The 25 greatest speeches from the past 25 years

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Sep 26, 2017, 3:00 PM EDT

September 2017 is SYFY's 25th anniversary, so we’re using it as an excuse to look back and celebrate the last 25 years of ALL science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a time that has seen the genres we love conquer the world of pop culture. For us, that means lists! ALL THE LISTS! We’ll be doing two “25 greatest” lists per day all throughout September, looking back at the moments, people, and characters that shaped the last quarter century. So keep checking back.

Please note: Our lists are not ranked; all items have equal standing in our brains.

What items in our lists were your favorites? Did we miss something? We welcome respectful debate and discussion, so please let us know in the comments!

There is nothing like a great speech delivered by a great actor. (Well, being given a vast sum of money for nothing, maybe ... but second only to that.) When the moment is right, when the story is behind it, and when the words provide the right notes, a character can drive a point home in a truly impactful way. When they are finished, we usually want to applaud. Find the hero inside you, and realize that there is some good in this world; it's time to take a dive into the 25 greatest speeches from the past 25 years … because TODAY, WE CELEBRATE OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY!!!

Inspirational Speech by Adama

Adama Inspires - Battlestar Galactica

Who gives it: Commander William Adama.

Why they give it: The viper pilots of Galactica have suffered heavy losses, and morale is at an all-time low.

Why it is great: Any speech in this series performed by Edward James Olmos is great, but this one comes early (Episode 104) and it sets a strong tone. Adama acknowledges the despair of the moment, and then lets the pilots know that the brutal reality: they don’t get to wallow, because the fleet (and humanity) is depending on them. William Adama (a Commander at this point) proves he's a man we would follow to hell and back.

Aragorn's Battle Speech - Extended Scene

Aragorn Bids You Stand - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Who gives it: Aragorn, son of Arathorn.

Why they give it: Aragorn has led the entire remaining forces of the west in a futile attack on the Black Gates in an effort to divert Sauron's attention and buy more time for Frodo and Sam.

Why it is great: Things are looking hopeless, and that's because they are hopeless. There is no way that this battle can be won — it’s a trick. The only thing they can do is stand, and not die. This is what Aragorn bids the combined forces of Gondor, Rohan, and the Fellowship to do. Raising the reforged blade Anduril high in the air, he declares that the day may come when we break all bonds of fellowship — but it is not this day. We’ve already had a brilliant pre-battle speech from King Theoden in this film, but this is the one that rings with hope in the face of utter despair.

Game Of Thrones - Arya Stark kills Walder Frey's family

Arya Stark as Walder Frey - Game of Thrones

Who gives it: Arya Stark of Winterfell, disguised as Walder Frey.

Why they give it: When the scene begins, we think that it is Lord Walder, one of the worst people in Westeros (which is not an easy distinction to receive), toasting his troops and comrades...

Why it is great: …but that’s not the case at all. Building with tremendous tension thanks to actor David Bradley, the form of Walder Frey informs everyone in the room that they've been poisoned. The House of Frey is wiped off of the map (to the sadness of nobody) and Lord Walder removes his face to reveal… Arya Stark. She has let Lord Walder’s daughter/slaves live, and before leaving she tells one of them that the North remembers, and that winter came for House Frey. It was a fantastic way to start a season, and an illustration that Arya is going to kill anyone she pleases, whenever she pleases.

Buffy: The Gift end scene

Buffy and the Chosen - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Who gives it: Buffy Summers.

Why they give it: Buffy plans to change the game in a major way, as part of a last ditch effort to save the world from The First Evil. If her plan works, any girl who has the potential to be a slayer, will be a slayer.

Why it is great: It’s a moment of triumph, particularly when Buffy mentions the decisions and rules of old men, and how they no longer have to play by those rules. It’s a statement of faith in Willow, her best friend, that she is more than capable of doing what those old men did all those years ago. It’s a call for everyone everywhere not to squander potential based on gender or race, and that if potential exists, it should be allowed to flourish. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s performance is exquisite, the plan is just crazy enough to work, and we are left very excited for the finale. The notion of “only one in a generation is chosen” has been a part of the series mythology forever — rewriting that mythology is a brilliant thing for the end of this show to do.


