In this week’s staff list, we talk about some of our favorite and most memorable movie monologues.
The Joker Visits Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight Rises
One of the most memorable movie monologues of this generation is the late Heath Ledger’s The Joker, from The Dark Knight Rises. The Joker has always been a villain that strides the line between creepy and downright camp; with white face paint, green hair, and bright red lips, he might just be the reason why people are so afraid of clowns. Heath Ledger took the character and turned it into what it was always destined to be — an insane, enigmatic personification of terror and fear itself.
In his monologue, the Joker addresses a hospitalized Harvey Dent, the “White Knight of Gotham,” systematically pointing out every single thing Harvey Dent stood for and explaining why none of it matters. Horrifyingly honest, the Joker talks about humanity’s fear of chaos and disorder, and cajoles Dent to “Introduce a little anarchy!” into the world. At the end, he challenges Dent to shoot him, handing the disgraced District Attorney a gun and sticking it to his own temple. This, along with some other choice monologues sprinkled throughout the movie, are why Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker is one for the books. [Michelle]
Ezekiel 25:17, Pulp Fiction
My most memorable and favourite movie monologue has to be the infamous Ezekiel speech from Pulp Fiction. Yes, it’s a little cliche and well-quoted and parodied at this point, but it’s survived the test of time and Samuel L. Jackson’s gravelly, low delivery is as perfect now as it was twenty years ago.
For those unaware, Jackson’s Jules resolves a tense Mexican stand-off in a diner, and calmly reiterates his newfound mantra with serenity and calm, resolving the situation by declaring that he doesn’t want to be a killer anymore, and wants to find a better purpose — all while aiming his gun at Pumpkin/Ringo’s (Tim Roth) crotch. The monologue is notable and memorable for several reasons, mainly due to the sincerity behind the message, and the way it flips Tarantino’s constructions on his head.
Rather than ending with the entire diner being slaughtered in a bullet-ridden fury, the two robbers run away with the cash, and Jules and John Travolta’s Vincent walking out as reluctant and surprising heroes, establishing the legendary status of the characters, the film, and of Tarantino himself. [Chris]
Rick Lets Ilsa Go, Casablanca
AHHH! So many. It’s cliché, but it’s impossible not to mention Samuel L. Jackson’s Ezekiel 25:17 from Pulp Fiction or any scene in Good Will Hunting or Dead Poet’s Society.
But for me, I’ll always have Bogie in Casablanca, when Rick lets Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) go, realizing that his feelings and their problems “don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” It’s devastating (perhaps more because it’s all meaningless in the scope of war) and one of the first times I watched a love story unfold that didn’t have a fairy tale ending. It felt more in tuned with reality, and stuck with me (the sheer amount of subtext is ridiculous).
The final scene in Casablanca features three of the most widely quotes lines in cinema alone, but possibly my favorite is Rick on the subject of regret: That “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life,” Ilsa would regret not going with Victor Laszlo. You can take issue with a man telling a woman what she’s going to think, but I think we can all recognize those touchstones in our life, seeing the decisions we made or didn’t, pass us by. There’s nothing more powerful than the suffocating specter of regret. Casablanca was one of the first classic films I watched as a young adult and provided an entryway into the career of Humphrey Bogart and the film noir genre. Casablanca changed me as a moviegoer. [Andy]
Why I Cannot Give That Painting Back, RocknRolla
I’ve waxed poetic about this before, but that’s just because the RocknRolla speech — and Johnny Quid himself, as a foul mouthed, chain smoking, drug addicted, daddy issue laden character — both hold a special place in my heart. When Johnny steals a painting from his abusive mobster stepfather, he likely had no idea that it was on loan from a dangerous Russian businessman (though to be honest, I doubt he would’ve cared much if he did). The city is thrown into turmoil soon after, but when asked by a friend to return the painting, Johnny explains exactly why it’s so important to him and why he won’t give it back through a monologue and some killer piano playing.
“You see that pack of Virginia killing sticks on the end of the piano? All you need to know about life is retained within those four walls… That that starts sweet, ends bitter. And that which starts bitter, ends sweet.” It’s a rare serious moment in a film that is ridiculous amounts of fun and reckless violence.
Miranda Shows Her Vulnerable Side, The Devil Wears Prada
Perhaps some of you are rolling your eyes at this one because it’s from a “chick flick” about the fashion industry. But I can assure you that this is a film worth watching, even if you’re just in it for Meryl Streep’s outstanding performance as the intimidating but admirable boss lady, Miranda Priestly. Streep’s brief, 48-second monologue isn’t loud or extreme like its war movie counterparts; it’s rather quiet and somber as it delivers a twist in the film.
