The 10 best (and worst) Oscar acceptance speeches ever

For every Paltrow there's a Pesci.

Making history Halle Berry accepting her Best Actress Award for her performance in Monster's Ball Image Picture by Getty Images

The blubbers, the ranters, the crusaders with agendas and the ones who struggle to remain standing upright – there’s no telling what an Oscar winner will say in their speech.

This Sunday’s ceremony is sure to add potential newcomers to the Oscar Speeches Hall of Fame.

With hundreds of millions of viewers and for once no finely-honed script to work from, the pressure is on for actors to deliver. Some succeed. And others fail miserably.



Halle Berry, 2002

It was 75 years in the making and, in 2002, Halle Berry became the first African-American woman to win a leading actress Oscar. Berry’s teary speech proved as emotionally charged as her victory. The actress, who won for Monster’s Ball, admitted: “This moment is so much bigger than me.” Berry said the door had finally been opened for actresses of colour, which is ironic given the #OscarsSoWhite problems this year. 


Cuba Gooding Jr. 1997

There was no holding back from the highly emotional Jerry Maguire star when he beat Edward Norton and William H. Macy to the Best Supporting Actor Award in 1997. Gooding spoke at the speed of light, ensuring he namechecked everyone, refusing to leave the stage until the music ran out.


Adrien Brody, 2003

Winning Best Actor for his The Pianist, Adrien Brody got a standing ovation from Jack Nicholson and Nicolas Cage. He proceeded to smooch the face off Halle Berry, saying: “I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag”.


Joe Pesci, 1991

Irish actress Brenda Fricker presented the award for Best Supporting Actor to Pesci and it turned out her speech was far longer than the Goodfellas actor. He simply said:  “It’s my privilege. Thank you,” and promptly exited stage right. Beats Gwenyth Paltrow’s nonsense any day.


Marlon Brando, 1973

In 1973, Brando sent Apache woman Sacheen Littlefeather to tell assembled guests that he couldn’t accept the award for Best Actor for his role in The Godfather because of the treatment of Native American’s in film. The speech was initially met with boos before Littlefeather won them over and it concluded with rapturous applause.


Angelina Jolie, 2000

Jolie’s bizarre acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress for Girl Interrupted came during her goth period when she’d mooch about wearing a vial of Billy Bob Thornton’s blood round her neck. A breathless Jolie announces: “I’m so in love with my brother right now”, before thanking the rest of her family, and then returning to gush over brother Jamie again. Strange, just strange.


Gwyneth Paltrow, 1999

This needs revisiting for all the wrong reasons. Starting off oozing potential with Jack Nicholson presenting her Best Actress Award for Shakespeare In Love, things soon grew grim once Paltrow got on stage. She kept the waterworks running for a good three minutes and the only person she didn’t thank was her gardener. Dame Judi Dench’s face says it all. Paltrow’s fuck-awful website Goop is named after the kindest insult yelled at TV sets by viewers, who needed surgery to surgically unclench their toes after.


Sean Penn, 2009

“You Commie, homo-loving sons of guns,” was how Sean Penn started his memorable acceptance speech for Best Actor for Milk. Penn also voiced support for Mickey Rourke and for gay marriage, asking those who voted to ban it to anticipate “their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes.” Quite.


Michael Caine, 2000

Caine made a rousing speech having won Best Supporting Actor for The Cider House Rules, starting off by remarking:”The Academy changed ‘the winner is’ to ‘the Oscar goes to’. If ever there was a category where the Oscar goes to someone, without there being a winner, it’s this one, because I do not feel like a winner.” Caine also gave a shoutout to fellow Supporting Oscar contender Tom Cruise, nominated for Magnolia, joking:  “Your price would have gone down so fast if you’d won. Have you any idea what Supporting Actors get paid?” Bruce Wayne would be proud.


Julia Roberts, 2001

Roberts won Best Actress for Erin Brockovich in 2001 and went on to give an endearing speech that made her the anti-Paltrow. Roberts addressed the orchestra’s conductor, urging him not to start the music, saying:”Sir, you’re doing a great job, but you’re so quick with that stick. Why don’t you sit, because I may never be here again.” She goes on to thank “everyone I’ve ever met in my life”, before concluding: “I love being up here”. 

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