Monologues and soliloquies are wonderful opportunities for writers to flex their muscles and for actors to showcase their range. With the right combination of the two, these finely structured combinations of words and phrases become more eloquent and more passionate, potentially travelling up and down a roller coaster of human emotions. Rants, however, are simple, straightforward, and most of all, blunt, with all of the connotations that single word implies. There’s something more satisfying about watching a character go absolutely ballistic with an improvised – as far as the characters are concerned – and yet somehow succinct summation of their complete frustration.
Whether they last for a minute or five, rants are an actor’s firm stamp on the scene. For that amount of time, the screen is theirs and no one else’s as they make their implicit exclamation of their character’s presence and meaning to the story, while giving us viewers the words we wish we could say – in most cases. These 30 verbally violent harangues grab you by the collar and make that catharsis possible.
Whether you’re a parent or not, maybe you can empathize with the struggles that may come with a long family road trip. People get tired of being in the car, as their seat feels like mobile solitary confinement after a few hours, and crankiness is a natural reaction. The parents may feel that way, but they must remain resolute and make sure their children, who have undoubtedly begun to fuss, stay quiet, and are aware of gradual progress. If you’re Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), you do just a little more than that.
Between getting tagged by vandals, accidentally killing Cousin Eddie’s (Randy Quaid) dog, and losing all of their credit cards, the Griswolds have had a rough go of it trying to get to Wally World. When most of the family gives up on the journey, in spite of being so close, Clark does what most parents probably wish they could do at least once. Acting as the hapless family patriarch, he launches into an insanity driven declaration of intent to keep going. Even more than his words, his wife Ellen’s (Beverly D’Angelo) eyes tell the whole story.
Give Alec Baldwin the right lines and he can easily deliver a motivational speech that will make you lift your house off of its foundation. He has that sort of smooth, but still fairly rough quality to his deep voice that commands attention and respect. Give him another set of lines, however-- specifically Blake’s in David Mamet’s play Glengarry Glen Ross-- and he comes across as the complete opposite.
Blake is the sort of character who fits in with the Gordon Gekko’s and Jordan Belfort’s of the world; he’s a loud, get up and get at ‘em type of personality not afraid to speak his mind, especially if it means bragging about and showing off his ostentatious wealth. On an appropriately rainy morning, he arrives at the office of four real estate salesmen to rouse them in becoming big sellers – ‘Always Be Closing’ – by any means necessary. His little pep talk, however, is laden with enough insults and threats to make anyone walk away from their work.
Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is the kind of instructor you wouldn’t wish on anyone. The goals and expectations he sets for his students are both inspiring and lofty, and in his case, it leads to a teaching style one might brand dictatorial and abusive. It is not uncommon for him to embarrass students in front of the rest of the class, and even reduce them to tears. Unfortunately, in his first class experience with Fletcher, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) finds himself on the front lines.
The band is rehearsing the Hank Levy piece “Whiplash”, but the "shot reverse shot" set-up singles out both Fletcher and Neiman. As a first-year student, each shot on Neiman shows he is keen to impress, but every shot on Fletcher highlights his dissatisfaction until he finally erupts. As soon as Fletcher gets in Neiman’s face, the power dynamic is quickly established, and it’s a gap Neiman persistently means to make up.
If you’re a professional athlete, playing in a sport where a farm system exists and you’ve been mired in the minors for most of your career, you’re likely to develop impatience with certain things. Annie (Susan Sarandon) is her own free spirit, hooking up with one player on the local Durham Bulls per season, and this year, she singles out self-important rookie ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) and cynical vet ‘Crash’ Davis (Kevin Costner).
Inviting the two over for dinner, she lays out the ground rules, and while Nuke is obviously intent on saying anything that will get him in the good with Annie, Crash isn’t all too impressed with this system of romantic judgment. He says he doesn’t believe in logistics for love, and when Annie asks what he does believe in, he gives a decently heartfelt speech about the intimate side of love – including a handful of items unrelated to love, or even baseball. Annie seemed impressed, and the laughter he emits making his exit indicates that he noticed.
