The feeling of winning and getting your name called out for an Oscar is indubitably the single most cherished memory and honor of an artist’s life. Striving everyday, being pervasively persistent on the road to the magnificent golden statue is what makes the winning memorable. And winning the trophy often evokes the truest of emotions, whose veracity is the most sanctimonious and pristine in the whole wide world. This has culminated in us witnessing superstars crying their heart out and losing all of their self-consciousness to just be free. The magnanimous platform often humbles the most taciturn of artists, and reiterates their belief in doing what they do. They also use this stage to profoundly express themselves and influence masses of the issues we as a society face. Right from race, politics and capitalism, to Mama June on a hot summer afternoon, the Oscars have seen it all.
There are a few, who aren’t liberated off their performances and image in the media, and come prepared, with a long litany of people to thank. And then there are some, who just enjoy the moment, and wing the whole thing as it were an SNL routine. Remembering these resonating and powerful acceptance speeches, the list envisages to mention some of these blithering addresses, which obliterate all the sense of being. Enjoy the list of the best and most iconic Oscar speeches ever. Happy Watching!
20. Tom Hanks (‘Philadelphia’)
Tom Hanks is one of the most lovable and relatable stars of the industry. His boy-next door charm and kind nature often manage to humble the sternest and uptight of people. He won his first ever Oscar for Jonathan Demme’s 1993 drama film, ‘Philadelphia’, which saw him play Andrew Beckett, a HIV patient whose homosexuality, ironically, is a cause of his insecurities and shame. He is eventually brought out in the limelight by his firm, who fire him for being an AIDS patient. Ridiculed and down-looked upon by the society, he endeavors to fight for himself and therein ensues one of the most endearing battle for justice in cinematic history. ‘Phialdelphia’ become one of the first mainstream movies to highlight the issue of HIV and homosexuality, and did so with maternal care and augmenting style. The tearful Hanks in the above video did accidentally let out two of his homosexual friends, who were still in the closet. But despite that, his powerful message to the world about AIDS and homosexuality made his Oscar acceptance speech one of the most iconic speeches of all time.
19. Sally Field (‘Norma Rae’)
The genius of Sally Field was obscure to my conscience until I witnessed her endearing performance as Ol’ Marry Todd (‘Hateful Eight’ reference) in the 2012 film ‘Lincoln’. Upon further viewings of her provocative performances, I stumbled upon ‘Norma Rae’ and was blissfully moved. No wonder she won the Oscar for her performance. During her acceptance speech, she reiterated the words ‘I like you’ from the movie and confused audiences with her cryptic yet evocative speech. Her child-like enthusiasm and lady-like manners make for an enjoyable watch.
18. Jack Palance (‘City Slickers’)
When a 60-year old man does one-arm superman push-ups, you are bound to have a complex, regardless your age. Such was the case with Jack Palace when he won the Oscar for Best Actor in Supporting Role for the 1992 film ‘City Slickers.’ His protracted repartee with the host Billy Crystal and his dazed and confused look, as what to do next, quickly became the highlight of the show. The hand-gestures, true confessions about the discrimination against the senior citizens of the society were truly heart-touching. “42 years later, you were right, you son of a bitch!” made my day!
17. Julia Roberts (‘Erin Brokovich’)
Julia Roberts is one of the prettiest and desired women in the world. People often misconstrue her good looks with her not being an able actor, and downsize her unblemished talent and ability to captivate audiences. She proved all the naysayers wrong with her Oscar winning performance in ‘Erin Brokovich’. And boy did she make it count! In her fun-filled and emotional address, she touched upon various subjects like her “sisterhood” with the fellow nominees and how her name, starting with an ‘R’ makes her last on every list.Her polite request and warning to the composer made us laugh our hearts out. “And sir, you are doing an amazing job, but you are so quick with the sticks, so why don’t you sit down, because I might never be here again.”
16. Michael Caine (‘The Cider House Rules’)
Sir Michael Caine is only one of the two actors (the other being Jack Nicholson) to have been nominated for an Oscar in every decade since 1960 to the 2000s. The mercurial actor has two Oscars to his name, the latter being win for ‘The Cider House Rules’. Most prominently recognized for his distinctive working class cockney accent, the man is a legend. The rousing applause and congratulatory hugs from his fellow nominees showed what a reverential figure he is in the industry. What beckoned even more respect for the venerable actor, was his stand for changing “the winner is” to “the Oscar goes to”. Being humble in his win, and his acknowledging of the fellow performances of his nominated peers made this a truly iconic speech.
