Dramatic onscreen monologues aren’t just
catnip for the Oscars. Whether they appear in emotional dramas, comedies, or even action films, they can be the defining moment of a character’s arc — especially when that character is a woman.
Many of the greatest actors of our time have had the chance to show their impressive chops with a well-placed speech — and stuck the landing. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the most memorable monologues, from the few classics you’re probably familiar with (it doesn’t get more iconic than Princess Leia begging Obi-Wan for help in the first
Star Wars, setting off an entire franchise in the process), to some lesser-known speeches to impress and devastate you, too. Amy Adams and Ellen Burnstyn’s monologues, in particular, will be sure to blow your mind if you haven’t seen them before. So sit back, relax, and let these performances wash over you. Spoiler alert, you will absolutely need tissues to make your way down the list, though they’re not all sad; more humorous speeches have also been included, to ensure you don't start sobbing at your desk. Happy watching! 1 Saoirse Ronan — ‘Little Women’
Jo (Saoirse Ronan), who’s basically the heroine of
Little Woman, struggles with her creative passions, societal pressure, and longing to be loved. All of her emotions come pouring out in this monologue, making it one of the reasons this film feels so relevant to a modern audience. In Ronan’s brilliant hands, it’s not whining — it’s a revelation about the world and her place in it. Watch On Amazon Prime 2 Laura Dern — ‘Marriage Story’ Marriage Story is the story about a union that’s ended, and it talks a lot about the roles that a husband and wife/dad and mom are supposed to take on. Leave it to divorce lawyer Nora (Laura Dern) to offer a scathing takedown of our “our Judeo-Christian whatever” society, and our deeply hypocritical treatment of women and mothers, all while wearing a fabulous dress. It’s deeply witty and true all at once. Watch On Netflix 3 Frances McDormand — ‘Something’s Gotta Give’
This sweet Nancy Meyer rom-com embraces the middle-aged woman as a hot, sexual being. But it’s also a supremely smart takedown of social constructs that limit women as they get older. Here, Zoe (Frances McDormand) brilliantly takes Harry (Jack Nicholson), and society at large, to task for overlooking successful 60-something women. They deserve love too, dammit.
Watch On Hulu 4 Julia Roberts — 'Erin Brockovich'
There are a lot of terrific monologues in this movie, but the infamous "Numbers" speech is truly unforgettable — largely because of Roberts' no-nonsense delivery. It also offers Roberts’ character the chance to live out a fantasy that every woman has had: being able to tell off a guy who’s hitting on you when you're really just trying to live your life in peace.
Watch On Amazon Prime 5 Julia Stiles — '10 Things I Hate About You'
Kat Stratford's poem in
10 Things I Hate About You was notorious for making all '90s girls cry — chances are most of us felt exactly like this at some point during high school. It's also a great, universally relevant monologue about love and loss, perfectly delivered by Julia Stiles. (And bonus points for how it cements the movie’s brilliant inversion of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.) Watch On Amazon Prime 6 America Ferrera — 'Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants'
Even if you’re not a child of divorce, just thinking about the scene in
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants when Carmen (American Ferrera) calls her dad, Al (Bradley Whitford), to confront him for leaving her is enough to break your heart. Ferrara plays Carmen as fierce and independent, so to watch her be so vulnerable is also a masterclass in acting. Watch On Amazon Prime 7 Rosamund Pike — ‘Gone Girl’
It seems impossible to feel sorry for a sociopath — until you watch this monologue. Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) is enacting a plan to frame her husband Nick (Ben Affleck) for her murder, and she tells us exactly why. Underneath her quest for vengeance is an endless black hole of hurt and frustration. As horrified as we are by her, we can totally relate.