If you’re a parent, and your child is in the hospital enduring unthinkable amounts of pain, not only do you want to do nothing but be there for them, but also you might find yourself reasonably short with others if they aren’t giving you what you need – because your child’s needs automatically become yours. In James L. Brooks’s Terms of Endearment, Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) finds herself in such an unenviable position.
The scene only lasts 30 seconds, and it isn’t one second too long or short. While her daughter Emma (Debra Winger) endures excruciating pain, Aurora frantically asks the nursing staff if they can give Emma the shot to take the pain away. The nurses, however, aren’t being too quick to respond, at least not enough for Aurora’s liking. The more impatient she becomes, the more frenetic the direction gets, as she simultaneously circles and berates the nurses until they do what she asks. When one finally gives in, she almost immediately returns to a normal speaking volume and thanks them. It’s an explosion and deflation sudden enough to make your hair stand on end.
Whatever you may think of a stereotypical Hollywood studio executive – short on time, low on patience – is applied to Tropic Thunder’s Les Grossman (Tom Cruise), as well as an exceedingly foul mouth. He acts like he has no time for Rick Peck’s (Matthew McConaughey) contract disputes, and he certainly has no time for Flaming Dragon, the drug militia holding action star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) captive.
It matters not how much money Flaming Dragon is asking for or if they actually have Speedman alive or dead, Grossman will let you know what he’s going to do you if you take up more of his time. And he will do it with crass panache, too. The level of profanity he unleashes is unprecedented, and judging by the face and prolonged silence of the Flaming Dragon soldier on the other end of the line, it was certainly unexpected. You may think you’re prepared for such a tirade, but you aren’t.
Well, not all rants have to come from a place of anger. This final decathlon event moderator (Jim Downey) in Billy Madison certainly supplied an overreaction, but his little diatribe was born out of confusion and befuddlement at a response that could only be described as “insanely idiotic” – even though he added much more on to those two words.
Adam Sandler movies, it could be said, are an acquired taste, albeit mostly for a viewer who continues to enjoy a kind of humor mostly reserved for adolescents and pre-teens. Billy Madison is no different from ‘90s Sandler fare – certainly his peak years – or rather most Sandler material, in general. These twenty-six seconds, however, are legitimate comic gold. When a simple ‘wrong’ would have sufficed, he went the extra mile. To be fair, what else could he have said about a comparison between the Industrial Revolution and a story of a lost puppy.
Nothing makes for a great fight like down and dirty family dysfunction, especially when one of them is a megalomaniacal former Hollywood star. Add a resentful daughter fresh out of rehab and you’ll have a fight so decadent that just watching it is an indulgence.
Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is deluded enough to believe that his stage adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” is for the sake of art and not some self-serving ploy for regained public recognition, and his daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is well prepared to call him out for it. Much is made of Birdman's series of continuous shots, and here, the way it shifts from Riggan to Sam is liable to make the viewer feel voyeuristic, as if they are intimately gaining access to the quarrels of strangers. It may be an unpleasant realization, but with some passionate delivery from Stone, perhaps director Alejandro Iñárritu’s intentions were to make us as uncomfortable as possible.
For every monologue you could give Alec Baldwin, Samuel L. Jackson could do just as well, if not better. He'd be able to deliver them in his sleep. One would have thought Robert Shaw had the monopoly on monologues – a monolopoly, if you will – in shark movies, but Jackson does well for himself in Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea. To be honest, watching a serious monologue in a Renny Harlin movie feels like witnessing a unicorn.
All at once, Russell Martin (Jackson) blends anger with calm confession. He's tired of seeing the Aquatica team jaw at each other. Confessing to everyone else in the room about his and four others’ pact to cover up murders may seem a poor choice to rally the troops, but his haunting speech definitely grabbed their attention. Unfortunately, one of the mako sharks had to poke their head in and rudely interrupt his talk.
Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire is a rather grim look at American working class life, especially as it is through the lens of someone – Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) – coming from a life of privilege. Having gotten the full experience of her sister Stella’s (Kim Hunter) husband, Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), and the life of hardships they endure, Blanche feels as though she has to speak up to her beloved sibling and remind her of her upbringing.
She has some choice words about Stanley, too, calling him "common" and "subhuman". The low-key lighting illuminating the set only further emphasizes the squalor Stella and Stanley live in, and while it oppresses Stella, Blanche stands out from it, as if she already cannot bear her surroundings during this brief visit. Then again, she is relatively out of place here, and her condescending rant is all that lets her hang on to her feelings of superiority over the Kowalskis.
Cousin Eddie may call a one-year membership to the Jelly of the Month Club “the gift that keeps on giving the whole year,” but Clark has a different opinion. It just wouldn’t be a Vacation movie without Clark freaking out at least once, and if you are similarly hell bent on bringing your boss down a peg, you might say a few of the things Clark includes in his whirlwind of an insult.
Like a handful of others already mentioned here, Clark went beyond what would have been expected of him in insulting his boss, Frank Shirley (Brian Doyle-Murray). Given the magnitude of the insult, itself, whether or not it was scripted, Chevy Chase does a convincing job of making it appear improvised. His body language throughout his verbal torrent displays an energy that implies spontaneity, and when he temporarily lets go of the anger, he seems genuinely winded. To be fair, that was a lot to unleash all at once.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone are two of the only people in the world who could write a metaphor so simultaneously crude and poignant. When you’re satirizing American foreign policy and their chronic need to police the world, the natural inclination for anyone would be to label the United States as “reckless, arrogant, stupid d---s.” The rest comprises one truly magical speech about the need to defeat Kim Jong Il and the rest of North Korea.
The timing of Team America: World Police was most appropriate, as this speech would have been relevant over a decade ago, when America plunged itself into war. Granted, a real speech of this kind would never have used this exact wording, but sometimes, inappropriate humor opens our eyes to different perspectives on things. An acceptance and recognition of those perspectives would have helped alleviate the hardline partisanship plaguing American politics at the time – well, at least a little, maybe.
Sometimes a man can only see and take so much until he has to speak out. With the mob-influenced worker’s union taking control of the docks, On The Waterfront's Father Barry (Karl Malden) has had more than enough. At the dockyard, he gives an impassioned sermon toward a mostly less than appreciative crowd, some of whom hurl objects at him.
But, when you feel strongly enough about something, you won’t let a few projectiles stop your momentum. Father Barry is simply too fed up with dockyard workers’ new mentality of putting personal wealth before the welfare of the men working alongside them-- their brothers. According to his speech, the workers seem to have forgotten what basic human empathy and compassion are like, and when, by the end of his monologue, he turns toward the dead body of Kayo Dugan (Pat Henning) lying covered behind him, and his lecture immediately becomes a eulogy.
After a travesty like Grease 2, almost anything would be a step up in a young actor's career, whether they were in their prime or just about to break out. The latter was the case for Michelle Pfeiffer, a relative unknown who landed the role of Elvira Hancock in Brian De Palma’s Scarface. While Grease 2 certainly couldn’t give her a real opportunity to stake her claim as the next big thing, Scarface was the perfect role for her in her young career.
High on drugs, Tony Montoya (Al Pacino) goes on his own rant about Elvira’s inability to become pregnant thanks to her persistent drug abuse while at the dinner table. In response, Elvira goes on a liberating tirade against Tony, unshackling herself from a man addicted to power. It’s an emotional roller coaster flavored with anger, regret, and ultimately, satisfaction, because as she leaves, she appears so overcome by her own words that she leaves the restaurant in near silence.
“It just doesn’t matter” typically isn’t the sort of message you want to send to anyone you might be coaching in a competition. But, if you’re the campers and counselors of the middling Camp North Star, who have lost an annual Olympiad to the richer, more privileged Camp Mohawk for twelve years running, then “It just doesn’t matter” is must seem a better mindset than, “We’re going to lose anyway. Why even try?”