15. Gwyneth Paltrow (‘Shakespeare in Love’)
The sobbing acceptance speech is perhaps the most articulate and lucid Paltrow ever could have been. Crying rivers and sobbing incessantly, she made others shed tears and took the award to a rapturous and accepting crowd. Even though her performance might not have been the finest among the nominees to her own admission, Paltrow undoubtedly deserved to take the golden statue home. Her honest yet resonant words will forever remain etched into the memory of not just the hundreds present in the auditorium that day, but the millions watching her on TV.
14. Matthew McCaughaney (‘Dallas Buyers Club’)
Alright. Alright.Alright. There is no man more charismatic and easy-flowing as this guy in the industry. This unique blend of raw sexuality and religious solidarity is a blessing for the industry. The sprawling southern accent, which makes every word spoken like a pearl dropping out of his mouth, captivated us on that night. The amazingly well structured speech, which perhaps will give you new found strength to pursue your goals in life, encapsulated the spirit with which he lives his life. In a nutshell, it was simply outstanding.
13. Lupita N’Yongo (’12 Years a Slave’)
The Academy’s racist proclivities have been a topic of constant debates and discussions in recent times. Many have accused them of being partial and disregarding artist of color and their endearing performances. Well, the Academy wasn’t able to help itself but recognize and honor one of the most harrowing performances by an artist in recent times. Playing a slave cotton-worker in one of the numerous souther plantations in ’12 Years a Slave’, N’Yongo solidified her credentials in celluloid with her performance. The eloquent and gracious outfit, coupled with moving words about one of biggest atrocities against mankind, the speech resonated in the auditorium like a lion’s roar and will forever be ensconced in our memories.
12. Adrien Brody (‘The Pianist’)
Adrien Brody became the youngest actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading role as Wladyslaw Spillzman, a simpleton musician who becomes a victim of religious persecution and probably the most brutal crime against humanity. The harrowing performance not only garnered universal critical praise, but also brought him under the scanner and into the eyes of global cinephiles. His scandalous smooch with Halle Berry will forever remain one of the most iconic moments in Oscar history. And as they say, “I bet they didn’t tell you this came in your gift basket.”
11. Joe Pesci (‘Goodfellas’)
“It’s my privilege. Thank you.” And like that, he was gone. At two seconds long, it remains the shortest ever Oscar acceptance speech, and doesn’t seem to be breached soon either.
10. Kate Winslet (‘The Reader’)
Kate Winslet is a thoroughly underrated actress in the industry. Her performances over the years have earned her a well deserved seven Academy nominations, also making her the youngest to do so. She was quickly descending into Meryl Streep territory until the elusive win for ‘The Reader’. The role of Hanna Schmitz, a former guard at a Nazi concentration camp, and a present defendant in a war-crimes trial, was tailor-made for the exuberant actress, and her scathing vulnerability on screen. She took us on a ride even your girlfriend couldn’t have taken you, with her tryst with relationships and tenoning grip on reality. A special moment for a special actress.
9. Patricia Arquette (‘Boyhood’)
Equality among both the genders has been an issue that has found its voice with many-a-great personalities of our time. A similar war was waged by Patricia Arquette in her Oscar acceptance speech for her performance in ‘Boyhood’. In a crisp and succinct address, she touched upon the issue of equality among women with wages in the industry. In a formidable baritone and firmness in her rights, she pointed out the fact how men in the industry are more valued with more recognition and higher wages. The speech remains a cornerstone for equality for women not only in the industry, but also various other fields in the world.
8. Leonardo DiCaprio (‘The Revenant’)
When it finally happened, it was worth it. The whole world cringed and rejoiced in profound happiness when Leonardo DiCaprio, perhaps the finest actor of our generation, won his first Oscar after a string of award-worthy nominations. His win was the most talked about piece of news among the masses, inspiring a hoard of caricatures and memes. But what stood out in his speech was the importance lent to one of the most bludgeoning issues at hand : global warming. His valiant defense of natives and their lands, along with an expedient urgency regarding climate change made him a stand out among his peers in being a responsible citizen. He has since been an ambassador for climate change and the awareness of the dire consequences, if left unnoticed.
