Finding the best monologues, whether it’s for auditions or for practice, can be a daunting endeavor. Despite the sheer amount of material to choose from, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a monologue that lets you show off your emotional range as an actor.
That’s where sad monologues come in. When done correctly, they give you the power to tap into audience emotions and portray the nuances of the human condition, all while telling your character’s story and truly bringing them to life.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Courtesy 20th Century
Can’t find the right sad monologue for your next audition or practice? We’ve got you covered. Here is a roundup of some of the saddest monologues from theater and film.
1. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” by Joss Whedon: Anya’s breakdown
In the wake of Buffy’s mother’s death, Anya—a human who became a demon and then became a human again—has a lot of questions. When Willow asks her to be quiet, Anya breaks down, unable to come to terms with death and how the human condition works.
This is an excellent sad monologue that showcases how the character swings wildly between grief and bewilderment, offering actors the opportunity to showcase depth. Given its brevity, this sad monologue is a great option for prepared, open, and video auditions.
But I don’t understand! I don’t understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she’s… there’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore! It’s stupid! It’s mortal and stupid! And… and Xander’s crying and not talking, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever, and she’ll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.
2. “One-Way Conversation” by Joseph Arnone: Bella’s truth
In this short monologue, Bella confronts her mother about their relationship, as her emotions shift from anger to exasperation to desperation. This emotional complexity is a great showcase of range for self-tapes, casting calls, and open auditions.
You don’t understand. You don’t ever hear what I’m trying to say to you. It’s always a one-way conversation. First, you come at me and complain about all the things you think I’m not doing and you do this to get me angry because you think by getting me angry it’s going to somehow make me work harder for what I want in my life and you’re wrong. I’m sorry, but you’re so wrong. That’s not the way to help me move forward. It’s not. Can’t you ever just be my friend and support me by giving me encouragement? Do you have any idea how impossible what I’m going after already is? Do you? It’s so damn hard and I can use some kindness…just some; you’re my mother, you know, I—all I ask is that you stop trying to get so damn strategy-oriented with me and instead work with me, give me sound advice, if you have any, ’cause coming down on me doesn’t help. I’m not asking you to hand feed me, but be there for me the way I need you to be…there…you happy? Now you know what’s bothering me.
3. “Come With Me, Back Home” by Joseph Arnone: How Mom met Dad
Here, we witness a mother reminiscing about her childhood and how she met her son’s father. With this monologue, you get something that isn’t one-note—the character vacillates between humor, pride, and sadness—allowing you to show off how capable you are of tackling one emotion after another. In addition to being a great piece for practice, this monologue lends itself well to casting calls and self-tapes since it’s fairly playful, despite the sad undertones, and still packs a punch.
He’ll play a whole album after that. Go home! Just like your father, stubborn as a mule. Goes in one ear and out your ass!
Go home before you and me get into a barroom brawl! I still got it, kid. One, two, one, two. My father taught me so well I used to kick the shit out of all those dirty boys back in high school. They never saw me coming. Bah! Right to the nose. Bah! Right to the eye. They didn’t nickname me Tough Tina for nothing. One time I got jumped in the locker room by, must have been 10 girls. They hated me, this bunch. Hated me! And we went at it. I fought them all. Fierce! Hard! But they overtook me, son. They got me squished between the wall and a locker and they proceeded to bash my face with the locker door and that was it. But, and I’ll never forget this as long as I live…you see, I was a determined bitch. I was angry. I wanted my revenge. It took me one full year, one by one, I found each one of those girls and I kicked the shit out of them. One by one, by themselves. They weren’t so tough without their group. On the last girl, that was how I met your father. Imagine? Right outside the ice-cream parlor. I dragged Luella Beans, I’ll never forget her name, big girl, but not big enough to be pulled over the counter. Your mother was strong back then and I went to work on her but your father got in the middle of it and broke us up and that’s when we got to talking. I told him my story and all about why I was doing what I was doing and I don’t know, something clicked between us, felt like I was talking to someone I already knew. There was such ease, it was so easy to talk to him…I still talk to him, he hears me, I know he hears me…I feel him listening sometimes…
4. “Spoon River Anthology” by Edgar Lee Masters: Tom’s tale
Delivered from beyond the grave, this monologue recounts how Tom ended up six feet under. Despite its brevity, it offers plenty of room to play with the concept of sadness in a quiet yet powerful way—which can ultimately help you stand out from the crowd.
