What is the point of a movie if it doesn’t move us to tears or laughter? If it doesn’t take us down to a valley of despair only to raise us back up to the highest heights?
The Eve of Battle Motivational Speech is one of those defining moments in movies. The soldiers are about to head into a momentous battle. There is no guarantee of victory (except that we know our heroes will always win) and the forces of evil seem overwhelmingly strong.
It’s a moment that calls for leadership and powers of motivation and oratory, to instil them with courage and fortitude and to inspire them to give more of themselves than they believe possible.
Here are our pick of the Top Ten Eve of Battle Speeches in movies:
10. Independence Day (Bill Pullman)
OK, the movie may be sentimental twaddle, but this address to his people in the face of the alien invasion is the stand out moment. Bill Pullman having been a pretty ineffectual President through the movie suddenly raises his game to deliver some inspirational words that help to turn the battle against the invaders. That and some typically brazen bravado from Will Smith.
9. 300 (David Wenham)
Though the action in this movie is superbly cinematic, one of the most played non-action clips was the speech at the end of the movie following the death of King Leonidas and his 300 brave warriors. His right hand man, Dilios, uses the great example of his King’s death to rally the entire army to face the Greek tyrant King Xerxes.
8. Glory (Morgan Freeman)
An epic war movie featuring the first African American soldiers in the US Union army. Here Morgan Freeman (surely a man with one of the greatest actor voices in modern movie history) reminds his fellow soldiers of their place in history. He draws on the tradition of the Baptist preacher and implores his men to fight for pride, for their families and for their people.
7. Tilbury Speech (Ann Marie Duff)
“I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king and a king of England too” – possibly the most powerful words ever spoken by a Queen. Though there is some dispute over the exact wording of Queen Elizabeth 1’s speech at Tilbury to her troops, this transcript is generally accepted as the most likely and one can only imagine the incredible impact it must have had on the soldiers to be addressed in so forthright and stirring a manner by a female sovereign.
6. Colonel Tim Collins Iraq Speech (Kenneth Branagh)
Though this is not a speech from a movie, Kenneth Branagh delivers an understated but authentic performance of the speech to his troops by Colonel Tim Collins at the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The text of this speech hung on the walls of the Oval Office in the White House. It was a call to his troops to fight hard but with honour and respect.
5. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Viggo Mortensen)
At the final battle of a remarkable trilogy, King Aragorn addresses his soldiers, who are small in number and facing an overwhelming and evil force. It is short (slightly Shakespearean) but powerful. And of course, they go on to win with a little help from a little Hobbit at Mount Doom.
4. Glengarry Glen Ross (Alec Baldwin)
Though not a time of actual war, this tour de force was given by Alec Baldwin to his lowly staff members faced with a struggling market in which they were fighting to save their jobs by closing the most sales. He is odious, rude and obnoxious, but incredibly compelling. He doesn’t go for the ‘inspire your people’ option so much as the ‘instil the fear of God in them’ route. In the circumstances, it is highly effective.
3. Henry V (Kenneth Branagh)
Kenneth Branagh and Shakespeare go together like Ham and Cheese and in his eve of battle speech to his heavily outnumbered soldiers at the battle of Agincourt, Henry V delivers the most famous battle speech of all of Shakespeare’s plays. It is from this speech that we get the phrase ‘We happy few, we band of brothers’. And in Branagh, we are given the quintessential Shakespearean performance.
2. Braveheart (Mel Gibson)
Dodgy Scottish accent aside, Mel Gibson’s turn as William Wallace is absorbing and this speech to his young Scottish warriors faced with their age-old enemy, the English, is dramatic as it is hair-raising. The blue face paint no doubt helped.
1. Any Given Sunday (Al Pacino)
This is just motivation at its finest. Though the movie itself is forgettable, Al Pacino never is. And in this moment, his delivery has never been stronger. Even if most of us will never experience the thrill of the locker room before an American Football game, for the moment when Pacino talks about “inches” being the difference between winning and losing, between living and dying, we are all right there in the thick of the action with him and the guys. Brilliant!
Send us any other suggestions you have.