There is something about a movie with delicious dialogue. (See what I did there sports fans? That’s called alliteration. Its fancy stuff like that which makes a movie grace a fabulous list like this one.) Great writing just isn’t celebrated enough in my humble opinion. And in an attempt to write this moral wrong I figured I would pull out a list of the top 10 best dialogue movies of all time. Is this arbitrary? You bet. That’s why I need to hear from on your particular favorites. Not to mention that I can always use a good movie recommendation!
Regardless, there is really nothing compared to a well written and intriguing screen play. Whether it be witty and fast paced dialogue or intense and foreboding the writing of a movie can really drive so much in the way of character development and action. But forget “action” for a moment… what about putting 3 actors in a room and staying there for an hour and a half? This is the kind of crazy intense writing that really makes you think and causes you to get caught up in the moment the director has placed you in. Or, follow two characters on their winding path through Paris and listen in as they spar verbally trying to learn who this other person is they’ve encountered for the first time. Well, so that you can commence with the filleting in the comment section – here are is The Top 10 Best Dialogue Movies -
This sequel to the brilliant “Before Sunrise” was released in 2005, written by Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy. Two years after “Before Sunset” was released, this fabulous trifecta of talent began emailing script swatches back and forth conferring with one another about where the sequel might go. Ten years after the initial release we were given “Before Sunset”. Purchase this fantastic movie through the image to the right.
The two serendipitously reconnect at a book signing after many years have passed. Here’s a great quote indicative of the frisson embedded throughout this extremely well collaborated movie:
Jesse: In the months leading up to my wedding, I was thinking about you all the time. I mean, even on my way there; I’m in the car, a buddy of mine is driving me downtown and I’m staring out the window, and I think I see you, not far from the church, right? Folding up an umbrella and walking into a deli on the corner of 13th and Broadway. And I thought I was going crazy, but now I think it probably was you.
Celine: I lived on 11th and Broadway.
Jesse: You see?
I definitely lose about 200 man points for even mentioning I’ve seen this movie, let alone enjoying it. Bah. I’ll buy a chainsaw and make up for it later this summer. On to number nine!
I actually had a hard time choosing a movie in this slot… basically you could have inserted anything in here by Woody Allen and I would have been just fine with that. I selected Matchpoint only because it was one of his more recent movies and had a plot that was more accessible to a wider audience. The plot here is absolutely brilliant – so much so it gave me nightmares for days afterward. The reality of this script and the intensity of the acting here is just superb. Definitely not for the emotionally light of heart. This movie will stress you out before its all done.
When I first watched Glengarry I was more than a little confused. I picked it up on a lark and thought I was watching a 50′s movie at first. The abusive language pretty quickly disavowed me of this impression fairly early on. But the caliber of the actors was extraordinary. And even above the acting was the script.
Mainly staged in a single sales room – Glengarry spends its time with witty abuse spewed back and forth between the various characters. And each of the characters was cut from really credible foundational stuff. And it is from here that each of these guys moves from. Its very very good dialogue – if a bit terse. Here’s an example:
Dave: You – Moss. You’re such a hero, you’re so rich, how come you’re coming down here wasting your time with such a bunch of bums?
Blake: You see this watch? You see this watch?
Blake: That watch costs more than you car. I made $970,000 last year. How much’d you make? You see pal, that’s who I am, and you’re nothing.
Took me 10 minutes to find a quote sans expletive. So, if you have a low swearing tolerance I’d say avoid this movie like the plague. But otherwise, Its a very intriguing story with some really fantastic dialogue between fantastic characters. This movie reminds me more of a play than a movie per se’. Which may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view…
Ok, so this is probably the cheesiest selection in this list. But I couldn’t talk myself into passing it up. Dead Poet’s is one of the seminal classics that is founded on great characters and fantastic dialogue. Acting, not so much. But I’m betting if forced to, you could probably quote more than a line or two from the movie on demand. Its that good.
John Keating: They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – - Carpe – - hear it? – - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.
