You know what freed America from the Brits? Blood and steel, yes, and some brilliant political philosophy applied with an eloquence rarely matched in the history of world governance, yeah, sure, all that. But also: verve. There’d be no U.S. of A. if we weren’t able get up for grabbing life by the throat, often to save our asses.
10. Glengarry Glen Ross
This NSFW-laden rant by Alec Baldwin in David Mamet’s 1992 real estate drama Glengarry Glen Ross is one of those speeches that actual douchebags co-opt, unfazed by what a genuine tool Baldwin’s salesman is here. But he gives it to you straight. Coffee is for closers. Never forget.
Screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky’s script to Sidney Lumet’s 1976 classic Network is probably the best modern satire there is, and nowhere is it more biting than in the character Howard Beale’s onscreen meltdown that culminates in the iconic phrase, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” It cuts to the core of modern American complacency and skewers it with a keen but batshit sense of wisdom unmatched in movie history. Why aren’t you screaming out of your window yet?
Kristen Wiig’s mega-smash features an unfortunately rare motivational onscreen speech by a woman, though an ass-bite and some precision cusses by Melissa McCarthy would get anyone in gear. Seriously, where are the onscreen ladies and their awesome inspiring speeches? Screenwriters. Get on it.
7. Animal House
You’ve got to hand it to a drunken slob like Bluto, the Delta Tau Kai brother played by SNL legend John Belushi in his breakout movie role, to be able to get other drunken slobs out of a mopey rut. Even in a farce like Animal House there can be a rare moment of inspiration, no matter how drunk and misguided the characters are. Just think, tonight could be the greatest night of your life. Crack a beer, chug it, get going.
6. Any Given Sunday
Sports movies are overstuffed with motivational yadda yadda. Al Pacino’s scenery-chewing in a locker room in Any Given Sunday shows why we wade through the maudlin pretenders. Maybe it’s the cheesy guitar-plucked score, or maybe it’s because Pacino does a great impersonation of a simmering volcano, but the damaged-coach speech in this scene would inspire anyone to face any challenge even if you absolutely hate football. Winning, losing, living, dying — it’s all just an inch away.
Separate whatever you think about Mel Gibson from the heft of this scene. If William Wallace’s all-time pep-speech doesn’t give you goosebumps like hailstones and make you want to conquer England, well, you can sit there inert. It’s a free country. No thanks to you.
4. Rocky IV
Look, the first Rocky movie may have gotten all of the Academy Awards, but if they gave out Oscars for absolutely kickass speeches then Rocky IV would get all of the awards season hardware. Rocky IV was the installment when Sly Stallone’s Italian Stallion single-handedly wins the Cold War via a boxing match against Dolph Lundgren and all of Russia. Laugh if you must, but this survives as the best unrefined speech about settling petty differences in movie history.
Remember when we sniffed at maudlin sports movie speeches? Well, who cares. True, hockey may be an unwatchable sport for Canadians and Mainers. But we recommend having the dulcet tones of Kurt Russell’s Minnesotan-ish accent playing at all times during your BBQ for maximum patriotic effect. Do it for the great moments. This is your time.
2. The Great Dictator
Few scenes are able to strip the facade of fiction and speak directly to an audience. Charlie Chaplin made The Great Dictator in 1940 as a direct commentary on Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and he caught a lot of flak for it. Chaplin was supposed to make us laugh — what’s this serious turn? But he spoke up with the platform he had, before the United States was even in the war. His speech exemplifies American values and offers them to all humankind. No less than Dwight Eisenhower saw its potential to inspire, screening it in France, in French, after the Allied victory.
1. Independence Day
Bill Pullman’s speech in Independence Day is the crowning achievement of getting anyone riled up no matter what the cause. Memorize this speech and bust it out any time you need a standing ovation or merely to stir men to fly into the teeth of an overwhelming alien invasion.