In case any of this year’s nominees are in need of inspiration, here are 10 great Oscar acceptance speeches from years past.


Shirley MacLaine, 1984 (best actress, “Terms of Endearment”)

Both funny (“This show has been as long as my career”) and touching (“Films and life are like clay waiting for us to mold it”), MacLaine’s first victory speech after decades in the business was a master class.

Anna Paquin, 1994 (best supporting actress, “The Piano”)

Paquin, at age 11, was then (and still is) the second-youngest person in Oscar history to win a competitive award for acting, and her speech — once it finally began — was utterly charming.

Tom Hanks, 1995 (best actor, “Forrest Gump”)

This list could also have included Hanks’ speech the previous year, for “Philadelphia”; both are eloquent, emotional and artful. There’s a reason why Hanks is so beloved.

Robin Williams, 1998 (best supporting actor, “Good Will Hunting”)

“This might be the one time I’m speechless,” Williams began, but he quickly recovered with a perfect speech: short, funny and heartfelt.

Michael Caine, 2000 (best supporting actor, “The Cider House Rules”)

Asking for “a bit of extra time” (he won once before, but didn’t attend), Caine took a gracious moment to praise his four co-nominees, “because I do not feel like being the winner.”


Halle Berry, 2002 (best actress, “Monster’s Ball”)

Berry’s win made history — the first Black winner for best actress since the academy began the award in 1927 — and her emotional speech beautifully conveyed the meaning of the moment.

Daniel Day-Lewis, 2013 (best actor, “Lincoln”)

Day-Lewis is exceptionally good at the acceptance-speech game; in this one, I particularly like how he handles the traditional shout-out to the spouse. Referring to the many roles he’s played, he notes “my wife Rebecca has lived with some very strange men.”

Lupita Nyong’o, 2014 (best supporting actress, “12 Years a Slave”)

Another textbook-perfect speech, delicately honoring the character she played and the artists she worked with, finishing with a moving message: “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.”

Lonnie Lynn and John Stephens, 2015 (best original song, “Glory,” from “Selma”)

The two winners — better known as musicians Common (Lynn) and John Legend (Stephens) — reflected eloquently on the civil rights movement. “We say that ‘Selma’ is now, because the struggle for justice is right now,” said Stephens.

Frances McDormand, 2018 (best actress, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”)

A barn burner of a speech, calling on the industry to recognize women’s stories — but I especially love that she took the time, before starting, to go upstage and shake the hand of the young man handing out the Oscar trophies.