Oh how I loved this movie. I loved everything about it. The cast is amazing. Bridges, Damon & Brolin? Goodness. But newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is the one that made this movie soar. But it was the Coen Brother’s screenplay based on the original Portis novel is what really had my jaw on the floor of the movie theater. It really must be seen to be believed.
LaBoeuf: You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements. While I sat there watchin’ I gave some thought to stealin’ a kiss… though you are very young, and sick… and unattractive to boot. But now I have a mind to give you five or six good licks with my belt.
Mattie Ross: One would be just as unpleasant as the other.
Rooster Cogburn: [LaBoeuf has been talking about malum prohibitum and malum in se] It astonishes me that Mr. LaBoeuf has been shot, trampled, and nearly bitten his tongue off, and yet not only does he continue to talk but he spills the banks of English.
Just really fantastic writing. I have recently put the book on hold just to see how much of the dialogue was lifted from the book – and how much was made up on the spot by the Coen brothers. I look forward to checking back in here once I’ve read the book with what I find. If someone has already read it I would love to hear more on this particular point.
Credit two for team Coen. Looks like they are in the lead in this top ten best of list. Its definitely difficult to beat a Coen brothers script in the dialogue department. They just have a brilliant knack for witty wordplay and authentic dialogue. They definitely haven’t slipped any in this department over the years.
Can I just say that this movie makes me laugh with just the mention of the name? Its actually impossible to separate the movie from the fantastic Minnesota accent. And yet the dialogue is so low-key witty that it has defined a whole genre of off-beat locale driven movies. If you haven’t gone back and rewatched this one lately, do so and you’ll be surprised at just how good the dialogue here is.
Mr. Mohra: So, I’m tendin’ bar there at Ecklund and Swedlin’s last Tuesday, and this little guy’s drinkin’ and he says, “So where can a guy find some action? I’m goin’ crazy out there at the lake.” And I says, “What kinda action?” and he says, “Woman action, what do I look like?” And I says, “Well, what do I look like, I don’t arrange that kinda thing,” and he says, “But I’m goin’ crazy out there at the lake,” and I says, “Well, this ain’t that kinda place.”
Officer Olson: Uh-huh.
Mr. Mohra: So he angrily says, “Oh I get it, so you think I’m some kinda crazy jerk for askin’,” only he doesn’t use the word “jerk.”
Officer Olson: I understand.
Mr. Mohra: And then he calls me a jerk, and says that the last guy who thought he was a jerk is dead now. So I don’t say nothin’ and he says, “What do ya think about that?” So I says, “Well, that don’t sound like too good a deal for him, then.”
Officer Olson: [chuckles] Ya got that right.
Mr. Mohra: And he says, “Yah, that guy’s dead, and I don’t mean of old age.” And then he says, “Geez, I’m goin’ crazy out there at the lake.”
Officer Olson: White Bear Lake?
Mr. Mohra: Well… Ecklund & Swedlin’s, that’s closer ta Moose Lake, so I made that assumption.
Officer Olson: Oh sure.
Mr. Mohra: So, ya know, he’s drinkin’, so I don’t think a whole great deal of it, but Mrs. Mohra heard about the homicides down here last week and she thought I should call it in, so… I called it in. End o’ story.
Officer Olson: What’d this guy look like, anyway?
Mr. Mohra: Oh, he was a little guy… Kinda funny lookin’.
Officer Olson: Uh-huh. In what way?
Mr. Mohra: Oh, just in a general kinda way.
Sorkin. Done. One of the best dialogue writers of all time. This list would be drift wood without something from Sorkin in it. And it only seems reasonable that his latest masterpiece would be a fitting entry. A pile of Emmys under his belt have now been joined by a Golden Globe win and an Oscar. If you are unaware of Aaron’s genius then I’m sure you’d recognize a few of his notable highlights… like A Few Good Men or The West Wing. He truly is one of the best writers today in the world of dialogue.
Sorkin’s dialogue is so dense and packed tight in everything he does that his scripts are 3 and 4 times longer than most. Its his belief that we don’t need to speak down to the audience that I like so very much. That a movie or a TV show doesn’t have to peddle or speak pedantically to an audience that is so enticing.
Mark Zuckerberg: As for any charges stemming from the breach of security, I believe I deserve some recognition from this board.