Buffy is Done Waiting - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Who gives it: Duh. Buffy.

Why they give it: Buffy and her friends are having their butts handed to them by Season 7’s big bad. For the first time, it really looks like things are hopeless. Morale is nowhere to be found.

Why it is great: Buffy looks at all of the doom coming her way and gives it a look that should make it run away, scared silly. This is a more vulnerable speech from the slayer, and it’s quiet sincerity makes you take in every single word. They’re always waiting for the evil to come to them, but they’re not going to wait anymore. It’s time to be proactive. Buffy is beaten down and tired beyond belief, but she is the leader of this team; she has to give them hope when it seems impossible, and she does. It’s once again perfectly performed by Sarah Michelle Gellar, who makes you feel her aches and exhaustion with every word.


Cap Will Not Move - Amazing Spider-Man #237

Who gives it: Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in no way a member of Hydra

Why they give it: For inspirational purposes, of course!

Why it is great: It is a definitive statement about standing firm about your beliefs. If you believe something, truly believe in it, then defy any kind of mob mentality that may try and get you to sacrifice that belief. It only takes one person to make a difference, and in this instance, the righteous symbol that is Captain America is saying that person can be any one of us. It is such a stirring speech that the film Captain America: Civil War used a version of it, except there is was depicted as something that Cap’s lost love Peggy Carter once said. We like the idea that he may have learned it from her.

Daenerys High Valyrian Dialogue with Valyrian Subtitles added

Daenerys and the Unsullied - Game of Thrones

Who gives it: Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men. Queen of Meereer, Khalessi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, and Possessor of a Really Long Title.

Why they give it: Daenerys is in Slaver’s Bay, looking to buy an army. She comes across a particularly horrible slaver who offers to sell her an army of Unsullied (very adept eunuch soldiers) if she gives him Drogon. She agrees to do it. The horrible slaver takes Drogon’s chain, and then gives Dany a totem that represents that she is master of the enslaved Unsullied army. After checking that the army responds to her commands (and showing that she actually speaks Valyrian, which the slaver was not aware of) she gives this speech.

Why it is great: This is where the young Queen-to-be gains the “Breaker of Chains” part of her long title. Simply put, this speech (and scene) is badass. Dany is conning (and burning to death) a slave owner, while at the same time taking control of his army. She urges the Unsullied to kill their masters, to kill anyone who is dressed as a slaver, and then she frees them. They can fight for her if they wish, but they don’t have to. She rides out of the gates of Astapor and tosses the totem aside, and the army marches behind her — not because they have to, but because they want to.


Dignity, Honor, and Justice - Action Comics #775

Who gives it: Superman, aka Clark Kent, aka Kal-El, last son of Krypton.

Why they give it: He’s a shining beacon of light for humanity. Giving speeches of hope is what he does.

Why it is great: It’s the ultimate promise. This alien from another world has a dream, a vision of what humanity can be, and it’s a wonderful one. We don’t have to be the nasty, bullying warmongers that we so often are, we can transform this world into one where dignity, honor, and justice are actually valued. That he won’t stop fighting for this better world not only gives us hope, it makes us want to fight for it right alongside him.

Spider-man 2 - I believe There´s a hero...

The Hero in All of Us - Spider-Man 2

Who gives it: Aunt May

Why they give it: Peter Parker has forsaken his powers, and he is pretty depressed.

Why it is great: She lets Peter know, in no uncertain terms, that heroes like Spider-Man make a very necessary difference. They don’t just lead by punching and webbing the bad guys, they lead by power of example. It is Rosemary Harris’ finest moment as Aunt May in the original Sam Raimi Spidey movies, and the speech becomes quietly epic by the time she says “I believe there’s a hero in all of us.” Maybe not a superhero, but a hero nonetheless. She doesn’t know that Peter actually IS Spider-Man (or does she?), she’s just telling Peter that he can learn from Spider-Man’s example.


I Aim to Misbehave - Serenity

Who gives it: Captain Malcolm Reynolds

Why they give it: The crew has just discovered a galactic cover-up, and it’s time for the truth to come to light. With this speech, Mal maps out the plan.

