We live in troubled times. Society had always been in the cross-hairs, and its fragility, every so often, came through. Ever since we celebrated the entry of the third decade of the 21st century, our health, first of all, and then our practices, norms, customs, morals, values, beliefs, have all been put to the test. No matter how one looks at it, unless you own a successful online business or a toilet paper factory, the outcome is disheartening and unfavourable to say the least, for all of us. I believe that in the last few months, many of us got some time to contemplate, and re-evaluate life as we knew it.
In that spirit, as the title implies, you can find some of the most influential, dissuasive, and thought-provoking monologues I hand-picked. I hope these chosen ones entertain you, educate you, and, potentially, find an application in the way you see and experience life. Some of them include spoilers, so I would recommend you watch the films first to get the full impact. On the other hand, if you have watched the films, they will hopefully make you hit play once more.
You may wonder why I’ve called these monologues dissuasive. Well, they are not necessarily persuasive. Chances are, they will have either effect on you, depending on where you stand politically, socially, economically, religiously, or otherwise.
I would recommend you watch all of these films, from the opening scene. Enjoy reading!
V for Vendetta (2005)
In a not-so-distant dystopian future, a masked vigilante named V will recruit a young and innocent woman, and proceed to plot and fight against Britain’s tyrannical regime.
Arguably, one of the most well written and most eloquently introduced anti-hero. Some of you, or me, would call him hero, but let’s not get caught up in semantics. V for Vendetta is inundated with monologues, so that would be an article on its own. I find the (anti)hero introduction scene to be one of the most impressive I have ever watched, and I can’t say with certainty how many times I have pressed rewind, to watch it over and over again. After all, it’s not everyday you get the chance to encounter, in less than a minute, 48 words starting with the letter v (and 55 in total). Hugo Weaving’s delivery throughout the film (even with his face hidden) is immaculate. There is so much detail in both the mise-en-scene and the dialogue that you will pick up something new every time you watch it. If you just want to watch the excerpt, here you go:
Speaking of heroes and anti-heroes, I picked the most odd one, and I’ll start backwards. So please bear with me. This next movie went under the radar due to the protagonist’s name, and also because it’s in French, but I really felt compelled to write about it. The actor in this film is portraying himself, and even though the film isn’t biographical, it sheds light on the actor’s life off-screen. As I have watched most of his films (some were impossible to watch, I’ll admit), this one is definitely the film in which he uses all of his accumulated acting skills to perform on camera. So much so that this particular monologue was filmed secretly without any other crew or cast member—other than director Mabrouk El Mechri—knowing about it until post-production. Without further ado, I bring to you Jean-Claude Van Damme in…
Having to deal with personal and professional problems, Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to his home town to escape from Hollywood’s suffocating way of life.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
The night will prove to be long and hard for a group of real estate brokers who need to start making sales by morning or they lose their jobs.
Who is serious about sales? Do you know or do you think you know what the life of a real estate broker looks like? Do you know what you will be asked to do? Alec Baldwin lets you know. Sharp, intense, insulting, degrading, and unintentionally funny, Blake’s monologue describes accurately how you might be seen and treated, should you decide to get that kind of job. The film itself has been used by real life salesmen for training purposes, and Baldwin’s line about ABC [Always Be Closing] has become a Bible. His tone and performance is based on George C. Scott’s delivery in Patton (1970). Usually, when we refer to something as too scripted, it has a negative connotation. Not in Glengarry Glen Ross. Every dialogue and monologue is how it was written by David Mamet.
Watch one of Baldwin’s best performances in one of the greatest acting ensembles in film history. The film that the cast referred to as Death of a Fuckin’ Salesman, that contains more ‘fuck’, ‘shit’, and ‘leads’ (over 270 times) than you have ever heard before, and that puts the salesman between a hard place and a rock, because no matter what he does, he will never be good enough.
It’s not funny, but I dare you not to laugh. Welcome to the ABC of sales:
A Black detective and his Jewish colleague manage to infiltrate the KKK in Colorado Springs, with the purpose of taking it down.
My next choice is civil rights activist and organizer Kwame Ture’s speech, delivered by Corey Hawkins in the movie. To some it is extreme, to others it is the expression of truth. But no matter what, one cannot ignore it. Ture’s philosophy of Black power underlined his speeches and writings. His words find meaning among people who are treated as lesser because of their physicality. What if the same speech was about mental health characteristics? Are people with mental disabilities treated as equals? If you have ever in your life been singled out, would you still think his speech is extreme? Irrespective of what you believe in and where you stand, Ture makes a point. Plato said it best: “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” As for the content of the speech, I follow Desmond Tutu’s example: “A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.”
Listen and decide for yourselves:
A pregnant, obese, mentally and physically abused girl who lives with her cruel mother, wants to join an alternative school to escape the reality she is currently in.
Ture’s speech about Black people is political and reaches an audience, small or large. What if you are Black and what you have to say doesn’t even reach your front door? That is the root of Mary’s emotional outburst: loneliness. Heart-breaking, soul-sucking, unbearable loneliness. Mary has suffered what Ture describes. Even though she belongs to the same race, no speech, profound or otherwise can heal the tormented reality she has endured.
In 2010, Mo’Nique, who deliberately took on the role as she is a victim of incest herself, was awarded the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. How did that propel her career? It didn’t! As per IMDb, from 2009 to present day, it took her five years to land another role, and none since 2016! She was blackballed. Why? Because she ‘didn’t play the game’. Welcome to Hollywood!
You can watch her jaw-dropping performance (while wishing for her comeback) here:
Mr. Robot (2015-2019)
Cyber security-engineer during daytime and hacker at night, Elliot, a young man with numerous mental disorders, decides to go up against corrupt governments and shadowy organisations.
