10 iconic Oscars speeches that made us laugh, gag or simply blub into our popcorn
While the world watches the Oscars to see who’s winning what awards, the rest of us are watching for one reason only: the acceptance speeches.
The Oscars acceptance speech has become an art form all of its own and, each year, there’s bound to be one that sets the internet off.
There’s the messy criers (we won’t point fingers just yet), there’s the ones who accidentally swear on live television, and then there’s the heartfelt, emotional speeches that leave us blubbering in front of our television screens.
Ahead of the 2022 Oscars, we take a look back at 10 of our favourite all-time acceptance speeches, from the campy classics to the icons who’ve defined the genre.
1. Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love
Gwyneth Paltrow has garnered some unfair criticism over the years for her very emotional Oscars speech, but honestly, would any of us manage to hold it together in similar circumstances?
Paltrow gave a lengthy acceptance speech in which she thanked pretty much everybody involved with Shakespeare in Love (miraculously, she wasn’t played off by the orchestra), but it was towards the end of her speech that she really disintegrated when she paid tribute to her family.
“I would not have been able to play this role had I not understood love of a tremendous magnitude and for that I thank my family,” Paltrow said, before promptly bursting into tears. The most emotional part of her speech came when she paid tribute to her father, Bruce Paltrow, saying he had overcome “insurmountable obstacles” over the last year. He had recently been diagnosed with oral cancer, and he tragically died just three years later at the age of 58.
2. Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Everyone was rooting for Olivia Colman at the 2019 Oscars, where she picked up the Best Actress gong for The Favourite. When she eventually got up on stage to accept the award, she did not disappoint.
“It’s genuinely quite stressful,” a terrified-looking Colman declared. “This is hilarious. Got an Oscar!”
The best moment in her speech came when she paid tribute to the the other women in the Best Actress category. She started off by commiserating with Glenn Close, who was considered the favourite to win the award.
After getting a signal that it was time to wrap up, Colman simply uttered the words “Lady Gaga” and blew a kiss to the singer, which, honestly, we can all relate to.
3. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Lupita Nyong’o’s win for 12 Years a Slave seemed like a sure thing in 2014, but it was still an extraordinary moment when she was handed the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Nyong’o paid tribute to her co-stars and to her brother, who attended the ceremony with her.
“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid,” she said.
4. Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
Moonlight ended up making history in 2017 when the Best Picture prize was accidentally handed to La La Land. That moment has gone down in pop culture history, but it often gets lost just how momentous the film’s victory was.
Earlier in the night, Jenkins and McCraney took home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and their speech left audiences in pieces.
In his speech, McCraney paid tribute to “all those Black and Brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming who don’t see themselves”.
5. Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Frances McDormand was a worthy winner for her searing performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and she blew us all away for a second time with her history-making Oscars speech.
McDormand used her time on the Oscars stage to deliver a heartfelt plea for gender equality in the film industry.
After asking all the female nominees in the room to stand with her, McDormand said: “Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed… Invite us into your office in a couple of days, or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave you with tonight, ladies and gentlemen – inclusion rider.”
That simple conclusion to her speech led to a flurry of people Googling the term inclusion rider, which refers to a clause in a contract that mandates diversity in the cast and crew on a set.
6. Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich
Julia Roberts left the world reeling with her truly hilarious Oscars acceptance speech for Erin Brockovich in 2001.
Anticipating that she was going to be played off by the orchestra, Roberts kicked off her speech by telling the conductor: “Sir, you’re doing a great job, but you’re so quick with that stick, so why don’t you sit, because I may never be here again.”
Roberts went on to quite literally thank everyone she had ever met – because why not – before finishing with: “I love the world, I’m so happy, thank you!”
7. Marlon Brando, The Godfather
On a number of occasions, stars have used their time on the stage at the Oscars to draw attention to the social and political issues of the day. Few actors did so as successfully as Marlon Brando, who famously turned down his Oscar for The Godfather.
The actor was named Best Actor in 1973, but he famously didn’t turn up, and instead sent actress Sacheen Littlefeather on his behalf to shine a light on the mistreatment of Native American people in Hollywood.
Littlefeather was cruelly booed by the audience when she announced that Brando would not be accepting the award.
8. Sally Field, Places in the Heart
Sally Field has been mocked relentlessly and – in our opinion, unfairly – ever since she gave her iconic 1985 Oscars acceptance speech for Places in the Heart.
A visibly emotional Field famously declared: “I haven’t had an orthodox career and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!”
The speech immediately led to raucous laughter from the audience, and it’s gone down in history as one of the most frequently mocked Oscars speeches. Field’s speech has become so ingrained in pop cultural references that a famous misquote is now more well known – “you like me, you really like me!” is, of course, not what Field said at all, but if you asked someone to quote the speech, that’s almost certainly what they’d say.
To all the mockery, all we can say is, have some respect – this is Sally Field we’re talking about.
9. Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball
There are few moments in Oscars history quite as momentous as Halle Berry’s win for Monster’s Ball in 2002. With that win, she became the first Black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress.
Her acceptance speech remains one of the most emotional ever given on the Oscars stage – in it, she paid tribute to “every nameless, faceless woman of colour” who could finally have a chance at making it in Hollywood. She knew just how significant her victory was.
Sadly, not everyone else appreciated why she was so emotional – she was mocked afterwards in the press for shedding tears, exposing once more the impossible standards women in the entertainment industry are held to.
10. Liza Minnelli, Cabaret
Liza Minnelli kept it short and sweet when she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her iconic turn as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.
The first thing she did when she stood up on stage was laugh – which, honestly, we would probably do in the circumstances.
“Thank you for giving me this award, you’ve made me very happy,” she said. The award felt even more significant because her mother, Judy Garland, was never given the same recognition.
The whole thing was only slightly overshadowed by Raquel Welch saying “I hope they haven’t got a cause” when presenting the award, referencing Brando’s decision to turn down the Best Actor award on the same night.