The Best Movie Speeches Stay With You Long After the Credits Roll, and Some Can Inspire You to Take Action
Before Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous dream speech and long after, movie speeches have been infiltrating minds young and old to get off their ass and do something.
The “I Have a Dream” speech Martin Luther King, Jr. gave in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, still gives me chills. As far as we have come since then as a society, much work remains to be done, and current President Donald Trump (it always pains me to write that) isn’t helping. I’ll save you a political rant — you get enough of that on social media. Every year, when we celebrate MLK in the United States, and not just because it’s a holiday for many workers, I’m always drawn to movies with great speeches, on social problems or another facet of this thing called life.
The best movie speeches stick with you; they bring out the emotions and make you feel like you can take on the world and make a difference. My selections of the best movie speeches may not have the lasting impact as Martin Luther King’s poignant words, but they can influence people to better their society, take action, and make change. Here are seven of the best movie speeches of all time that can light a fire under anyone’s ass.
The 7 Best Movie Speeches
7. Norma Rae - Small yet mighty.
There’s a very good reason why Sally Field won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Norma Rae in Norma Rae — it’s an incredibly powerful yet vulnerable performance that leaves a lasting impression. When Norma proclaims on the factory floor that everyone up to the National Guard will be required to get her to leave, your skin tingles and you feel the weight of all her emotions flow through you.
The climactic moment, of course, comes when she holds up the union sign, standing proudly and without fear, fighting for what is right.
6. The Shawshank Redemption - Talk is cheap.
Sometimes the fewer the words the better, and that applies to Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) explaining his life philosophy to Red (Morgan Freeman) in what would end up being arguably the most important scene in The Shawshank Redemption. Sure, it isn’t going to change the world, but change starts with one person, and Andy’s look on life is good advice for us all.
Want to make change? Don’t just talk about it, get up and make that difference, big or small. Afraid to take a chance? Use it as motivation. Is everyone telling you to stop dreaming? They’re wrong. Because you have to get busy living or else you’re just waiting to die. It also includes a great recommendation if you want to run away from the madness and chill on the beach.
5. Braveheart - Freedom!
I think we’ve all heard tyranny thrown around in the past couple of years, sadly enough. Modern-day tyrants can’t have my freedom, and Mel Gibson as William Wallace hammers that home in fantastic fashion — atop a horse!
“They may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom!”
Wallace’s fight for freedom was very bloody, and we don’t want that today, so just heed the words but not the violence.
4. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington — Listen up kids!
Political corruption has no place in society, and abolishing greed may seem like an insurmountable task, but dammit kids, do it better than the generation before you or before them.
3. Network — The truth will set you free.
Was screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky a psychic? You may think so after revisiting the brilliant speech he wrote for Howard Beale in Network that Peter Finch made legendary. It’d also be great if everyone opened their windows and screamed: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” And no, I don’t mean the window that connects us all to social media.
2. Independence Day - A presidential speech to respect.
I have a dream. The day of the United States presidential inauguration in 2021, the trending hashtag and meme’s of the day will be “Today we celebrate our Independence Day.” You can read between the lines on why, or I can just spell it out to you: It will mean Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, if Trump has at this time been imprisoned or sent to rot in his tower penthouse, will be on their way out.
This could also happen on election day, and I’ll be ecstatic. And if you’re wondering, MLK day is happening just as Trump hits his halfway mark in office — he has 729 days left.
I’m a major Roland Emmerich fangirl, and I must admit that it makes me incredibly happy to include the oh-so-famous Independence Day speech on the list of best movie speeches ever. It still brings a tear to my eye over 20 years after I saw Independence Day for the first time. We may not be battling aliens for independence, but we are fighting each and every day as best we can for oh so many things. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is here to motivate you to keep fighting.
1. The Great Dictator - The best movie speech of all time?
Charlie Chaplin may be best known as a funny man who used comedy to raise awareness, but the final speech in The Great Dictator is all sorts of serious. And it could not be more important to listen to today given the political landscape in many countries and movement towards unhealthy extreme Nationalism.
How the Academy Awards did not honor Charlie Chaplin with a win for Best Original Screenplay based solely on this speech boggles me; it was his first film with dialogue. It’s by far one of the best movie speeches, if not the best; it was relevant in 1940 and will remain relevant and affecting for eternity.