After the first day of the Olympiad, North Star is losing 170 to 63, and when Morty’s (Harvey Atkin) generic rallying cry doesn’t do the trick, Tripper (Bill Murray) uses the aforementioned unorthodox message as part of his livewire appeal to the crowd. Meatballs was Murray’s first starring role after having been a Saturday Night Live regular, and while the opening portion of his rant plays like a stand-up comedy special, his bravado and gesticulation here highlight a vintage Bill Murray performance.
Where would a most legendary movie rants list be without the great, incomparable Nicolas Cage? The frequency at which he freaks out in his films is rather astounding, and though every moment of his crazy yelling is one to cherish – especially considering that most of his recent work has been low-budget thrillers – they can blend together, to an extent. But sequences like this one from Vampire’s Kiss stand out amidst the pack.
Peter Loew (Cage) is slowly losing his mind, and some bizarre experiences with a woman periodically feeding on his blood aren’t helping his sanity any. So, when the newest secretary Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso) asks for some time off from or additional help on her assignment from Loew, Loew exhibits frustration at her requests in a rather unusual manner. Finding the delicate balance between calm and threatening in a moment of gleeful lunacy, he persuades Alva away from her requests with a face now noteworthy for the “You don’t say” meme.
When was the last fight you had with a friend, and how did it turn out for the both of you? Odds are you didn’t have any Kevin Smith dialogue to back up your argument, but hopefully neither of you embarrassed yourselves. Everyone has their own perspective on things, but there may ultimately be a superior perspective established. Such is the dynamic between feuding friends Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson).
In a segment of Clerks entitled appropriately titled "Catharsis", Randal and Dante – mostly Dante – vent some frustrations in a messy convenience store brawl, then briefly let cooler heads prevail. Dante may have some legitimate grievances with Randal, but Randal has the bigger picture in mind, and the superiority of his argument is echoed by their space in the shot. Randal remains constantly seated on the floor, whereas Dante has to rise from the floor to deliver his rant, only to fall back down when he’s wound down, reestablishing the visual hierarchy.
When we think of courtroom speeches, whether they are opening or closing statements, we usually think of a formal address. Sure, each lawyer will likely add his or her personal brand of showmanship to appeal to and sway the jury one way or another, but there often won’t be anything of a bombastic nature. In a split second, defense attorney Arthur Kirkland (Al Pacino) throws those pre-conceived notions out of the window in And Justice For All.
Kirkland is given the unenviable task of defending the Honorable Henry Fleming (John Forsythe), a judge suspected of rape and assault. In a comparatively unusual narrative structure for a courtroom drama, the trial’s opening doesn’t occur until close to the movie’s conclusion, but even so, Kirkland has had enough of having to defend this man. His opening statement begins like his intentions are to make sure Fleming is found innocent, until he does a complete 180 and loudly exclaims his guilt, following it with the oft misquoted “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order!” His speech had grown increasingly tense as he progressed, but his accusation of his own defendant was incredibly sudden.
Hear the voice of Edward Norton spouting out a myriad of prejudiced comments against almost anybody, and you’d probably be forgiven for initially recalling American History X. Turns out that with Spike Lee’s adaptation of David Benioff’s novel The 25th Hour, he still had plenty of energy to go through some fictionalized, deeply virulent hatred.
Just one year later, the events of September 11th, 2001 couldn’t help but remain fresh on the mindset of any American citizen, especially those living in New York City. Anger still would have been riding high, making this psychological outburst into a bathroom mirror from Monty Brogan incredibly timely. But more than just an observation on post-9/11 ideological tendencies, it was a character laying the blame on everyone in his surroundings for his downfall and eventual sentencing to prison, only to come to the realization that to properly place blame, coincidentally, he needed only look in the mirror.
Depending on your family’s holiday traditions, the odds are good that a fair portion of you either have watched or still watch this particular rant once a year. Sure, the promise of a lucrative new position with the benefits of frequent yearly travel is enticing, but sometimes, you have to stick to your morals. It’s not an easy position to take, but George Bailey (James Stewart) makes taking it look easy in It's A Wonderful Life.