At first I suspected something—she acted so calm and absent-minded. And one day I heard the back door shut as I entered the front, and I saw him slink back of the smokehouse into the lot, and run across the field. And I meant to kill him on sight. But that day, walking near Fourth Bridge, without a stick or stone in hand, all of a sudden, I saw him standing there, scared to death, holding his rabbits, and all I could say was, “Don’t, Don’t, Don’t,” as he aimed and fired at my heart.
5. “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Maxwell Anderson and George Abbott, based on the novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque: Paul’s war revelation
In the film adaptation of Remarque’s 1929 novel, we get a glimpse of the horrors of World War I through the eyes of Paul Bäumer, a young German soldier. One of the best sad monologues from film, it shows a range of emotions, from anger and frustration to regret and utter sadness. It’s a short yet powerful piece that gives actors the opportunity to display depth, which is one of the reasons this monologue works for general or open auditions, theater auditions, and self-tapes.
Stop that! Stop it! Stop it! I can bear the rest of it. I can’t listen to that! Why do you take so long dying? You’re going to die anyway! Oh, no. Oh, no. You won’t die. Oh, no. You won’t die. They’re only little wounds. You’ll get home. You’ll be alright. You’ll get home before I will. You know I can’t run away. That’s why you accuse me. I tell you, I didn’t want to kill you. I tried to keep you alive. If you jumped in here again, I wouldn’t do it. You see, when you jumped in here, you were my enemy—and I was afraid of you. But you’re just a man like me, and I killed you. Forgive me, comrade. Say that for me. Say you forgive me! Oh, no. You’re dead! Only you’re better off than I am. You’re through. They can’t do anymore to you now. Oh, God, why did they do this to us? We only wanted to live, you and I. Why should they send us out to fight each other? If we threw away these rifles and these uniforms, you could be my brother, just like Kat and Albert. You’ll have to forgive me, comrade. I’ll do all I can. I’ll write to your parents. I’ll write to—I’ll write to your wife. I’ll write to her. I promise she’ll not want for anything. And I’ll help her and your parents, too. Only forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me! Forgive me!
6. “Forrest Gump” by Eric Roth and Winston Groom: Forrest loves Jenny
This “Forrest Gump” monologue offers a glimpse into the inner workings of how someone deals with the death of a longtime friend and love. As Forrest talks to Jenny’s grave, he mourns her passing in his own simple, quiet way.
You died on a Saturday morning. And I had you placed here under our tree. And I had that house of your father’s bulldozed to the ground. Momma always said dyin’ was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t. Little Forrest, he’s doing just fine. About to start school again soon. I make his breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I make sure he combs his hair and brushes his teeth every day. Teaching him how to play ping-pong. He’s really good. We fish a lot. And every night, we read a book. He’s so smart, Jenny. You’d be so proud of him. I am. He wrote a letter, and he says I can’t read it. I’m not supposed to, so I’ll just leave it here for you. Jenny, I don’t know if Momma was right or if it’s Lieutenant Dan. I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time. I miss you, Jenny. If there’s anything you need, I won’t be far away.
7. “The Burning Plain” by Guillermo Arriaga: Sylvia’s confession
This sad monologue is a confession from Sylvia (who is, spoiler alert, actually Mariana) as she reveals how she accidentally killed her mother and her mother’s lover after discovering their affair when she was younger. This is a quiet monologue—it’s delivered to a character who seems to be sleeping—but still manages to deliver plenty of emotion.
Here is an opportunity to make an impression and stand out with a short and impactful monologue that lets you pack a lot of emotion into just a few lines.
You are not going to die, are you? ‘Cause if you die, I wouldn’t know what to do with her. I can barely look at her in the eyes. She needs you. And I need you. I’m so scared. I’ve been living scared of myself and now I can’t…I can’t run away anymore. I killed them…I killed your father and my mother. I didn’t mean to but…now I can’t get the smell of the burning. I can’t get rid of it…Why did you want me to come back here? Why? Why?