Why it is great: Our beloved Captain Mal is brilliant throughout Serenity, but this speech stands out. He lays out the stakes — that while this may not seem all that important, eventually something like what they have discovered could happen again. He is not willing to just sit by and watch that happen, and so he implores his ship of misfit toys to join him and do something about it. He’s done running, and he’s ready to put it to the galactic authorities in his biggest way yet. When the authorities that have power over you are corrupt, misbehaving can sometimes be the only way to save the day.

Blue Pill or Red Pill - The Matrix (2/9) Movie CLIP (1999) HD

Red Pill, Blue Pill - The Matrix

Who gives it: Morpheus

Why they give it: He’s just met Neo, and he wants him to know the truth. He can’t tell him, he can only show him — and once he does, there’s no going back. Blue pill means home, and the red pill means that Neo stays in wonderland, and sees “just how far the rabbit hole goes.”

Why it is great: So far this movie has given us a LOT of unexpected things, and it has all built to this moment. Morpheus obviously wants (NEEDS!) Neo to take the red pill, because he believes that Neo is the savior that they have been looking for, but doesn’t tip his hand. Through the calm and dulcet rhythms of Lawrence Fishburne, Morpheus leaves it up to Neo. Who knows what would’ve happened if Neo had chosen the blue pill? After all, another character says that he wishes he’d chosen differently later on. Thankfully, Neo doesn’t keep us waiting for long. After the brilliant setup of this speech we’re ready for anything, and when Neo downs that pill, everything turns completely upside down.

The X-Files - Redux II - The Hearing

Mulder Defends Scully - The X-Files

Who gives it: Fox Mulder.

Why they give it: Agent Scully is in trouble because she lied about Mulder’s “death.” A very much alive Agent Mulder has come to clear her name, to set the record straight, and to name a name.

Why it is great: The tension in this scene is fantastic, and all of it led by David Duchovny. Hearing him defend his partner and compliment her integrity is enough to make the Grinch’s heart grow a few sizes. This speech also has the added joys of Mulder playing a room full of twits and blowhards effortlessly. He’s smarter than all of them, he lets them know it, and the scene finally builds to Mulder revealing his secret. The room (and the audience) is blown away.


Peter Parker's Mantra – Ultimate Spider-Man Super Special #1

Who gives it: Peter Parker.

Why they give it: Peter has been observing other heroes in action and muses on the lessons he has learned.

Why it is great: Peter has been watching, and he has been learning. Beginning with the words Uncle Ben instilled in him so firmly ("with great power, comes great responsibility"), Peter goes on to realize that a true hero can come from anywhere. There are many worlds and pockets within the Marvel world, and there is no limit to where a hero may emerge. Whether a larger-than-life figure, or a lowly underdog, it’s the soul within either one that matters most of all.

Independence Day [1996] - President Speech - 1080P

The President's Speech - Independence Day

Who gives it: President Thomas Whitmore

Why they give it: Humanity is about to make its final stand against a truly superior alien invasion force. There’s a plan in place, but it’s untested, and morale is low.

Why it is great: Come on. You know you love it. Bill Pullman starts this movie as a kind of melba-toast president, but by the time this scene comes around, he might as well be Captain America. Bill Pullman raises his intensity with each line, and when he gets to “…we will not go quietly into the night…” with the brilliant David Arnold score building to a glorious crescendo behind him, we’ve already got a tear. When he finishes, we feel like saluting him just as strongly as one exemplary extra does. It is one of the great inspirational speeches in film. It might be cheesy, it might be on the nose, but IT. WORKS. (So well, in fact, that it was used to open the long-awaited sequel and most of the accompanying promo material.)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie CLIP - Jyn Rallies the Rebel Alliance (2016) - Movie

Rebellions are Built on Hope - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Who gives it: Jyn Erso

Why they give it: The leaders of the recently joined Rebellion are squabbling, and are pretty dead set on not taking the chance of stealing the Death Star plans. Jyn is urging them to think otherwise.

