Meryl Streep is not only the greatest actress of our time, but the greatest acceptance speech-giver ever. That's not hyperbole. Streepeeches are truly works of art. They're as good as the performances she wins them for: clever, funny, daffy, self-effacing, appreciative, all delivered with perfect timing. They deserve their own awards. One day, they'll give out an award for speeches and call it the Streep. Because everyone will strive to master Streep's uncanny ability to come off spontaneous and practiced, humble and acutely self-aware, and original every damn time.
We're guaranteed another speech at Sunday's Golden Globe Awards, where Streep — a 30-time nominee and eight-time winner (both records) — will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award. (She's also up for Florence Foster Jenkins.) In honor of what's sure to be another insta-classic, let's look back at her 12 best acceptance speeches ever.
Golden Globes: Here are our fearless predictions
1. Golden Globe Awards (2003)
The '90s were a decidedly slow awards period for Streep. She received only three Oscar nominations and there was a five-year gap in between two of them (the longest gap in her 19-nod history). She had received 12 Globe nominations since her win for Sophie's Choice in 1983, but lost all of them, so she was shocked when she won the first award of the night in 2003, for Adaptation. The standing O gives her time to compose herself — and readjust her cleavage — before acknowledging her drought: "I've just been nominated 789 times and I was getting so settled over there for a long winter's nap. I didn't have anything prepared because it's been like since the Pleistocene era that I won anything."
2. Oscars (1980)
Streep's early speeches don't have the same drollness to them, but her opening "Holy mackerel" after winning her first Oscar, for Kramer vs. Kramer, conveys the same sheepish surprise that pulse through her speeches today. Plus, that kiss she plants on Dustin Hoffman is hilarious now knowing what a pain in the ass he was to her during filming.
3. Emmy Awards (2004)
No one else could pull off this opener: "You know there are some days when I myself think I'm overrated... but not today." The only bad part of this speech is when the orchestra starts to play her off, but, naturally, Streep handles it with aplomb. "Oh, and I can sing this just as well," she croons, before thanking Angels in America scribe Tony Kushner.
4. Golden Globes (2007)
When Streep whipped out a speech after her win for The Devil Wears Prada, some fool who clearly has no appreciation for her way with words groans, so she properly puts them in their place: "Oh, shut up, it's not that long." She caps it by channeling Miranda Priestly to encourage fans to ask their local theaters to carry all the small films they want to see.
5. Oscars (1983)
Another hallmark of Streep's speeches are the mishaps. The cynic in you might say they're all calculated and planned, but even if they were, so what? She pulls them off so well that you can't help but be charmed. After Sylvester Stallone hands Streep her Oscar for Sophie's Choice, she realizes she had dropped her speech and goes to pick it up. He thinks it's a piece of trash and offers to take it from her. Hilariously awkward confusion ensues. (Fun fact: Streep was pregnant with her daughter Mamie Gummer here.)
6. Screen Actors Guild Awards (2009)
This one has everything: kisses for everybody around her; a Rocky-esque triumphant run to the stage, a loopy opener ("I didn't even buy a dress!"); tongue-in-cheek frankness ("I'm really, really shocked and even though awards don't mean anything to me anymore, I'm really happy"); winking modesty ("There is no such thing as the best actress. There is no such thing as the greatest living actress. I am in a position where I have secret information"); a shout-out to her fellow actresses and their work ("So proud of us girls — everybody wins when we get parts like this"); and most memorably, a call to Hollywood to help her BFF and Doubt co-star Viola Davis out ("My God! Somebody give her a movie!").
7. Oscars (2012)
Speaking of Davis, she was widely expected to win best actress for The Help in 2012, but Streep edged her out for The Iron Lady to claim her third Oscar and first in 29 years. Streep's double-take when Colin Firth reads her name is fantastic, as is the kiss she gives Davis en route to the stage. As per yoosh, she opens with a self-deprecating bit ("When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America go, 'Oh, no. Aw, c'mon, why? Her? Again?' But whatever"), but it quickly morphs into one of her most poignant and emotional speeches, as she thanks her husband and longtime makeup artist who had won earlier in the night, before taking the opportunity — because "I really understand I'll never be up here again" — to thank her friends "departed and here." "This is such a great honor, but the thing that counts the most with me is the friendships and the love and the sheer joy we have shared making movies together," she says in a way that you know she genuinely means it. (The official Academy clip of her win is on YouTube, but it's un-embeddable, which is just as well because it doesn't include Firth's announcement and her reaction.)
8. Golden Globe Awards (2004)
Streep rarely gets political in her speeches, but she punctuated her Globes win for Angels in America with a message: "I just wanna say that I don't think the two biggest problems in America are that too many people wanna commit their lives to one another 'til death do us part' and steroids in sports, I don't think those are our two biggest problems." And of course, she opened it with a funny: "I just realized you can see completely through my dress."
9. National Movie Awards (2008)
You've probably never heard of this short-lived fan-voted British awards show, which lasted from 2007-11. Streep showed up to receive the female performance trophy for Mamma Mia! and wasted no time shading critics who panned the flick.
10. Golden Globe Awards (2010)
Meet T Bone Streep. Streep, who won for playing Julia Child in Julie & Julia, brings the laughs by ribbing on T Bone Burnett, who had just won best original song for Crazy Heart. Then she gets serious, weaving together a tribute to the famed chef and her own mother, while acknowledging the heavy pall over the ceremony, which was held days after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. "I am really honestly conflicted how to have my happy movie self in the face of everything that I'm aware of, in the real world," she says. "And I wanna say that that's when I have my mother's voice coming to me, saying, 'Partners in Health. Shoot some money to Partners in Health. Put the dress on. Put on a smile and be damn grateful that you have the dollars to help, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day.' I am really grateful."
11. BAFTAs (2012)
The lead-up to this one is just as good as the speech itself. There's the "Can you believe it? What do they know?" heavy sigh she presumably gives Viola Davis, whom she then kisses. Then, she realizes she needs to stow away her purse, so she gives it to Shailene Woodley. And then she loses a shoe on the steps, so real-life Prince Charming Colin Firth comes to the rescue. The whole thing is a first-ballot Hall of Fame entry.
12. Golden Globes (2012)
Leave it to Streep to get away with an un-bleeped S-bomb. She realizes she forgot her glasses partway through her Iron Lady acceptance speech and smartly draws out the "sh... it!" The best part of this one is not the "girl power in film" Streep preaches, but the factory line attempt to shepherd her glasses to the stage. Harvey Weinstein passes them off to George Clooney, who passes them off to David Fincher, who completely drops the ball. C'mon, dude. Oh, and for good measure, she closes by giving a shout-out to — who else? — Viola Davis. Because if you learn nothing else from these speeches, learn this: The Meryl Streep and Viola Davis love story is real, and it's spectacular.
The Golden Globe Awards airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC.