The 15 most memorable Oscar speeches since Cuba Gooding Jr.
Sometimes Oscar acceptance speeches are entertaining than the films that win.
Twenty years ago, Jerry Maguire star Cuba Gooding, Jr. set a modern-day standard for enthusiasm on the Academy Awards stage, celebrating his supporting actor win with a sustained speech that carried on well after the house band attempted to play him off. Ahead of Sunday’s 89th Academy Awards telecast, check out EW’s list of the 15 most memorable Oscar speeches since Gooding expressed his undying love for … well, everyone.
Julianne Moore – Best Actress (2015)
Julianne Moore’s 2015 Oscar victory was one of the most anticipated in history, and her acceptance speech drove the emotional moment home. She won for her performance as a woman with Alzheimer’s disease in the 2014 drama Still Alice and used her time on the Oscars stage to shine a light on preventative research efforts. “One of the wonderful things about movies is it makes us feel seen and not alone, and people with Alzheimer’s deserve to be seen so that we can find a cure,” she said. Moore dedicated the latter portion of her speech to the film’s directors, Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, who couldn’t attend the ceremony due to Glatzer’s own health issues. Glatzer, diagnosed with ALS, committed himself to the art of filmmaking even as his health deteriorated. He died in 2015.
Patricia Arquette – Best Supporting Actress (2015)
How do you turn Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep into awards season hype women? You give a fiery, feminist Oscar acceptance speech that calls for gender equality. “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,” Patricia Arquette, who won best supporting actress in 2015 for her turn in Boyhood, said as the audience erupted. “And equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Pawel Pawlikowski – Best Foreign Language Film (2015)
You know the scenario: In the midst of an impassioned (and lengthy) acceptance speech, someone inevitably spends too much time on the Oscars stage, and that dreaded orchestral score swells up to play the honoree off as show producers try to keep the production moving. Director Pawel Pawlikowski, accepting the 2015 best foreign language film award on behalf of the Polish film Ida, continued speaking even as the music intensified, earning cheers and applause from the chuckling audience as he thanked his family for their support.
Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen, and Caitrin Rogers (featuring Darlene Love) – Best Documentary Feature (2014)
The Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom likely triumphed with awards voters because of the inherent likability of its subjects — including legendary backup singer Darlene Love, who capitalized on her diva status by literally singing her own praises as the filmmakers took the stage to accept the trophy.
Lupita Nyong’o – Best Supporting Actress (2014)
12 Years a Slave actress Lupita Nyong’o had long been the favorite to win the best supporting actress trophy throughout the 2013-2014 awards season, but watching her capitalize on a hard-fought campaign was pure magic. “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, so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance,” she said, referencing her character, a young woman who endured physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as a slave in the antebellum South. “Thank you for putting me in this position. It has been the joy of my life.” To date, Nyong’o is only the sixth black actress in history to have earned a best supporting actress Oscar; Hattie McDaniel, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique, and Octavia Spencer nabbed the honor previously.
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine – Best Documentary Short (2013)
Directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine brought the subject of their film Inocente, a homeless, 15-year-old undocumented immigrant who pursued her dream of becoming an artist against all odds, to the stage with them. “We want to thank this young lady, who was homeless just a year ago and now she’s standing in front of all of you,” Sean said. “She’s an artist. All of you are artists, and we feel like we need to start supporting the arts. They’re dying in our communities… we need to stand up and help girls like her be seen and heard. That’s so important.”
Sandy Powell – Best Costume Design (2010)
Costume designer Sandy Powell, a legend among her trade, has won three Academy Awards in the costume design category. Upon winning her third for her work on 2010’s The Young Victoria, Powell began her speech with a seemingly cheeky quip but segued it into a touching tribute to her unsung peers. “Wow, well, I already have two of these, so I’m feeling greedy,” she said. “I’d like to dedicate this one to the costume designers who don’t do movies about dead monarchs or glittery musicals. The designers who do the contemporary films and the low-budget ones. They actually don’t get as recognized and they should. They work as hard. So, this is for you, but I’m going to take it home tonight. Thank you.”
Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová – Best Original Song (2008)
When their rousing love song “Falling Slowly,” recorded as part of the soundtrack to the gorgeous, romantic film Once, won the Academy Award for best original song in 2008, musicians Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová accepted the award together on stage. After Hansard finished his speech, Irglová stepped up to the microphone to deliver hers, though the sound cut out as she spoke. Thankfully, host Jon Stewart gave the spotlight back to the singer later in the broadcast, which she used to send out a message that’s more relevant now than ever. “The fact that we’re standing here tonight, the fact that we’re able to hold this [award] is just proof that no matter how far out your dreams are, it’s possible,” she said. “Fair play to those who dare to dream, and don’t give up. This song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope, at the end of the day, connects us all no matter how different we are.”
Kathryn Bigelow – Best Director (2010)
Two things stood between Kathryn Bigelow and her first Academy Award in 2010: Not only was she up against her ex-husband, James Cameron, for the best director prize amid a particularly contentious Oscar year, she also faced the Academy’s gendered history of only awarding male filmmakers in the category. Luckily, she triumphed, becoming the first woman to take the honor. Her resulting speech was well worth the wait.
Kunio Kato – Best Animated Short (2009)
A man of few words, filmmaker Kunio Kato gave a 28-second acceptance speech after his film The House of Small Cubes won the 2009 Oscar for best animated short. After thanking the Academy, his staff, and his artistic tools (“Thank you, my pencil” he said), Kato closed his speech with a few lyrics from the 1983 Styx single “Mr. Robot,” exiting the stage after reciting the tune’s iconic line, “Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto.”
Three 6 Mafia – Best Original Song (2006)
Taking the stage to accept your first Oscar is undoubtedly a borderline panic-inducing effort. Most stars keep it together to deliver a speech, but Three 6 Mafia wore their emotions on their sleeves — just as it should be. Bucking “tradition” (who needs it, anyway?), Three 6 Mafia accepted their award for best original song in the most unabashed way possible, thanking everyone from their families to A-list Hollywood stars. Their most memorable line? “George Clooney is my favorite man, he showed me love when I first met him.”
Michael Moore – Best Documentary Feature (2003)
After bringing attendees up to their feet upon winning the best documentary feature award in 2003, Michael Moore likely raised a few Academy members’ blood pressure with his acceptance speech. “I’d like to thank the Academy for this. I’ve invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us. They are here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction, and we live in fictitious times,” he said, criticizing then-president George W. Bush’s launching of a military offensive in Baghdad five nights prior to the Oscars telecast. “We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it’s the fiction of duct tape, or the fiction of orange alerts. We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you!” A smattering of applause could be heard in the auditorium, while a chorus of boos sounded throughout.
Halle Berry – Best Actress (2002)
Halle Berry gave arguably the most powerful Oscar speech of all time in 2002 when she became the first black woman to win best actress. That same evening, Denzel Washington won for his role in Training Day, making the 2003 telecast the first night in Oscar history during which two black performers won Academy Awards. “This moment is so much bigger than me,” Berry said through tears. “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.”
Roberto Benigni – Best Actor (1999)
Italian actor Roberto Benigni shocked audiences when his performance in Life Is Beautiful earned the best actor Oscar over the likes of Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan), Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters), Nick Nolte (Affliction), and Edward Norton (American History X). After running up and down the center aisle, Benigni made his way to the stage for a lively acceptance speech. “This is a terrible mistake because I used up all my English. I don’t know! I am not able to express all my gratitude because now my body is in tumult — because it is a colossal moment of joy so everything is really in a way that I cannot express,” he said. “I would like to be Jupiter! And kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everybody, because I don’t know how to express. It’s a question of love. You are really — this is a mountain of snow, so delicate, the suavity and the kindness, it is something I cannot forget, from the bottom of my heart.”
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon – Best Original Screenplay (1998)
The Oscars were there to facilitate the rise of two of the most powerful players working in Hollywood today, giving the big screen buddies their first Academy Award wins for writing the script for 1997’s Good Will Hunting.
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Watch the 89th Academy Awards Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on ABC to see whose speech will be remembered for years to come.