7. Robin Williams (‘Good Will Hunting’)
The range this guy possessed was really outstanding. One could never have imagined him featuring in dramatic roles, and yet he changed the way dramatic roles were portrayed. Winning the Oscar for his scintillating performance in ‘Good Will Hunting’, with the park monologue being one of the greatest of all time, the humble Williams opted for a subdued approach in his speech.
6. Daniel Day Lewis (‘Lincoln’)
This guy is probably the greatest actor in the history of cinema. His dedication and drive is unmatched in the industry, with many even going on record to dub him as “retarded” and “insane”. He made history with an unprecedented third Oscar win in the Best Actor in a Leading Role category, completing the triumvirate with his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Speilberg’s ‘Linclon’. Receiving the award from the great Meryl Streep, the unison saw two of the greatest actors in cinematic history together. With some quick-witted remarks and brutal honesty, Day Lewis won hearts with his endearing homage to the great man of America. A truly well deserved Oscar!
5. Marlon Brando (‘The Godfather’)
Odd choice! The speech mentioned here is the one that Brando didn’t give. Or he gave it in spirit. I don’t know. But what I do know is, the significance of the speech on his behalf forever changed the face of cinema in Hollywood. He didn’t turn out to take his award for his marvelous performance as the godfather in its namesake in protest for atrocities against Native Indians. Their persecution and negative portrayal in the industry didn’t find a supporter in Brando, who sent out a representative with a 15 minute long speech. Even though it didn’t turn out to be that long, it had a significant effect on the way Native Indians were portrayed in the following years. Kudos Brando!
4. Cuba Gooding Jr (‘Jerry Maguire’)
I really feel an actor winning the Oscar for ‘Jerry Maguire’ was bound to happen. But I think they messed up the names and Cuba Gooding Jr ended up winning the award instead of Tom Cruise. Well, the celebration certainly wasn’t downtrodden, with the mercurial actor out speaking the man with the sticks. The over enthusiastic acceptance does make for a fun watch. Perhaps overawed by the win and thanking the charm Gods?
3. Viola Davis (‘Fences’)
She is without doubt the most powerful of thespians in the industry. Her formidable speech and her excruciating and penetrating emotions often make you cringe with pain and agony. We are perhaps lucky, and blessed in some mysterious ways, to have an actress like that in the industry. And one of the most memorable speeches of all time came not long back ago, when Davis won the Best Actress in a supporting role for ‘Fences’. Oh, boy, the way she talked, with this driving force, that compelled us to stand and applaud, that sent shivers down our spines, is unparalleled. Her profound sense of belongingness humbled one and all present there, and made our hearts ring with solidarity.
2. Robert Benigni (‘Life is Wonderful’)
‘Life is Beautiful’ was a revolutionary film when it first came out. The tangible emotions in the film touched one and all, and set the industry on a new course towards acceptance of foreign films. He won two Oscars that night, one for the Best Foreign film, and the other for Best Actor in a leading role, which overwhelmed his person and brought out one of the most funniest and bizarre acceptance speeches of all time. But it was the first one on the night that stood out. Ascending chairs and standing with his arms out in triumph, like he had won the world, followed by his rabbit like cadence, hoping enthusiastically to the stage, Benigni set the night alight. So good a watch! “This is a terrible mistake, because my English isn’t good.”
1. Halle Berry (‘Monster’s Ball’)
This remains the most exhilarating and iconic acceptance speech of all time. Visibly shaken and thrilled to have won the award, Berry had an instantaneous reaction of crying her heart out the moment her name was announced. Not only did she become the first woman of color to win in the leading category, she also etched her name into history books with record breaking views on her acceptance on You-tube. She just couldn’t control herself and sobbed incessantly, with only futile attempts to console her by fellow peers around her. That display of unbridled emotions is emblematic of the discrimination against black artists in the industry and their indignations against the overlooking of worthy performances. The video is so heart-felt and touching, it will give you goose bumps, just the way it did to millions watching that day. “This moment is so much bigger than me. And this is for all women of color, who have a chance with the door today being opened!”
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