Some powerful moments come from a single actor. The right monologue can throw an episode into immortality, or a movie to the academy awards. This isn’t a ranked listed or the definitive list. I know I will have missed a few near and dear to some hearts. I’m hoping to at least get a good list. I’ll start fist with my “Great 8” TV monologues, then a follow up article with my “Terrific 10” Film monologues. Lets begin! Im Hype.
Be warned, these monologues appear at different parts of their respective series. So they might contain some spoilers. So watch under your own risk, I don’t think any of these will ruin a series for you if you haven’t seen them.
#8 – The Newsroom – America Is Not the Greatest Country in the World
The Newsroom is the youngest show on this list. This is HBO’s new young horse in the battle of cable tv programming. This monologue delivered by Jeff Daniels is given to us in the pilot episode. This monologue will hit home for alot of Americans. Will is asked by a bright eyed college student, “Why is American the greatest country in the world?”. His initial response is ripe with anger and confusion, then gives way to honest and heart felt.
#7 BattleStar Galactica – The Guilt of Those Who Ran
If you know me at all personally, you know I have a major love affair with BSG. It is absolutely one of my favorite shows of all time. I think its an almost perfect combination of character drama mixed with religious and political overtones bought on in the post 9/11 era. With the added bonus of being set in space, the best compliment I can give a show like BSG is. Its as much about Space as Game of Thrones is about sword fighting. In this monologue, which is easily one of my favorites. Lee Adama portrayed by Jamie Bamber gives an honest testimony for a man on death row. Lee takes the moment not only to show why he thinks the defendant is innocent, but put on notice the entire fleet and it’s senior members. What is justice.. listen to Lee Adama tell you all about it. Disclaimer… I could not find a good clip of this speech, what I have below is a fan made video for it, It unfortunately is not original footage, is alittle spoiler heavy and incomplete.
#6 Scandal – You Retire & You Are A BOY!
For this one, I had to go with two. Scandal actually has a lot of monologues going for it. Most of them delivered by Kerry Washingtons’s Olivia Pope. However, two characters actually beat her in this department on a consistent basis. Jeff Parry’s Cyrus Bean and Joe Morton’s Eli Pope (Papa Pope). What both these characters have in common is a pessimistic sense of how things really work. Alot of the characters on this show live in a world fueled by hopes and dreams. Not these two characters, they know who they are, and more important know who the people around them are. I could not choose between these two particular monologues. So I thought I’d cheat a little and show them both.
#5 Mad Men – The Carousel
Mad Men is another show I’m a huge fan of. It’s filled with its fair share of monologues. This one portrayed by the titular character Don Draper is one of the more famous examples. Don Draper works for an ad agency, who is tasked with coming up with a theme for Kodak’s new wheel picture viewer. The concept of a wheel isn’t exciting, so the task is more daunting than it seems. Don knows not to reinvent anything here, he just “changes the narrative”. You know he is going somewhere great once he puts down the meaning of nostalgia “Pain from an old would”
#4 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
This is probably the most popular show on the list. There are probably very few places you can start singing the lyrics to fresh prince and not immediately receive some support. It’s such a powerful and serious moment. There is a real heart felt connection, to see Will lash out about his own father before crying in the arms of the man who raised him. I never knew my own father, so this moment is a personal favorite of mine. If anything, it was the first real glimpse of the greatness Will Smith had to come for us.
#3 Breaking Bad – Half Measures
I know there are alot of breaking bad fans. Alot of those fans were expecting to see the now infamous “I Am The Danger” Monologue. While that one is good, and likely the most famous. It barely counts as a monologue to be honest, and besides Johnathan Bank’s delivery of Mike’s Half Measure is as good as it gets. Mike is a character you really have to respect on the show. A man of quiet boundaries, You know he is not afraid to do what it takes, but comes the closest to being a thief with honor. His recollection of a time where doubt and hesitation lead to one of his own personal failures. The conclusion is easy to see… No More Half Measures.
#2 The Wire – Paper Bag
This list would almost be criminal without a segment from The Wire. The Wire is one of those shows that some consider ahead of its time. It might even be considered the beginning of this golden era of cable network dramas. (I think it was Oz, but I digress). While it was hard to choose just one monologue from the wire. This one speaks of civic compromise and real police work. It brings forth the question of what is really worth the effort and time of police. If you can’t defeat the war on drugs, maybe you can contain it? It’s an crazy idea, and maybe an insane notion, but its good for a discussion either way.
#1 The West Wing – The Cathedral
Last to round out this list, I think unfortunately alot of people missed. I saved this for last not because it’s my favorite, but because I think its probably the most relatable to everyone. Not everyone has ben on trial, raised without a parent, pitched ads to multi million dollar corporations or thought provoking ideals to a room of police officers. However, life is hard and I think most people have questioned God’s plan once or twice. Thats what makes this scene so great. You have a man that is just angry, angry with God. It’s just him with a 1 on 1 with God, questioning the misfortune that has befallen him. Was the good deeds in his life not enough? Was it all for God’s amusement. The West Wing is filled with emotionally charged scenes, it was my first political drama. It isn’t a bible on the dealings of the political beast, but it at least makes you consider the grass is not so green on their side of the road. It even hits a real high note when he starts cursing God in Latin. At least, this is what I’m assuming, I do not speak a shred of latin.
There is my list! Re-watching and researching these scenes was alot of fun. I hope you find these agreeable, and if you didn’t know about these particular shows that maybe you give them a shot.