Movies really can show us a whole new world, a new reality that is different from our own, but somehow still the same. All characters in movies—no matter how fanciful or otherworldly—have emotions and experience events that we can relate to. Movies allow us to escape and discover a world that is totally different from our own.
Although characters in films experience adventures that we may never dream of, they are often faced with the same mortal realities that link us all: love, pain, birth, and of course, death. Here is our list of the top 5 most memorable pre-death movie monologues, reminding us that even in the fantasy world of movies, mortality faces us all.
Pre-Death Movie Monologues
1. Brooks Hatlen in The Shawshank Redemption
In Frank Darabont’s 1994 film, The Shawshank Redemption, the lives of a number of inmates are chronicled to show the incredibly difficult and diverse experiences of prison. One of the most heartbreaking tales in this epic masterpiece is that of Brook Hatlen (played by James Whitmore), who, after fifty years of incarceration, is finally released. However, rather than being overwhelmed with relief and joy, Brooks is terrified. Everything he once knew of the world has changed, and he is paralyzed by fear and loneliness, which ultimately leads him to take his own life. Before he does, he writes a note to his former inmates, explaining why he thinks it is his time to go.
I don’t like it here. I’m tired of being afraid all the time. I’ve decided not to stay. I doubt they’ll kick up any fuss. Not for an old crook like me.
2. John Doe in Se7en
Keven Spacey’s bone-chilling performance in the 1995 cult classic, Se7en is certainly one that can never been forgotten. Spacey plays the deranged John Doe serial killer who murders others based on what he identifies to be the seven deadly sins you embody (gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy, and wrath). At the film’s climax, Spacey explains in a brief but poignant monologue that his own envy has driven him to commit the final crime, drawing his plan full circle and resulting in his own murder at the hands of those he has wronged.
I tried to play husband. I tried to taste the life of a simple man. It didn’t work out. So I took a souvenir: Her pretty head. Because I envy your normal life, it seems that envy is my sin.
3. Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet
One of the classic pre-death monologues was not in fact written originally for the silver screen, but for the stage. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is by far the most well known love story (and tragedy) of all time, and has been adapted and re-adapted countlessly over the years. One of the most famous adaptations of this tragic tale was directed by Baz Luhrmann in 1996. His interesting take on this classic story takes place in modern-day California and set to a contemporary soundtrack, yet maintains the original Shakespearean script. One of the most famous monologues within this piece (and there are quite a few) is made by the loyal best friend of Romeo Montague, Mercutio. Mercutio is killed by one of the house of Capulet (the mortal enemies of the Montagues). Though Mercutio’s character is clearly affiliated with the Montague household, his death brings to light the insanity of their age-old hatred, which he drives home with his famous monologue.
A plague on both your houses! They have made worms’ meat of me.
4. Walter Kurtz in Apocalypse Now
In the 1979 classic directed by Francis Ford Coppola, a brief but memorable final monologue has entered pop culture. In this cult-status war adventure epic set during the Vietnam War, the audience follows Captain Benjamin L. Willard (played by Martin Sheen) who is sent to replace the renegade (and presumed insane) Captain Walter E. Kurtz (played by Marlond Brandon). In one of the most epic endings depicted in film, Kurtz, broken by the violent horrors of war, allows himself to be killed by Willard (who is assigned to do so). In his final words, he expresses the depth of his suffering, and his belief that resignation to his fate is his only true escape.
We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won’t allow them to write “f**k” on their airplanes because it’s obscene. The horror… the horror…
5. Roy Batty in Blade Runner
Ridley Scott’s futuristic sci-fi classic Blade Runner is set in a dystopian Los Angeles, in a time when genetically engineered replicants are manufactured for dangerous and/or menial work in colonies on other planets. Replicants are banned on Earth, and those who seek to return are hunted down and “retired” by special force police operatives known as Blade Runners (one of whom is played by Harrison Ford). The central antagonist in this film is a replicant named Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer), who, when he is finally “retired” by Ford’s character, says one of the most painful and iconic final monologues of contemporary film:
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.