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The business world has served as the backdrop for some of the most entertaining movies ever made.
The industries vary wildly, and everything from real estate to fashion to organized crime has had its moment on the silver screen. However, whatever the business might be, one thing is likely — at some point, one of the characters will let us know with a monologue exactly what makes the enterprise tick.
Click ahead to see 14 of the most iconic monologues about business in cinema history.
By Daniel Bukszpan, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 9 May 2011
Oliver Stone intended his 1987 film Wall Street to be an indictment of American capitalism during the Reagan decade. However, in one of the movie’s most famous scenes, he may have inadvertently given a daily mantra to the exact people he was trying to vilify.
The scene depicts Gordon Gekko, a stockbroker played by Michael Douglas. A hybrid of Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken, he becomes mentor to a young trader named Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen. Gekko gives a speech in which he outlines his sentiments about greed. Basically, he’s for it. As he extols its virtues, one can almost imagine Bern ard Madoff sitting in the audience taking notes. Watch the scene here.
Glengarry Glen Ross is a 1992 film based on the play by David Mamet. The movie depicts a struggling real estate office whose salesmen have been informed that in one week, all but the top two closers will be fired. The movie stars Al Pacino, whose whole career is made up of fiery monologues. However, the film’s greatest monologue belongs to Alec Baldwin.
Baldwin portrays Blake, a strategist who is hired to motivate the salesmen by heaping seven minutes of profanity-laden verbal abuse on them. His monologue, in which he offers such observations as “Coffee’s for closers” and “A.B.C., Always Be Closing,” is the best scene in a movie that’s overflowing with great scenes. People who only know Baldwin from 30 Rock should make a point of seeing his scenery-chewing turn in this. Watch Alec Baldwin's infamous monologue.
The Devil Wears Prada is a 2006 comedy based on the 2003 novel. The main character is Andy, a young college graduate played by Anne Hathaway, who gets a job as an administrative assistant to fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly. The character is played by Meryl Streep -- whose performance earned her a record 14th Oscar nomination -- and is allegedly based on Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
In an early scene, Andy makes the unforgivable mistake of saying that two different belts look the same to her. She then compounds the transgression by saying that she’s still learning about "this stuff." As punishment, the editor coldly and publicly criticizing Andy’s clothes, appearance and likely habit of shopping at "some tragic Casual Corner." Andy will probably never mistake blue for cerulean again. Watch the scene.
Director Martin Scorsese had worked with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci on two films, Goodfellas and Raging Bull, and reunited them once again in 1995 for Casino, an adaptation of the Nicholas Pileggi book. The film takes place during the 1970s and 1980s, and chronicles the rise and fall of Ace Rothstein, a gangster hired by the mafia to run a Las Vegas casino.
The film’s last act is typical for most mafia movies, as well as most Scorsese movies, in that most of its principal characters end up dead. However, Rothstein survives, and sees the mafia lose control of Vegas to large corporations, who make it a family-friendly resort destination. At the end, he remembers the way it used to be when wise guys ran the show and laments what Vegas becomes. " After the teamsters got knocked out of the box, the corporations tore down practically every one of the old casinos. And where did the money come from to rebuild the pyramids? Junk bonds.”
Boiler Room follows the exploits of Seth, played by Giovanni Ribisi. Seth is barely into his 20s and has joined a brokerage firm as part of his first attempt at earning a respectable living. Upon his arrival, one of the company’s managers, Jim Young, leads an orientation for all the eager young hires. Young, played by Ben Affleck, begins by throwing people out of the room.
With that out of the way, he launches into a speech about the financial windfall that awaits a successful stockbroker at the company. He starts off by colorfully characterizing himself as a millionaire, dropping a generous volley of f-bombs in the process, and promising all the eager young trainees in attendance that someday, they too will do the same. Watch the scene.
Network was a revolutionary film in its day. As the years have passed since its release , it’s only become more relevant, particularly as the line between news and entertainment has become more and more blurred.
The story of a television station struggling with lousy ratings, the movie features Peter Finch as Howard Beale, an evening news anchor whose unhinged and unscripted tirades make the station's ratings suddenly skyrocket. Beale’s speech, in which he says, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore," remains an iconic moment in film.
In addition to its most famous scene, the movie also features a frightening reprimand to Beale from Arthur Jensen, played by Ned Beatty. Jensen is the head of the conglomerate that owns the network, and he delivers a reproach to Beale so alarming that viewers can be forgiven for cowering in their seats. Jensen’s speech, in which he details his belief that "the world is a business," is five minutes of absolutely riveting cinema. Watch the scene.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a classic teen comedy from 1986 starring Matthew Broderick and directed by John Hughes. Although the film follows the title character for the majority of its running time, the whole thing was almost stolen in a single scene by comedian and former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein.