Watch On Amazon Prime 8 Carrie Fisher — 'A New Hope' 9 Viola Davis — 'Fences'
There's no way that Viola Davis' monologue in
Fences won't be taught in acting schools until the end of time. Davis took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2017 for her performance as Rose — a devoted, unfulfilled housewife who, in a single monologue, sums up her life of joy, pain, and disappointment. Like Troy (Denzel Washington), all we can do is watch in awe. Watch On Amazon Prime 10 Ellen Burstyn — ‘Requiem for a Dream’ Requiem for a Dream is a tough movie to watch, but this scene is particularly wrenching. Ellen Burnstyn’s Sara makes an emotional plea to her son (Jared Leto), telling him that she needs amphetamines to lose weight, be on her favorite game show, and really just have a reason to live. “It makes tomorrow all right,” she says tearfully. Watch On Amazon Prime 11 Vivien Leigh — 'Gone With The Wind'
Despite its many faults,
Gone With the Wind is probably one of the most quotable movies in Hollywood history, and this monologue performed by Vivien Leigh is a big reason why. Her character can be deeply unlikeable, but this is the exact moment you come to empathize with her. It also gave way too many people the burning need to say "as God as my witness" a whole bunch. Watch On Amazon Prime 12 Amy Adams — 'Junebug'
Amy Adams earned her first Oscar nomination for
Junebug, and after watching this monologue, you’ll understand why the critics couldn’t get enough of her performance. In this scene, Ashley (Adams) is desperately trying to put on a brave face after giving birth to a stillborn baby. She goes through every emotion: anger, fear, sadness, and finally a tiny bit of acceIt's as heartbreaking as it is impressive. Watch On Amazon Prime 13 Alicia Silverstone — 'Clueless'
The fact that Cher's
Clueless (1995) speech was everywhere in the Women's March of 2017 — "It does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty" signs galore — is proof enough of the lasting power of this monologue. But the most hilarious part of it might be that on some crazy, meta level... what she says kind of makes sense? Watch On Amazon Prime 14 Michelle Williams — 'Manchester By The Sea'
In this heartbreaking monologue, Michelle Williams shows exactly why she was nominated for an Oscar for her turn in
Manchester By The Sea. This scene shows Williams’ character, Randy, reaching out to her ex, Lee, who accidentally allowed their house to catch on fire, resulting in the passing of their young children. Through tears, she begs him to forgive her for her cruelty in blaming him. Watch On Amazon Prime 15 Sally Field — 'Steel Magnolias'
Another tearjerker, Sally Field's devastated and furious monologue at the end of
Steel Magnolias is as honest a representation of grief as one can find in a Hollywood production. Not long after having her second child, Shelby (Julia Roberts) loses her life. Her mom M'Lynn (Field) has to bury her daughter, and there’s nothing okay about it. And then, in the very last second, there’s a moment of lightness. Watch On Amazon Prime 16 Hilary Duff — 'A Cinderella Story'
Millennials the world over will remember this movie as the modern-day fairy tale we all kind of needed growing up. Hilary Duff's monologue might not be known the world over, and it’s honestly a bit silly. But it's also a glorious moment of catharsis: a girl standing up to her former crush for his bad behavior and getting a bit of closure. It deserves a place on the list for that reason alone.
Watch On Amazon Prime 17 Lupita Nyong'o — 'Us' Us is a terrifying look at how the suffering of some often underpins others’ joy and success. And in this monologue, Lupita Nyong'o's Red (the actor’s tethered character) explains in disturbing detail exactly how that works. It's a stunning performance from Nyong'o, featuring an altered voice and a slow delivery that just gets under your skin. Equally impressive? She’s acting against herself. Watch On Amazon Prime 18 Jennifer Lopez — 'Hustlers'
It's hard not to cheer when Jennifer Lopez's Ramona goes off on the Wall Street corruption responsible for 2008’s economic crash. Lopez is a veteran actor, but here, she delivers a career-defining performance. In this one moment, she explains why Wall Street guys who come into the strip club deserve to be conned. It's enough to have even the most upstanding citizen ready to do some crimes.
Watch On Amazon Prime 19 Taraji P. Henson — 'Hidden Figures'
Taraji P. Henson's exasperated monologue in
Hidden Figures is really the most memorable scene in the film, and the moment the audience has been waiting for. In this pivotal scene, Katherine (Henson), tired of being forced to live like a second class citizen at work, finally unloads on her boss about the struggles of working in a segregated office. Watch On Amazon Prime
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This article was originally published on
April 13, 2017