With Rutger Hauer passing away recently, his “tears in the rain” speech from Blade Runner was all over the place. It’s somewhat what he is known for. We both love that speech (see below) and it made us think about some of our favorite cinematic monologues and what stood out above the others. Would they be long or short, funny or dramatic, old or new, stirring or bat-shit crazy nonsense? We could write a post a week on movie monologues, but I think it’s best for us to highlight some of our key favorites in one simple post.
I am always one for a great speech, monologue, expanded quotation, etc… Done right it can really be the heart of a film or a turning point for characters. Done wrong and it can be a schmaltzy, cheesy, pile of garbage, see the end of Rocky 4 – The Quest for Peace. My favorite ones are rarely in comedy although Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral or even Kevin Costner in Bull Durham could make a list. It’s also easy to pick biographies, always a chance for a great speech, see Malcolm X, Patton, or The Pride of the Yankees. Mine usually come from dramas, especially in the historical milieu. So here are my three but so not finite a list.
Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) – Blade Runner (1982)
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die”
For me Blade Runner is just a good film, overall the noirish vibe doesn’t quite do it for me, although I love the sequel. That being said, I love Hauer’s speech at the end of the film. Hauer’s character is a replicant, an android, but he espouses on what being a human is and what legacies they leave. If you are a realist like me you see the quote as I do, the memories we have are gone at the moment of death, like he says “like tears in the rain”. The myth is Hauer came up with the speech himself, but even Hauer himself has said he altered a longer speech to be more direct and honestly it’s also more poignant. His delivery is amazing which makes me think that Hauer was underutilized in Hollywood. He was a pretty good actor that didn’t get the credit he deserved. Although he may be gone his legacy will live on.
MG: I’ll try to get past your heretical comment that Blade Runner “is just a good film”. I love this scene and his speech really brings all the film’s themes together. I agree that I think Hauer was a better actor than most of the films he ended up in.
Jewish Barber (Charlie Chaplin) – The Great Dictator (1940)
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor…Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”
It’s a much longer speech than the quote above (see the video below). Charlie Chaplin made his first real talkie, believe it or not, with a parody of Adolph Hitler, and during Hitler’s lifetime at that. What guts and it’s a brilliant film. Chaplin plays a Jewish barber and Hynkel the dictator of a made-up country. The film juxtaposes their lives and in the end, a mix up puts the barber in the place to make a speech before a huge crowd. Some critics call it superfluous and overdramatic but to me it’s brilliant. The thing that is so remarkable is its ability to hold up today. The movie is almost 80 years old, if nothing else people should watch it, at least the speech, it’s passionate, emotional and considering Chaplin is known as a silent film star he delivers it stirringly. We need more of this in today’s world and less of what we have been getting.
MG: My turn for blasphemy by admitting I’ve never seen this film. The speech is great, though. Doing away with national barriers – that’s a sentiment you don’t hear much outside of Lennon’s “Imagine”.
John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman) – Glory (1989)
“And who are you? So full of hate that you have to fight everybody because you’ve been whipped and chased by hounds. Well, that might not be living, but it sure as hell ain’t dying. And dying’s been what these white boys have been doing for going on three years now, dying by the thousands, dying for you, fool. And all this time I keep askin’ myself, when, O Lord, when gonna be our time? Gonna come a time when we all gonna hafta ante up and kick in like men! Like men!”
Morgan Freeman can say anything at any time right, probably a million little monologues from him, but for me, it’s the one from the Civil War film Glory. Denzel Washington’s character Tripp is giving Andre Braugher’s character Thomas a hard time and it’s about to come to blows when Freeman steps in. For me, it’s the turning point of the film. There’s a bit more to the quote that has some liberal use of the “n” word but I think the part before it does its job. Tripp has taken his experiences and allows himself to be resentful of some of the other black soldiers that may have had a better life prior to the war, like Thomas. Freeman’s speech and the slap across the face snap him out of it and puts the whole thing in perspective and it changes the way Tripp approaches the war and the rest of the film. It’s their time to fight for themselves and not let others die for them. You can see the realization in Tripp’s face. It’s a great scene with three great actors.
MG: I could probably pick 4 or 5 great speech scenes from this film, and this one is a great choice. I got chills reading it. Freeman sure knows how to deliver the gravitas. Denzel went on to deliver quite a few of his own stirring monologues across a number of subsequent films.
The first rule of screenwriting class is “don’t talk about screenwriting class”, no it’s “show don’t tell”. When writing for film, the mantra is that what’s on-screen should be generally understood even with the sound turned off or the dialogue in a foreign language. Yet, there are times when a good screen speech is just what’s needed. Unfortunately, a pile of crammed-together exposition can be a sloppy way to explain a convoluted plot (and is often a sure sign that the movie has done a poor job of storytelling). But a strategically placed monologue can be movie gold – and sometimes can be the moment where a strong acting turn gets noticed for an Oscar nomination.
Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) – JFK (1991)
“…but someday, somewhere, someone may find out the damn truth. We better, or we might just as well build ourselves another government, like the Declaration of Independence says to – when the old one ain’t working, just a little farther out West. An American naturalist wrote: ‘A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against its government’…Show this world that this is still a government of the people, for the people and by the people. Nothing as long as you live will ever be more important. It’s up to you”.
As the determined New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, Kevin Costner had a ton of dialogue and more than a few good monologues in Oliver Stone’s three-hour opus on the Kennedy assassination. This particular speech is towards the end of the film and is just part of a longer trial closing statement. Stone captures this speech in a mostly continuous shot, with just a few reaction cutaways, and as the camera moves with Costner, at the very end on the line “It’s up to you”, the camera crosses into Costner’s line-of-sight and the fourth wall is broken. That line is being delivered to the jury in the film, but directly to us in the audience. It’s a bold and brilliant move, one that really impacts me every time I watch this film. This quote also feels more relevant than ever in our currently socio-political climate.
DJ: I thought about using this one myself, the classic Oliver Stone “breaking of the 4th wall”. Costner is as great as he has ever been delivering this line. Like you said, it’s very relevant today. It gives me goose bumps watching it and shakes me to my core at the same, great writing and brilliant cinematic effect.
Blake (Alec Baldwin) – Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
“Put that coffee down! Coffee’s for closers only…The good news is – you’re fired. The bad news is – you’ve got just one week to regain your jobs starting with tonight. Oh? Have I got your attention now? Good, ’cause we’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired. Get the picture? You laughing now? You got leads…you can’t close the leads you’re given, you can’t close shit, you ARE shit! Hit the bricks, pal, and beat it, ’cause you are going out!”
Alec Baldwin’s seven-minute sales speech is legendary, at this point far more than the film itself. It has to be in the top 10 cameo performances of all-time. It’s a profanity-laced assault on three beleaguered realty salesmen, played by Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, and Alan Arkin. There are several other great parts of the speech, particularly between Baldwin and Harris, who tries to challenge the alpha-status of Baldwin’s slick uber-salesman, such as Harris -“What’s your name?”, Baldwin: “Fuck you – that’s my name! You know why mister? ‘Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight and I drove an $80,000 BMW. That’s my name.” And then there’s the “ABC, Always Be Closing” part – all of which was spoofed hilariously on SNL:
In the ’90s, my friends and I enjoyed watching the original scene from the movie for comedic purposes and were quick to quote lines from it when we would hang out. Watching this now, after having been suckered a couple times in my life by a too-good-to-be-true sales pitch, it’s a good reminder of the pressure of the commission-sales industry and how it pushes otherwise good employees to bend the truth and cajole otherwise reasonable people into buying something they don’t need.
DJ: “You know what these are: brass balls…” This speech is more popular than the movie itself, despite being a great Mamet film. I beleive this scene was written just for the film version. It’s brilliant and I like to reference it a lot often wanting to show it to my employees so they will get their shit together or quit either way…the SNL sketch to boot is comedic gold…and even Baldwin can’t keep the lines straight.
Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) – Apocalypse Now (1979)
” I’ve seen horrors…horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me…but you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face…and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared.
You have to have men who are moral, and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling…without passion…without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.”
This is a portion of Marlon Brando’s famous “Horror” monologue from Francis Ford Coppola’s ambitious Vietnam film, loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness (one of my favorite books, by the way). While the role of Colonel Kurtz became one of Brando’s most famous performances, the story of his on-set antics and clashes with the director became rather infamous over the years. If you ever get the chance to see Hearts of Darkness, a 1991 documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now, it details the erratic and unpredictable behavior of the famous actor and what Coppola had to grapple with to get usable footage for the film. Brando reportedly showed up unexpectedly overweight, unprepared, and proceeded to hijack the film schedule and rewrite the script. Brando reportedly changed the Kurtz character drastically, and sometimes Coppola just had to let the camera roll whole Brando made up his lines on the spot. Nevertheless, somehow this turned into an iconic performance that helped the film earn eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. Somehow what Brando came up with and Coppola edited together into the final cut was brilliant, and successfully distilled the essence of this epic story of mankind’s dark nature and the ironic madness of modern warfare.
DJ: How Coppola turned this into the film he did is mesmerizing. Brando being at his all-time most difficult and spewing complete nonsense still is able to come off with one of the greatest supporting performances ever. The speech is awesome and completely frighening. And it’s often judgement that defeats us…