Ladies And Gentlemen: 20 Great Movie Speeches

1) “That’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus…” – Gremlins (1984)

phoebe-cates

Thanks to its yuletide setting, this classic horror-comedy – from director Joe Dante and writer Chris Columbus – has long been a favourite Christmas time indulgence. The plot sees young Billy (Zach Galligan) being gifted with a mysterious creature called a Mogwai, who spawns evil, destructive creatures that cause nothing but mayhem. With the help of his friend, Kate (Phoebe Cates), Billy attempts to regain control of the situation and put a stop to the mischief of the Gremlins. Amidst the carnage, the film seems to slow momentarily, as Kate confides in Billy the reason she’s not a big fan of Christmas.

“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.”

The combination of such a horrific tale being told by a wide-eyed, innocent Kate, in a darkened room filled with the trappings of the festive season, makes for a highly effective scene. The speech slams into the audience like a freight train – thundering from the screen, despite Cates’ delicate, emotive performance. Though it is unsettling in its nature, it fits with the film perfectly, and creates a very real sense of the connection between Kate and Billy being the heart and soul of the movie.

2) “Your move, chief” – Good Will Hunting (1997)

Robin Williams Good Will Hunting

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning screenplay for Good Will Hunting is very good, but is far from perfect, notably Will’s breakdown near the end that feels like an unnatural tool to rush the story to its conclusion. However, there were plenty of fine monologues from the film. The finest one was from the title character’s pained psychologist, Sean Maguire, played by Robin Williams in his Oscar-winning turn.

Williams has always been a bonafide comic genius, his high-wire personality, quick thinking and knack for impersonation one of the many reasons why we return to his comedy films like Mrs. Doubtfire and Good Morning, Vietnam. (Or, even better, the best Inside the Actors Studio interview of all time.) However, he was also a tremendous dramatic actor (Dead Poets Society, One Hour Photo). Many would claim that his four-and-a-half minute speech to Will on the park bench is what earned him the Academy Award in 1998.

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In the monologue, Sean is trying to bring his complicated patient, Will (Matt Damon), down to his level. He wants Will to understand that his fastidious knowledge and intellect, which the prodigy uses to tear into people, is useless since he has no wisdom to offer. He has never seen real art, gone to war or understood the tenderness and fragility of human love. “You don’t know about real loss because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself,” he says. “I doubt you dare to love anyone that much.” Will tries not to stare back, knowing his psychologist is right.

Not only is the monologue amazing and rich, but also it demonstrates how accomplished Williams is as an actor. He is restrained but resolute, rarely needing to alter the volume of his voice to tell his friend how little Will really knows.