Stein portrays an economics teacher who bores his students into a drooling stupor with a monotonous lecture about the particulars of supply-side economics. The speech, which lasts about sixty seconds and covers such topics as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff and the Laffer Curve, was completely improvised, and single-handedly launched Stein's acting career. Watch Ben Stein's speech.
1988’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream is a film by Francis Ford Coppola about Preston Tucker, an automobile entrepreneur who was shut down in 1949 amidst fraud allegations. Tucker is played by Jeff Bridges, and the film suggests that he was not shut down for financial improprieties so much as he was muscled out of the business by Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, who didn’t want another competitor, and who had the help of Congress to stop him.
Tucker is charged with stock fraud and investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In an impassioned speech to jurors, he says he believes free enterprise is threatened by the actions of the government and large corporations. He claims that, "the way the system works, the loner, the dreamer, the crackpot who comes up with some crazy idea that everybody laughs at, that later turns out to revolutionize the world - he's squashed from above before he even gets his head out of the water because the bureaucrats, they'd rather kill a new idea than let it rock the boat!" Watch the speech.
1939’s Stagecoach is one of the greatest W esterns of all time. Directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, it follows a group of 19th century travelers who ride from Arizona to New Mexico while Geronimo’s Apaches are on the warpath. Along the way, they pick up banker Henry Gatewood, played by Berton Churchill.
Gatewood embarks on a tirade about the government, its bank regulations and its infringement of business. At the end of the speech, he says, “Our national debt is something shocking! Over one billion dollars a year! What this country needs is a businessman for President.” It’s a statement that could have come straight out of Ross Perot’s 1992 presidential campaign.
In 1991’s Other People’s Money, Danny DeVito portrays Lawrence Garfield, a ruthless corporate raider better known to the financial world as "Larry the Liquidator." His latest object of desire is New England Wire and Cable, a Rhode Island communications company with a long history and many employees who will be out of a job if he gets his way.
Garfield addresses the company’s stockholders in a town hall meeting, where he’s initially showered with boos and epithets. Undeterred, he addresses the crowd, offering a series of "amens" for the company, which he characterizes as dead, thanks to the imminently obsolete technology that it uses. By the time he’s finished with the speech, he has won over the crowd. Watch his speech.
1941’s Citizen Kane is regularly hailed as the greatest movie of all time. Directed by and starring Orson Welles, it tells the story of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, who was based on real life publisher William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was so enraged by the portrayal that he wouldn’t allow the film to be mentioned in any of his publications. Word got out anyway, and the film is legendary today.
In the film, Kane starts off as a publisher motivated by idealism and philanthropy. However, he becomes increasingly motivated by power and the quest for personal glory. At one point in the film, he explains the conflicting motivations for his actions as a publisher, admitting that while he is a "scoundrel" who should be run out of town, he considers himself the only person able to look after "decent, hard-working people." Watch the speech.
Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is a movie as synonymous with the Christmas season as Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Story. The 1946 film tells the tale of George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart. In a desperate financial situation, he tries to commit suicide but is saved by a guardian angel, who shows him what the lives of the people around him would have been like without him.
Earlier in the film, he defends his dead father’s name from the ruthless slumlord, Henry Potter, who characterizes the father as a "starry-eyed dreamer," and not in a good way. Bailey gives a speech in which he says that his father’s generous nature might have made him a lousy businessman, but it made it impossible to tarnish his character. Watch the speech.
The Godfather, Part II is thought by many to be the rare example of a sequel that’s better than the original. It details the events that take place prior to the first film, and chronicles the fallout that results when Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, takes over his family’s criminal empire.
In the first film, Corleone meets with Moe Greene, a gangster who’s instrumental in turning Las Vegas into a vast gambling empire. He has Greene killed and takes over the business, a decision referenced in the sequel by gangster Hyman Roth. Roth gives an angry speech about Greene’s violent demise, but he ultimately concedes that it comes with the territory of the business that they’ve chosen. Watch the speech.
1992's The Player is a Robert Altman film that ruthlessly satirizes the Hollywood film industry. It tells the story of Griffin Mill, a studio executive who accidentally murders a screenwriter he believes is sending him death threats in exchange for rejecting his screenplay. Mill then begins a relationship with the dead writer’s girlfriend, June.
Mill explains to June that his job involves listening to thousands of pitches from aspiring filmmakers, most of whom believe that if he green-lights their film, "it's just gonna be them and Jack Nicholson on the slopes of Aspen." He then tells her that he rejected the dead screenwriter’s story because it “lacked certain elements that we need to market a film successfully... s uspense, laughter, violence, hope, heart, nudity, sex, happy endings. Mainly happy endings."