One of the things I love about my friends (outside of the fact that their rates are by the hour) is that whenever we go out drinking, we are always end up quoting famous movie lines throughout the evening. Everything from “You can’t handle the truth” to “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” might be uttered through casual conversation between libations.
This is not an uncommon practice amongst friends. Even if you are unaware of the reference, I am sure everyone has had another friend quote a famous movie line while in their company. I know my fair share of quotes – “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”; “It was beauty that killed the beast”; “Yes, they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hell!”. But for all my quote references, I am not as good at echoing famous speeches in films. And there have been plenty. And I wish I could ramble them off in a bar impressing friends and patrons with my verbatim speech.
And just which speeches would I love to recite word-for-word? Glad you asked. There are actually 12 individual speeches or monologues that I would love to have memorized. I think they are some of the greatest and most memorable words strung together and in no particular order, I now share them with you.
The Shining (1980)
Jack Torrance rants to wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) about his personal space. I don’t think I would have any personal use for it in my present circumstance, but damned if it ain’t a cool passage to recite.
“Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you’re breaking my concentration. You’re distracting me. And it will then take me time to get back to where I was. Understand?…I’m gonna make a new rule. Whenever I’m in here, and you hear me typing, whether you don’t hear me typing, whatever the fuck you hear me doing in here, when I’m in here, that means that I am working. That means don’t come in. Now do you think you can handle that?…Why don’t you start right now and get the fuck out of here?”
The Verdict (1981)
I always had a space in my heart for this David Mamet written story. And lawyer Frank Galvin’s (Paul Newman) closing speech to the courtroom jury is one of my faves:
“So much of the time, we’re just lost. We say, ‘Please, God, tell us what is right. Tell us what is true.’ I mean there is no justice. The rich win. The poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time we become dead, a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims, and we become victims.
We become, we become weak. We doubt ourselves. We doubt our beliefs. We doubt our institutions, and we doubt the law. But today, you are the law. You are the law, not some book, not the lawyers, not a marble statue, or the trappings of the court. See, those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are, they are, in fact, a prayer, I mean a fervent and a frightened prayer. In my religion, they say, ‘Act as if you had faith. Faith will be given to you.’ If-if we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice. See, I believe there is justice in our hearts.”
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1981)
Chevy Chase goes off the rails. And I loved it.
“I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fuckin’ fun park and you want to bail out! Well, I’ll tell you somethin’. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much fuckin’ fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our god-damn smiles. You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! Ha, ha, ha. I gotta be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!”
This story was a bit of a downer in the film. But it sure stuck with me. And I would love to be able to recite it to my nephews and nieces.
“The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. Oh, God. It was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve. I was 9 years old. Me and Mom were decorating the tree, waiting for Dad to come home from work. A couple of hours went by. Dad wasn’t home. So Mom called the office. No answer. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire. And that’s when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He’d been climbing down the chimney on Christmas Eve, his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.”
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
One of my all-time faves. Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermy) introduces himself to his new recruits. Brilliant.
“I am Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, your Senior Drill Instructor. From now on, you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be: “Sir!” Do you maggots understand that?…Bullshit, I can’t hear you. Sound off like you gotta pair…If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon, you will be a minister of death, praying for war. But until that day, you are pukes! You’re the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human fuckin’ beings! You are nothing but unorganized grab-asstic pieces of amphibian shit! Because I am hard, you will not like me. But the more you hate me, the more you will learn. I am hard, but I am fair! There is no racial bigotry here! I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless! And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved Corps! Do you maggots understand that?…Bullshit, I can’t hear you…Who said that? Who the fuck said that? Who’s the slimy little Communist shit twinkle-toed cocksucker down here, who just signed his own death warrant? Nobody, huh?! The fairy fucking godmother said it! Out-fucking-standing! I will P.T. you all until you fucking die! I’ll P.T. you until your assholes are sucking buttermilk. Was it you, you scroungy little fuck, huh?!…
Did your parents have any children that lived?…I bet they regret that. You’re so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece! What’s your name, fat body?…Lawrence? Lawrence what, of Arabia?…That name sounds like royalty. Are you royalty?…Do you suck dicks?…Bullshit. I’ll bet you could suck a golf ball through a garden hose… I don’t like the name Lawrence. Only faggots and sailors are called Lawrence. From now on, you’re Gomer Pyle….Do you think I’m cute, Private Pyle? Do you think I’m funny?… Then wipe that disgusting grin off your face… Well, any fucking time, sweetheart!… Private Pyle, I’m gonna give you three seconds, exactly three-fucking seconds to wipe that stupid-lookin’ grin off your face or I will gouge out your eyeballs and skull-fuck you! ONE! TWO! THREE!…Bullshit, get on your knees, scumbag. Now choke yourself. Goddamn it, with MY hand, numb-nuts! Don’t pull my fuckin’ hand over there! I said choke yourself. Now lean forward and choke yourself. Are you through grinning?…Bullshit, I can’t hear you…Bullshit, I still can’t hear you. Sound off like you’ve got a pair…That’s enough. Get on your feet! Private Pyle, you had best square your ass away and start shitting me Tiffany cufflinks or I will definitely fuck you up.”
Wall Street (1987)
Who can forget Gordon Gekko’s addressing of the auditorium in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street? This scene made the entire movie Michael Douglas snatched up an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.
“The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book, you either do it right or you get eliminated. In the last seven deals that I’ve been involved with, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pre-tax profit of 12 billion dollars. (applause) Thank you. I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them!
The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed – for lack of a better word – is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind. And Greed – you mark my words – will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.”
Field of Dreams (1989)
I have no true explanation as to why this particular speech from James Earl Jones is so dear to me.
“Ray. People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn into your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door, as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it, for it is money they have and peace they lack…And they’ll walk off to the bleachers and sit in their shirt sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines where they sat when they were children, and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces… People will come, Ray… The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Ohhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come…”
I always knew the first sentence of Ray Liotta’s voiceover but I would love to recite the full thing.
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States. Even before I first wandered into the cabstand for an after-school job, I knew I wanted to be a part of them. It was there that I knew that I belonged. To me, it meant being somebody in a neighborhood that was full of nobodies. They weren’t like anybody else. I mean, they did whatever they wanted. They double-parked in front of a hydrant and nobody ever gave them a ticket. In the summer when they played cards all night, nobody ever called the cops.”
A Few Good Men (1992)
Another speech where I know bits and pieces, but would love to quote the whole thing
“You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like ‘honor,’ ‘code,’ ‘loyalty.’ We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said ‘thank you’ and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!”
Pulp Fiction (1984)
Samuel L. Jackson was the apex of cool in 1984 voicing Tarantino’s script pages. His speech featuring a quote from the Bible is a personal fave.
“Well, there’s this passage I got memorized. Sort of fits this occasion. Ezekiel 25:17. ‘The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee!’”
Any Given Sunday (1999)
Al Pacino’s speech is one of my favorite in film history.
“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?”
Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
Yet another Tarantino concoction. Well written and true too!
“As you know, l’m quite keen on comic books. Especially the ones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. Take my favorite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book, not particularly well-drawn, but the mythology. The mythology is not only great, it’s unique…Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone.
Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak, he’s unsure of himself, he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.”