Why it is great: It shows how selfless Jyn Erso has become throughout the course of the film. She started out pretty much on her own and out for herself, but working with Cassian Andor (who first feeds this Rebellion line to her) has changed her thinking. It may be a small hope, but isn't that all a Rebellion needs? One small spark can start a fire, and in the end the speech does more to convince Jyn herself than the chittering senators. She decides to take hold of that hope herself, alongside her fellow rogues, and most of the Rebellion ultimately goes with her. Though she pays with her life, Jyn Erso (wonderfully played throughout by Felicity Jones) helps save the Rebellion via her sense of hope. Would it continue? Turns out - yes, in the form of Princess Leia, a new hope herself.


Sisko's Confession - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Who gives it: Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko

Why they give it: It is the closing of the episode-long captain’s log that forms the structure of the Season 6 episode “In the Pale Moonlight.” The log functions as a confession, as Sisko recounts horrible things he has done over the past few days to gain the support of the Romulans in the Dominion War. He has had to ally himself with tailor and master spy Elim Garak, and his Federation morality has not only reached the breaking point, it has shattered.

Why it is great: Where to begin? Avery Brooks’ performance, for a start. This is a top 5 all time Trek episode we’re dealing with, and Brooks dominates the episode. It is this closing, however, that really earns it entry into the celestial temple. It’s the kind of speech that Gene Roddenberry would never allow, and part of a storyline he would never have agreed to. It is a time of war, the war is going badly, and Sisko has to sacrifice his ethics — not to ensure victory, but to ensure that they can even continue to fight at all. He knows that he has compromised his honor, and everything that the Federation stands for, but what good is that if the entire Federation is destroyed? The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and so Sisko lies. He is an accessory to murder, and as he says, he would do it all over again if he had to. The writers leave the most chilling moment for the end, as Sisko closes the episode by deleting the entire log entry. Only Garak, Sisko, and the audience will ever know what he did.

Sam's Speech - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Some Good in This World - Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Who gives it: Samwise Gamgee

Why they give it: This second film in the trilogy has not been easy for Sam and Frodo. After nearly stabbing Sam in a ring-twisted moment of hysteria, Frodo pretty much breaks down and says that he can’t do this. Sam has to rally Frodo’s spirits.

Why it is great: This speech ties the entire film together. “Second films” in trilogies often leave you a bit unsatisfied, but The Two Towers positions Sam in a narrator position, giving us a sense of temporary closure on all of the film’s disparate storylines. If The Two Towers functions as one gigantic call to arms, then Sam is finally giving the real reason why: good exists, it’s worth fighting for, so let’s get to it. Also making this speech great? Gollum’s reactions. Watch his flutter of hope when Frodo asks what they’re holding on to, and his look of despair when Sam tells him what it is.

Star Trek Generations: Ending

Someone Once Told Me - Star Trek: Generations

Who gives it: Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Why they give it: He is musing to William Riker as they tour the wreckage of the Enterprise D for the final time.

Why it is great: Coming almost at the end, this wonderfully performed speech from Patrick Stewart ties together the themes of the film and reveals what the good captain has learned. Almost a retort to Dr. Soran’s earlier lines about time being a stalking predator, Picard’s view of time is much wiser and easier to accept. In terms of the Star Trek films themselves, we were moving past the original cast, as well as the ship we knew from TV, and as Picard says, “What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived.”

The Flash - Phasing Speedforce

Speedforce - The Flash

Who gives it: Dr. Harrison Wells

Why they give it: Barry Allen has to dispose of a bomb that was planted on him by the Trickster. Only by running faster than he has ever run before will allow him to phase with the speedforce, run through a wall, and knock the bomb off of him. He requires inspiration to do this.

Why it is great: Tom Cavanagh is fantastic as Harrison Wells. He has a few of these “talking into Barry’s ear” speeches in the show, and although they’re always good, this one is where the money’s at. His voice is calm and controlled, he lets Barry know that everything is going to be okay. The fact that there is more to Dr. Wells than meets the eye is something that only the audience is aware of, and it lends an extra level of pathos to the scene.

Mockingjay - Part 2: District 2 Speech Scene

These People Are Not Your Enemy - The Hunger Games

Who gives it: Katniss Everdeen

Why they give it: In the midst of a battle in District 2, Katniss tries to turn the allegiances of the troops fighting against her. They should all be fighting President Snow, and not each other.

