How hard is acting, really? All you have to do is say lines somebody else wrote for you. The real challenge for an actor (or anyone in the movie business) comes once they win an Oscar. Then they have to give a moving, personal, and memorable acceptance speech, all before the orchestra cuts them off. Here are some Oscar winners who rose to the challenge.
1. Halle Berry—Best Actress for Monster's Ball (2002)
Berry was so overwhelmed, she could barely breathe. After she devoted her speech to recognizing the groundbreaking African-American actresses that preceded her, neither could anybody else.
2. Cuba Gooding, Jr.—Best Supporting Actor for Jerry Maguire (1997)
Everyone wants to think they’d stand still and flawlessly deliver a poetic, yet lightly funny, yet emotionally resonant speech… but in reality, they’d probably act like Gooding, which is perfect.
3. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova—Best Original Song for Once (2008)
Hansard and Irglova were two indie musicians who made a microbudget indie love story about buskers, which included their beautiful song, “Falling Slowly.” Hansard ended the speech with a simple but powerful capper: “Make art.” The orchestra cut in before Irglova could talk, so host Jon Stewart brought her back for her own special moment.
4.Tom Hanks—Best Actor for Philadelphia (1994)
Philadelphia was a watershed cultural moment for how homosexuals were depicted on-screen, and the beloved Hanks used his speech to recognize the enormity of winning an Oscar for his performance as a lawyer dying of AIDS. He also made a point of thanking—and outing—his old drama teacher.
5. Marion Cotillard—Best Actress for La Vie en Rose (2008)
Cotillard was a surprise winner for her role in the Edith Piaf biopic, and she was adorably flummoxed and shocked. The takeaway quote: “Thank you life, thank you love, and it is true there are some angels in this city.”
6. Matthew McConaughey—Best Actor for Dallas Buyers Club (2014)
The McConaissance is complete. After a career resurgence with True Detective, Magic Mike, and the movie for which he won an Oscar, a white tuxedoed McConaughey charmed the hell out of everybody with a moving three-part speech, imploring viewers to find “something to look up to, something to look forward to, and something to chase.”
7. Sally Field—Best Actress for Places in the Heart (1985)
You like her. You really like her! That’s a very common misquote, but this is where it comes from. The context is that Field was acknowledging that she came a loooong way from The Flying Nun and Gidget.
8. Robin Williams—Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting (1998)
Despite being dressed like the world’s coolest priest, Williams’ speech was as marvelous as one would expect from the world’s greatest improviser. He made some on-point jokes about his film’s screenwriters, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (“I need to see some ID”), director Gus Van Sant, and the Weinstein brothers. But he started it off with the most perfect thing Robin Williams could say: “This is the one time I’m speechless.”
9. Jack Palance—Best Supporting Actor for City Slickers (1992)
Palance has since passed away, but One-Armed Push-up Jack could still probably kick your ass.