To be fair, his decision was likely made easier by the fact that the person offering him the job was Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), whose greed is boundless and who already tried to liquidate the family business started by George's father. By the end of George’s confronting of Potter, you’d be understanding if George were finally sick of the sight of him. The rage is comparatively brief, but it and his “scurvy little spider” insult are as legendary as they come.
As the old adage goes, you should never meet your idols; you might be disappointed to find that they are more human than you would come to expect. Perhaps Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) wasn’t an idol for young Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), but he was someone to look up to, and perhaps represented an escape from his life of poverty with his four grandparents. But when Charlie and Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) go to Mr. Wonka’s office to collect their prize, they find him in a less than jovial mood.
The first thing anyone will notice about this scene is that everything part of Wonka’s office has been split in half, emphasizing the idea that something is missing – further accentuated by the bust split down the middle. Wonka is no longer the joyful chocolatier giving children a tour of his magnificent facilities, but rather an impatient curmudgeon more concerned with himself than anyone else.
It’s hard not to fight with someone you love when your relationship is on-again, off-again, and one person is strictly making sure it stays that way. Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) struggle to maintain a romantic relationship, having to deal with society’s views of homosexuality and keep the true nature of their time together a secret from their wives and kids. Well, by the end, Jack has had enough of Ennis essentially controlling their relationship to the point where it's gradually becoming nonexistent.
Jack is intent on letting Ennis know of the possibilities they really had, in spite of Ennis’s fears, but you can see he’s immediately grown tired of trying to let him know, thus birthing Brokeback Mountain's iconic line “I wish I knew how to quit you.” Ennis is a broken man, and even Jack’s embraces after his rant won’t be enough to mend the self-inflicted wounds.
Already a legendary leading man thanks to his own bright talents, just as the Hays Code was losing its power on Hollywood, Sidney Poitier was quickly becoming the poster child for a more progressive Hollywood. He was a remarkable leader in giving African-Americans a voice in film, something that was at the time nonexistent in an industry dominated by white men. Miscegenation was one of the banned topics for any film to discuss or depict prior to the Code’s weakening, so naturally Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was one of the most talked-about movies in 1967.
In this rant John Prentice, Jr. (Poitier) makes toward his father (Roy E. Glenn), he is at once telling his father off for not approving of his impending marriage to Joanna (Katharine Hougton), but also indicting the mentality of the generation of African-Americans who came before him. It’s a scene richly layered in family drama, politics of race, and the history of race in America. Poitier was a trailblazer, and the conviction with which he delivered this speech only helped his case.
When it is finally revealed that John Milton (Al Pacino) is the Devil, himself, Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) gives him a visit in his penthouse. Because of Pacino’s performance, it’s hard to boil down the entire scene to a mere two minutes. He may be the Devil, but by citing the imperfections of religious rhetoric, he puts forth a halfway decent argument for his being the good guy in this most iconic dichotomy of God vs. Devil.
As previously mentioned, rants are a perfect opportunity for an actor to take ownership of a scene, and few actors, even on this list, own the scene like Pacino does in The Devil's Advocate. The energy of his anger is infectious, finding a balance with fury and deviously playfulness. Thanks to the lighting provided by the fireplace, he looks terrifying. The side-lighting emphasizes his age, his eye sockets set deep into his skull and every wrinkle and vein exposed.
Daniel Day-Lewis seems the perfect actor for a character study defined by a complete downward spiral. Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) starts out as a prospector who soon strikes liquid gold and builds his own oil empire. Money can’t buy happiness, however, as even though his empire grows, he becomes a raging, resentful alcoholic who would much rather stay reclusive. Local preacher Eli (Paul Dano) makes the fatal mistake of dropping by.
Plainview and Eli have been at odds with each other before, and given Plainview’s violent tendencies exhibited earlier in the film, a happy ending was never a possibility. Eli begs for Plainview’s help, but he’d much rather mock Eli for his current troubles and violently berate him than come to his aid. What begins as completely eccentric behavior from Plainview, with a slight tinge of anger, suddenly erupts into murderous rage and megalomania. He drank Eli’s milkshake, and then threw it away with a single bowling pin.
