Cinema’s most stirring oratories and spirit-raising team talks.
(By Helen O’Hara/Empire) If you need a little help getting up and going, film can often provide just that. Cinema has a long and storied history of providing great words of motivation and encouragement, sometimes for the characters’ own benefit and occasionally to the audience. Here, we’ve chosen 25 of the best that should fit almost any occasion – but if you’re really pressed for time, here are 40 condensed into a two-minute span. If you have a little longer, read on!
THE GREAT DICTATOR
Made at a time when the shadow of World War II was looming over Europe, Charlie Chaplin’s speech here – he’s playing a poor Jewish barber in disguise as a preening dictator and forced to address a Nuremberg-style rally – is a heartfelt plea for sanity and compassion in a time of madness. It’s the perfect antidote to extremism, and uses fiery rhetoric for good. If only we’d be able to pull this switcheroo in real life.
Sure, there are cheesemongers with less cheese on offer than you see here and OK, the American jingoism doesn’t work at all for those of us not of a Yank disposition. But Bill Pullman’s slightly sheepish style blends here with steely determination, and he delivers the American St Crispin’s Day speech with conviction. Then, like any US President, he leaps into his fighter jet and flies off to battle aliens.
For those who prefer a little humour in their motivational speeches, try the pitch-black streak in this opener, establishing Russell Crowe’s Maximus Decimus Meridius as a leader of men and a helluva guy. Galloping around the Legions in his cool armour and fur-lined cloak, you might question whether he really needs an entire army to back him up, but you’ll never doubt for a moment that they’d choose to follow him as he unleashes hell.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
There’s a lot to be said for a little personal touch to leaven your high-flung rhetoric, and it’s a trick that Al Pacino uses well here, in the first of three American football speeches we’re going to include (hey, we can’t help it if the heavily-padded sport produces some great pep talks). Pacino’s troubled Tony D’Amato unveils his own problems with brutal honesty before using his own failures as a spur to rev on his team to greatness, speaking of team spirit and commitment as someone who has been known to suck at both.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
The film has been somewhat overshadowed nowadays by the equally good TV show that followed it, but watch Billy Bob Thornton here and be reminded that Kyle Chandler isn’t the only fundamentally decent man who can inspire a team of small-town boys to great efforts in pursuit of perfection. It’s also worth noting that he puts his emphasis here on excelling and not winning, making it clear that victory isn’t only measured by the scoreboard. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.