Miranda, Editor-in-Chief of Runway magazine (the film’s version of Vogue) is in the midst of a divorce and unexpectedly confides in her assistant, Andy (Anne Hathaway). The usually austere and icy Miranda is lounging on her couch, looking rather spent and tired sans make up. When she expresses concern over how the public will react to the divorce, and it goes to show how much Miranda’s career affects her. As successful as many think she is, she still doesn’t get her due: “Rupert Murdoch should cut me a check for all the papers I sell for him.”
Miranda also reveals her human side when she admits that she doesn’t care what will be written about her, instead worrying about the privacy of her young twin daughters. By the end of her talk with Andy, she is not the cold nightmarish boss as portrayed earlier in the film. Miranda has turned a full 180 degrees, and that’s just what makes this short, seemingly insignificant monologue so great. [Marie]
Andrew’s Confession, The Breakfast Club
I still remember the first time I watched The Breakfast Club. The simplicity of its setting and the idea that it all takes place in one day brings forth the opposite — just how complex the characters are. We start getting hints of what each of these teenagers have to go through at the beginning with Brian’s (Mary Christian) mom berating him to do homework and Allison’s (Ally Sheedy) parents ignoring her as they drop her off. As the movie goes on, they continue to reveal these crucial pieces of information about themselves and their private lives, but it all comes to a head when they disclose to each other why they were put in detention.
This is where my favorite monologue comes out. Andrew (Emilio Estevez), the jock, tells the group that he was put in detention for taping “Larry Lester’s buns together.” It starts off somewhat comically, but then Andrew admits why he did it. He wanted to impress his father. He wanted to seem “cool” to him. “He’s like this mindless machine I can’t even relate to anymore.” Andrew’s need to be validated by his father is shown through Andrew’s emotional reaction to what he did and his thinking about what Larry’s father must’ve thought when his son came home shows his remorse for doing it. What’s even more impressive is that most of this scene was improvised by the actors after John Hughes told them to ad-lib. [Isabella]
No Wire Hangers, Mommie Dearest
I really wanted to write about Howard Beale’s monologue from Network (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!“), but ultimately I went with a far less reputable choice. Mommie Dearest is like a hilariously bad horror movie. Faye Dunaway plays a fictionalized version of actress Joan Crawford — or the version that was portrayed in Crawford’s adopted daughter’s memoir, anyway. It’s over-the-top, campy, and absolutely ridiculous in that Lifetime original movie sort of way. Nothing exemplifies this more than the infamous wire hangers scene where Joan loses her effing mind… over wire hangers. Instead of expensive padded hangers, her daughter’s clothes are hanging on cheap looking wire ones — and she goes on to beat her daughter with them. “What’s wire hangers doing in this closet when I told you, no wire hangers ever? I work and work ’till I’m half-dead, and I hear people saying, ‘She’s getting old.’ And what do I get? A daughter who cares as much about the beautiful dresses I give her as she cares about me.” [Hera]
Mary Katherine Gallagher, Superstar
I think Superstar (1999) gets a bad rap. Or maybe I have a false nostalgia for it because it seemed to come on Comedy Central every month when I was in middle school. The Molly Shannon vehicle Superstar is one of those SNL movies, all of which have been critically panned except for Wayne’s World because they mostly center around a joke that was funny for a five-minute sketch and then stretch that joke out for a 90-minute movie.
While Superstar is definitely uneven, Molly Shannon completely commits to being the weirdly repressed Catholic schoolgirl who basically lives through a bunch of satirized movie tropes. And she herself has an obsession with bad television due to exclusively hanging out with her disabled grandma.
There are two great monologues, in my opinion, one of which is Shannon giving confession where she delivers a monologue from the made-for-TV movie Sybil where Sally Fields has multiple personality disorder. Shannon somehow believes “I ain’t no slut!” represents her life and yells it in a confession booth over and over, which always triggers a laugh despite how the dumb the joke is at its core. Another great monologue comes when Shannon’s grandma refuses to let her compete in a dancing competition and in a parody of so many bad teen movies, she runs upstairs and slams her door like ten times screaming “you’re horrible.” It’s just so ridiculous but, again, Shannon’s commitment to playing that role completely unironically makes me enjoy the movie despite myself. It’s easy to tell from these scenes alone why SNL movies struggle at translating sketches into features, but Superstar and the totally underrated Molly Shannon have a special place in my heart. [Sarah]
What are some of your favorite movie monologues? Let us know in the comments!