Michelle Yeoh Makes History As First Asian Star To Win Best Actress At The Oscars
Acceptance speeches at the Oscars have a reputation for being emotional, awkward, inspirational or, somehow, all three at the same time.
Let's not forget that these are actors and therefore people who make money from being dramatic or creating drama for a living.
So, is it really any surprise that when these actors win the highest honour in their field, things get very intense very quickly?
From Gwyneth Paltrow sobbing in a pink princess dress to Michael Moore berating George Bush, in celebration of the 95th Academy Awards (March 12), let's take a look back at some of the most memorable Oscars speeches from throughout the years...
The Most Empowering Oscars Speeches
Michelle Yeoh - Best Actress In A Leading Role, 2023
Michelle Yeoh became the first asian woman to win the Best Actress In A Leading Role accolade for her part in Everything Everywhere All at Once at the 95th Academy Awards.
In a rousing speech the 60 year-old star told the audience: 'Thank you for all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities.'
Holding up her gold Oscar she exclaimed: 'This is proof that dream big and dreams do come true, and ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you’re past your prime.'
'This is history in the making,' Yeoh rightly said.
Ariana DeBose - Best Supporting Actress, 2022
West Side Story star Ariana DeBose gave an empowering and heartfelt speech when accepting her 'Best Supporting Actress' accolade at the 94th Academy Awards.
She spoke proudly of being an 'openly queer woman of colour' and told the audience 'there is indeed a place for us'.
Referring to her early days as a performer, she said: 'Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus, look into her eyes.
'You see an openly queer woman of colour, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength in life through art. And that is, I think, what we’re here to celebrate.'
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste - Best Original Score, 2021
Zendaya presented the trio with the Oscar for Best Original Score for their animated film Soul at the 93rd Oscars.
'You know what’s deep is God gave us 12 notes, it’s the same 12 notes that Duke Ellington had, that Bach had, Nina Simone,' Ross began.
'I want to point out that every gift is special. Every contribution with music that comes from the divine into the instruments into the film, into the minds, hearts and souls of every person who hears it, the stories that happen when you listen to it and watch it and the stories you share, the moments you make, the memories you create, man, it’s just so incredibly special. It’s just so incredibly special… we’re incredibly humbled and thankful. I’m thankful to God for those 12 notes.'
Lupita Nyong'o - Best Supporting Actress Oscars Speech, 2014
Nyong'o glided up to accept her award for her role in the harrowing Steve McQueen movie 12 Years A Slave,looking radiant wearing a Prada dress and headband which only added to the angelic nature of the speech. Nyong'o thanked McQueen and her co-stars so authentically before paying tribute to her brother and best friend and ending with a message to the audience, 'May this remind you that no matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.'
John Legend and Common - Best Original Song Oscars Speech, 2015
After a searing performance of their song 'Glory', which accompanied Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King Jr. drama Selma, John Legend and Common took to the stage to accept their Oscar. The duo spoke about the parallels between the march for equal rights and justice acknowledged in the film and song and the people who continue fighting for their rights today. Legend used his platform to highlight the injustices in the American judicial system and urge for criminal justice reform.
Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney - Best Adapted Screenplay, 2017
The Moonlight director and writer gave an impassioned acceptance speech, encouraging young Black and LGBTQ+ people watching to have the confidence to tell their stories.
'This goes out to all those Black and brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming who don't see themselves, we're trying to show you, you and us. So thank you, this is for you,' said McCraney.
While Jenkins reminded viewers that the Academy and ACLU - America's biggest civil rights organisation - were there for them saying, 'All those people out there who feel like there's no mirror for you and your life is not reflected... we have your back and for the next four years we will not leave you alone and will not forget you.' Later on in the night, the two returned to the stage to accept the award for Best Picture, though were ultimately and understandably caught off guard after La La Land was announced as the wrong winner.
Frances McDormand - Best Actress Oscar Speech, 2018
'I'm hyperventilating a little bit, if I fall over pick me up because I've got some things to say,' began McDormand before paying tribute to her Three Billboards colleagues, her husband Joel Cohen and son Pedro McDormand Cohen before asking all the female nominees from every category in the room to stand with her. 'Meryl if you do it, everyone else will,' she said to Streep in the front row.
