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
20. Road House (1989) – This movie does not have too many redeeming qualities (except being fun to watch), but “Dalton” has the self-confidence and experience to certainly motivate others. When the character is first introduced to help clean up the seedy small-town Missouri bar, he delivers his message to the rest of the bar’s staff. The severity of the situation and by just looking at “Dalton,” I am sure they had their doubts about his methods. It does not take long for him to prove that it is his way or the highway.
“All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.”
– “Dalton” played by Patrick Swayze
19. Caddyshack (1980) – One of my very favorite comedies of all time, this is another movie which you would not expect to necessarily be on this list, but there are a few inspiring (although comedic) monologues made by “Ty Webb” to young “Danny” during the course of the film. Here is one of them…
“I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”
– “Ty Webb” played by Chevy Chase
18. Stand By Me (1986) – This is one of my very favorite movies of all time. There is a particular scene where “Gordie” and “Chris” are talking about their future. “Gordie” implies that he was not going to take advantage of his opportunities and this angers “Chris” who responds. “Gordie” does not like “Chris” preaching at him and says, “Oh, gee, thanks, Dad!”
“Wish the hell I was your dad. You wouldn’t be goin’ around talkin’ about takin’ these stupid shop courses if I was. It’s like God gave you something man, all those stories you can make up. And He said, ‘this is what we got for ya kid, try not to lose it.’ Kids lose everything unless there’s someone there to look out for them. And if your parents are too f****d up to do it, then maybe I should!”
– “Chris Chambers” played by River Phoenix
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
13. Three Amigos (1986) – Another movie you would not expect to be on this list, but there is one speech delivered by “Lucky Day” which is quite inspirational in an over-the-top comedic sort of way.
“In a way, each of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo!”
– “Lucky Day” played by Steve Martin
12. Lean On Me (1989) – This film is based on the very inspiring true story of Joe Clark who became the principal of an inner-city New Jersey high school in dire need of some changes. I love to see anybody overcome the odds and triumph due to hard work and perseverance. That is what happens with the students at Eastside High. The principal delivers several motivational monologues, but the best is probably at the “pep rally” before the students are to take a basic skills exam which is to determine the future of the school (and quite possibly the future of many of the students themselves).
“I want to tell you what the people are saying about you and what they think about your chances. They say you’re inferior! You are just a bunch of n****rs and sp**s and poor white trash! Education is wasted on you! You cannot learn! You’re lost! I mean ALL of you! … Are you getting my point, people? Is it beginning to sink in? We sink, we swim, we rise, we fall, we meet our fate together! Now, it took the help of a good, good friend to make me know and understand that and I do understand that and I’m grateful. I’m eternally grateful. And now, I’ve got a message for those people out there who’ve abandoned you and written you off! Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Good! You are NOT inferior! Your grades may be, your school may have been. But you can turn that around and make liars out of those bastards in exactly one hour when you take that test and pass it and win! So here’s what I want you to do. When you find your thoughts wandering, I want you to knuckle back down and concentrate. Concentrate! Remember what’s at stake and show them what Eastside High’s all about: a spirit that will not die!”
– “Joe Clark” played by Morgan Freeman
11. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – This is one of my very favorite movies from the ’80s, but not necessarily because it is inspirational. That does not mean there are not any inspiring moments within it, though. “Cameron” is “Ferris’” best friend and experiences a great amount of change during the course of his day of misbehavior. This is evident in a scene towards the end of the film when “Cameron” declares his epiphany. I could not find a video link for this scene, but here is what he says just prior to the car crashing through the glass wall into the ravine.
“I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand. I’m going to defend it. Right or wrong, I’m going to defend it.”
– “Cameron Frye” played by Alan Ruck
10. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987) – This silly movie about what kids are willing to do to gain acceptance is one of my favorite ’80s teen comedies. It stars Patrick Dempsey 18 years before he became “McDreamy” on Grey’s Anatomy. He delivers a great speech at the end which includes the real moral of the story and one that I wish more kids would recognize.
