Special Report

The Best Deliveries of Real Speeches in Movies and TV

Some of the best movies ever made are historical dramas. Not only do they allow us to connect with past events on a deeper, more personal level, they transport some of the world’s most iconic figures from staid history texts to the big screen, giving them new life. 

We might think we know presidents like JFK and Nixon, sports heroes like Lou Gehrig, monarchs including Queen Elizabeth II and George VI, and World War II’s Patton and Churchill, but seeing them portrayed by great actors adds an extra layer of depth. By making them characters in a narrative film, filmmakers bring them alive for us, adding context to milestone moments of their lives – including legendary speeches that they’ve given.  

Most of us have seen video or heard audio of some of the 20th century’s most memorable orations, like FDR’s Pearl Harbor address or Churchill’s commitment to “fight on the beaches”. And nearly every schoolchild has read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But even some lesser-known speeches, like Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war against Germany or Lincoln’s second inaugural address, are truly powerful and played a role in changing the course of history, and their cinematic depictions are some of the finest moments in cinema. (These are the greatest wartime speeches in history.)

Click here to see the best deliveries of real speeches in movies and TV

To compile a list of the best deliveries of real speeches in movies and TV (by actors), 24/7 Tempo reviewed video clips on YouTube and consulted sites including the National Archives, IMDb, and American Rhetoric. This is not a comprehensive list but a compendium of some of the most celebrated and important speeches ever captured on film. In many cases, the real-life addresses have been shortened and occasionally slightly reworked for film purposes. There are no speeches from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on this list because his estate controls their copyright. (Here, though, are 32 powerful quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.)

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