8. “Passion” by Brian De Palma and Natalie Carter: Christine’s accident
Christine Stanford’s monologue tells the story of how she accidentally caused her sister’s death as children. We see frustration and sadness over her life and how she “lost” her parents’ affection as a result.
Depending on the delivery, this monologue can run fairly long. However, as with other lengthy pieces on this list, it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your range as you move from emotion to emotion.
When I was six years old, my parents bought me and my twin sister a bike ’cause we like to share everything. So we would take turns riding it to school and Clarissa was so much better on the bike than I was. She could pedal standing up and ride no hands. So one day was my turn and I was just so determined that I was going to show her I could be just as good as she could. I started pedaling faster and faster and she had to run like hell to keep up with me. And I let go of the handle bars. I felt like I was flying and it felt so good. I just wanted to see myself. So, I looked into the window and I caught my reflection. And then I don’t know what happened. I swerved into the street and this truck was coming right at me. And the last thing I remember was this horrible thunk. And I woke up in the hospital and my mother was sobbing and I asked her what happened to Clarissa and she said. Well… she didn’t… she wouldn’t even look at me. And no one ever said anything but I knew what they were thinking. That I killed her… and they never ever told me that they loved me ever again.
9. “Apocalypse Now” by Francis Ford Coppola: Colonel Kurtz’s war horrors
This is one of the longest sad monologues from a film on this list, clocking in at close to five minutes. It describes the horrors of war and takes viewers through a journey of madness. Each line has its own unique power and impact.
Actors have the opportunity to simultaneously portray sadness and great restraint, which makes this monologue suitable for both practice sessions and closed or theater auditions. This might not be an ideal choice for prepared or open auditions given that you likely won’t have enough time to get through the material.
I’ve seen horrors—horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that. But you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face, and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember, I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized, like I was shot, like I was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God, the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men—trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love. But they had the strength to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral, and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling, without passion, without judgment… without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.
10. “One” by Terrence Mosley: A son’s pain
This is a brief monologue and, while short, it displays a range of emotions—from frustration to anger—as the son talks to his father about when he first learned to shave. Because it’s compact, this monologue is a great piece for open and prepared auditions where you usually have a limited amount of time.
Nope. Picked up the blade when at 14 and never looked back. Ma never wanted me to shave. I thought she didn’t want me to grow up, or something like that, but now I understand. She would always say to me, every time, she would say, “It’s gonna grow back thicker.” First couple times weren’t too bad. A little irritation, no cuts, everything was fine. Next thing I know, I start getting all these bumps. I would let it grow out, they would disappear, and I would shave again. I would get more, every time I shaved, and I started to pick at them. I couldn’t pop ’em fast enough. Then it started feeling like I had steel pushing out of my pores. Sometimes it’s so bad I can’t sleep at night. Ma tried to warn me and I didn’t listen. I would go to bed mad at you. Thinkin’ you did this to me. Try and put you out of my head and there you are just beneath the surface pushing up. Pushing pain.
“Apocalypse Now” Courtesy United Artists
Finding the best sad monologues for auditions or practice can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you choose the best monologues and impress casting directors in the room.
- Be intentional: Given the sheer number of choices, it can be tempting to just pick a random piece of work. However, doing so can be a costly mistake. Make sure you have a clear objective when searching for a monologue. Determine the type of role you want and how a particular monologue can help you land it.
- Take the listener on a ride: Choose a monologue with several layers that allow you to play the subtext. Take your character on a journey and, in turn, let the audience see your range of emotions.
- Be unique: Don’t be afraid to go for something new or obscure if it resonates with you. While well-known monologues offer a sense of familiarity, the decision makers in the room have likely seen it over and over again. Unless you truly have a different angle on the material, look for a monologue that allows you to stand out.
- Keep it short: Ideally, your monologue is between one minute and 90 seconds. If your monologue is longer, trim it down (just make sure the piece still feels complete after the edit).
- Experiment: Once you’ve chosen a monologue, switch up your practice routine. Instead of sitting down while practicing, why not walk around? Perform a sad monologue as happily as you can. Test out different deliveries for specific words and phrases. Trying out new things opens up opportunities for discovery. Plus, it keeps your performance from becoming one-note.