James Cameron (1997)
Shout-from-the-mountaintops speeches were par for the course in 1997, but no winner felt more elated than Cameron, who wrapped up his Best Director acceptance with a line from his megahit Titanic: ”I’m the king of the world!” Over time it’s been a touchstone of cringeworthy hubris, but in that moment it felt straight from the heart.
Jennifer Lawrence (2013)
The Silver Linings Playbook starlet may be the epitome of grace on screen, but her ascent to the podium was anything but graceful. After Lawrence stumbled on the massive skirt of her Dior gown, Hugh Jackman bounded to the stairs to help, but she’d already regained her poise and her footing. As the audience stood to applaud Oscar’s second-youngest Best Actress winner, she self-deprecatingly chuckled, ”You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell, and that’s really embarrassing, but thank you!” With that comment, America loved that goofball with moxie all the more.
Roberto Benigni (1999)
Benigni had a twofer at the 71st Annual Academy Awards, taking home Best Foreign Language Film (who can forget Sophia Loren shouting, ”Robertoooo!”?) and Best Actor. His first win was a marvel to behold, kick-starting when he climbed over the attendees in front of him (including eventual Best Director winner Steven Spielberg) and literally hopping up to the stage. The speech itself was no less rambunctious, beginning with, ”I want to be rocketed by the waves of your beauty! … I want to kiss everybody because you are the image of the joy, and he who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity sunrise.” Later that night, when he was honored for his acting trophy, Benigni quipped, ”This is a terrible mistake because I used up all my English!” But he remembered a few key words: ”I would like to be Jupiter, kidnapping everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everybody!” Invitation accepted, amore.
Halle Berry (2002)
Berry made history, when her role in Monster’s Ball made her the first-ever African-American woman to take home the Best Actress Oscar. After a standing ovation, she breathlessly, tearfully thanked the women who had paved her way and those who would charge into the future: ”This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
Adrien Brody (2003)
Halle Berry inadvertently found herself in another major Oscar moment a year after her own win when dark-horse winner Brody wrapped her up in his arms and dipped her low for a classic Hollywood screen kiss after winning the Best Actor trophy for The Pianist, then quipped, ”I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag.” Drawing on his own part in a movie about war, Brody followed that dashing moment with another, eloquently pleading for the ”peaceful and swift resolution” to the Iraq War, which had been declared just four days prior.
Julia Roberts (2001)
In an endearingly rambling speech, stopping occasionally to fix her dress and thank ”everybody I’ve ever met in my life,” Roberts had the audience in stitches while accepting her Best Actress award for Erin Brockovich. The clock kept ticking, she kept talking because ”I might not be up here again.” After more than three minutes, Roberts interrupted a stream of praise for director Steven Soderbergh to indict the orchestra conductor, saying, ”Stick Man, I see you!” Then she let rip that famous guffaw of hers and declared, ”I love it up here!” Now that‘s how you have the last laugh.
Martin Scorsese (2007)
On his seventh nomination, Martin Scorsese’s long wait for an Oscar when he claimed the Best Director prize for The Departed. It was even greater when his friends and contemporaries, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg presented the award. Even after his peers and fellow nominees rose to their feet, Scorsese joked, ”Could you double-check the envelope?”
Anna Paquin (1994)
The 11-year-old Best Supporting Actress — who still stands as the category’s second-youngest winner — was positively agape that she’d snagged the statuette for her performance in The Piano. After a few gasping giggles, punctuated by titters from the audience, she gave an incredibly composed speech to accept her trophy.
Cuba Gooding Jr. (1997)
Show him the Oscar! The Jerry Maguire supporting player wrote the book on exuberantly over-the-top acceptance speeches. Though he prefaced his speech by telling producers, ”You can cut away, I won’t be mad at you,” when the wrap-it-up music began playing 27 seconds later, he launched into an ”I love you”-filled spree of thank-yous for anyone and everyone that came to mind. And the more he loved, the more the audience cheered, resulting in an unforgettable standing ovation and a few leaps around the stage from Gooding himself.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (1997)
After giving a kiss to their mom-dates, the Good Will Hunting scribes and soon-to-be-superstars approached the mic with a mix of nervous excitement and boyish charm. Tag-teaming their thank-you list, they grew more and more bro-ishly excited with each name, reaching a punch line climax as Affleck’s voice crack while thanking, “Cuba Gooding for showing us how to give us our acceptance speech!” With enthusiasm like that, they’d be coming back to the big show for years to come.
Gwyneth Paltrow (1999)
Before she was Goop, Paltrow was the little-known love of Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck. Then her breakout turn in Shakespeare in Love made her an American sweetheart, and her Best Actress speech set her A-list status in stone. Dressed in an instantly iconic princess-pink Ralph Lauren gown, Paltrow was both gracious in her speech to her seasoned competitors (Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett, maybe you’ve heard of them?) and deferential to her industry team. Then came the 10-tissue finale, as Paltrow praised her family, particularly her ailing father Bruce (who would pass away three years later) and her late grandfather Buster. It was heartbreaking and heart-swelling all at once.
Stanley Donen (1997)
The Singin’ in the Rain co-director shuffled up to the podium to accept an Honorary Oscar for his body of work (which also included On the Town, Funny Face, and Charade). He thanked the Board of Governors for ”this cute little fella, which, to me, seems Titanic.” As was only appropriate, the legendary musical director had a little song-and-dance prepared: Nestling Oscar to his cheek, he began to croon, ”Heaven, I’m in Heaven…” After the first verse, the spry then-72-year-old even launched into a tap dance break that received rapturous applause from the crowd.
Jennifer Hudson (2007)
”I have to just take this moment in!” Hudson was the new kid on the block, a former reality reject, when she became an Oscar winner with her remarkable supporting turn in Dreamgirls. With a short-and-sweet speech, she acknowledged where she’d been and thanked her peers for ”helping me keep the faith even when I didn’t believe.”
Michael Moore (2003)
After winning Best Documentary Feature for Bowling for Columbine, the firebrand documentarian spent very little time stepping onto his soapbox: ”I have invited the other documentary nominees on stage with me. They are here in solidarity because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction because we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where fictitious election results give us a fictitious president. We are now fighting a war for fictitious reasons. Whether it’s the [fiction] of duct tape or the fictitious ‘Orange Alerts,’ we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you!” Cue cheers from the audience and a roar of boos from backstage. It was classic Moore. (The next year, he would boldly abandon his bid for Best Documentary Feature in hopes of getting a Best Picture nod for his anti-Iraq War screed Fahrenheit 9/11.)
Jamie Foxx (2005)
Foxx so uncannily embodied R&B great Ray Charles for his Best Actor-winning turn in Ray that it was only right to open with the famous ”Ohhhhhhhh” call-and-repeat from Charles’ 1959 signature hit, ”What’d I Say?” With just the right amount of humor (like announcing, ”I see Oprah, I see Halle, I just want to say your names”), Foxx also peppered his speech with pathos as he spoke of his late grandmother: ”She still talks to me in my dreams… [pausing to collect himself] and I can’t wait to go to sleep tonight because we got a lot to talk about.”