The Academy has seen a few zany things live; check our list of 10 memorable Oscar speeches for proof.
An ordinary speech demands you to be alert, pay attention, and maybe feel a little happy for the guy giving it. Cuba Gooding Jr.’s acceptance for Best Supporting
Actor in Jerry Maguire was not ordinary. His words were blisteringly joyful, with each
shoutout he gave a taste of what it feels like to have your biggest dreams, the earliest childhood fantasies validated and come to life. The walk-off music only
made it sound more epic.
Once known strictly for comedy, Tom Hanks turned that business right around with his Best Actor win for Philadelphia, portraying a closeted lawyer diagnosed with AIDS. From Hanks’ acceptance speech: “Mr.
Rawley Farnsworth, who was my high school drama teacher, who taught me to act well the part, there all the glory lies. And one of my classmates under Mr.
Farnsworth, Mr. John Gilkerson. I mention their names because they are 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.” The problem? Farnsworth had yet to come out as gay. The blunder later inspired the Kevin
Kline joint, In & Out.
We’ve all heard this one: Sally Field, Best Actress winner for Places in the Heart. The
effusive Field on stage accepting the Oscar, blurting: “You like me, you really like me!” But just like Star Wars‘ “Luke, I am your father” or Jaws‘ “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”, the line is a misquote. What Field really said: “I can’t deny the
fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” Her line is also a sly reference to her Norma Rae
character (the Academy previously awarded her for the role) but what everyone saw was Field’s wildly earnest attitude, ripened for parody.
“I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag,” Adrien Brody mused after planting a passionate smooch on Halle Berry as he took the stage for Best Actor in
The Pianist. The Brooklyn bro turned tortured Polish artist then followed up with a long speech
detailing what he learned from the role, including the horrors and price of war. Then, taking his role as a musician one step further, Brody was able to completely
shut down the orchestra, chiding, “Cut it out, cut it out.”
Roberto Benigni won Best Foreign Film for his Holocaust tragicomedy, Life is
Beautiful. The giddy and ecstatic Italian famously hopped on some seats and greeted the crowd, whom he told he wanted to kiss while accepting the statue.
During his speech for his Best Actor win, he remarked, “There must be some terrible mistake! I used up all my English!” When presenting the Best Actress nominee the
following year, Benigni was accompanied by Billy Crystal holding a giant net for restraint.
It took Jack Palance only two minutes — while accepting the Best Supporting Actor award for City
Slickers — to ridicule Billy Crystal, bring the house down roaring with laughter (several times!), toss off a few one-armed pushups, and recount the
story of how it took 42 years for Palance to finally take home the big prize. It was the glorious moment when old-school cool and rugged Hollywood masculinity last
took over the Oscar stage.
Woody Allen’s sole ceremony appearance happened on the first Oscars after 9/11, where he pleaded filmmakers to continue coming to New York for work. His speech was
equal parts heartfelt and hilarious, a stunning reversal of his public perception, coming at a time when his films were bombing with stunning regularity,
British legend David Niven was co-hosting the Oscars when Robert Opel, a photographer who sneaked his way in posing as a journalist, streaked across the stage
flashing the peace sign. Niven then delivered the mother of all quips: “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his
life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?” Opel was later murdered at his San Francisco art gallery.
And the shortest entry in this list goes to the shortest acceptance speech in Oscar history. Joe Pesci, upon accepting the Best Supporting Actor award for Goodfellas, simply remarked: “It’s my privilege. Thank you.” Then he beat someone to death
Who took the stage when Marlon Brando won the Best Actor statue for The Godfather in 1973?
Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache woman whom Brando had sent in protest of Native American depiction in Hollywood films, in addition to the ongoing Wounded Knee
siege that would ultimately lead to four deaths. Littlefeather was initially met with boos and jeers from the crowd, then came overwhelming applause. Brando had
written a 15-page speech detailing his beliefs but the Academy refused to allow Littlefeather to read it, and immediately implemented new rules prohibiting proxy