Some Oscar speeches truly stand out — for better or worse

Halle Berry at the 2002 Oscars
At the 2002 Oscars, Halle Berry showed grace, emotion and passion as the first African American woman to win a lead actress Oscar.
(Getty Images)

Some award acceptance speeches are models of grace and class. Others are … well, a little out there. Here’s a look at some of each.

Tom Hanks, “Philadelphia” (1994)

Here’s a measure of how popular Hanks was and is: He won his first lead actor Academy Award (of two in a row) for a groundbreaking role about a man with AIDS and in the process of a heartfelt speech, accidentally outed his drama teacher — and the incident became the basis for a feature three years later (“In & Out” starring Kevin Kline).

Laurence Olivier, Honorary Lifetime Achievement (1979)


It’s a true measure of a master thespian that on his third and final Oscar win he can be as beautifully articulate as Olivier, who accepted by characterizing his win as “a beautiful star in that firmament, which shines upon me at this moment,” both “dazzling” and “filling me with the warmth of … extraordinary elation.”

Halle Berry, “Monster’s Ball” (2002)

As the first African American woman to win a lead actress Oscar, Berry was overwhelmed and tearfully grateful, and dedicated her win to everyone else who could now walk through the door that had been opened. “This moment is so much bigger than me,” she said.

Denzel Washington, Cecil B. DeMille Award (2016)


We love Washington for his ability to spin magic with his words, but that magic seemed to be lacking at last year’s Golden Globes. Washington brought his family on stage, forgot his glasses (to read his speech) and largely ticked off a list of thank yous while never quite connecting with the audience. He could get a make-good at the Oscars this year with his “Fences” nomination; let’s hope he takes the time to prepare something.

Angelina Jolie, “Girl, Interrupted” (2000)

Before she became the celebrity magnet we now know, Jolie was very close with her Oscar date — her brother James Haven. The two smooched on the red carpet and during her speech she noted, “I am so in love with my brother right now.”

Jack Palance, “City Slickers” (1992)

If words fail, push-ups will do. Palance, 73 at the time and a veteran of westerns, picked up his supporting actor Oscar and noted, “[Costar] Billy Crystal — I crap bigger than him,” then got down on the ground and completed multiple one-handed push-ups. We never doubted him.

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