Forget Five-Hour Energy: Six Inspirational Movie Speeches That Will Pump You Up
By Brad Pike
It’s mid-way through the third act. The enemy outnumbers you 300,000 to 1, your wife’s been kidnapped, your hometown has been pillaged, and the other side has laser guns while you’re sporting rocks glued to sticks. What do you do now, hero?
If movies have taught us anything, it’s that a quality inspirational speech can turn the tide of any fight, no matter how hopeless. An army of toddlers can be up against a horde of ravenous polar bears, but if one of those toddlers gives a rhetorically effective speech utilizing pathos, ethos, and logos, polar bears will be wiped out in a sudden, implausible turning of the tide.
In KoldCast TV’s sexy new drama series Stuck, David Rea is an emotional trainer who inspires clients to overcome their existential blocks to reach for what they really want out of life. While his clients may not be an army on the verge of being slaughtered, or a football team about to lose the Super Bowl, the stakes are no less riveting, particularly as it becomes clear that David Rea himself is the one who needs emotional training.
Click to play the Prologue of Stuck
The characters in Stuck may have a guru – albeit a misguided one – at their disposal, but in the real world we often turn right back to the screen for inspirational speeches to address our own roadblocks. Fair warning: watching these six epic scenes in succession may leave you involuntarily fighting injustice and uncontrollable bravery.
The entire human race faces obliteration at the hands of an alien species that’s smarter than all of us (except for Jeff Goldblum), and now it’s up to President Bill Pullman to rally, you know, everyone on earth in a last stand for survival. Oh, did you think the toast at your brother’s wedding was high pressure? That presentation at work? Try inspiring all of humanity with the fate of life on earth hanging in the balance. I wonder if President Pullman was nervous, and if so, did he picture all of mankind naked?
Here’s the goosebumps moment: “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!” Obama needs to step up his game if he wants to compete with this imaginary movie president — or at least become a jet fighter pilot.
Before he played a guy with a beaver puppet and called a female police officer “sugartits”, Mel Gibson was Scottish man-god William Wallace with the David Bowie-style face paint. Like the Independence Day speech, this one’s a classic go-to inspirational movie speech that hits the talking points of legacy, national pride, and freedom. Wallace convinces thousands of Scottish soldiers to give up their lives in the name of freedom from their British oppressors in a horseback riding, yelling, joke-telling speech that’s made the rounds of Academy Award Intro montages almost every year thereafter.
The Devil’s Advocate
Al Pacino is an inspirational speech machine, constantly cranking out phenomenal monologues — Scent of a Woman, Any Given Sunday, City Hall — but let’s talk about my personal favorite: The Devil’s Advocate. Toward the end of the movie, the Devil has to convince Keanu Reeves that God’s a sadist and that he’s in fact a humanistic hero, and, oh by the way, bang your sister on this table while I watch. That’s an extremely difficult case to make, but by the end of his speech, Al Pacino makes you forget he drove Keanu’s wife to slit her own throat in a madhouse and paints himself as man’s greatest supporter.
Glengarry Glen Ross
It deeply disturbed me to discover many people view Alec Baldwin’s character Blake as an idol, and his speech, not as a satire of obsessive ambition and greed, but as a guide to life. If you’re one of these terrifying people that admires Blake, please get some help because you’re probably possessed by the greed demon Mammon and smear virgin blood on gold coins to satiate your black hunger.
Nevertheless, it’s an enthralling speech full of wonderfully evil quotes begging to be reused at Christmastime with the family: “You drove a Hyundai to be here. I drove an $80,000 BMW. That’s my name,” or “Good father? F—k you, go home and play with your kids!” This is Alec Baldwin’s scene chewing, show stopping, quintessential “acting moment”, and he owns every second of it.
I don’t like watching sports, but I love sports movies, and no sports movie is complete without an inspirational locker room speech to motivate the team to a last second victory. I could’ve picked Any Given Sunday, Hoosiers, or Remember the Titans, but I especially like Kurt Russell’s rhetoric here, which is repeated through so many of these speeches: “If we played them ten times, they might win nine. But not this time!” Very close to Aragorn’s “But it is not this day!” line in his rousing speech at the end of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
The strategy seems to be: acknowledge the strong possibility of failure, and then deny the possibility of failure through sheer force of will. The language makes me think Coach Brooks has some intuitive understanding of quantum physics and is trying to steer his universe toward one dimension in which his team achieves victory via collective willpower. Miracle also exemplifies the fact that Russians make for perfect antagonists in any sports movie (or really any movie for that matter).
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 10
Ok, so this one’s not from a movie. But it’s not TV, it’s HBO… and it’s an instant classic. In this stirring speech, Theon Greyjoy rallies his twenty Ironborn men to fight five hundred Northmen in defense of the newly captured Winterfell. The scene plays on all the tropes of an “inspirational speech scene”: describing how they’ll be remembered as heroes, the fighting prowess of Ironborn soldiers, the noble battle of the underdog against an overwhelming enemy—and then he’s suddenly knocked unconscious by one of his own men. “Thought he’d never shut up,” says a soldier. Here’s one of the few inspirational speech scenes where the soldiers respond realistically to a leader asking their tiny group to fight an entire army.
An emotional trainer is the gold standard for getting out of whatever rut you’re stuck in – cowardice, doubt, defeat, etc. – but a professional of David Rea’s caliber isn’t always readily available. Thankfully we find pep talk wisdom in television and movies to help us along life’s roadblocks.
Brad Pike is a writer and standup in Chicago. He also writes for Thought Catalog. Twitter: brad_pike Blog:ieatfoundthings.blogspot.com