Why it is great: It’s a rallying cry for revolution, and those are always powerful. Katniss reminds the soldiers that they are as much victims and pawns as anyone else, and it plays into the themes of unity that run throughout the film. Whether she is successful or not doesn’t matter; the fact that Katniss tries this tactic at all shows that she finally understands how she can win this deadly game.

Zygon Inversion The Doctor's Anti war speech.

Truth or Consequences - Doctor Who

Who gives it: The 12th Doctor

Why they give it: Both the humans and the Zygons are participating in a deadly showdown, one that the Doctor describes as a “scale model of war.” It’s up to him to talk some sense into both sides.

Why it is great: Peter Capaldi navigates this speech like it’s a grand aria. Going from a game show host accent, to rage, to pain, and ultimately to forgiveness, Capaldi makes you feel every emotion that the Doctor is going through. His message is inherently against war of any kind and he is speaking from experience. When his voice cracks or falters, even a little bit, you get a sense of the horrors that he saw during the Time War, some of which he himself was a part of. It helps that the scene is masterfully written, but Capaldi’s masterful acting make it one of the Doctor Who’s most powerful moments in 52 years.

GoT 2x09: Tyrion's Rally Speech

Tyrion Rallies the Troops - Game of Thrones

Who gives it: Tyrion Lannister

Why they give it: Stannis 'Father of the Year' Baratheon is at the gates, Joffrey has retreated to his mother, and the Battle of Blackwater Bay is about to be lost. Even the Hound has fled before the Wildfyre, so Tyrion gives it all he has with a last ditch rallying cry to his men.

Why it is great: This is an interesting battle, because we like people on both sides. We might not love Stannis, but we love Davos, and he fights for Stannis. We hate Joffrey and the Lannisters in general, but Tyrion is the light of our lives. Ultimately, this speech rallies Tyrion's troops and builds on our love for him. We don’t want to fight for Joffrey or Cersei, but this speech reminds us that we WOULD fight for Tyrion.

V for Vendetta: The Revolutionary Speech (HD)

V's Revolution - V for Vendetta

Who gives it: V

Why they give it: He wants to remind everyone to celebrate the Fifth of November, and to kick off his own revolution.

Why it is great: In taking over every television signal in this alternate-period fascist Britain, V is able to reach the entire country. His message? That there is something very wrong going on. He is using the enemy’s own propaganda mechanism against them, and he is reminding the people that words have power and sitting idly by watching it happen is part of the problem. Fascism and ignorance need to be fought at every turn, and through the wonderful performance of Hugo Weaving, V gives a much needed wake-up call to an entire nation.

Nathan's Speech Misfits!

We're Young - The Misfits

Who gives it: Nathan

Why they give it: He is standing on a roof, holding a gun, and fighting for his right to party.

Why is it great: Making mistakes and “breaking some eggs” is a vital part of growing up, and Nathan is letting everyone know. He may be a screw up, but he doesn’t care. He likes himself as he is, and is not going to abide by anyone else’s rules. The fact that he is willing to shag his own mother before letting anyone take that away from him is… disturbing. His resolute “don’t care anymore” sense of delivery, on the other hand, is comforting.

The Dark Knight Ending Speech--HQ

Whatever Gotham Needs Me to Be - The Dark Knight

Who gives it: Batman

Why they give it: Harvey Dent has gone on a murder spree, and Gotham would be ruined (and the Joker would win) if people found out that their “white knight” had gone bad. Batman decides to take the fall for the murders.

Why it is great: It’s a beautiful summation of so many of the movie’s themes, especially as they relate to what Batman can be: he is a symbol above all, and that symbol can endure things that regular people cannot. Batman can be whatever the people of Gotham need him to be, so if it covers Harvey’s crimes, yes, he will be the villain. They’ll chase him and hunt him, and that’s fine. He can take it. Many of us prefer it when Batman is not so chummy with the police, anyway. In making this sacrifice at the end of the film, we see why he is called The Dark Knight, and why the movie earns that title.

These were OUR choices from the last 25 years. What are yours? Let us know in the comments which important speeches you’d put on your list!

And be sure to check out our complete “25 Greatest” lists here.