“Nerds, jocks. My side, your side. It’s all bulls**t. Its hard enough just trying to be yourself.”
– “Ronald Miller” played by Patrick Dempsey
9. Stripes (1981) – Here is a movie that you would not expect to be all that inspirational, but “John Winger” (played by the brilliant Bill Murray) seems to be a natural leader who takes control when necessary. And that is just what this rag-tag platoon needs. My favorite such moment takes place when the platoon is attempting to get ready to perform at graduation and the group starts to lose patience with each other. “Winger” jumps in and, in his own comedic way, inspires the guys to do what they need to do. This results in one of the funnier scenes in the movie. For this list, I include the motivational speech that gets them there.
“Cut it out! Cut it out! Cut it out! The hell’s the matter with you? Stupid! We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! Here’s proof: his nose is cold! But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more loveable than the mutt. Who saw Old Yeller? Who cried when Old Yeller got shot at the end? (raises his hand) Nobody cried when Old Yeller got shot? I’m sure. (other hands are reluctantly raised) I cried my eyes out. So we’re all dogfaces, we’re all very, very different, but there is one thing that we all have in common: we were all stupid enough to enlist in the Army. We’re mutants. There’s something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us – we’re soldiers. But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re 10 and 1! Now we don’t have to worry about whether or not we practiced. We don’t have to worry about whether Captain Stillman wants to have us hung. All we have to do is to be the great American fighting soldier that is inside each one of us. Now do what I do, and say what I say. And make me proud.”
– “John Winger” played by Bill Murray
8. The Goonies (1985) – This movie is about kids going on a treasure hunt in the hopes of saving their homes from being foreclosed on. At one point the kids are considering giving up, but “Mikey” gives an inspiring speech trying to convince them to continue on their adventure.
“Don’t you realize? The next time you see sky, it’ll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it’ll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what’s right for them. Because it’s their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here.”
– “Mikey Walsh” played by Sean Astin
7. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – I have always been a huge fan of the original trilogy. I feel George Lucas’ movies encourage and inspire you to imagine a whole different galaxy “far, far away.” The battle of good versus evil is also usually inspiring especially when the good side prevails. There are two particular monologues that I felt were appropriate for this list and they both take place as “Luke” is training in the swamps of Dagobah with “Yoda” to become a Jedi. First, “Luke” says he’ll try and Yoda quickly rebukes, “No, try NOT. Do or do not. There is no try.” Then there is another scene when “Luke” becomes frustrated and “Yoda” schools him again on some of the finer points regarding the Force.
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”
– “Yoda” voiced by Frank Oz
6. Revenge of the Nerds (1984) – This is another movie that inspires through the eventual triumph of the underdogs. The nerds keep on battling until they earn victory over the jocks and respect from everybody else. This is another of my very favorite ’80s teen comedies. The movie culminates with a great inspirational speech by “Gilbert” and “Louis” with the film ultimately ending as Queen’s song “We Are The Champions” plays.
“I just wanted to say that I’m a nerd, and I’m here tonight to stand up for the rights of other nerds. I mean uh, all our lives we’ve been laughed at and made to feel inferior. And tonight, those bastards, they trashed our house. Why? Cause we’re smart? Cause we look different? Well, we’re not. I’m a nerd, and uh, I’m pretty proud of it… Just join us ‘cause uh, no-one’s gonna really be free until nerd persecution ends.”
– “Gilbert Lowe” played by Anthony Edwards
5. UHF (1989) – This Weird Al Yankovic movie is actually kind of funny, but I would never had expected it to appear on this list (especially at #5). Those who know me probably are not surprised because of my fondness for this cult classic. For the majority, this film is just silly and campy, but in one of those moments I found a surprisingly inspirational monologue. It was delivered by the character “Stanley Spadowski” played by Michael Richards (before he became known as “Kramer” from Seinfeld) and is about, of all things, his mop.
