BootLeg Betty

From the Oscars to the Golden Globes to the Indie Spirits, here are some of the Greatest Movie Award Speeches


CBC Arts
From the Oscars to the Golden Globes to the Indie Spirits, some clips to get you through a winter without them
By Peter Knegt
Jan 08, 2021


Bette Midler at the 1980 Golden Globes

Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens. 

If something didn’t quite feel right this past weekend, it could have been one of a wide array of historically miserable reasons. Perhaps the fact that you didn’t see your family for the holidays for the first time in your life? Or how we’re just getting unsettled into what everyone is warning us will be the darkest winter our society has faced since at least World War II? (Hey, at least you didn’t yet know that your week would have the rumblings of an American Civil War!) But for the many of us that rely on a different kind of “season” to get us through winters that are just a normal amount of dark, there was something else missing from our first Sunday night in January: the Golden Globes.

Whatever, I get it: awards shows are mostly meaningless, particularly the Golden Globes, which are voted on by a handful of journalists no one has really heard of (some of whom occasionally write wildly erroneous and offensive in-flight magazine profiles of Drew Barrymore). But they are also fun, and if there’s one thing completely absent from any person who is behaving’s life right now, it’s fun. Adding in that the greatest awards host duo of all time Tina Fey and Amy Poehler had already been announced to return, not having the Globes to ease our bluest post-holiday blues was especially unfortunate.

Now, the Golden Globes are still allegedly going to happen on February 28th with Fey and Poehler still on board. But February 28th sounds like years from now at this point, and in past years we would have had the SAG Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, the BAFTAs and the Oscars all happen by that point as well. There’s also a solid chance they’ll get delayed again, as was just announced would happen with the Grammy Awards. So to help ease you through this awards-free winter, I took to one of my favourite past times: re-watching hours and hours of old speeches, largely by actresses. And I have come up with this highly scientific and completely undebatable list of the greatest movie award speeches of all time. May they help you get to the other side:

21. Melissa Leo’s Oscar speech for The Fighter 

Not enough awards acceptance speeches are truly unhinged, which is what makes Melissa Leo’s from the 2011 Oscars so very special. After a deeply creepy presentation by the late Kirk Douglas, Leo capped off a season where she went rogue with her own hilarious personal ad campaign with a speech so wonderfully wild it must been both watched (above) and read

20. Bong Joon-Ho’s various Oscar speeches for Parasite

It’s easy to forget that some very good things indeed happened in 2020, one of which was the sweep of the Oscars by Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite. The film won four trophies and became the first non-English language winner of best picture. And Bong’s speeches throughout the night (and last awards season in general) were as charming as it gets, in part because of his flawless translator Sharon Choi.

19. Gabourey Sidibe’s Spirit Award speech for Precious

Few awards season runs have been as delightful to watch as Gabourey Sidibe’s for Precious. Nominated for essentially every award for her first time ever on camera, she would unfortunately lose the Oscar to Sandra Bullock. But the night before that, she got her moment at the Spirit Awards, offering an adorable speech that recalled how she saved her money to see Welcome To The Dollhouse in high school. 

18. Louise Fletcher’s Oscar speech for One Flew Over The Cockoo’s Nest

This classic Oscar speech from 1976 saw Fletcher win for playing the monstrous Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Her iconic opening line — “It looks like you all hated me so much that you’ve given me this award for it” — remains one that future Oscar winners should aspire to. 

17. Alfred Hitchcock’s honorary Oscar speech 

The legend that is Alfred Hitchcock tragically never won a competitive Oscar despite five nominations. So when they finally gave him an honorary one in 1968, there was definitely some deserved shade thrown in the minimalism of his speech. 

16. Bette Midler’s Golden Globe speech for best new female star

For decades, the Golden Globes would hand out two gendered awards for best “new star,” which infamously ended shortly after allegations that Pia Zadora’s husband may or may not have bought her a win. But a saving grace of the category’s existence is this hilariously crass speech Bette Midler gave in 1980.

15. Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe speech for The Devil Wears Prada

Meryl Streep has given dozens of acceptance speeches over the years, and few people are as good at them as she is. But while her three Oscar speeches are fine, she tends to be much more loose and entertaining at the Golden Globes, where she has won a record nine awards from 33 nominations. Of her competitive wins, this speech she gave for The Devil Wears Prada is the epitome of the grace, charm and humility that makes her so singular.

14. Jamie Bell’s BAFTA speech for Billy Elliot

Jamie Bell was just 14 years old when he surprised the BAFTAs by beating out Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas and that year’s Oscar winner Russell Crowe for the 2001 lead actor trophy. And the entire audience seemed to glow from his lovely little speech. It even got a smile out of Joaquin Phoenix!

13. Cher’s Oscar speech for Moonstruck

Speaking of glowing, few actresses have ever looked quite as luminous as Cher when she took the Oscar stage in 1988 to accept her award for Moonstruck (which, if you’re looking for a winter quarantine viewing, is a perfect movie). And her gracious, elegant speech that followed proved that even if winning that Oscar didn’t mean Cher truly is somebody, she was already more than well on her way. 