No, Bluto (John Belushi), the war wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. It wasn’t over at that moment for numerous reasons, but that’s beside the point. Bluto’s iconic speech from Animal House may perhaps be more of an intentionally motivational talk than a rant, but he undoubtedly lets it rip here.
As a call to arms, it isn’t quite stirring for the rest of the Delta brothers, at first. Expulsion seemed like the end for everyone in the room, and their time in the sun, running amok on campus, had been firmly taken from them, and yet, Bluto still defiantly believed that it could be the best night of their lives. Only when Otter stood with Bluto and echoed his sentiments that they should fight back, like they normally would, did the rest of Delta rise up and storm toward action. Bluto’s historical inaccuracies make for an attention grabbing speech, however, and everyone made the wise decision to let him keep ranting.
Being in prison for forty years could make anyone feel jaded after awhile. Every time Red (Morgan Freeman) came up for parole, he candidly stated his belief in his full rehabilitation, and every time, his appeal for parole was rejected. Now, Red’s got some choice words about what he thinks of these proceedings after all of this time.
You can tell that Red is fed up with the system that has kept him incarcerated, and though it doesn’t seem he has given up on being approved for parole, he genuinely doesn’t care if his words will carry any weight. His speech this time around is wholly different, and he’s intent on criticizing the oft-used language that he thought would help his case in the past. Freeman’s delivery here is pitch-perfect. He’s clearly mad, but his calm disposition reveals a fine layer of cynicism that keeps him from inappropriately erupting. His answer and demeanor are professional, if also pretty scathing.
Everyone remembers Jack Nicholson’s famous line in A Few Good Men word for word, though most might only vaguely remember what follows. His character, Colonel Jessup, has already been made to seem thoroughly contemptible, but his response to Lieutenant Kaffee’s (Tom Cruise) demand for the truth exponentially heightens that, as he disguises his crime with self-serving rhetoric of duty and national security.
Kaffee skillfully puts Jessup in such a position by asking the right questions that will lead to contradictory responses in Jessup’s testimony. The further Jessup takes his web of lies, the more you can see him squirming on the witness stand. But eventually, squirming steadily evolves into defiant outrage. He can’t stand that the young Kaffee, someone he had on the ropes not much earlier, has backed him up against a wall with his own words, leaving only one way out. He tries to make his response as noble as possible, but there is no saving him from his own admission.
In a list of the greatest improvised movie moments, Sergeant Hartmann’s (R. Lee Ermey) introduction in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket has to rank near the top. Ermey, a relatively inexperienced actor at the time, had to have made quite an impression for Kubrick to have let him improvise his entire opening scene, though to be fair, having actual experience as a Gunnery Sergeant helped make Kubrick’s decision a little easier.
The first half of Kubrick’s film is meant to expose the dehumanization and abuse soldiers in training endure, and yet it’s hard to keep yourself from laughing at the creativity of Hartmann’s insults. At least, it’s funny until he reaches Private Leonard Lawrence or, as Hartmann affectionately refers to him, Private Gomer Pyle. It may start with the usual verbal abuse, but the escalation to his forcing Lawrence to choke himself with his hand brings an end to any gut-busting chortles.
In thirteen simple words, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) boiled down the essence of what most, if not all rants, are made of and it is the quintessential outburst of cinema partially for that reason. Another dominant component was Peter Finch’s performance as the seething news anchor, for which he received a posthumous Best Actor award at the Oscars. Network, with its sharp, darkly clever screenplay from Paddy Chayefsky, successfully, though unwittingly, prophesized the future of American broadcast journalism.
The 1970s was a turbulent decade for a myriad of reasons-- that much is known. The last thing the country needed, however, was a television news program that exploited the cathartic madness of a desperate man voicing the frustrations of the voiceless. Beale’s rant was supposed to be a call to arms that would incite tangible change. Instead, it meant little other than increased television ratings, at least for a little while.
What other rants pinned you back to your seat? Let us know in the comments!