A Look Back at Some of the Best Academy Award Acceptance Speeches

There’s a bit of a formula that is an Academy Award acceptance speech. It consists of acknowledging your fellow nominees, thanking everyone on your immediate film team, thanking your family and cracking a light joke, but the best speeches of all are those that break the mold.

In honor of this award season, let’s take a look back at some of the best speeches and how stepping outside of the formula led to a more rewarding answer.

Those Who Spoke Up

When accepting an award for her performance in “Boyhood,” Patricia Arquette unapologetically demanded equal rights and wage equality in the United States. She also named an organization, givelove.org, and discussed the significance of bringing ecological sanitation to the developing world. Her speech certainly stirred up inclusion from the audience and was a large part in promoting the continuation of an important conversation on one of the biggest stages.

Leonardo DiCaprio Oscar

While accepting his incredibly long overdue academy award, Leonardo DiCaprio took to the stage to draw the attention to something he deemed to be worthier of conversation: climate change. He described the dramatic climate records of 2015 and insisted that this extreme shift was the most urgent threat facing the planet. Urging his audience to “not take this planet for granted,” DiCaprio truly won in the eyes of the people.

Those Who Taught a Lesson

The best lessons are those that are passed down from generations; they are those that mold the greatest people of a generation. In Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech, he spoke about gratitude and reciprocation. He acknowledged that the greatest lessons he learned were from his parents. They taught him about respect, self-worth and success. McConaughey also explains a series of conversations in which he was asked who his hero was and if he had caught up with him yet. McConaughey notes that the hero to look up to is the person that only you can be—the person to “keep on chasing.”

Viola Davis OscarArt is powerful enough to tell the story of those who have passed, even if the world never saw the light and grace that they had to offer. In Viola Davis’s acceptance speech for “best-supporting actress,” she acknowledges that her profession is the only one that celebrates “what it means to live a life.” Having found love, having lost and having dreamt are the things that she cherishes about life and gives immense praise in her speech.

When accepting his award for “best director” for his acclaimed project, “The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro spoke about being an immigrant and being in the entertainment business. He praised the ability of art and its history of erasing the lines that are drawn between people to categorize race, religion, sexuality, etc.

Those Who Said Nothing

The late Heath Ledger’s family stepped in to accept his award after his unfortunate passing while working on the acclaimed “The Dark Knight.” Although their words were heartfelt and true to Ledger’s legacy, it was the reaction from his peers that spoke louder. Tears welled and lips quivered at the sight of a stage vacant of the young talent who worked so hard to earn his recognition. This moment was so powerful and forever engrained in Oscar history because it reminded the entertainment industry and its supporters that every day is not guaranteed.

Marlon Brando Oscar

Marlon Brando was no stranger to critical acclaim when he won another Oscar for his performance in “The Godfather,” and he used his fleeting success to shine the spotlight on a group of people who needed the attention more than he did. In his place, Brando sent the then president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee. This speech was revolutionary because it was of unacceptance; unacceptance of the award and unacceptance of the treatment of American Indians by the entertainment industry. Brando leveraged his power and fame to provide a shoulder for those who had no voice and, although it received a mixture of bundled reactions, his “speech” remains to be one of the most identifiable in history.

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4