Presenting in public can be a daunting experience for many. Whether it’s a class presentation, or a keynote speech or even a wedding toast, the mere thought of having to address an audience can be nerve-wracking. Presentation skills are often best practiced in front of others, but what if you are not even ready yet to take that step?
Fortunately, many movies explore this common fear, providing insight and inspiration on how to present effectively with poise and assurance. This list contains the top ten films about public speaking that can give you the skills you need to nail your next speech. Feel free to go through this list of the top public speaking movies, and for a bonus, you could even augment it with some speeches from famous figures such as Barack Obama, Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs, or TED speakers!
Top 10 public speaking movies
The King’s Speech (2010)
Got stage fright before a talk? You have royal company. This film follows the struggles of King George VI, played by Colin Firth, as he works to overcome his lifelong fear of public speaking. The movie is set during a critical moment in history. Viewers will observe how King George VI had to learn to rise to the occasion and give inspiring speeches as the leader of a country battling for its future.
The film is an inspiring and poignant story of the power of courage and determination, and has earned a lot of awards, including an Oscar for Best Picture. The powerful narrative of this inspiring biopic is great viewing for anyone who is looking to overcome their fear of public speaking. One critic writes of it, “The film is richly rooted, with splendid trappings, including pea-soup fogs. For all the pomp and protocol, it’s an intimate story about a scared man who must find his voice if he is to rise, in regal stature, above his epaulets.”
Dead Poets Society (1989)
What makes a great speech? For many, it is having confidence in yourself. John Keating (Robin Williams) is the new English teacher at an all-boys preparatory school. He has an unorthodox approach to teaching, and his classes focus on public speaking and self-confidence, with an emphasis on using body language for effective public speaking. As the movie develops, Keating encourages his students, such as Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) and Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), to break away from their parents’ expectations and pursue their own dreams. He guides the students to be comfortable talking in front of others, to take risks and to seize each day.
With Keating’s guidance, the students gain courage and determination to follow their dreams and reach for their goals. The movie is ultimately an inspiring story that encourages viewers to be brave and to always strive for the best.
Coming from the United Kingdom, this movie follows Nigel Slater (Freddie Highmore), who has dreams to become a great chef, despite his mother (Victoria Hamilton) being only capable of making toast. His life is thrown into chaos when his mother passes away and his father (Ken Stott) remarries a woman (Helena Bonham Carter) who wins his heart with a delightful lemon meringue pie. Nigel then begins his journey to fulfill his aspirations, enrolling in culinary school, working in a pub and finding himself competing with his stepmother – both in the kitchen and in vying for his father’s admiration. According to LA Times film critic Gary Goldstein, “Toast, is by turns sweet and tart, airy and rich and, above all, a thoroughly irresistible confection.”
This film is a great example to draw upon in terms of public speaking, as it strives to highlight the importance of the pursuit of passions and the ever-present obstacles that need to be overcome along the way. These messages can be incredibly valuable for any aspiring public speaker, as they provide an inspiring reminder to strive for success in spite of any difficulties that may lie in their path.
Rocket Science (2007)
Hal Hefner (Reece Daniel Thompson), a high-school student, is struggling to make sense of his disjointed life. But when Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick), a pretty classmate, asks him to join their school’s debate team, Hal embarks on a journey that will teach him how to overcome his stutter and gain confidence in public speaking. Falling in love with Ginny along the way, Hal faces a variety of challenges that ultimately help him to become an effective speaker and give him the courage to express himself in a clear and powerful way. According to Washington Post film critic Jen Chaney, “Writer-director Jeffrey Blitz brings wit and pathos to the story of a compulsive stutterer.”
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Extremely shy Lars (Ryan Gosling) struggles to make friends or socialize due to social anxiety. His family (Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer) are concerned for him, when he announces he has a girlfriend he met online. But to their surprise, his new girlfriend is actually a life-size plastic figure. On the advice of a doctor (Patricia Clarkson), his family and the community decide to go along with his wild delusion.
