The Academy Awards are a fantastic evening for any fan of film, but especially for those involved in the filmmaking business. Not only is it a great celebration of all the excellent films that have been released over the year, but it is also an opportunity for directors, performers, writers, editors, cinematographers, animators, makeup artists and everyone else involved in the filmmaking process to make history and join the elite in their respective fields. This has resulted in some powerful, moving and entertaining speeches over the years, and today we are taking a look at 10 of the best.
10. Ben Affleck & Matt Damon – 1998
Whilst it can be touching to see your favorite performers and directors go up and be moved to tears by winning an Oscar, it is also refreshing and brilliant to see them simply be overjoyed by winning. This was the case in 1998 when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won Best Original Screenplay for the fantastic Good Will Hunting (which they also both appeared in), as the childhood friends could barely contain themselves when they went up to the microphone. Between them they just about manage to thank everyone, but it is clear that they are overwhelmed with joy at picking up such as prestigious award and at such a young age, too. Matt Damon has since picked up three Academy Award nominations, with one of these this year for his performance in The Martian, whilst Ben Affleck won another in 2012 for Best Picture with Argo.
9. Meryl Streep – 2012
It must be difficult to remain humble and down to earth after picking up the third Oscar of your career, but this is exactly what Meryl Streep managed in 2012 when she won Best Actress for her fantastic portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. As always, Streep was classy and delivered a heartfelt and gracious speech where she took her time to thank all of the important people to her. Like all great speeches, Streep started and finished the speech strongly. She opened by stating “I had this feeling I could hear half of America saying, ‘Oh no. C’mon. Why? Her again?’ But…whatever” before she went on to firstly thank her husband. After rousing the audience after a moving speech, she closed with “the thing that counts to me is the friendships and the love and the sheer joy we have shared making movies together with my friends.”
8. Charlie Chaplin – 1972
In 1972, the famous silent movie superstar Charlie Chaplin earned an honorary Oscar for his incredibly influential and groundbreaking work and for the “incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.” Amazingly, Chaplin was given an incredible 12 minute standing ovation from the audience—a length that has never been matched. Chaplin, unable to get a word in, was clearly moved by the tribute. The actual speech was kept short by Chaplin, who so fittingly stated that “words seem so futile, so feeble.” The 12 minute ovation spoke volumes about the impact that he has had on the industry, and his reaction made it clear just how much it meant to him. It was the second honorary Oscar that he had won, with his first coming in 1929, and he would win another Academy Award in 1973 for Best Score in Limelight.
7. Robin Williams – 1998
Made even greater following his tragic passing, Robin Williams delivered a fantastic Oscar acceptance speech in 1998 which was as hilarious as it was touching. Winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting, Williams was clearly moved by the award and the warm reception from the audience. Williams opens by stating that this “might be the one time I’m speechless” before thanking all of those close to him whilst, of course, throwing in a few funny jokes too. Perhaps most moving and comical is when he thanks his father and points up to the sky, who he says told him to “have a backup profession, like welding.” Short, sweet, funny and touching, it is a great speech and, as always, brilliantly delivered by Williams. It was also well-deserved as most regard this to be his greatest and most powerful performance.
6. Cuba Gooding Jr. – 1997
For those that aspire to be actors, winning an Oscar will be a dream come true. This was evident when Cuba Gooding Jr. picked up the Best Supporting Actor for his unforgettable performance in Jerry Maguire. He delivers heartfelt thanks to everyone that he can think of, and ignores the music that starts playing and continues to thank just about anybody that he can think of and states that he loves everyone. As he does this and his passion is clear, he receives a standing ovation from those in attendance. To finish it off, Gooding Jr. then actually jumps for joy for which he receives even more applause from the highly entertained crowd. After thanking pretty much everybody in attendance, ignoring the music and providing plenty of entertainment, it was quite clear just how much winning an Oscar meant to Cuba Gooding Jr.
5. Roberto Benigni – 1999
It was clear that this was going to be a special speech after Italian director Roberto Benigni stood on his seat, climbed over chairs and skipped onto the stage to pick up the Oscar for Best Foreign Film for Life Is. He certainly did not disappoint, as he started off by telling Sophia Loren, who presented him the award, that “I lift this trophy but I want you. I want to be rocked by the waves of your beauty.” He continues to deliver plenty of comedy in a fantastic speech from the wild yet charming Benigni, who is clearly ecstatic to have won for his Italian tragicomic comedy-drama. It proved to be quite the award show for Benigni, as he would also win Best Actor for his performance in the film and this time offered a much more restrained speech after stating that he had “used up all [his] English.”
4. Marlon Brando – 1973
In one of the most shocking moments in Academy Award history, Marlon Brando decided to use the platform of winning Best Oscar to make a statement. He picked up the award for his iconic performance in The Godfather, but refused to attend the ceremony due to the “treatment of Native Americans” in the film industry. Instead, civil rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather accepted on his behalf and stated that he wanted her to deliver a 15-page speech, but she was unable to due to time constraints but that she would share it with the press. After stating his reasons for not attending, she received a mix of boos and cheers but received only applause at the end. It was a surprising and somewhat controversial moment, but goes to show that some performers feel so passionately about issues that they will use a platform of this magnitude to make a point.
3. Gwyneth Paltrow – 1998
Beating out the likes of Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Emily Watson and Fernanda Montenegro at the 1998 Academy Awards for Best Actress for her role in Shakespeare in Love, it was clear how much it meant to Paltrow, who began crying as soon as her name was announced by Jack Nicholson. It was touching to see just how much this meant to her, and in the speech she thanks the other women in her category and her kind words clearly move Streep. In addition to all the cast, crew and friends, she goes on to pay an emotional tribute to her parents, brother and her recently deceased cousin. It is incredibly moving as she struggles to get her words out, but still manages to deliver a well-written and heartfelt speech where she is clearly humbled by her victory and thankful for many different people in her life.
2. Tom Hanks – 1994
Tom Hanks established himself as one of the great actors by winning Best Actor in both 1994 and 1995 for his roles in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, respectively, and his speech in 1994 is a great example of what makes him one of the most likeable performers of all time. Philadelphia was, of course, an incredibly powerful, moving and important film about a closeted lawyer that is diagnosed with AIDS and he becomes fired from his firm. In addition to thanking those close to him and those attached to the film, Hanks goes on to thank his homosexual high school drama teacher and one of his classmates, and tears up as he states that “the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels.” Whilst he speaks powerfully and emotionally about the AIDS epidemic, it was later discovered that Hanks had unintentionally outed both his drama teacher and his former classmate.
1. Halle Berry – 2002
Halle Berry made history when she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Monster’s Ball, becoming the first (and only) black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress. Berry was clearly incredibly moved and happy to have won the award and even seemed in shock as she approached the stage and began crying at the microphone, but she also realized the importance of the moment. She stated “this moment is so much bigger than me. This is for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door has been opened.” Whilst still very tearful, she powerfully went on to thank everybody close to her and those involved with the film, ensuring that by the end it was one of the most powerful, emotional and important award acceptance speeches of all time.