Get Your Tissues Ready: Some Of The Best Oscar Speeches Of All Time
In this era of extreme digitisation, where snappy videos and flashy images are the order of the day; it’s become somewhat a novelty to hear one speak with utmost honesty and eloquence.
Speeches have the power to inspire the audience in ways we could never imagine. Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream moved many a hearts in the sixties and even up to this day, his words live on. Oprah Winfrey, for one, remembered in her 2014 Golden Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech, how as a child, she saw Sidney Poitier receive the Best Actor award in 1964.
“Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black, and I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people's houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney's performance in Lilies of the Field: ‘Amen, amen, amen, amen’." She said.
And after she was done with the speech, there were talks about how Ms Winfrey is poised to become the next president of the great US of A. There you have it, good speeches open windows of opportunities.
So, the next time someone hands you the microphone, take a deep breath and make the most out of it. Speak from the core of your soul, share your story, your journey and your experience with conviction; you may change someone’s life, if not your own.
As we take a final look at all the best moments and fashion highlights at the recently concluded 91st Academy Awards, let’s open our hearts to some of the best Oscar speeches of all time starting with the heartfelt speech by the most recent winner of the Best Original Song category.
2009: Lady Gaga
As the tearful singer and actress made her way onstage, Lady Gaga – in a dramatic McQueen dress – sure had Lady Luck shining as bright as that Tiffany & Co diamond on her neck. She received a rousing round of applause from members of the audience and who can forget Jennifer Hudson’s (very positive) reaction that night.
After thanking her co-writers, all the important people in her life and Bradley Cooper (of course), she went on to address the viewers at home with one of the most inspirational speeches ever.
“And if you are at home, and you're sitting on your couch and you're watching this right now, all I have to say is that this is hard work. I've worked hard for a long time, and it's not about, you know...it's not about winning. But what it's about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There's a discipline for passion. And it's not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you're beaten up. It's about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going. Thank you!"
1964: Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier is one of the most eloquent man you will ever come across in your lifetime. Poitier is as great an actor as he is an author, his books are made for keeps. He is the first African American to receive such a distinguished award at the 1964 Oscars for his performance in Lilies of the Field.
His speech was to the point: “Because it is a long journey to this moment I am naturally indebted to countless numbers of people, principally among whom are Ralph Nelson, James Poe, William Barrett, Martin Baum, and of course the members of the Academy. For all of them, all I can say is a very special thank you.”
1973: Marlon Brando
For the first time in the history of Academy Awards, an actor declined the Best Actor award and had a native American rights activist read his protest speech. Sacheen Littlefeather represented Marlon Brando – who was slated to win the award for his compelling role in The Godfather – at the awards ceremony and she not only refused the Oscar statuette from presenter Roger Moore but took to the mike to create one of the most history-making moments in the world.
“I'm representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you in a very long speech, which I cannot share with you presently because of time but I will be glad to share with the press afterwards, that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry – excuse me – and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee. I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening, and that we will in the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity. Thank you on behalf of Marlon Brando.”
1994: Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks was outstanding in Philadelphia and it earned him the Best Actor award at the 66th Academy Awards. In his beautiful, long speech; he thanked, among others, his high school drama teachers who were “two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with, to fall under their inspiration at such a young age.”
This gesture went on to inspire the 1997 romantic comedy In & Out, which also includes 12-second kissing scene between Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck.
He ended his speech with a beautiful tribute to all the victims of AIDS (millennials, please google for more information).
“I know that my work in this case is magnified by the fact that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels. We know their names. They number a thousand for each one of the red ribbons that we wear here tonight. They finally rest in the warm embrace of the gracious creator of us all. A healing embrace that cools their fevers, that clears their skin, and allows their eyes to see the simple, self-evident, common sense truth that is made manifest by the benevolent creator of us all and was written down on paper by wise men, tolerant men, in the city of Philadelphia two hundred years ago. God bless you all. God have mercy on us all. And God bless America.”
2002: Halle Berry
The Monster’s Ball star made two statements at the night of the 74th Academy Awards: one in the Oscar’s fashion hall of fame for that sheer, floral Elie Saab dress and the other, as the first African American women to win the Best Actress Award at the Oscars. This puts her right next to the great Sidney Poitier, who also received the Honorary Award on the same night.
Shaking with sobs, she started the speech with: “Oh my God. Oh my God. I'm sorry. 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. Thank you. I'm so honored. I'm so honored. And I thank the Academy for choosing me to be the vessel for which His blessing might flow.”
2003: Michael Moore
When Michael Moore received the Best Documentary award for Bowling For Columbine in 2003, he invited fellow nominees of the same category to share the important moment with him. He was booed after calling out President George W Bush for being fictitious and his speech was unceremoniously cut off before more damage was done.
But kudos to Michael Moore for his courage to speak the truth.
“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. And any time you’ve got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up.” Mic drop.
2014: Lupita Nyong’o
Lupita Nyong’o stole many hearts when she appeared at the red carpet of the 2014 Oscars in a blue Prada dress but it was her speech that left a lasting impression. She won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years Of Slave, which was only her first film.
“Thank you to the Academy for this incredible recognition. 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. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own,” she opens before thanking her director, co-star, crew and family.
And she ends her speech with a powerful “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. Thank you.”