At this point, I feel it would be fair if I add a couple of TV series to the mix. TV writers spend incalculable hours trying to develop both characters and story, and stay true to them. I believe they deserve recognition. From season 1-4, Mr. Robot becomes the gospel of monologues. The inner voice in his head is the never ending motive and guidance for his every move. Out of all the monologues through the course of the show, I picked this one: Elliot loses control of what he says and goes against God and organised religion in Season 2, Episode 3.
One of the reasons I picked this one is because, in this instance, mankind is the victim of vicious Gods who make us hate each other for being different. Rami Malek may have not won the Golden Globe he was nominated for, but his performance in Sam Esmail’s creation will always be remembered by all of us who ‘religiously’ watched, discussed, and analysed this four year journey. Have a taste:
Westworld (2016 – )
In the not so distant future, large corporations invest in a world where androids (hosts) can perform all sorts of fantasies for humans (guests); but not without consequences.
Picking up from Mr. Robot’s God/mankind relationship, very interestingly, in Westworld, Season 3, Episode 5, the exact opposite transpires. God, having offered us a paradise, becomes the victim of mankind which vandalised everything He gave us. And now, we have to live with ourselves. This time, the speech is delivered by the Man in Black, Oscar nominee Ed Harris, whose cynicism is the outcome of love, or the lack thereof.
Before watching the scene, please remember this crucial information: In storytelling, the importance or meaning of something relies heavily on what has happened before you encounter it and what will happen after you do. More often than not, we appreciate the value of something or someone only in retrospect, and often, too late.
In Westworld, people with money have assumed the role of God, and scientists, as Dr. Malcolm said eloquently in Jurassic Park (1993) “[…] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Field of Dreams (1989)
An American corn farmer who is hearing voices feels compelled to build a field; a field that will host the 1919 Chicago White Sox.
“If you build it, he will come…”
Field of Dreams represents a field of hope. And James Earl Jones, the great stage actor and man with one of the most characteristic deep voices (Darth Vader) lets us hope that “people will come…” The speech might be more appealing to the American audience due to the nature of the sport, but baseball is not just American and it’s not just a sport. Its existence has influenced history, politics, sociology, human rights, and more.
Jones’s signature speech represents the principles and values that elevated the sport to what came to be an American way of life, and a source of national pride. It is a speech that is about defying all odds.
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
After the end of WWII, in 1948, an American court set in Nuremberg, Germany tries four Nazi officers for crimes against humanity.
Allow me to give you a few reasons why you should definitely watch the whole film before you get to Judge Dan Haywood’s speech: Spencer Tracy (the Judge), Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, William Shatner. All in one film! In the 1962 Oscars ceremony, most of the actors nominated for the golden statuette were from this film. One of the best ensemble films and strongest court dramas of all time, where, after everything is said and done and all sides have been heard, Tracy will come out to deliver his summation speech in one take, from two different angles.
In times when political ‘leaders’ couldn’t have acted more irresponsibly or even criminally, this almost 60 year old speech remains relevant and current. Watch but also listen to the verdict of a trial that is not from our time but makes one wish for actual leaders who can inspire these words, transcend them, and build a world everyone is welcome to live in:
The Great Dictator (1940)
While a fascist dictator is expanding his empire, a poor Jewish lookalike barber is avoiding persecution.
Isn’t it funny? The further back in time we go, the more truth and meaning we find in words. How is it that this 80 year old speech by Charlie Chaplin sounds like it could have been written yesterday? You know what else is actually funny? The film itself. The Great Dictator will make you laugh all the way. That’s what Chaplin does (yes, not did!). And somehow, the shift from one genre to the other—from comedy to drama—will hit you like a shock wave.
Hitler banned the film in Germany and every other Nazi-occupied country. Years later, the same nation that praised Chaplin, hunted him down as a Communist. I guess the wind changes both figuratively and metaphorically. The Great Dictator‘s message on freedom and democracy though, hopefully, will be echoing long after our generations leave this Earth. It is my wishful thinking that the generations to come will actually learn from these words:
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
– Dalai Lama
No one is too small. Actors, writers, and directors may have left a powerful legacy behind them for all of us to watch and learn from. There is genuine material out there to make us laugh and cry, to educate us. But you don’t have to become an actor, writer, director, a household name or any other persona, to leave your legacy. If anything, the current pandemic has made room for and brought to light the real heroes/heroines who have always been amongst us: nurses, doctors, paramedics, supermarket employees, police officers who risk their lives to keep order, every essential worker out there. For every crime committed, there are numerous acts of gallantry by everyday people that never see the light of day, by people who do not have the time or interest for petty arguments on social media, by people whose only goal is to leave this world a little bit better than they found it.
And that’s my humble monologue.
Vi Veri Vniversum Vivus Vici [By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe]
A few more monologues that deserve your attention:
Coupling (2000 – 2004)
Steve Wants a Lock on the Toilet
Newsroom (2012 – 2014)
America is Not the Greatest Country in the World
Scent of a Woman (1992)
I’ll Show You Out of Order!
25th Hour (2002)
I’m Mad As Hell and I’m Not Gonna Take This Anymore!
True Detective (2014 – )
The Philosophy of Pessimism
Alpha Dog (2006)
About the author
Konstantinos got into TV and Film production immediately after school. He has been studying and working in this field ever since. In 2011, he won the Nostimon Imar Award (Best Greek Director Abroad) for his short film Ithaca that he wrote, edited and directed. The following year, he donated his documentary Asperger Syndrome: Myths & Reality to the National Autistic Society in the U.K. Konstantinos lives and works in the U.K. as a freelance Video Editor and Camera Operator for corporate videos, fashion shows, and documentaries. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Film at the University of Nottingham and reviewing films on his own blog.