5 Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep is known in Oscar lore as “always the bridesmaid and rarely the bride” because of her relatively low wins-to-nominations ratio. Streep’s success rate inched higher when she won her third Oscar in 17 nominations in 2012 for “The Iron Lady.” Even more remarkable, Streep was 0-for-12 between her last previous victory for “Sophie’s Choice” and her 2012 nod. Streep acknowledged her luck, or lack thereof, with an acceptance speech line “I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, ‘Oh, no. Come on…why her again?’ You know. But, whatever.”
4 Adrien Brody
It was actually a single act that made Adrien Brody’s 2003 Oscar acceptance memorable. Upon arriving on stage to receive his statue from presenter Halle Berry, Brody planted an emphatic kiss on the unsuspecting, startled actress. Brody, who won Best Actor for his lead role in “The Pianist,” certainly took advantage of his first taste of fame. At the start of his speech, he did utter the line “I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag!” to resounding laughter.
3 Billy Wilder
Despite having already won six Oscars out of 15 nominations, Billy Wilder delivered one of the most intense Oscar speeches in 1988 upon receiving the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. In ranking Wilder’s speech number one in its list of top acceptance speeches in February 2013, Legacy.com cited his combination of light humor and dramatic storytelling in describing his escape from Nazi Germany.
2 Halle Berry
While her words alone weren’t necessarily riveting, the 2002 acceptance of a Best Actress Oscar by Halle Berry was historically significant. The event marked the first time an African-American had won an Academy Award for a leading role. In her emotional remarks, the sobbing Berry touched on the significance of the moment with the line “This is for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance tonight because this door has been opened.”
1 Gwyneth Paltrow
One possible ingredient in an iconic Oscar speech is overt emotion and seemingly real humility, which 1998 Best Actress winner Gwyneth Paltrow certainly displayed. In accepting her award for the film “Shakespeare In Love,” Paltrow delivered a long speech perpetually interrupted by sobs and cries. In the process of thanking everyone involved in the film and everyone else she ever met, Paltrow uttered such lines as “I would not have been able to play this role had I not understood love with a tremendous magnitude, and for that I thank my family.”