12. Adam Sandler’s Spirit Award speech for Uncut Gems

The Oscars might have snubbed his extraordinary work in Uncut Gems, but Adam Sandler still won last year’s award season with this hysterical speech at the Spirit Awards the night before. It was hands down the best moment of the season and maybe one of the funniest speeches ever given at an awards show.

11. Ruth Gordon’s Oscar speech for Rosemary’s Baby

“I can’t tell you how encouragin’ a thing like this is.” Just the delivery of Ruth Gordon’s 1969 best supporting actress Oscar speech for Rosemary’s Baby warrants inclusion on this list alone. Coming 55 years after her first film, it’s also just lovely to see a legend get her due. 

10. Mahershala Ali’s SAG speech for Moonlight and Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Oscar speech for Moonlight

While it was tempting to include the truly unprecedented and shocking 2016 best picture Oscar snafu on this list (which I surely don’t need to remind you had the world thinking La La Land won best picture when in fact Moonlight had), I’d rather direct you to the two best speeches given by the Moonlight team that season: speeches they weren’t forced to deliver after spending a few minutes believing they’d lost. Mahershala Ali’s SAG Award speech for best supporting actor and Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Oscar speech for best adapted screenplay are both mini-master classes in public speaking. And you can also read the speech for best picture that Jenkins would have given under normal circumstances here

9. Sally Hawkins’s Golden Globe speech for Happy-Go-Lucky

There is a very special place in my heart for both Sally Hawkins’s performance as Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky and this wonderfully raw and sincere speech she gave when she beat out Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson for a Golden Globe in 2008.

8. Shirley MacLaine’s Oscar speech for Terms of Endearment

“I’m gonna cry because this show has been as long as my career,” MacLaine opens her 1984 speech for Terms of Endearment. “I have wondered for 26 years what this would feel like. Thank you so much for terminating the suspense.” An instant classic speech, it also is just wild to be reminded of the extraordinary gay fact that Rock Hudson and Liza Minnelli handed Shirley MacLaine her Oscar.

7. Every speech Olivia Colman gave for The Favourite

Every. Single. One. And they should have let her go on for 10 more minutes at the Oscars. 

6. Emma Thompson’s Golden Globe speech for Sense and Sensibility

Emma Thompson delivered her 1996 Golden Globe speech for best screenplay in character as Jane Austen, and it is one of the most brilliant things an awards season stage has ever seen. 

5. Halle Berry’s Oscar speech for Monster’s Ball

The first and somehow still only Black woman to win the Oscar for best actress, Halle Berry’s 2002 speech was criticized by many at the time as “over-the-top”. But I mean, what would you do if you had to get up on stage in front of hundreds of millions of people and represent becoming the first Black woman to ever win an Oscar?! Besides, we should be so lucky to get such genuine displays of emotion more often. This was history being made, and Halle Berry let herself feel it.

4. Sally Field’s Oscar speech for Places in the Heart

In probably the most misquoted line in awards speech history, when Sally Field won her second Oscar in 1985 for Places in the Heart, she did not just say, “You like me, you really like me!” What Field actually says is: “The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it. And I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!” But either way, it’s a wonderful speech and a wonderful moment, and we still can’t deny the fact that we (really) like Field very much.

3. Tom Hanks’s Oscar speech for Philadelphia

The only speech to have been loosely adapted into a movie (as far as I know at least), it was alleged that Tom Hanks outed his high school drama teacher when he accepted his Oscar for playing a gay man dying from AIDS Philadelphia. This, of course, inspired the movie In & Out (which oddly enough got Joan Cusack an Oscar nomination for playing the fictionalized fiancée of Hanks’s teacher) and a New York Post headline that screamed “OUTED AT THE OSCARS!” But Hanks had actually contacted his teacher, Rawley Farnsworth, asking permission to disclose his sexuality. Farnworth agreed, and what resulted is one of the most tear-jerking speeches to ever happen on an Oscar stage and a huge step forward for the mainstream acknowledgment of HIV/AIDS*.

(* This statement is very complicated but this is supposed to be a fun list so just do some further reading if that’s of interest to you!)

2. Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep’s honorary Golden Globe speeches

Two years in a row, two of the most famous women in the world brought down the house at the Golden Globes with their powerful, rousing acceptance speeches for that year’s respective honorary award (and these were the years 2017 and 2018, so there were some things to discuss). I re-watched both at least once a month to get me through 2020, and I’ll keep doing the same until/if 2021 starts to lighten up. 

1. Julia Roberts’s Oscar speech for Erin Brockovich

“I see you stick man!” One of the most joyous things available to watch on the internet, Julia Roberts’s 2001 Oscar speech is basically the biggest movie star in the world having the biggest moment of her career and … loving it up there. Nothing compares to its energy, and I dare future Oscar winners to challenge its glory.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Knegt

Peter Knegt (he/him) has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for the best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada’s a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which won him 2020 Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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