So many great scenes. Perhaps the toughest to pull off goes even further back than the days of Shakespeare. A strong monologue can make a classic character as well as movie. Sometimes you just have to let the guy/gal go, particularly when they balloon up an already great sequence that was written. These are my Top 10 Movie Monologues of all-time.
10. You Like Huey Louis and the News? (“American Psycho”):
While Christian Bale had previously done some work as a child actor, his break out that made him a serious movie star came with 2000’s “American Psycho”. Bale plays Patrick Bateman, a pretentious Wall Street broker with zero care for anybody else. Oh, and he also moonlights as a methodical serial killer. His co-worker and competition Paul Allen played by Jared Leto is a thorn in his side. After getting Allen thoroughly wasted during a night of excess, Bateman brings his nemesis back to his high rise apartment. Starting the sadistic series of events is Patrick putting on the popular Huey Louis song “Hip to Be Square”. The song goes along with Patrick explaining the intricacies of the artist’s music, all the while walking around the space preparing to kill Allen with an axe. It is both hilarious and brutal. One of those monologues where it is hard to decide exactly how you should react when watching in a room full of people. Myself, I’m cracking up. Quick side note; This is arguably the best version of Batman murdering the undeniably worst version of The Joker years before either took on those roles. It’s a small world.
9. I Am Not Actually A Woman (“Tootsie):
“Tootsie” is unquestionably one of the best comedies of the 80’s. Who knew that a cross-dressing actor in a daytime Soap Opera would end up being so charming instead of inherently weird. Dustin Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey, a struggling actor in New York City. He teaches a shotty acting class and is a nightmare to work with on stage and in commercials. Desperate for money, Dorsey makes a gamble by dressing up as a woman for an opening part as a no-nonsense administrator for a hospital. The producers love the ugly ‘woman’ that’s not afraid to go off the rails. While the success train works for a while, eventually it’s time for Michael to reveal himself. He does it in one of the best off script ways possible that has everyone guessing what is going on.
8. We Have Got to be Like These Wall Street Guys (“Hustlers”):
The shortest monologue on this list. Also the most straight to the point. “Hustlers” is the true story of a group of strippers in New York that were able to scam multiple high end Wall Street a-holes out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by using their credit card information. Obviously stealing from these rich guys was not sustainable. After all these guys’ job is to hustle people on a daily basis. But in a mere 30 seconds star Jennifer Lopez breaks down how you cannot beat the rich by saying the system is unfair. In order to beat the powerful, you have to think like them. It is an unfortunate truth and something that is certainly relatable to our current presidential race. You don’t have to be a scumbag, but when you’re dealing with one then know your audience or bend over and take it.
7. I Wanna Watch the Damn Ballgame! (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”):
In 2020 it has become much more accepted that mental health issues are a genuine fact. I consistently argue we are all crazy in our own way and at various levels. Based on the Ken Kesey novel, 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is an indictment on how we treat those who aren’t ‘Normal’. Jack Nicholson won a well deserved Oscar as R.P. McMurphy, a con-artist trying to get out of his prison sentence by claiming he’s crazy. When he gets to the psyche-ward McMurphy realizes this is not going to be so simple. The mentally ill patients can be difficult, but McMurphy treats them like human beings unlike the psyche ward staff. At one point he demands the ability to watch the World Series game going on. The evil Nurse Ratched refuses to turn on that television. In a fit of rage, R.P. starts calling the game as if you were watching live. It slowly brings the ‘crazies’ together and they are going nuts as though they were actually at the stadium. The rant is a show of freewill defying authority.
6. Embarrassing the Millionaires With an Epic Rap (“Bulworth”):
Jay Billington Bulworth is by far my favorite fictional politician ever. Director/Star Warren Beatty said basically everything no politician would have the balls to say. When the longtime senator has a mental breakdown and hires a hitman to kill him, the man has nothing to lose. As he hits the campaign trail “Bulworth” starts saying whatever the hell he wants, completely disregarding giving a damn about the rich companies that fund his campaign. The best moment comes after he befriends a group of young urban black women and starts rapping at one of his most important campaign stops. Going around the room with a sick beat, Bulworth burns all of the big businesses that thrive off of the plight of the poor. Corporate banks, insurance companies, and big oil are all called out on their B.S. on national television. Beatty is spitting genuine facts at rich people that do not want to hear it and it is hilarious.
