As long as there have been great movies, great screenwriters too have flourished. Without the solid groundwork of a goods script even the greatest directors can falter at the final hurdle and that’s why writing, along with editing, are perhaps the two most essential (and softly spoken) elements of production. Below lie some of the very finest pieces of single-scene script-writing ever achieved. Some make you laugh, others make you cry and a few make me crawl up into a ball and wish the world away for a while — but every single one of them is the mark of a fantastic artist working at the top of their game. Enjoy, the list of top movie dialogue scenes ever.
10. Glengarry Glen Ross – “Always be Closing”
Few screenwriters can as expertly handle the use of curse words as David Mamet and in the star-studded adaptation of his own play he hit his absolute peak. Most notable among its endless array of memorable meltdowns is the scene between Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey and Jack Lemmon in which the former fires up a blazing row. Mamet maintains a consummate sense of pace and ferocity as Pacino’s mostly quiet character explodes, exhausting his conventional insults and then transitioning to a hilarious alternate arsenal of oddball putdowns.
As Pacino heads out of the scene, Lemmon makes a passing comment to Spacey which ignites yet another skirmish that ends decisively for the former’s tragic character- leaving him totally doomed. It’s a brilliant way to cap off the non-stop nature of the flick, assembling all the momentum built up to that point and letting all its pent-up tension out in an immaculately controlled maelström of linguistic power. Ingenious writing.
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9. Dr. Strangelove – “Phone Call”