In Hollywood, they say that it’s an honor just to be nominated for an award, imagine winning one? Due to its prestige, only a select few ever know the actual honor of winning an award in the spotlight. It’s the awards that are the most meaningful to each recipient, as they celebrate all of the hard work and dedication that each performer devoted into honing their craft. To the viewers at home, though, oftentimes it is the acceptance speech of that award which tends to be most memorable. As viewers have learned, giving a good speech live on stage is a much different beast than playing a character in a movie. Over the years, some stars have been criticized for giving speeches that were too sappy, and for others that were painfully dull or ran way too long. This list compiles 10 of the most memorable acceptance speeches showcased by the celebrities that were able to get it just right.
10. Matthew McConaughey
We can all agree that Matthew McConaughey’s career has had its share of ups and downs. But two decades after he rolled into his freshman role, as David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, McConaughey finally got to take home his first Oscar. Awarded Best Actor for his biographical portrayal of Ron Woodroof, in Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey delivered his speech in his signature laid back voice. It was just your regular listing of thanks to his family and coworkers, with an anecdote sprinkled on top. But when he concluded with a homage to his first lines in his first film, “Alright, alright, alright!” McConaughey reminded us that, let there be no confusion, has always been the King of Cool.
9. Marlon Brando & Sacheen Littlefeather
Ever the rebel, Marlon Brando lived up to his reputation at the Oscars, in 1972 when he was a no-show to accept his award of Best Actor for his self-titled role in The Godfather. Brando had recently taken to supporting the Native American community and was angry at their virtually non-existent representation in Hollywood. Refusing to accept the Oscar, Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, in his place to speak on behalf of Brando and Native Americans. Littlefeather was met with a mix of cheers and boos from the audience and Brando took a lot of criticism for his move. But, as rebels so often do, he sure did get his point across.
8. Joe Pesci
Brevity is a lost art in Hollywood award ceremonies, oftentimes winners ramble on, and on, until we either change the channel or the network cuts to commercial. But when Joe Pesci won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his mobster role in Good Fellas, he had his speech as finely tuned as it gets. With a simple “It’s my privilege. Thank you,” Pesci held up his Oscar and exited the stage. His speech ties Alfred Hitchcock for the shortest Academy Award acceptance speech ever. Although Hitchcock never won an Academy Award, he accepted his Honorary Oscar in 1968 with the words, “Thank you. Very much, indeed.”
7. Asthon Kutcher
Ashton Kutcher set the internet on fire for days after his Ultimate Choice Recipient award acceptance speech, at the Nickolodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in 2013. Decked in his infamous baseball cap and flannel shirt, Kutcher quickly went viral as he shocked viewers with his powerful and meaningful message, instead of acting like the often over-the-top Punk’d star fans had come to know and love. After portraying Steve Jobs in the film Jobs, Kutcher’s speech aimed to inspire young audiences, rather than to just elicit a laugh. “The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart and being thoughtful and being generous,” Kutcher said. “Everything else is just crap, I promise you.”
6. Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin was best known for captivating audiences with his unique comedic stylings, as a silent film actor. But in 1972, he humbly graced the stage to tearfully accept his long overdue Honorary Oscar. Those familiar with Chaplin’s work might find hearing his voice rather strange, but his words were anything but. Full of genuine gratitude, Chaplin kept it short but deeply meaningful, as only Chaplin could, saying “… And words seem so futile, so feeble… I can only say thank you for the honor of inviting me here. And all you wonderful, sweet people: thank you.” And with his famous derby hat and cane in hand, he garnered a standing ovation.
5. Jack Palance
“Billy Crystal? God. I crap bigger than him.” That’s how Jack Palance opened his acceptance speech for Best Actor in the movie City Slickers, and it only got better from there. Palance had been in Hollywood for over 40 years before winning an award. But the veteran actor wanted to make sure that everyone that was watching knew that just because he was veteran to Tinseltown, didn’t mean he couldn’t keep up with the rest. In the middle of his speech, Palance dropped to the floor and began pumping out one-armed push-ups, proving that age really is nothing but a number.
4. Matt Damon And Ben Affleck
When Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote the script to Good Will Hunting, they probably only dreamed of being able to stand on the stage of the Academy Awards together to launch two hugely successful careers. But that is exactly what happened. The two childhood friends sat in shock after their names were announced as winners for Best Original Screenplay, in 1998. When the two baby-faced actors made the stage, Ben Affleck mumbled, “I just said to Matt that losing would suck and winning would be scary. And it is – it’s really, really scary.” But as Affleck and Damon continued and their reality began to set in, their shock turned into total exuberance, as they jumped and yelled, thanking everyone they could think of – even down to thinking of thanking Cuba Gooding, Jr. for, as Affleck said, “showing us how to give our acceptance speech.” How ya’ like them apples?
3. Adrien Brody
It is often displayed that Award winners are accustomed to getting a kiss from their loved ones, before running up to accept their awards, but how many get to say they smooched Halle Berry? Well, Adrien Brody sure can. When his name was announced for the Best Actor award, for his role in The Pianist, a thrilled Brody rushed the stage and grabbed Halle Berry, who was presenting his award, and planted one right on her lips. When the obviously unplanned kiss settled, Brody looked back at Berry and said, “Whoa. I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag.”
2. Cuba Gooding, Jr.
When an exuberant Cuba Gooding, Jr. accepted his award for Best Supporting Actor in the film Jerry McGuire, he knew that his chances of getting cut off before his speech was complete were pretty good. Cuba told The Academy crew, “You can cut away, I won’t be mad at you!” But when the music cut into the middle of his speech, he didn’t let the sound stop him from finishing. Shouting his love, thanks and admiration at the top of his lungs over the music, and clicking his heels in the air, he grew louder and more joyful. And so did the crowd, laughing and cheering for him, and even giving him a standing ovation.
1. Roberto Benigni
English may be Roberto Benigni’s second language, but there was no misunderstanding his acceptance speech of sheer joy, after winning Best Foreign Film for his ever popular movie, Life Is Beautiful. As Benigni stood cheering on top of his seat, gleefully hopped up the steps, and poured his heart out at the microphone, the audience marveled with humble appreciation to see such a deserving talent so grateful for not only his award, but the beautiful journey that got him there. In his speech Benigni said, “And also I would like to thank my parents … They gave me the biggest gift of poverty and I want to thank them for the rest of my life.”
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