She then proceeded to educate ask the men in the room to meet with all the women they see standing to listen to their career ambitions and projects before mentioning two words, and subsequently enticing the audience at home to Google rapidly, 'inclusion rider' - a clause in an actor/filmmaker's contract that ensures a certain level of diversity in the cast and crew on a production.
The Most Entertaining Oscars Speeches
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon - Best Original Screenplay Oscars Speech, 1997
Aged just 25 and 27, childhood friends Affleck and Damon won an Oscar for writing their film, Good Will Hunting. The pair shouted their speech, as they reeled off people to thank from Minnie Driver to Robin Williams to their mothers, escalated in volume as they became more excitable and aware of the time limit.
Julia Roberts - Best Actress Oscars Speech, 2001
The actress won the Best Actress Academy Award for portraying environmental lawyer Erin Brockovich in 2001 and accepted it with a hilarious speech which alternated between thanking everyone Roberts has ever met (she literally thanks 'anyone I've ever met in my whole life') at one point and battling with the behind the scenes Oscars crew keeping time on her speech: 'Man with the stick I see you!'
Olivia Colman - Best Actress Oscars Speech, 2019
When Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell announced the former Peep Show star as the winner and she was stunned into the backs of her seat, while being embraced and kissed by her husband, Ed on one side and a weeping Emma Stone on the other, we knew this was going to be a great speech.
Colman did not disappoint, starting her speech with, 'It's genuinely quite stressful, this is hilarious, I've got an Oscar', before poking her tongue out at the teleprompter when she was told to wrap up and simply pointing and saying 'Lady Gaga' at the star and her fellow nominee in the front row.
Daniel Kaluuya - Best Supporting Actor Speech, 2021
During the ceremony, the British actor won the award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Judas and the Black Messiah. In his speech he paid tribute to Chairman Fred Hampton, who he portrayed in the film, and his work in civil rights.
But he then thanked his parents in what could quite possibly be the funniest shoutout in Oscars' history.
‘I’d like to thank my mum,’ he said. ‘You gave me everything. You gave me your factory settings. So I could stand at my fullest height. Thank you so much for showing me myself, and there’s so much work to do. That’s on everyone in this room. This ain’t no single man job. I look at every single one of you. We’ve got work to do.'
At the end of his speech, the star thanked his parents for bringing him into the world, much to his family's shock, who were watching the ceremony live in London.
‘My mum and my dad...they had sex. It's amazing! I'm here!’ he said, before the crowd went wild with applause.
The Most Emotional Oscars Speeches
Troy Kotsur - Best Supporting Actor, 2022
The actor collected his award for Coda, and made history as the first male deaf actor to win an Academy Award.
'It’s a tough journey as a Deaf actor,' he said during his speech. 'There’s so few opportunities out there, and [Marlee Matlin, his Coda co-star] kept on going. She was persistent. And then so was I with my own career as a stage actor. So here I am today.”
The actor continued, paying tribute to his father: 'My dad, he was the best signer in our family. But he was in a car accident, and he became paralysed from the neck down. And he no longer was able to sign. Dad, I learned so much from you. I’ll always love you. You are my hero.'
Gwyneth Paltrow - Best Actress Oscars Speech, 1999
Paltrow was famously tearful when she won an Oscar for her role in Shakespeare In Love in 1999. The star became the most emotional when paying tribute to her father Bruce Paltrow, who was in the audience with her mother Blythe Danner, and who was diagnosed with oral cancer in 1999. Paltrow passed away from cancer complications in 2002 aged 58.
Halle Berry - Best Actress Oscars Speech, 2002
Berry had tears running down her face when she reached the stage to accept her Academy Award for Monster's Ball, becoming the first Black woman to win the Best Actress award in the process. 'This moment is so much bigger than me,' Berry said as she struggled to speak through tears while recounting her acting heroes. 'It's for every faceless, nameless, woman of colour who now has the chance because this door tonight has been opened.'