5. I Just Wanna Hug Her One More Time (“Mystic River”):
Sean Penn is one of the best serious actors we have ever seen. How he can go to some of the places in the soul on camera is beyond me. Director Clint Eastwood made a tough one with “Mystic River”. A multilayered tragic story taking place in Boston, the movie centers on Penn as Jimmy Markum, a father struggling with the sudden murder of his teenage daughter. There are a lot of possible options as to what happened, including his mentally scarred childhood friend being a top suspect. While the investigation goes into various routes, “Mystic River” completely silences the audience when Penn is overwhelmed with emotion during his daughters wake. The tough guy finally loses it while crying with the friend that may later be revealed as her killer. Nothing can compare to losing a child.
4. So, Ok. Like Right Now the Haitians Wanna Like Come To America (“Clueless”):
Ok, hear me out on this one. Yes “Clueless” is just a teen comedy. But it is also one of the best and still referenced in music and comedy to this day. Alicia Silverstone is hilarious as the popular blonde ditz Cher at a rich kid filled Southern California high school. Her favorite quote being “Ugh, As If”. Not exactly the best wordsmith. But in her government debate class the airhead somehow breaks down how simple it is to solve an immigration issue. Using her father’s 50th birthday as an example, Cher solves the early-90’s issue of an influx of Haitian refugees in under a minute. She has the class of numbskulls cheering when at the end of the speech she says “Let Me Remind You, It Does Not Say RSVP On the Statue of Liberty”. The monologue has her teacher so obviously confused because the words are idiotic but somehow the point makes complete sense.
3. I Coulda Been a Contender (“On the Waterfront”):
Marlon Brando is undoubtedly one of the five greatest actors of all-time. He was a nut job, but on camera his method approach gave to some of the most brilliant performances ever. He received his first Oscar statue with his brilliant performance as Terry Malloy in 1954’s “On the Waterfront”. Malloy is a muscle man for a corrupt mafia-style New England area shippers union. His boss is dirty as hell and Terry, an uneducated man, begins having second thoughts about living in this world of violence and suppression. The tough guy always wanted to be a prize fighter but his brother, who is deep in the criminal organization, dragged Terry into this life. With the possibility of death on the line as Terry is going against the mob, Marlon Brando has had enough and completely comes down on the bad guys with his words instead of his fists. The life that could have been and was ripped away rings true in the hearts of any person filled with regret.
2. An Outburst of Anger Into the Mirror (“25th Hour”):
We all say things out of anger and disgust that often are simply us projecting our personal missteps in life. In director Spike Lee’s “25th Hour” Edward Norton plays Monty, a former heroine dealer in New York City that is going away to prison for several years. During his last night of freedom a big party is planned for him and his friends, whether or not they’re legit or mafia scumbags. Before hitting the club, Marty goes into a bathroom and sees the words ‘Fuck You!’ graffitied on the bathroom mirror. From there his psyche proceeds to utter those same words to pretty much every cultural, economical, and ethnic group you can imagine before realizing that he is simply yelling at himself. It is the most profound version of “Go Fuck Yourself!” I have ever seen as we are all flawed human beings.
1. You’re Just a Kid (“Good Will Hunting”):
For my money, the greatest monologue ever written for the screen was created by the minds of two mid-20’s up-and-coming actors and delivered by a man known for his comedy. “Good Will Hunting” is the beautiful story of a young man who is battling his genius mind on a daily basis. When he meets his match, not numbers wise, but conceptually, the kid doesn’t know what to do. Sitting on a park bench, The late Robin Williams delivers a speech that encapsulates everything that a therapist, as well as a human being, should say to a troubled student. The best line comes when Williams tells star Matt Damon “You’re a genius Will, there’s no denying that… You’re an orphan right? Do you think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been because I read ‘Oliver Twist’?”