Opening this weekend is the truly ruddy wonderful The King’s Speech; Go see it. There are a number of reasons why – great performances, a lovely central friendship, fantastic production, Guy Pearce’s brief spell ‘King-ing’ and the wee ickle girl from Outnumbered as a young Princess Margaret. Its main pulling point, however; the power of words.
As helium-voiced muppets The Bee Gees sang, “It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.” Whilst the end victory of The King’s Speech is that he managed to get the words over his tongue, ultimately if he was just dictating a recipe for a cracking toad-in-the-hole the film wouldn’t be worth a damn. Those words helped scared British residents feel a little less so.
As celluloid speeches go, however, it’s not quite up there with these humdingers. And no, there is no Braveheart.
#5 Compulsion (1959)
A few words won’t do to make this list. It has to be a full on, minute clocking up, waterfall of words. Unsurprisingly then we’ll find a few of these in the courtroom, one of very few places that you’re allowed to gabb on without being drowned out by an orchestra, put off by a yawn or simply somebody telling you to SHUTTHEHELLUP. The first courtroom stirrer is from the little seen, but still very classic, Compulsion. Knowing that the charges he has to defend are completely unbeatable, after all the bastards did it, Clarence Darrow gives the best argument against capital punishment ever.
#4 LOTR: Return Of The King (2003)
For those angry that Braveheart isn’t here, you can see from the below that it’s not a case of “oooh look at me I hate popular films”. Instead it’s simply a preference, Mel didn’t get me going as much as the figure of Aragorn riding in front of the remainders of the Fellowhip laying his heart on the line. The fact that Viggo is almost welling up as the words come out gets me every time. By the time ‘For Frodo’ comes out, a little later, I’m a blubbering mess. If only that was the true end of the film…
#3 Good Night And Good Luck (2005)
Don’t get me wrong there is some great stuff on the telebox. Stargazing, for instance, (Brain Cox and Dara O’Briain looking at stars? Fuckin A!), Newsnight, The Only Way is Essex, but goddamn if it wouldn’t be nice if every now and again we harked back to the days of 1950’s telly. Imagine Jon Snow lighting up and monologuing about the budget cuts. On second thoughts, maybe it’s best to leave it in the past.
#2 Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)
Jimmy Stewart could have a million and one speeches in this list. His drunken tale of how he met Harvey in Harvey, calling Mr. Potter out in It’s A Wonderful Life, bringing law to the wild west in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Just chinwagging with himself carries half of Rear Window but it’s the filibuster of Washington that makes the grade. After the appalling use of the political tactic to halt bills including ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the recent ‘First Responders’ debate in America (thankfully both won), here’s Jimmy, showing how it should be done.
#1 To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Gregory Peck could have defended Nazis at Nuremburg and many would have been let off with a tap on the wrist. Maybe it’s his voice, maybe it’s the way he carries himself or maybe, just maybe it’s the way he logically puts forward his case. Logically and lyrically. The presentation of reason at a time when reason was scarce.
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Anybody want to argue? See me below but I expect all arguments to last at least 10 minutes with a structure inherent within. A structure worthy of Anish Kapoor.