Jamie Foxx - Best Actor Oscar Speech, 2005
Starting with some Ray Charles vocals in homage to the singer he portrayed in the Oscar-winning film, Foxx then thanked his daughter (who he brought to the Oscars that night) for telling him just before the award, 'If you don't win Dad, you're still good', before a heartfelt tribute to his grandmother, Marie, where Foxx struggled to hold back tears.
Heath Ledger - Best Supporting Actors Oscars Speech, 2009
In 2009, Ledger was posthumously awarded an Oscar for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight, a year after his death. The award was received on his behalf by his family, who said they had been 'truly overwhelmed' by the honour and respect attributed to Ledger and accepted it on behalf of his daughter with Michelle Williams, Matilda.
Viola Davis - Best Supporting Actress Oscar Speech, 2017
Davis was overcome with emotion as she delivered her Oscars speech for her role in Fences in 2017, especially when talking about the impact of her parents on her life and career. Emma Stone looked particularly teary-eyed at the end when Davis paid tribute to her husband Julius Tennon and their children. 'I'm so glad you are the foundation of my life,' Davis said as she wrapped up her speech.
The Most Political Oscars Speeches
Marlon Brando - Best Actor Oscars Speech, 1973
The actor won his award for The Godfather in 1973 however declined his award and gave the opportunity for a speech to actress Sacheen Littlefeather, who used the platform to criticise the depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood. She passed on the message that Brando couldn't accept the award because of the 'treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television and movie reruns'.
Michael Moore - Best Documentary Oscars Speech, 2003
Accepting his award for gun-control documentary Bowling for Columbine, director Michael Moore used his time on stage to criticise the George Bush presidency and Iraq War.
An impassioned Moore raised his voice as he said, 'Shame on you Mr Bush' while the audience roundly booed (though some applause was had) and high-profile celebrities like Adrien Brody looked on awkwardly.
Writing about his Oscars speech for The Hollywood Reporter, in 2017, Moore said: 'Later, my wife and I walked over to the Governors Ball. When I walked in, it was like the Red Sea parting. No one there wanted to be anywhere near the guy who got booed off the stage. One board member told me, "Wow, you really know how to ruin a standing ovation."'
However, he caveated that over the years he has a lot more of a positive reception to his speech than on the night in 2003.
Leonardo DiCaprio - Best Actor Oscar Speech, 2016
In 2016, the world waited with baited breath to see if The Revenant star would finally win an Oscar many thought he should have received years before. He did and nailed his speech in the process, using the platform to eloquently pay tribute to and urge protection of indigenous people while also asking for action on Climate Change, which he called 'the most urgent threat facing our entire species'.
Oh, we can't wait for the Oscars this weekend.
The Sweetest Oscars Speech
Brendan Fraser - Best Actor Oscar Speech, 2023
Brendan Fraser won the Oscar for Best Actor for his leading role in The Whale at the 95th Academy Awards. The actor came to the podium with tears in his eyes, and relayed a moving, whale and water themed speech that had everyone in the audience moved, telling his co-workers for the film: 'you laid your whale-sized hearts bare so we could see into your souls like no one else.'
Fraser found success in the late 1990s and 2000s, but after 20 years Fraser has experienced something of a comeback, telling the audience at the Oscars: ' Things they didn’t come easily to me...I just want to say thank you for this acknowledgement.'
Emerald Fennell - Best Original Screenplay Oscar Speech, 2021
Emerald Fennell won the Oscar for the Best Original Screenplay for Promising Young Woman at the 93rd Oscars, and adorably began her acceptance speech by revealing that she hadn’t actually written anything to say.
‘They said write a speech and I didn’t, because I just didn’t think this would happen, and I’m going to be in trouble with [producer] Stephen Soderbergh,’ she admitted.
‘He’s so heavy and he’s so cold!’ she joked about her Oscar on picking it up, adding: ‘So, the only speech I ever wrote was when I was 10, soI had a look to see if there was anything useful from it, but it mostly thanked Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell, my very supportive husband. ‘Unfortunately, he hasn’t been as much a part of my life as I’d hoped, and so that speech is not that useful.’
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