“This is my new mop. George, my friend, he gave me this mop. This is a pretty good mop. It’s not as good as my first mop. I miss my first mop, but this is still a good mop. Sometimes you just hafta take what life gives ya, ’cause life is like a mop and sometimes life gets full of dirt and crud and bugs and hairballs and stuff… you, you, you gotta clean it out. You, you, you gotta put it in here and rinse it off and start all over again and, and sometimes, sometimes life sticks to the floor so bad you know a mop, a mop, it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough. You, you gotta get down there, like, with a toothbrush, you know, and you gotta, you gotta really scrub ’cause you gotta get it off. You gotta really try to get it off. But if that doesn’t work, that doesn’t work, you can’t give up. You gotta, you gotta stand right up. You, you gotta run to a window and say, ‘Hey! These floors are dirty as hell, and I’m not gonna take it any more!’”
– “Stanley Spadowski” played by Michael Richards
4. Wall Street (1987) – First, there is a scene featuring Hal Holbrook’s character “Lou Mannheim giving some advice in which he says, “Just remember something. Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” That is one of my favorite movie quotes from this film. It is not as well recognized as another speech made by Michael Douglas who won the Best Actor Oscar for his outstanding portrayal of the “Gordon Gekko” character. His “greed” speech is a favorite cinematic moment of mine. If you can see past the more literal translation and hear what he is really implying, I think it is quite inspirational. I like that he says “for lack of a better word” which makes me believe that it’s a composite of the hard work, determination, and ability that it takes to accomplish your goals. You have to be vigilant and focused on those goals and keep on keepin’ on until you achieve each and every one of them. You can’t take what “Gekko” says literally at face value, but instead, apply your own perspective and morals (because generosity can be just as important). The movie tells a story of the “make a fast buck” era that it took place in, but this particular speech says A LOT more to me. Here is the entire speech, so you can decide for yourself.
“The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated. …The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.”
– “Gordon Gekko” played by Michael Douglas
3. Hoosiers (1986) – You won’t find many movies about the underdog coming out victorious better than this movie inspired by a true story. The analogy of David slaying Goliath fits perfectly for this story, but it all happens due to hard work and trust. In my opinion, trust is one of the biggest factors in this movie and it is not just between the coach and his players, but between almost every character or group of characters. Like I said earlier, sports movies are naturals to have some great motivational speeches. There are not many moments more inspirational than when a coach is firing up his team before a big game. “Coach Dale” has a few of these speeches in this movie. Here is one of them.
“I’m sure going to the State finals is beyond your wildest dreams, so let’s just keep it right there. Forget about the crowds, the size of the school, their fancy uniforms, and remember what got you here. Focus on the fundamentals that we’ve gone over time and time again. And most important, don’t get caught up thinking about winning or losing this game. If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners!”
– “Coach Norman Dale” played by Gene Hackman
2. Field of Dreams (1989) – This is the film starring Kevin Costner about a farmer who builds a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield to ultimately resolve feelings of regret he had regarding his relationship with his father. That is all well and good, but it also includes what might quite possibly be my favorite monologue in cinema history.
“Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
– “Terrence Mann” played by James Earl Jones
1. Dead Poets Society (1989) – This film is filled with inspirational monologues. Most are delivered by “John Keating” played wonderfully by Robin Williams. He is encouraging his students to experience life and think for themselves which is what I really feel the school should be all about. One of the best happens during his first-class with the boys and sets the tone for what is to come. Everybody can use a reminder no matter how old you are.
“They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”
– “John Keating” played by Robin Williams
There’s my list. As always, the order can be debated and could vary on any given day. I tried to catch my favorites, but I could have easily overlooked a bunch as well. I would love to hear about any scenes from ’80s movies you think I might have missed. Leave them in the comments below. There are so many more inspirational moments in movies from other decades as well, but for now I decided to narrow it down to my favorite decade only. Everybody finds inspiration in different ways. Movies have always been a source for me and these moments are some of the finest.
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