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14 of the Best Oscar Speeches of All Time

We're looking back at the best of the best

Kaitlin Thomas

The 89th Annual Academy Awards are Sunday, which means we're thinking about our favorite acceptance speeches (again).

No one has ever received a standing ovation for merely thanking the Academy, and your grandma isn't going to share a video of someone who just read off a long list of names most common folk don't recognize. So what makes a great acceptance speech? Is it the sincere enthusiasm as a result of winning? Is it a lot of happy tears? Is it a well-placed joke or political statement? Maybe it's a combination of all of the above!

Honestly, it's hard to predict what's going to kill it in the room, and it's equally hard to rank these 13 masterful speeches to say who's best. (Isn't winning enough of a feat?) So just enjoy our picks for the best Oscars speeches of all time below, in no particular order.

1. Halle Berry, Monster's Ball (2002)

In 2002, after receiving a standing ovation as the first African-American woman to win the award for Best Actress, an emotional Halle Berry ended up giving one of the best Oscars speeches of all time. "This moment is so much bigger than me," she said. "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."

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2. Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jerry Maguire (1997)

Cuba Gooding, Jr. accepted the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Jerry Maguire with the right amount of excitement and enthusiasm one would expect from someone who just won an Oscar.

3. Common and John Legend, Selma (2015)

Most of the speeches on this list feature men and women whose talents were on display in front of the camera, but sometimes the best speeches come from non-actors. In 2015, John Legend and Common (under real names John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn) won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song "Glory" from Selma, and their emotionally- and politically-charged speech feels even more relevant and important today than it did two years ago.

4. Meryl Streep, Iron Lady (2012)

The official Academy clip of Meryl Streep's acceptance speech for Iron Lady is on YouTube, but it's un-embeddable, which is a shame because from her witty opening remarks ("When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America go, 'Oh, no. Aw, c'mon, why? Her? Again?'") through to the end, it was a wonderful speech from one of acting's greatest talents. And when you realize this was only her third Oscar and her first in 29 years, it really put things in perspective.

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5. Tom Hanks, Philadelphia (1994)

Tom Hanks won back-to-back Academy Awards in 1994 and 1995 for his performances in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, but it was his first eloquent speech that sticks out as one of the best of all time. Just watch it and try not to cry.

6. Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins (1965)

When Dame Julie Andrews took home the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1965 for her performance in Mary Poppins she said, "I know you Americans are famous for your hospitality, but this is really ridiculous." There's nothing ridiculous about it, Julie.

7. Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1976)

Louise Fletcher's acceptance speech for Best Actress for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was funny ("Well, it looks like you all hated me so much that you've given me this award for it, and I'm loving every minute of it"), but it was also incredibly heartfelt. She ended by thanking both her parents in sign language, and if you don't cry when she reaches that point, you have no heart.

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8. Sally Field, Places in the Heart (1985)

It doesn't matter who you are, there's a very good chance you know -- or think you know -- the famous line from Sally Field's acceptance speech for when she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Places in the Heart. "You like me, you really like me!" has been batted about in popular culture since it supposedly happened, but did you know Field actually said, "I can't deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!" The more you know.

9. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting (1998)

In 1998, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were just two childhood friends who were excited and terrified to be onstage accepting the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting. As Affleck attempted to coherently thank as many people as possible in the small amount of time they were given, Damon apparently decided to start shouting out people's names instead, which was weird but also delightful.

10. Ruth Gordon, Rosemary's Baby (1969)

We should all aspire to be as witty as Ruth Gordon was during her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress in 1969, when she took home the award for her performance in Rosemary's Baby. "I can't tell you how encouraging a thing like this is," she said. "The first film that I was ever in was in 1915 and here we are and it's 1969. Actually, I don't know why it took me so long; though I don't think, you know, that I'm backward."

11. Kate Winslet, The Reader (2010)

It feels like Kate Winslet has won a thousand of these things because she's dazzling in everything she does, but in actuality she's only ever taken home one Academy Award out of seven nominations. While her acceptance speech may seem a little calmer than some of the other speeches on this list, between Winslet's dad whistling to let her know where he was sitting and telling Meryl Streep she had to suck it up because none of the actresses could believe they were nominated alongside her, it was a truly memorable speech.

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12. Joe Pesci, GoodFellas (1991)

A great speech doesn't need to be long. When Joe Pesci took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in GoodFellas, his speech was only six words long: "It was my privilege. Thank you."

13. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club (2014)

Smack dab in the middle of the McConaissance, Matthew McConaughey won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club. You may only remember the trademark "all right, all right, all right" at the end of his speech -- and why wouldn't you? -- but before that was an a surprisingly sentimental acceptance speech in which the actor also talked about how his hero is himself 10 years from now. It's sweet and makes sense when you watch it. Promise.

14. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (2017)

OK, this one is less about the speech and more about the chaotic way the presentation of the winner for Best Picture happened. After Warren Beatty mistakenly awarded the Oscar to heavy favorite La La Land, everyone involved had to stop for a minute as the mistake -- Moonlight actually won -- was rectified. And it was as unforgettable as the best speeches of all time.

The 90th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, airs Sunday, March 4 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on ABC.