What do you say when you've achieved a dream? Several actors and actresses found the right words after winning Academy Awards — the pinnacle of success in Hollywood. In celebration of the 92nd Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 9, 2020, Wonderwall.com is revisiting some of the most memorable Oscar acceptance speeches, starting with Halle Berry's… In 2002, the "Monster's Ball" star became the first — and so far only — black woman to win the best actress Oscar. The tears that followed were epic, and Halle spent the first part of her speech sobbing uncontrollably before proclaiming, "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 opened."
"Erin Brockovich" star Julia Roberts' perfect poise dissolved into a raucous laugh midway through her best actress acceptance address in 2001. After noticing that music conductor Bill Conti looked about ready to play her outro, Julia exclaimed, "And sir, you're doing a great job, but you're so quick with that stick. So why don't you sit, cause I may never be here again." She then proceeded to reel off a huge list of thank yous before erupting into laughter mid-sentence and bellowing, "I love it up here!"
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One line in Sally Field's iconic 1985 Oscars speech went down in pop culture history. Except the phrase has been misquoted for decades. When Sally won the best actress Academy Award for her work in "Places in the Heart," people thought she exclaimed, "You like me, you really like me!" But, as it turns out, the legendary actress really said this: "I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!" Nevertheless, Sally's excitement and passion were undeniable.
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Who could forget Angelina Jolie's now-infamous line, "I'm so in love with my brother right now," when she won the best supporting actress Oscar for her performance in "Girl, Interrupted" in 2000?! Angie kissed brother James Haven on the lips after being announced as the winner, then took to the stage to make her gushing speech — but some people found it all a bit creepy.
Marlon Brando didn't show up to the Oscars in 1973. Instead, he got civil rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather to make a speech on his behalf. To a combination of boos and applause, Littlefeather informed the crowd that the actor had refused to attend the ceremony and was declining the best actor Oscar for his work in "The Godfather" because of the "treatment of Native Americans today in the film industry."
The 2016 Academy Awards were all about Leonardo DiCaprio, who finally took home an Oscar for his work in "The Revenant" — his sixth nomination over the course of his lengthy career. When he finally took the podium after more than two decades of Oscar nominations, he made it count, pointing out "man's relationship to the natural world — a world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history" and calling for action against climate change. "Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species," he said after thanking his colleagues. "Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted. Thank you so very much."
Frances McDormand made headlines during the 2018 Oscars when she encouraged her industry peers to demand "inclusion riders" — stipulations in performers' or filmmakers' contracts that require a certain level of diversity in casting and production staff on a project — while accepting the award for best lead actress for her work in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." The actress started off her acceptance speech by keeping things light, saying she was "hyperventilating" and comparing herself to Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim. She then thanked her colleagues and her family before things took a turn for the super-serious. After putting her Oscar on the ground and giving him a little pat on the head, she said, "If I may be so honored to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me in this room tonight. … Meryl, if you do it, everybody else will, come on." As her fellow female Oscar nominees, including Meryl Streep, stood, she continued, "OK, look around, everybody … because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don't talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple 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 tonight, ladies and gentlemen: 'inclusion rider.'" It was the first time many movie fans watching from home became aware of inclusion riders, which have become more popular since early 2018 — thanks in part to Frances.
In 1954, Belgium-born Audrey Hepburn delivered a short but sweet acceptance speech for best actress in her beautiful cut-glass accent, which must go down as one of the most elegant Oscars utterances of all time. After recovering expertly from a wrong turn on the stage, the starlet collected her trophy for her work as Princess Ann in "Roman Holiday" and said, "I want to say thank you to everybody who in these past months and years have helped, guided and given me so much. I'm truly, truly grateful — and terribly happy."
Matthew McConaughey earned a best actor Oscar for his performance in "Dallas Buyers Club" in 2014. Onstage, he thanked his family, co-star Jared Leto and also God. But he saved this final thanks for his biggest hero, whom he described as himself in 10 years' time. "Everyday, every week, every month, my hero is always 10 years away from me," he said.
It was the fall seen 'round the world! Jennifer Lawrence face-planted on her way up the stairs to accept the Oscar for best actress for her work in "Silver Linings Playbook" during the 2013 Academy Awards. When she finally made it up on stage, she addressed the standing ovation from the audience by saying, "You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell and that's really embarrassing — but thank you." She then launched into a sweet but relatively short acceptance speech.
Joe Pesci went down in history for the shortest Oscar speech ever. When he snagged the best supporting actor Academy Award for his work in "Goodfellas" in 1991, he simply said: "It's my privilege. Thank you." Short, sweet and to the point!
Tom Hanks pulled on viewers' heartstrings in his moving 1995 speech after he won the best actor Oscar for his performance in "Forrest Gump." The icing on the cake was his shout-out to wife Rita Wilson, whom he said "demonstrates for me everyday just what love is." It was a consecutive win for Tom too: The previous year, he took home the best actor Oscar for his work in "Philadelphia."
The late Robin Williams' sole Oscar win was for best supporting actor for his performance in "Good Will Hunting." His 1998 acceptance speech was memorable in that the actor left his customary jokey demeanor behind and revealed a rawer, more emotional side. In his breathless speech, Robin thanked the cast and shared a cute story about how his father had always advised him to have a backup profession "like welding."
There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Lupita Nyong'o accepted her 2014 Oscar for best supporting actress for her performance in "12 Years a Slave." The Kenyan actress acknowledged the suffering of her character, abused slave Patsey, and tearfully thanked her family and friends. "It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance," she said. "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."
Gwyneth Paltrow cried a river of tears during her acceptance speech in 1999 after winning the best actress Oscar for her work in "Shakespeare In Love." With hands clasped to her chest, pink-clad Gwyneth brought out a Dead Sea Scroll of thank yous. By the time she got to her family, the starlet could barely hold it together.
After flirting with then-94-year-old Kirk Douglas, who was presenting, best supporting actress winner Melissa Leo — who took home Oscar gold for her performance in "The Fighter" in 2011 — inadvertently dropped an F-bomb in her acceptance speech. But she wasn't done with merely turning the airwaves blue — she then started acting up with Kirk's cane as she hobbled offstage.
There was a major girl-power moment during the 2015 Academy Awards thanks to Patricia Arquette, who used her platform to demand equal pay for women across the nation. "To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights, it's our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America!" she declared while accepting the Oscar for best supporting actress for her work in "Boyhood."
Julie Andrews was very much a lady when she took home the Academy Award for best actress in 1965 for her performance in "Mary Poppins." The British actress made sure to thank all the appropriate parties and even joked about her win (as if she's not super-talented), saying, "I know you Americans are famous for your hospitality, but this is really ridiculous."
Olivia Colman pulled off a major upset during the 2019 Oscars, besting fan favorite Glenn Close in the best actress category. During her acceptance speech, the English actress, who was up for her first Academy Award for her work in "The Favourite," told the seven-time Oscar nominee, "You've been my idol for so long, and this is not how I wanted it to be and I think you're amazing and I love you very much." The ever-gracious star of "The Wife" just smiled, shook her head and laughed. Glenn now has more Oscar nominations without a win than any other actress. Only one other performer, the late Peter O'Toole, has more nominations (eight) without a win.
Cuba Gooding Jr.'s pure joy was palpable at the 1997 Academy Awards where he won the best supporting actor trophy. The "Jerry Maguire" star was over the moon with excitement and happiness, making sure to thank his wife, the cast, the crew, his children, God, Tom Cruise, Regina King and everybody in between. "I love you! Oh my goodness! Here we are! I love you but keep going… Everybody, I love you! I love you all," he exclaimed.