Receiving an Oscar has to be the pinnacle of success for anyone involved in acting. The Oscars are the most respected cinematic award in the world. As a result, many in the film community around the globe watch the show to find out, not only who will win, but how graciously or even not so graciously that the recipient accepts the award. Needless to say, in its 86th year, the show has not failed to have some memorable Oscar speeches and moments. Some very long, some very short, some very full of emotion, some with political tinged controversy. From 2010, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences requires that the winners’ acceptance speech to be less than 45 seconds. Let’s take a look at some of the more memorable Oscar Speeches. In many ways, these acceptance speeches are theatrical works of art in of themselves. See the links for videos of the speeches.
5. A Very Excited Cuba Gooding, Jr. from 1997
Who can forget or even not leap for joy as well as Cuba gave one of the most enthusiastic acceptance speeches ever for Best Supporting Actor for Jerry Maguire. Some thought it was a bit undignified but this is a once in a lifetime event and the culmination of achievement for an actor. So everyone should jump with him.
4. Vanessa Redgrave’s Political Statement from 1978
Coming from a distinguished, colorful, and controversial family, Vanessa probably had no trepidation for using the Oscar ceremony to speak out on the sensitive political topic of Palestinian/Israeli conflict. After receiving the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Julia, she denounced critics who were attacking her activism for the Palestinian cause.
3. Sally Field knows that the Academy Really Likes Her from 1985
Clearly, the very likable Sally Field exuberantly expressed how much the Academy appreciated her work by granting her a second Oscar in her role in Places of the Heart. It’s true. We really, really like Sally Field!
2. Jack Palance’s Push One Arm Pushups from 1991.
The late Hollywood tough guy received his first Oscar for City Slickers after being first nominated in 1949. He used the Oscar platform to speak out on the ageist practices of Hollywood and demonstrated with strong vigor by doing several one hand pushes. Not bad for a man of 72 at the time.
1. Sacheen Littlefeather’s 15-page speech on behalf of Marlon Brando in 1972
One thing is certain. Marlon Brando thought he would win the Oscar for Best Actor for his iconic role in The Godfather. So he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache American Indian Movement activist to read a 15-page speech critical of Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans. Evidently, she was threatened with physical removal if she would have read it and she failed to do so. Marlon Brando, the actor’s actor, crafted a brilliant way to make sure that his speech would be forever memorable.
Honorable Mention: David Niven’s Streaker from 1974
However, the most memorable Oscar speech was not an acceptance speech at all. It took place at the Academy Awards show in 1974. As the late David Niven was about to introduce Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Opel, a photographer using journalist credentials, streaked naked across the stage flashing the peace sign, to much of the hilarity of the crowd. Considering that streaking was a popular form of social protest in the early 70s, few were surprised. Niven’s memorable line was, “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?” Now, that was an Oscar-worthy performance and speech.