, lesbian Tammy Metzler (Jessica Campbell) (recently dumped by her lover Lisa (Frankie Ingrassia)), and her older brother Paul (Chris Klein):

(Tracy) Dear Lord Jesus, I do not often speak with you and ask for things, but now I really must insist that you help me win the election tomorrow because I deserve it and Paul Metzler doesn't, as you well know. I realize that it was your divine hand that disqualified Tammy Metzler and now I'm asking that you go that one last mile and make sure to put me in office where I belong so that I may carry out your will on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

(Tammy) Dear God, I know I don't believe in you, but since I'll be starting catholic school soon, I though I should at least practice. Let's see. What do I want? I want Lisa to realize what a bitch she is and feel really bad and apologize for how she hurt me and know how much I still love her. In spite of everything, I still want Paul to win the election tomorrow, not that cunt Tracy. Oh, and I also want a really expensive pair of leather pants and someday, I wanna be really good friends with Madonna. Love, Tammy.

(Paul) Dear God, thank you for all your blessings. You've given me so many things, like good health, nice parents, a nice truck, and what I'm told is a large penis, and I'm very grateful, but I sure am worried about Tammy. In my heart, I still can't believe she tore down my posters, but sometimes, she does get so weird and angry. Please help her be a happier person because she's so smart and sensitive and I love her so much. Also, I'm nervous about the election tomorrow and I guess I want to win and all, but I know that's totally up to you. You'll decide who the best person is and I'll accept it. And forgive me for my sins, whatever they may be. Amen.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999, UK)
Screenwriter(s): Stanley Kubrick, Frederic Raphael

A Confession of Fantasized Infidelity - "I Was Ready to Give Up Everything"

After smoking dope in her bedroom with her physician husband Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise), Alice (Nicole Kidman) revealed that she had contemplated an affair a year earlier with a young naval officer when they were vacationing as a family at Cape Cod, with their young daughter Helena. Her confession of unfaithfulness was shocking to him, since he believed women were generally more faithful than men.

Do you remember last summer at Cape Cod?...Do you remember one night in the dining room, there was this young naval officer and he was sitting near our table with two other officers?...The waiter brought him a message, at which point he left. Nothing rings a bell?...

Well, I first saw him that morning in the lobby. He was, he was checking into the hotel and he was following the bellboy with his luggage to the elevator. He-he glanced at me as he walked past. Just a glance. Nothing more. But I could hardly move. That afternoon, Helena went to the movies with her friend, and you and I made love. And we made plans about our future and we talked about Helena. And yet at no time was he ever out of my mind. And I thought if he wanted me, even if it was only for one night, I was ready to give up everything. You. Helena. My whole f--king future. Everything.

And yet it was weird, 'cause at the same time, you were dearer to me than ever. And, and at that moment, my love for you was both tender and sad. I-I barely slept that night, and I woke up the next morning in a panic. I didn't know whether I was afraid that he had left or that he might still be there. But by dinner, I realized he was gone and I was relieved.

Fight Club (1999)
Screenwriter(s): Jim Uhls

The Rules of Fight Club - and Its Philosophy

Play clips (excerpt): Fight ClubFight ClubFight ClubFight Club
Play clip (excerpt): Fight Club (complete)

Soap maker Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) formed a fight club in a bar's basement, with the film's unnamed narrator (Edward Norton), an insomniac auto company employee. Durden described the rules of the newly-established club and its philosophy to other emasculated "pissed off" men, numbed by the consumer culture and society:

Gentlemen, welcome to Fight Club.

The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! Third rule of Fight Club: if someone yells 'stop!', goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: no shirts, no shoes. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight...

Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables - slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s--t we don't need.

We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives.

We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.

Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Screenwriter(s): James Mangold, Lisa Loomer, Anna Hamilton Phelan

"Was I Ever Crazy?"

When she was released after 18 months of treatment, young psychiatric institution patient Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder), the autobiographical main character, summarized in voice-over her stay, when she was classified as having borderline personality disorder. She was now recovered and being released "into the world." She was driven by the same taxi cab driver (Monty Hoover) who brought her to the hospital. As she recalled some of her patient friends, she mentioned that most of them had also been released, some of whom she had seen:

Declared healthy and sent back into the world. My final diagnosis? A recovered borderline. What that means, I still don't know. Was I ever crazy? Maybe. Or maybe life is....Crazy isn't being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It's you or me - amplified. If you've ever told a lie and enjoyed it. If you've ever wished you could be a child forever. They weren't perfect, but they were my friends and by the '70s most of them were out, living lives. Some I've seen, some never again, but there isn't a day my heart doesn't find them.

Best Film Speeches and Monologues
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