Top 10 Movies With the Best Dialogue



Top 10 Movies With the Best Dialogue

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Matt Wende
These are the top 10 movies with the best dialogue. Sure, we love a good explosion as much as the next person, but what is a movie without a good script? For this list, we're looking at movie dialogue that brilliantly developed character, advanced the plot, gave light to theme, or did all three at the same time, with a style or flare that had us hooked. From modern masterpieces like "Pulp Fiction", "The Social Network", and "There Will Be Blood" to revered classics like "The Godfather", "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "The Big Lebowski", these movies proved that sometimes a few good words is all you need to hook audiences in.

Top 10 Movies With the Best Dialogue

Sure, I love a good explosion as much as the next person, but what is a movie without a good script? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies With the Best Dialogue.

For this list, we’re looking at dialogue that brilliantly developed character, advanced the plot, gave light to theme, or did all three at the same time, with a style or flare that had us hooked.

#10: “Pulp Fiction” (1994)

Quentin Tarantino is known for his flair with dialogue, and for good reason: all of his films feature his trademark sharp-as-a-tack witticisms. However, “Pulp Fiction” is arguably his greatest work. The filmmaker has made clear that these flourishes are not simply for fun: he actually uses repartee to bury exposition - something you’ll see throughout his 1994 black comedy crime film. For example: take note of how Jules and Vincent’s banter in their first appearance sets up character arcs, hints at the plot, and discusses the theme to be explored, while ensuring the audience is thoroughly entertained from start to finish.

#9: “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992)

Written by David Mamet, who is often hailed as the greatest living American playwright, “Glengarry Glen Ross” is a tour de force in dialogue, plain and simple. It’s said that a good film develops character and advances the plot, while a great film does both at the same time. “Glengarry Glen Ross” sits squarely in the latter category. Each character speaks with his own distinct voice and acts based on their own motivations, with Mamet’s dialogue showcasing the wanting, hopes and fears of these desperate salesmen. What’s more, heady themes like masculinity in the modern workplace are addressed nimbly and expertly.

#8: “Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

We’ve all met people who like to sound smarter than they are: they simply go on and on, filling the silence with empty words in a desperate attempt to sound intelligent. It’s super annoying. The writers of “Sunset Boulevard” knew a simple truth: a truly skilled writer can say more with fewer words. Just look at some of the most classic lines from this film. With only a handful of words, we’re given a picture-perfect snapshot of character motivation, dynamic, backstory and so much more. This is how dialogue was meant to be written.

#7: “Network” (1976)

One of the primary functions of dialogue is to serve and support the theme of the story. “Network” is a complicated story of humanity, society’s relationship with the media, and exploitation for profit. A less skilled writer would have found it difficult to write dialogue that supported all three of these themes at the same time, yet Paddy Chayefsky does it in “Network” in a way that looks effortless. If you’re looking for lessons in filmmaking, “Network” should be on your must-watch list – for its dialogue, and so much more.

#6: “The Social Network” (2010)

Aaron Sorkin is considered a master screenwriting of today, and his dialogue plays a big part in that. His style and cadence are instantly recognizable, as seen in his other masterworks like “Steve Jobs.” However, while it seems complicated, it’s surprisingly simple. Here – as is his way – Sorkin’s dialogue comes off like music: thanks to his flourishes and style, the audience doesn’t notice the emotional gut-punch building throughout the scene. But when we do, it’s like we’ve been lured into a trap.

#5: “My Dinner with Andre” (1981)

Two characters, seated across from each other, talking - this is dialogue in its purest form. But even so, “My Dinner with Andre” (written by stars Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn themselves) is not for everyone: it is a lot of talking - like, basically the entire film. But if you have an ear for dialogue, and can appreciate the subtle intricacies that go into crafting a story like this, then you just might love this movie. Although there’s no clear resolution, the film is somehow not unsatisfying, because when it ends you feel that your mind has been expanded as if you were somehow part of this magical conversation yourself.

#4: “Casablanca” (1942)

The best way to get a clear picture of many movie characters is to listen to what they say and how they say it. Take Rick Blaine, for example: from the beginning of “Casablanca,” we learn that he is nihilistic and jaded, and has earned a great deal of money amidst the turmoil of the Second World War. Almost exclusively through dialogue, we’re able to see the character grow, learn and heal - all while delivering some of the most memorable lines in movie history. If you’re looking for an example of how dialogue can highlight the highs and lows of a character arc, look no further than this screenplay by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch.

#3: “Manhattan” (1979)

Woody Allen has long been synonymous with masterfully written dialogue - just take a look at “Annie Hall.” As one of Hollywood’s foremost writer/directors, his work is rife with famous lines. However, among his fans, it goes without saying that “Manhattan” stands in a class of its own when it comes to dialogue. It’s arguably the pinnacle of romantic comedies, with dialogue used throughout the film to intricately weave together well rounded characters with dynamic motivations and complicated ideas. Love is the theme, and it’s not easy, but this dialogue lends itself to the story with delicate ease.

#2: “The Godfather” (1972)

Dialogue is more than just a bunch of words with plot information hidden in them, and it goes way beyond writing memorable lines. Dialogue as an artform sees an idea being discussed by various characters, each with opposing viewpoints, until they reach a single conclusion - and then that conclusion is captured in a single line. “The Godfather” does this expertly. Case in point: take this scene where Michael agrees to perform a hit on behalf of the family, truly committing to his tragic story arc. It’s captivating, haunting, yet strangely beautiful.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Big Lebowski” (1998)
“The Sweet Smell of Success” (1957)
“GoodFellas” (1990)
“There Will Be Blood” (2007)
“Chinatown” (1974)

#1: “12 Angry Men” (1957)

Before the bottle episode was a trope, before the courtroom drama was a staple, and before social justice was a daily talking point, there was Reginald Rose’s “12 Angry Men.” An 18-year-old has been charged with murder, and with his execution practically a certainty, it’s up to one jury member to convince the rest to question his guilt. Locked in a single location, the jury deliberates, and serious issues are discussed; like poverty, prejudice, the failings of the American justice system, and the value of human life. And, all of this is done through deftly written dialogue.