The Ten Greatest Oscar Acceptance Speeches of All Time

These people did a lot more than thank The Academy.

By Amanda Green

Oscar speeches are like the hostess at a busy restaurant. When they're good, they're quick and hardly noticeable, and when they're bad, they can ruin an evening. But, in the past decades, there have been some exceptions to the rule. Like these guys, whose amazing speeches we still recall. 

Most Unabashedly Intellectual Almost-Campaign Speech:
Jodie Foster, 1991 Academy Awards

Jodie Foster accepted her second Academy Award with the stiff stage presence and intellectual diction we've come to associate with Hillary Clinton. The only difference: Foster's pantsuit bottoms were sparkly and see-through.


Most Obviously Prepared “Surprise Win” Speech:
Gwyneth Paltrow, 1999 Academy Awards

After months of practicing in front of the help while eating macrobiotic food, Gwyneth Paltrow finally got a chance to share her million-word acceptance speech with the world. 


Most Misunderstood Catchphrase:
Sally Field, 1980 Academy Awards

That famous line amused people; it really amused people. Sally Field's earnest gushing (“you like me, you really like me.”) was apparently a reference to a line from her first Oscar-winning role. No one got it. 


Most Relatable Surprise Win:
Jennifer Hudson, 2007 Academy Awards

And I am telling you, Jennifer Hudson didn't stress over a practice speech. She was sweaty, stuttering, and struggling to remember names on that stage. Just like a real person, except a lot more talented.


Most Like A Saturday Night Live Sketch:
Roberto Benigni, 1999 Academy Awards

If Life Is Beautiful hadn't been so touching, people might've been creeped out by Roberto Benigni climbing on seats and yelling about his desire to kiss everybody and dive into the hailstorm of their kindness. Isn't there a similar line in Borat?


Most Icky Tribute to a Family Member:
Angelina Jolie, 2000 Academy Awards

Before she was stealing Brad Pitt and adopting her own model United Nations, Angelia Jolie was that weird Goth girl so in love with her brother.


Most Likely to Inspire an Oscar-Winning Film:
Tom Hanks, 1994 Academy Awards

In just under four minutes, Tom Hanks joked that he'd swap his wife for a chance with Antonio Banderas, outed his high-school drama teacher, and talked a lot about God or maybe the Constitution. The 1997 film In and Out was inspired by this speech, and it earned Joan Cusack an Oscar nomination. Now that's a dramatic ending.


Most Humble, Heartwarming Underdogs:
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, 2008 Academy Awards

These two obviously aren't from around here.


Most Reminiscent of the Role That Won the Oscar:
Cuba Gooding, Jr., 1996 Academy Awards

Did Cuba Gooding, Jr. mean to accept the Oscar in character as the screaming wide receiver, Rod Tidwell? All he forgot to say was "Show me the money!"


Most Badass Old Guy:
Jack Palance, 1992 Academy Awards

After winning an Oscar for playing a character who dies of old age, seventy-three-year-old Jack Palance accepted it the most age-inappropriate way he could — by making sex jokes and doing one-handed push-ups onstage.

Commentarium (25 Comments)

Feb 18 11 - 2:06am

Bill Murray's 2004 Golden Globe speech was so good, it deserves recognition here, regardless of being delivered at a separate awards ceremony...

Feb 18 11 - 12:49pm

No it doesn't. It's quite simple really: Oscar's only.

Feb 18 11 - 6:22am

Damn you Tom Hanks, even as an atheist your speech makes me tear up.

Feb 18 11 - 10:47am

Wow. You called it on the Hilary Clinton/Jodie Foster likeness. How did it take so long for people to know Jodie Foster was a lesbian? (Not that there's anything wrong with that...)

Feb 19 11 - 7:15pm

Gee, I still don't know that.

Feb 18 11 - 10:54am

What about Adrien Brody? Never have the thank-you's sounded so genuine. Bonus points for stopping the music. Oh, and for kissing Halle Berry.

Feb 18 11 - 12:02pm

Jodie Foster's first Oscar speech for The Accused -- in which she spoke about the pervasiveness of cruelty and our need to battle it in all its forms -- was far better than this one. She also gave an emotional thank you to her Mom and talked about how her mother treated all of her childhood drawings as though they were Picassos. It was an honest, sincere and moving speech. I have never forgotten it.

Feb 18 11 - 12:03pm

you should do something on the best speeches that never happened. like when heroin won the best supporting actor oscar for trainspotting. does no one else remember when that happened?

Feb 20 11 - 3:10pm
Martin Delgado

Or when The One Ring won the best supporting actor Oscar for "The Lord of The Rings."

Feb 18 11 - 12:35pm

I thought Jodie Foster and her mom have a really weird relationship or did back in the day? Wasn't she the ultimate stage mother?

Jennifer Hudson was so great in the Dreamgirls speech. I think Beyonce was pissed about the win.

Feb 18 11 - 6:22pm

I think Raul Julia's widow's speech for his posthumous Oscar is far and away oneof the finest.

Feb 23 11 - 6:18am

Raul Julia never won an Oscar. Do you mean when he won a posthumous Emmy/Golden Globe award?

Feb 19 11 - 5:41pm

Stephen Wright's acceptance for best short live action film in 1989 - "I'm glad we edited out the other two hours."

Feb 20 11 - 12:59am

Oh come on, Roberto Benigni's speech was charming and not at all creepy. It's just so Italian.

Feb 20 11 - 1:00am

also, mikey, Hillary Clinton is not a lesbian, therefore how does that fit in with the likeness?

Feb 20 11 - 2:14pm

Nicholson's speech after winning for Cuckoo's Nest ("There are as many nuts in The Academy as anywhere else...") and Christoph Waltz's last year

Feb 20 11 - 3:43pm

Thanks for spoiling CITY SLICKERS.

Feb 20 11 - 3:45pm

City Slickers 2 spoiled City Slickers!

But who remembers when Billy Crystal always hosted the Oscars? I thought he was so funny.

Feb 22 11 - 1:28am
Paul T

Anna Paquin's win of Best Supporting Actress at age 11 in 1993.

Feb 26 11 - 6:42am

Oh wow, Jodie thanked someone I know. Had no idea he was that known/respected. Cool!

Feb 26 11 - 9:31am

David Niven's was best. "Thank you."

Feb 27 11 - 4:51pm

No mention of Damon & Affleck? Their youthful exuberance was too cool.

Mar 02 11 - 9:58pm
Dr Teeth

And the best speech goes to ...

Mar 03 11 - 12:14pm

Fernando Trueba, accepting an Oscar for Belle Epoque (best Foreign Film): "I'd like to believe in God in order to thank him, but I only believe in Billy Wilder. So, thank you Mr. Wilder". Short and sweet

Mar 10 11 - 4:19pm

you ve left out Dustin Hoffman's speech for K vs K..for me its the greatest ever..even the presenter n fellow nominees were found blown away with it.