Oscar Acceptance Speeches: Honoring Other Women

One of the things I’ve always loved and admired about the award acceptance speeches by women is how often they mention other women. Kate Winslet, accepting her Oscar for The Reader, joked, “I don’t think any of us can believe we’re in a category with Meryl Streep.” And Sandra Bullock, accepting her Oscar for The Blind Side, turned to each of her fellow nominees one by one and congratulated them. It’s something we rarely see from the men who win awards, and I admire that women openly acknowledge the necessity of sisterhood, especially during a male-dominated event (like any awards presentation for film, ever) that so often neglects the contributions of women. Here are a few of my favorites from the past twenty years of Oscar Acceptance Speeches for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress:

1992: Jodie Foster, winning Best Actress for The Silence of the Lambs

This has been such an incredible year. and I’d like to dedicate this award to all of the women who came before me who never had the chances that I’ve had, and the survivors and the pioneers and the outcasts; and my blood, my tradition. And I’d like to thank all of the people in this industry who have respected my choices and who have not been afraid of the power and the dignity that that entitled me to … And thank the Academy for embracing such an incredibly strong and beautiful feminist hero that I am so proud of.

1993: Emma Thompson, winning Best Actress for Howards End

And finally I would like, if I may, to dedicate this Oscar to the heroism and the courage of women, and to hope that it inspires the creation of more true screen heroines to represent them.

1997: Frances McDormand, winning Best Actress for Fargo

It is impossible to maintain one’s composure in this situation. What am I doing here? Especially considering the extraordinary group of women with whom I was nominated. We five women were fortunate to have the choice, not just the opportunity, but the choice, to play such rich, complex female characters. And I congratulate producers like Working Title and Polygram for allowing directors to make autonomous casting decisions based on qualifications and not just market value. And I encourage writers and directors to keep these really interesting female roles coming, and while you’re at it, you can throw in a few for the men as well.

2001: Julia Roberts, winning Best Actress for Erin Brockovich

I would like to start with telling you all how amazing the experience of feeling the sisterhood of being included in a group with Joan Allen and Juliette Binoche and Laura Linney and Ellen Burstyn for these last weeks has been. It’s just felt like such a triumph to me to be in that list. My name starts with “R” so I’m always last, but I still love the list.

2002: Halle Berry, winning Best Actress for Monster’s Ball

This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.  

2006: Reese Witherspoon, winning Best Actress for Walk the Line

A very special thank you to Jim Mangold who directed the film and also wrote this character who is a real woman who has dignity and honor and fear and courage. And she’s a real woman, and I really appreciate that. It was an incredible gift that you gave me, so thank you … And I want to say that my grandmother was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She taught me how to be a real woman, to have strength and self-respect, and to never give those things away. 

2007: Helen Mirren, winning Best Actress for The Queen

Now, you know for fifty years and more Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty, and her hairstyle. She’s had her feet planted firmly on the ground, her hat on her head, her handbag on her arm, and she’s weathered many, many storms. And I salute her courage and her consistency, and I thank her, because if it wasn’t for her, I most, most certainly would not be here.

2010: Sandra Bullock, winning Best Actress for The Blind Side(read our review)

I would like to thank the Academy for allowing me in the last month to have the most incredible ride, with rooms full of artists that I see tonight and that I’ve worked with before and I hope to work with in the future, who inspire me and blaze trails for us. Four of them, that I’ve fallen deeply in love with, I share this night with and I share this award with. Gabby, I love you so much. You are exquisite. You are beyond words to me. Carey, your grace and your elegance and your beauty and your talent makes me sick. Helen, I feel like we are family, and I don’t have the words to express what I think of you. And Meryl, you know what I think of you, and you are such a good kisser … 

But there’s so many people to thank, not enough time. So I would like to thank what this film was about for me, which are the moms that take care of the babies and the children no matter where they come from. Those moms and parents never get thanked. I, in particular, failed to thank one. So, if I can take this moment to thank Helga B. for not letting me ride in cars with boys till I was eighteen, ’cause she was right; I would’ve done what she said I was gonna do. For making me practice every day when I got home, piano, ballet, whatever it is I wanted to be. She said to be an artist you had to practice every day. And for reminding her daughters that there’s no race, no religion, no class system, no color, nothing, no sexual orientation, that makes us better than anyone else. We are all deserving of love. 

So, to that trailblazer who allowed me to have that, and this [referring to the Oscar], and this, I thank you so much for this opportunity that I share with these extraordinary women, and my lover Meryl Streep. Thank you.

2010: Mo’Nique, winning Best Supporting Actress for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (read our review)

First, I would like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics. I want to thank Miss Hattie McDaniel for enduring all that she had to so that I wouldn’t have to.