Top 10 Famous Speeches

Script Written by Clayton Martino. Words have the power to inspire, motivate, and influence millions of people, which is exactly what these speeches did. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 famous speeches in history. For this list, we are looking at formal speeches delivered to an audience, and are not including impromptu quotes such as Neil Armstrong’s or sermons from religious figures such as Jesus Christ. Special thanks to our users BrendanFiciur, KarlPilkingtonNo1, WatchMojo, Colin Gully, Rodrigo Aleman, Moviemaster219, Alysia Victoria Parker, AWD_476, danyn patel, guyinacorner16, mac121mr0, Philip B. Grindle III, smiileitslaurax, Ritish Jagroe and Nicolas Arturo Alvarado Vargas for submitting the idea on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Famous Speeches


Words have the power to inspire, motivate, and influence millions of people, which is exactly what these speeches did. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 famous speeches in history.

For this list, we are looking at formal speeches delivered to an audience, and are not including impromptu quotes such as Neil Armstrong’s or sermons from religious figures such as Jesus Christ.

#10: Campaign into India (326 BC)
Alexander the Great

One of the greatest conquerors the world has ever seen, by 335 BC Alexander the Great controlled all of Greece, Egypt, and the Persian Empire. Alexander wanted more than that, however, and set his sights on India. Unfortunately, after nearly ten years of fighting, his army had no interest in travelling further east, and threatened mutiny. Alexander, having studied under Aristotle, gave a rousing speech to motivate his men to continue to fight, ending it by stating “I will make those who stay the envy of those who return.”

#9: Germany Declares War on USA (1941)
Adolf Hitler

Hey, we didn’t say all of these guys were good guys. A fantastic orator with the ability to inspire millions to carry out his plans, one of Hitler’s greatest speeches came on December 11th, 1941 when Germany declared war on the United States. After summarizing Germany’s military successes in the previous year, Hitler turned his attention to the United States. He stressed that Germany had done nothing wrong to America at any point in history. Out of retaliation, the United States declared war on Germany later that day, making sure America was fully involved in both the European and Pacific theatres of the war.

#8: Funeral Oration (431 BC)
Pericles

What do you say to a city that has seen fathers, husbands, and sons die in a war that has no end in sight? That was the task facing Pericles when he gave a speech at a public funeral for all Athenian men who had been killed in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta. Rather than mourn the dead, Pericles enthusiastically praised Athens and its citizens. He used his rhetoric ability to motivate all Athenians to continue to fight to ensure these men did not die in vain. Is it any wonder the historian Thucydides called him “the first citizen of Athens?”

#7: Second Virginia Convention (1775)
Patrick Henry

“Give me liberty or give me death!” These famous words that would forever be associated with the American Revolution were spoken by Patrick Henry at the Second Virginia Convention in 1775. Virginia was one of the most important colonies in the New World, and without its help, the Revolution had little chance of succeeding. Henry’s speech was so powerful that the entire Convention, which contained the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, is said to have sat in silence for several minutes afterward.

#6: Inaugural Address (1961)
John F. Kennedy

After two world wars, a conflict in Korea, a crippling depression, and relations with the Soviet Union reaching a boiling point, the United States needed a reason to feel optimistic. Enter John F. Kennedy. At only 43, JFK was the youngest President to ever be elected, and he gave one of the most memorable inauguration addresses of all time. Stressing the importance of resiliency and nationalism, he famously stated: “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

#5: Quit India (1942)
Mahatma Gandhi

Many passionate speeches have been given by someone speaking up for an oppressed people, but rarely have they advocated for passive resistance. Mahatma Gandhi did exactly that in 1942 when he called for non-violent resistance to British occupation and inspired the Quit India Movement. Calling himself a friend of Britain, he declared that he was attempting to save the British from their mistakes. While the Quit India Movement was ultimately a failure, the British government did eventually grant India independence.

#4: Inaugural Address (1933)
Franklin D. Roosevelt

JFK surely delivered one of the greatest inaugural addresses in history, but decades earlier Franklin D. Roosevelt began his lengthy career as President with this iconic speech. At the time, America was in the middle of the worst depression in history and had essentially run Herbert Hoover out of office. FDR was able to win over the hearts and minds of a discouraged American population with a passionate and confident speech, promising to wage war against the economic crisis facing the country. Of course, having a strong opening line always helps [“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”].

#3: We Shall Fight on the Beaches (1940)
Winston Churchill

One of three key speeches given by Churchill during the Battle of France, this rousing address was delivered under less than ideal circumstances. The English Prime Minister was forced to not only warn the English people about the potential for France’s catastrophic defeat but also prepare them for war on their home soil. Less than a month earlier, Churchill had declared that the Allies would be victorious. With this looking less and less likely by the day, Churchill resoundingly stated that the British would never surrender to Germany. Instead, he memorably stated they would fight them in France, on the seas, in the air, in the streets, and on the beaches.

#2: I Have a Dream (1963)
Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the most inspirational speeches of all time, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered this famous call to action to over 250,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. King demanded an end to racism in America, stating that 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, African-Americans were still not considered equal. Perhaps surprisingly, the “I have a dream” line was not in the original draft; it was improvised on-the-spot by King after gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled out from the crowd, urging him to “tell them about the dream.”

Before we yield the floor to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

- Women’s Rights to Suffrage (1873)
Susan B. Anthony
- The Lady’s Not for Turning (1980)
Margaret Thatcher
- Apology (399 BC)
Socrates
- Brandenburg Gate (1987)
Ronald Reagan
- Farewell to Baseball (1939)
Lou Gehrig

#1: Gettysburg Address (1863)
Abraham Lincoln

The Gettysburg Address is without a doubt one of the most famous speeches in American history. Taking inspiration from Pericles’ funeral oration, Lincoln delivered it four months after the Union army defeated the Confederacy at the bloody Battle of Gettysburg. In less than 3 minutes, Lincoln issued a moving plea for the Union to pay tribute to the dead by continuing to fight for the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence: freedom, liberty, and equality. Referenced countless times, including by JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr., the transformative impact of this speech on the country has earned it a prominent place in the history of the United States.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite famous speech? For more exciting Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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