Chairwoman: I’m sorry?
Mark Zuckerberg: Yes?
Chairwoman: I don’t understand.
Mark Zuckerberg: Which part?
And with that example, the prosecution rests.
What’s funny about this one is that its such an icon of the disenfranchised 90′s that it is a characterization of itself. Regardless, chalk up another one for Ethan Hawke. We now have a tie at two. (If you aren’t keeping track that is two for team Coen and two for team Hawke. (Really three for team Hawke with Before Sunrise and Before Sunset – but they are basically the same movie, so I’ll only count those once. Kind of me, isn’t it?) It’s really too bad that Helen Childress hasn’t gone on to follow it up with anything else. Anyone know why?
Lelaina Pierce: I’d like to somehow make a difference in people’s lives.
Troy Dyer: And I… I would like to buy them all a Coke.
Lelaina Pierce: And you wonder why we never got involved?
American Beauty gets me in more trouble than any other movie I know. Often I wax eloquent about the beautiful script and amazing dialogue here within and its like I just killed their cat with a pick axe. Seriously. The looks I get.
REGARDLESS, I love the characters and the dialogue in this movie. Its probably the first script I ever actively went and found immediately after watching the movie to enjoy it in its pure form. I still remember Alan Ball’s acceptance speech at the Oscars about how he watched that bag floating around in circles and it inspired him to write the initial screenplay. (Which was originally a stage play I do believe. Anyone confirm, deny that?)
[Carolyn is introducing Lester to the Real Estate King]
Carolyn Burnham: My husband, Lester.
Buddy Kane: It’s a pleasure.
Lester Burnham: Oh, we’ve met before, actually. This thing last year, Christmas at the Sheraton…
Buddy Kane: [pretends to remember] Oh yeah, yes…
Lester Burnham: It’s OK, I wouldn’t remember me either.
Carolyn Burnham: [laughs nervously] Honey, don’t be weird.
Lester Burnham: OK honey, I won’t be weird. I’ll be whatever what you want me to be.
[Lester kisses Carolyn wildly, then looks at the Real Estate King]
Lester Burnham: We have a very healthy relationship.
Buddy Kane: I see.
Lester Burnham: Well, don’t know about you guys, but I need a drink.
[Lester has just caught Caroline cheating with the Real Estate King]
Carolyn Burnham: Uh, Buddy, this is my…
Lester Burnham: Her husband. We’ve met before, but something tells me you’re going to remember me this time.
Come on. This was a forgone conclusion. No list disusing the best dialogue-based movies is complete without Quentin Tarantino. Period. I thought seriously about including Reservoir Dogs, Four Rooms or possibly Inglorious Basterds. Each would be a contender on this list, that is for sure. The great thing about Pulp Fiction is that the writing is so stinking good that the actors are all but hand puppets to be used by the great Tarantino. Its all dialogue. Every moment. Sure, there’s the brain bits and the gimp in there somewhere. But seriously. Its really all dialogue, beginning to end.
The Wolf: You must be Jules, which would make you Vincent. Let’s get down to brass tacks, gentlemen. If I was informed correctly, the clock is ticking, is that right, Jimmie?
Jimmie: Uh, one hundred percent.
The Wolf: Your wife… Bonnie comes home at 9:30 in the AM, is that right?
The Wolf: I was led to believe that if she comes home and finds us here, she’d wouldn’t appreciate it none too much?
Jimmie: [laughing] She wouldn’t at that.
The Wolf: That gives us exactly… forty minutes to get the fuck out of Dodge. Which, if you do what I say when I say it, should be plenty. Now, you’ve got a corpse in a car, minus a head, in a garage. Take me to it.
And with that I close out my Top 10 Best Dialogue Movies of all time. Sure – I’m wrong. Sure, some of these you wouldn’t put on any list. That is fair. If I’m way off, give me your list below. I’d love to hear what you think the best dialogue movies of all time are. And don’t give me your favorite movies. No Top Gun, no Star Wars, darnit. Give us the movies with the best give and take. The best dialogue. Looking forward to hearing from you all!
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