I really enjoy this video montage of “40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes”…
That inspired me to put together a list of the best inspirational/motivational speeches just from ’80s movies. There were several choices that came immediately to mind, but some might be a little less obvious. Some are short and some are long. Some are made to big groups of people and some are made to just one. Some are funny and some are very serious. Whether they were intended to be or not, they all share the fact that they are inspirational to at least one character in the movie. In addition, they can also be inspirational to us, the audience.
I took a trip through my ’80s movie library and came up with quite a list of such inspirational monologues. With all of them, I will include at least a portion of the script and a video of the scene. So let’s get right to it then. Here are Old School’s Favorite Inspirational Speeches from ’80s Movies:
Honorable Mention. Animal House (1978) – One of the best of all time, but I am only listing it as an honorable mention because it is technically from a ’70s movie. I kind of consider it an ’80s movie since that is when I saw it for the first time and it inspired the comedy genre for years to come.
“Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough… the tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!”
-“John ‘Bluto’ Blutarsky” played by John Belushi
25. The Outsiders (1983) – This is a favorite coming-of-age film of mine with a star-studded cast (before they were stars) based on the S.E. Hinton novel. The story features the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” which is a personal favorite of mine. The scene when “Ponyboy” recites it to “Johnny” is very inspirational to me. When “Johnny” dies near the end of the film, he leaves a letter for his friend “Ponyboy” and I find what he says to be an inspirational monologue.
“Ponyboy, I asked the nurse to give you this book so you could finish it. The doctor came in a while ago but I knew anyway. I keep getting tireder and tireder. Listen, I don’t mind dying now. It was worth it. It’s worth saving those kids. Their lives are worth more than mine, they have more to live for. Some of their parents came by to thank me and I know it was worth it. Tell Dally it was worth it. I’m just gonna miss you guys. I’ve been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you’re gold when you’re a kid, like green. When you’re a kid everything’s new, dawn. It’s just when you get used to everything that it’s day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That’s gold. Keep that way, it’s a good way to be. I want you to tell Dally to look at one. He’ll probably think you’re crazy, but ask for me. I don’t think he’s ever really seen a sunset. And don’t be so bugged over being a greaser. You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want. There’s still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don’t think he knows. Your buddy, Johnny.”
– “Johnny Cade” played by Ralph Macchio
24. On Golden Pond (1981) – This is an interesting story about family relationships from several different angles. It stars Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn as an aging couple who have been married for a long time. The scene that I find inspirational takes place when Hepburn’s character shows how strong the ties of love and marriage can remain even after so many years.
“Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t forget it. You’re going to get back on that horse and I’m going to be right behind you, holding on tight and away we’re going to go, go, go!”
– “Ethel Thayer” played by Katherine Hepburn
23. The Princess Bride (1987) – This is a great fairytale of a movie that I recently was able to share with my daughter for the first time. She loved it because of the Princess, but my favorite character is “Inigo Montoya” the sword fighter who is on a life long search for vengeance against the “six-fingered man” who murdered his father. At one point, he explains why he is on this mission and I find it somewhat inspirational, so I decided to include this scene on my list.
“I was eleven years old. And when I was strong enough, I dedicated my life to the study of fencing. So the next time we meet, I will not fail. I will go up to the six-fingered man and say, ‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’”
– “Inigo Montoya” played by Mandy Patinkin
23. Full Metal Jacket (1987) – I don’t know about you, but I am not personally motivated or inspired by someone berating me. Nevertheless, that seems to be the tactic often employed by Drill Sergeants in the armed forces (or at least that is how it is depicted in the movies which is all I have to go by). R. Lee Ermey has several outstanding monologues during the basic training scenes of this film which Stanley Kubrick wrote the screenplay and directed. I rank them lower on this list because I would not find them personally inspiring, but it does motivate the characters in the film. There are several that would qualify, but I will include the one he makes when they are graduating.
“Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You’re part of a brotherhood. From now on until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this: Marines die. That’s what we’re here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever. And that means YOU live forever.”
– “Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann” played by R. Lee Ermey
21. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) – This one did not come immediately to mind, but I remember a profane rant that “Clark” goes on as his family is ready to give up. He drops a few f-bombs to help get their attention, but his passion is inspiring and afterward you know that he is resolved to get to Wally World.
“I think you’re all f****d in the head. We’re ten hours from the f***ing fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our godamn smiles. You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of you’re a**holes! I gotta be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy S**t!”
– “Clark W. Griswold” played by Chevy Chase
17. Bull Durham (1988) – Sports movies are generally good sources for inspirational moments and speeches. There are some amazing monologues given in this movie which is about much more than just minor league baseball in North Carolina. “Annie” provides a great one as an introduction at the start of the film and “Crash” delivers a famous monologue about what he believes in. Both are great, but my favorite motivational speech is given by the team’s manager after “Crash” gave him advice on how to light a fire under the team.
“You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry! LOLLYGAGGERS!”
– “Joe ‘Skip’ Riggins” played by Trey Wilson
16. The Karate Kid (1984) – This movie is inspiring overall with the underdog coming out victorious in multiple ways. “Mr. Miyagi” provides many karate lessons that are also life lessons during the course of the film. One such lesson is when he tells “Daniel” that he “Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?” One of my favorites and particularly motivational is an analogy that he uses before he begins to train “Daniel.”
“Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later (makes squish gesture)… get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do ‘yes’ or karate do ‘no.’ You karate do ‘guess so,’ (makes squish gesture again) just like grape. Understand?”
– “Mr. Miyagi” played by Pat Morita
15. Glory (1989) – This movie is based on an extremely inspiring story, though some parts are difficult to watch. It depicts the story of a regiment of African-American soldiers in the American Civil War. Denzel Washington earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor with an outstanding performance, but to me, many of the inspirational scenes featured Morgan Freeman’s character “John Rawlins.” One in particular takes place as a prayer the night before they go into battle.
“Lord, we stand before you this evening, to say thank you! And we thank you, father, for your grace, and your many blessings! Now I run off, leaving all my young ones and my kinfolk, in bondage. So I’m standing here this evening, heavenly father, to ask your blessings on all of us. So that if tomorrow is the great getting up morning, if that tomorrow we have to meet the Judgment Day, oh heavenly father, we want you to let our folks know that we died facing the enemy! We want ‘em to know that we went down standing up! Amongst those that are fighting against our oppression. We want ‘em to know, heavenly father, that we died for FREEDOM! We ask these blessings in Jesus’ name. Amen!”
– “John Rawlins” played by Morgan Freeman
14. Rocky IV (1985) – Interesting that this movie has one of the LEAST inspirational speeches by Rocky’s wife when she says, “You can’t go with what you are. You’ve read the papers, it’s suicide! You’ve seen him you know how strong he is! YOU CAN’T WIN!” But later in the movie, there are a couple speeches that I feel are very inspirational. There is a scene before Rocky leaves for Russia and he is saying goodbye to his son. He tells him, “By going that one more round when you think you can’t, that’s what makes all the difference in your life.” Words to live by for sure. There is another where his trainer “Duke” says to Rocky shortly after they arrive in Russia,
“Apollo was like my son. I raised him. And when he died a part of me died. But now you’re the one. You’re the one that’s gonna keep his spirit alive. You’re the one that’s gonna make sure that he didn’t die for nothing. Now you’re gonna have to go through hell. Worse than any nightmare you ever dreamed. But in the end, I know you’ll be the one standing.”
– “Duke” played by Tony Burton