With the Academy Awards just weeks away, we popped 100 bags of popcorn and spent some quality time ruining our eyes in front of the computer, tracking down the most memorable Oscar acceptance speeches of the past 25 years. From the heartfelt to the sentimental to the downright weird, there are plenty that stand out from the pack. We also took to the red carpet and asked celebs what they think makes a perfect acceptance speech. Bryan Cranston, Allyson Hannigan and a slew of hilarious celebrities-turned-awards-show-critics offered up their advice.
But some trophy recipients might learn better by example, so to help them out, we present in no particular order, the nominees for the Most Memorable Oscar Acceptance Speeches of the Past 25 Years:
1. James Cameron, Best Director – Titanic, 1998
Burned in our brains because: Cameron actually shouts “I’m the king of the world!” at the end, which is both adorable and annoying.
2. Julia Roberts, Best Actress – Erin Brockovich, 2001
Burned in our brains because: It’s Julia at her most giggly, goofy and grinny.
3. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Best Writing (Original Screenplay) – Good Will Hunting, 1997
Burned in our brains because: Long before Bennifer and Bourne, they were just two dorky dudes from Boston who brought their moms to the Oscars and had a damn good time winning big.
4. Halle Berry, Best Actress – Monster’s Ball, 2001
Burned in our brains because: She was the first African-American woman to win in this category, and her teary acceptance speech makes us weep too.
5. Anna Paquin, Best Supporting Actress – The Piano, 1994
Burned in our brains because: It’s Sooki Stackhouse as a shocked little kid in a beret. What’s not to love?
6. Angelina Jolie, Best Supporting Actress – Girl Interrupted, 1999
Burned in our brains because: It reminds us of Angelina before she was Queen of the World: weird, inappropriate and in love with her brother (that kiss!).
7. Jamie Fox, Best Actor – Ray, 2004
Burned in our brains because: It capped off a season of Foxx chanting “Ohhhh! Ahhhh” with every win.
8. Roberto Benigni, Best Actor, Best Foreign Language Film – Life Is Beautiful, 1998
Burned in our brains because: Benigni went mental with each win, and it was beautiful – climbing over seats, jumping onstage and – as he put it – using up all his English with his first speech.
9. Cuba Gooding Jr., Best Supporting Actor – Jerry Maguire, 1996
Burned in our brains because: He’s so excited! He’s shouting “I love you I love you!”over the music! He’s leaping around! And then he went and made Snow Dogs.
10. Gwyneth Paltrow, Best Actress – Shakespeare In Love, 1998
Burned in our brains because: Some people love to pick on Goopy Gwyn, but this speech is poignant and perfect (as is her gorgeous pink dress).
11. Jack Palance, Best Supporting Actor - City Slickers, 1992
Burned in our brains because: He’s an old dude doing one-armed push ups on-stage. This is what the Oscars are all about!
12. George Clooney, Best Supporting Actor - Syriana, 2006
Burned in our brains because: This is Clooney at his classiest, showing the rest of us how it’s done.
13. Colin Firth, Best Actor – The King’s Speech, 2011
Burned in our brains because: Joking that his career “just peaked” was the perfect humble moment in a night full of self-congratulation.
14. Melissa Leo, Best Actress – The Fighter, 2011
Burned in our brains because: A giddy Leo flirting with the ancient Kirk Douglas? Yes, please! And, oh yeah. She cursed on live TV!
15. Jennifer Hudson, Best Supporting Actress – Dreamgirls, 2006
Burned in our brains because: From Idol to Oscar, Hudson stayed sweet, humble and overwhelmed by her exploding success.
16. Whoopi Goldberg, Best Supporting Actress – Ghost, 1991
Burned in our brains because: It’s Whoopi at her most sincere – talking about being inspired as a kid by the Oscars.
17. Tom Hanks, Best Actor – Philadelphia, 1993
Burned in our brains because: Hanks gives one of the most serious and poignant speeches of all time, addressing the AIDS crisis and its devastation with grace and elegance.
18. Heath Ledger, Best Supporting Actor – The Dark Night, 2009
Burned in our brains because: The posthumous acceptance by his father and sisters makes us tear up every time.
19. Adrien Brody, Best Actor – The Pianist, 2002
Burned in our brains because: Brody was beaming so much when he got onstage that he wrapped his arms around Halle Berry and gave her some serious mouth action. Creepy or cute?
20. Forest Whitaker, Best Actor – The Last King of Scotland, 2006
Burned in our brains because: Even uber-talented actors get overwhelmed. This is one of the best prepared speeches we’ve ever heard.
21. Hilary Swank, Best Actress – Boys Don’t Cry, 1999
Burned in our brains because: Swank very infamously forgot to thank her husband (after thanking every other person on the planet). They’re now divorced.
22. Martin Scorsese, Best Director – The Departed, 2007
Burned in our brains because: Only Marty could handle being snubbed for so long with humor and class. This guy is the best.
23. Sean Penn, Best Actor – Milk, 2009
Burned in our brains because: After calling the crowd “commie homo-loving sons of guns” Penn tells them, “I know how hard I make it to appreciate me.” Awww, he gets it!
24. Michael Moore, Best Documentary – Bowling For Columbine, 2003
Burned in our brains because: Moore used his acceptance speech to go on a tirade against President Bush and the Iraq War and is booed – though it’s unclear if it’s in solidarity or anger.
25. Sandra Bullock, Best Actress – The Blind Side, 2010
Burned in our brains because: Bullock so sweetly asks the audience, “Did I really earn this or did I just wear y’all down?” Her winning streak came to an abrupt halt the next week when the world learned she was married to a cheating loser.
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[Photos: GettyImages/Academy Awards]