Winning an Oscar is a pretty big deal, right? It means that you’re the best in your field (acting, directing, costuming, etc.), and an entire academy of your peers wants to recognize you for your work. So then… wouldn’t you want to put a lot of thought into the speech you’re going to give when accepting such an award?
Perhaps some of these winners did, but it just didn’t pan out. Maybe some of them thought winging it would be their best option. Others — either rehearsed or not — talked politics to a crowd of boos. And then there are some winners that just didn’t give a flying nickel. Whatever the backstory, we’ve rounded up 14 of the worst speeches in recent history as an example of what we hope Sunday night’s winners don’t do.
Sally Field – “You like me!”
Sometimes a winner is a little too self-focused, like Sally Field in 1985 when she won for Places in the Heart. Sure, Field was sincere, but her self-directed speech about how much the statue meant to her is now one of the most famously (mis)quoted speeches in Oscars history: “You like me, you really like me!” (Watch the video to find out what she really said.)
Gwyneth puts everyone to sleep
Gwyneth Paltrow got a little goopy after her Academy Award win for Shakespeare in Love. Aside from breaking down in tears several times during her lengthy speech, she thanked everyone possible—and we mean everyone. It would have been sweet, but the sobfest speech ended up playing like an insincere checklist instead.
Angelina Jolie really loves her brother
Here’s the thing: it wouldn’t be weird if Angelina just thanked her brother and said she loved him during her 2000 acceptance speech for her supporting role in Girl Interrupted. But she really did fawn over him before the speech, during the speech, and then again after the speech when they kissed with full-on lips in front of media to drive the point home. It was… a lot.
Michael Moore gets super political
It’s hard to remember a time when Hollywood didn’t feel the need to spout politics at awards shows, but when Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine received the statue in 2003, that was certainly the standard. George W. Bush had just edged out Al Gore in the U.S. election, and Moore took the opportunity to tell the world we were all living in “fictitious times.” His career never really rebounded, which is funny since that same speech today would have probably received a standing ovation, not boos.
Joe Pesci is a man of few words
Goodfellas is one of the greatest mob movies of all time, but Joe Pesci’s turn as the gangster Tommy DeVito was the only Oscar the film won in 1991. So you’d expect some kind of speech giving kudos to the project or even to director Martin Scorsese, right? Nope. Pesci’s speech was only six short words. It actually took him longer to get to the stage than to accept the statue.
Matthew McConaughey is his own hero
We all remember the moment Matthew McConaughey graduated from rom-com lead to serious actor thanks to a leading role in Dallas Buyers Club. Unfortunately, in 2014 when he won the statue, his acceptance speech was a confused mess. He appeared to thank himself in a bit about being his own hero, and it didn’t quite land the way he probably hoped. Sadly, not even a token “all right, all right, all right” could save face by the end of it.
Melissa Leo gets weird
If you want to feel icky, go back 10-20 years and watch many of the older male presenters go on and on about how “gorgeous” some of the female nominees are. Kirk Douglas was one such example when he presented Melissa Leo with the best supporting actress Oscar for The Fighter in 2011. She flirted back, dropped an f-bomb, went on a little too long, and then “shared” Douglas’s cane to walk off the stage with him. It was all super weird.
James Cameron gets too meta
In 1998 it was no secret that Titanic was the movie to beat. But director James Cameron maybe took that winning streak a little too far when he accepted the trophy with a certain smugness… the speech itself was fine until the closing moments, when he declared himself (and not Leo), “King of the World.” Obviously it didn’t land the way he’d hoped… especially when he followed it up with some unnecessary dog calls.
Sean Penn’s awkward silences
We get it—you don’t want to presume you’re going to win, because those optics aren’t great. But by not preparing anything you really do put yourself in a pickle by the time you get to the stage. That’s what happened to Sean Penn for his 2004 win for Mystic River. He had little more to say than an awkward political comment about WMDs, which means his overall speech was just a bunch of uncomfortable silences.
Ben Affleck informs us all that marriage is work
You could really see the writing on the wall for Ben and Jen during Affleck’s 2013 acceptance speech for Argo. Not only did the Best Director sound like he was hopped up on about three too many coffees, he linked his wife, Jennifer Garner, to hard work and Iran. Yikes…
Making it easy to hate on Hathaway
Full disclosure: we still love us some Anne Hathaway, but the general feeling towards the Les Misérables’ leading lady heading into the 2013 Oscars wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy. “Hathahaters” were out in full force leading up to the night thanks to a string of weird interviews she gave, but those haters were kind of justified when the actress opened her speech with a totally disingenuous, “It came true.” For the record, over-rehearsing your speech is a great way to sound fake, future winners.
Jack Palance’s one-handed push-ups
We all know Hollywood has a problem with aging, but Jack Palance took his best supporting win for City Slickers in 1992 as an opportunity to call out the industry for it. The problem? He did so as a white man of privilege while also riffing on prostitutes and his man-sized poops. Without those references, his mid-speech one-armed push-ups might have actually been endearing.
Short-film makers bring the beef
Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett may have made a glorious short film in Music by Prudence, but their working experience was not so glorious. The pair reportedly had a falling out while making the movie, so when the film won in 2010, Williams sprinted to the stage and his mother supposedly blocked Burkett from getting out of her seat. When she got to the podium she interrupted him mid-stream, leading to the most awkward acceptance speech we’ve ever seen.
Vanessa Redgrave, the original politician
Vanessa Redgrave was ahead of her time when she took a political stance at the podium in 1978—to plenty of boos from the crowd. After John Travolta presented her with the award for best supporting actress in Julia, she took the opportunity to call out “Zionist hoodlums whose behaviour is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world.” Later, Oscar winner Paddy Chayefsky weighed in on the move while presenting an award, saying, “I would like to say that I’m sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda… I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple ‘thank you’ would have sufficed.”
Sure, Mr. Chayefsky… but if the moment wasn’t that historic, why are we still all talking about it decades later?
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