Our Favorite Oscar Speeches

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Our Favorite Oscar Speeches

I have jokingly told people in the past that I dress up in a full tuxedo to watch the Oscars. That’s not exactly true, but the spirit of that statement is. Oscar Sunday is a religious experience. We gather as a family before the show starts, and even though I don’t agree with the Oscars, instead of endlessly complaining about the politics of it all, I enjoy the show for what it is— or what it should be— a celebration of movies.

This list isn’t exhaustive. It’s also not a list of my favorite wins, but rather, a collection of some of my favorite speeches and moments in Oscar history.

Audrey Hepburn: Best Actress

Oscar speeches should be concise, full of heart, and genuine, and all of that is on full display in Audrey Hepburn’s speech after she won the Oscar for her brilliant performance in Roman Holiday. There has never been anyone in Hollywood with as much class as Audrey Hepburn. The speech is short and sweet and pure class.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Best Actor

Did anyone else’s family ever complain about Leonardo DiCaprio having never won an Oscar? Every year, regardless of whether or not Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated— or even had a film out that year— my family would complain about him not getting his due. They’d say things like Hollywood is against him, but we all knew it’d be a matter of time until he was recognized. February 28, 2016 was that day.

Leonardo DiCaprio is my favorite actor, so seeing him finally win— albeit for a performance in a film I didn’t care for— was a big moment for my family. I may or may not have recorded my family’s reaction to watching him win.

I’m not a fan of political speeches at awards ceremonies, but I love how he ended his speech. You know he didn’t take that moment for granted. Plus, the man looks so good holding an Oscar, am I right?

Kobe Bryant: Best Animated Short Film

This one is more so of who won rather than the speech. The 17-year-old kid who I watched join the NBA and play his entire career with my favorite team, retires, and crosses over into “my” industry, makes a film, and wins an Oscar. This moment was made for me.

It’s inspirational to see someone who was only supposed to “shut up and dribble” achieve such success in different fields. Kobe Bryant was a storyteller, on and off the field, and this win and speech is all the more special because of his untimely passing.

Matthew McConaughey: Best Actor

If there ever was a formula for a perfect Oscars speech, this is it. Matthew McConaughey’s speech is broken down into three parts, all things he needs every day:  something to look up to, something to look forward to, and someone to chase.

Matthew McConaughey delivers a memorable speech that is meaningful, emotional, authentic, and funny. It’s not too long. It’s not too short. There is no fluff here. It’s a perfect speech.

Martin Scorsese: Best Director

Let’s play a game. How many Oscars should Martin Scorsese have had by the time he won his first (and only!) Oscar?

Look at the first few seconds after he takes the stage. The crowd can’t stop cheering because this man should have been recognized years earlier. The Departed deserved to win but this is one of the best examples of the Academy making up for itself after failing to recognize someone in the past.

The fact that he was presented this Oscar by his three long time friends— Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas— is special in and of itself. It’s also incredibly prophetic how he asks them to double check the envelope— something that could have proved useful exactly ten years later.

Steven Spielberg: Best Director

There is something special about the greatest director in the world finally winning his first Oscar. There is also something tender about him saying he has had multiple opportunities to hold an Oscar but has never done so. It’s a sentiment that has stuck with me since I first saw this moment, and decided I’d do the same.

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour and Academy Museum both allow its visitors to hold an Oscar for a photo opportunity, but long before that became a thing, I have had my fair share of opportunities to hold an Oscar.

In 2014, when I was producing my first feature film, I went over to our editor’s house for our first meeting. There was an Oscar sitting in his living room for his work on Rocky. I was encouraged to take a picture with it— every guest that came over did— but I passed. The family was  confused. “Why wouldn’t you want to? You don’t see one of these every day…”

That’s true, but I couldn’t help but hear Steven Spielberg’s voice in my head. It’s  been a bit of extra motivation to wait until it’s my time and it’s all because of this moment in Oscar history.

Steven Soderbergh: Best Director

This might be it for me.

Speeches are inherently boring. The winners all thank the same people: God, the Academy, their families, the cast, the crew, their agents… Of course you want to acknowledge all the people that helped you throughout your career, but for the every day movie lover watching at home, this doesn’t resonate with us.

Steven Soderbergh acknowledges this and does an amazing job not filling up half speech with such sentiments. “There are a lot of people to thank— rather than thank some of them publicly, I think I’m going to thank all of them privately.” The director then  brings it home by acknowledging how important art is in our lives.

Steven Soderbergh was nominated twice in the Best Director category this year— which perfectly sums up who he is as a filmmaker. We should give Steven Soderbergh more Oscars, if only for the great speeches he’d give us.

Moonlight: Best Picture

Let me start off by saying I acknowledge that it was unfair for Moonlight not to have had its moment after it won Best Picture in 2017. Now, with that said, this moment was absolutely amazing and insane.

We begin with an awkward and cringey back and forth between Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. La La Land is  crowned as the winner. Marc Platt gives an incredibly cringey speech— “Here’s to the fools who made me dream!” Fred Berger gives his speech after knowing they didn’t actually win, because what else is he supposed to do? The wave of collective disappointment in everyone’s faces as they realize what has happened. Jordan Horowitz brilliantly stepping up and taking ownership of the moment. The punch-in to the envelope that shows us the true winner. Finally, the Moonlight team going up to collect their Oscars.

This will never happen again and nothing could come close. It’s like watching a train wreck that you can’t take your eyes off.

If only they double-checked the envelope…