This film is set to inspire viewers to come out of their shells and face public speaking fears. According to David Lamble of the Bay Area Reporter, “Director Craig Gillespie’s film stirs a cautious course between Capraesque whimsy and our society’s distinct discomfort confronting the sad and sometimes squalid delusions that keep our boats afloat.”
The Great Debaters (2007)
“The Great Debaters” starring Denzel Washington showcases the power of public speaking to fight for justice and equality, highlighting how anyone can use it to their advantage. By following the journey of a professor at a small African American college in Texas who creates a debate team to challenge Harvard, viewers can learn how essential public speaking is to making a change, and empower themselves to develop their own skills in this field.
If you decide to take part in a community-based or college class on public speaking, the cost can be low to no cost. For example, online options such as edX and Coursera offer a class from Harvard on the art of rhetoric and the University of Washington’s Intro to Public Speaking course for free.
A public speaking class can be life changing. To that end, the Speaker Lab is currently offering a free training that has helped thousands of students earn anywhere from $500-$50,000, without being a celebrity. You can learn the same 5-step system Grant Baldwin used to grow his speaking business to over $2 million in revenue during the recession of 2008. Furthermore, you can glean tips on how savvy speakers are charging higher fees to be a keynote speaker. There is also an opportunity for a Q&A where you can ask any of your speaking business questions from one of our public speaking coaches. Interested in signing up to become a better speaker? Click here to register for the free live training.
Public Speaking (2010)
A feature-length documentary starring Fran Lebowitz, a writer known for her incisive take on modern life, will provide invaluable insight into public speaking. The film skillfully weaves together HER extemporaneous monologues and archival footage, creating a compelling portrait of how to convey a message through an engaging and unique perspective. With this film, viewers will gain insight into public speaking by learning directly from the masterful delivery of Fran Lebowitz. According to David Fear of Time Out, “By the end of this funny, insightful doc, you get a sense of an extraordinary mind that both fueled and fed the zeitgeist.”
Iskander, a gentle Uzbek man, is coaxed by a Russian friend to step out of his comfort zone and wow the local crowd with a complimentary, impromptu speech honouring the Communist Revolution. His passionate delivery, combined with his eloquence, not only wins over the Soviets, who enlist him as a spokesman, but will also serve as a great inspiration to anyone looking to improve their public speaking abilities. Watch as Iskander bravely takes a stand in a turbulent time through an inspirational speech and offers an example of excellence in rhetoric.
The Address (2014)
This movie gives a detailed insight into the Greenwood School in Putney Vermont, and how its students are prepared for public speaking by memorizing and reciting President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Through its exploration of the school, the film unlocks the history and importance of this powerful address, giving viewers the opportunity to improve their public speaking skill and gain a greater understanding of its historical context. According to Matt Zoller Seitz of New York Magazine, “its relaxed vibe and non-cloying tone are a tonic.”
Larry Crowne (2011)
This film, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, can help improve your public speaking skill. Larry Crown, the former sailor now manager, is an example of how education can make a difference.
Through Mercedes Teno’s classes, viewers will learn how to apply improvisational techniques, structure and organize a presentation, and create an effective visual contact with the audience. They can also use the film’s example to practice and hone their public speaking abilities – by presenting to someone close to them. The film is an invaluable resource for those looking to gain confidence in their public speaking abilities.
Whether you’re a novice public speaker or a seasoned pro, these movies will help you gain confidence as you prepare to master the art of public speaking. Hopefully, you will be able to see through these films that you don’t need to give a TED talk, be the President of the United States, win an Academy Award, or get published in the New York Times to be an amazing speaker! So pop some popcorn and enjoy these inspiring films! Once you’re done, feel free to take a look at our list of top public speaking books and top public speaking podcasts here!
Want to read more about speaking tips? Take a look at our 100 tips for motivational speaking for any speaking engagement! Happy speaking!