Not all acceptance speeches go according to plan. Maybe the winner gets too teary-eyed to continue. Maybe they’re just so shocked that they won at all that they rush off stage, like Rita Moreno when she became the first Latina to win Best Supporting Actress in 1962. Maybe they ramble a bit. Or maybe they think of the strangest person they can thank, like when Halle Berry gave kudos to her lawyer after winning the Oscar for Monster’s Ball. Um, OK. Go entertainment lawyers?
But sometimes the winners or presenters can go into more controversial territory. They could declare their love for their brother like Angelina Jolie or refuse their award altogether to protest the treatment of Native Americans like Marlon Brando. These moments range from the political to the just plain awkward.
Here are the 10 Most Controversial Oscar Speeches Of All Time.
10. MARLON BRANDO
This story is one of the granddaddies of old Hollywood pearl clutching. The nerve of Marlon Brando! Using a nationally broadcasted television event for something like raising awareness for Native American rights was just plain wrong, opined morally righteous folks like John Wayne. Funny that it caused so much controversy, given that Brando wasn’t actually at the ceremony.
Instead, he sent activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his stead to the Awards. After they called Brando’s name for his role of The Godfather, she took the stage to decline his award and read his speech protesting the US Marshals siege on Wounded Knee. She was booed off stage but was able to finish reading Brando’s missive for the press backstage.
9. MICHAEL MOORE
Oh, he really doesn’t like George W. Bush. So much so, that when Michael Moore won the gold for Best Documentary for Bowling for Columbine, he took the opportunity with his first Oscar to air his grievances against the then-sitting President. Moore invited his fellow doc nominees to take the stage with him to stand against “fictitious” reasons for going to war in Iraq.
At first, there were whoops and cheers from the audiences, but the roar of boos soon came bellowing back. Moore soldiered on, even as the production team scrambled to rush on the play out music to silence him. The scene takes less than two minutes, but it probably seemed like a lifetime back in 2003.
8. MELISSA LEO
Sometimes you get so excited, you just can’t hold back. The Oscars are all about the tears and haphazard speeches (because, let’s face it, the rehearsed ones are much too boring). However the jury’s still out as to whether or not Melissa Leo lost her cool or planned to drop the F-bomb on the Academy during the live telecast for a tumultuous campaign for her Supporting Actress win for her role in The Fighter.
Leo took a risk and paid for campaign ads herself to boost her profile after magazines passed on featuring the then 50-year-old actress. The move raised some eyebrows in Hollywood, but ultimately, we all know who won that round and had the final [F-]word.
7. ADRIeN BRODY
There’s a difference between being friendly and manhandling your on-stage presenter with a full, on-the-mouth kiss. Perhaps it was another instance of too much excitement over their Oscar win, when Adrien Brody rushed the stage to collect his award for The Pianist he landed a full-on smooch on Halle Berry.
The move even included a romantic dip back (just like you see in the movies). The only problem? Berry doesn’t appear to be in the loop, and even if she plays it off like a pro, grabbing a distant co-worker and giving them a big ol’ kiss would honestly land anyone else with a talking to from HR.
6. ANGELINA JOLIE
When you win the Oscar, there are a number of people to thank, none of which you’re allowed to forget. You can start with the Academy, move onto a greater power, your agent, your lawyer, your parents, and maybe even your partner. But a goth-chic Pre-Brad Pitt era Angelina Jolie upped the ante when she declared the love for her brother onstage at the 1999 Oscars.
Off stage, Jolie and older sibling James Haven locked lips momentarily, but it was enough for the tabloids to run on incest rumors until she began her relationship with Billy Bob Thornton. But don’t let the rag mags rain on Jolie’s accomplishment for her tortured part in Girl, Interrupted, it’s still great, if underseen.
5. SUSAN SARANDON AND TIM ROBBINS
The 65th Academy Awards were such an eventful occasion that they landed not once but twice on our list. First up: Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins’s passionate speech before presenting the award for Best Editing. The power couple called out the U.S. government for running an internment camp in Cuba for Haitians suffering from HIV and AIDS.
Their spiel landed them in the Academy dog house for a few years, but both Sarandon and Robbins were back in good graces and won awards after the controversy. Sarandon got her shining moment in 1996 for her role in Dead Man Walking (which Robbins directed) and Robbins would follow in 2004 for Mystic River.
4. RICHARD GERE
As with Sarandon and Robbins, Richard Gere also had some choice words for certain world leaders. In his case, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping for his treatment of Tibetans when he presented at the 1993 Oscars. He asked for the removal of troops and called attention to the country’s human rights violations against Tibet and its own people.
Show producer Gil Cates publicly disapproved of the evening’s political grandstanding. Of Gere, he told the L.A. Times, “Does anyone care about Richard Gere’s comments about China? It’s arrogant.” Like Sarandon and Robbins, Gere’s activism encompassed more than just one issue. The actor urged viewers of the 1992 Oscars to write to Congress to request transferring defense funds to HIV research.
3. VANESSA REDGRAVE
Well, things were going pretty well for Vanessa Redgrave on the night of the 1978 Oscars. She won the coveted statue for her role in the film Julia. But during her acceptance speech, Redgrave added a little kicker that soured the room fast.
She addressed the Jewish Defamation League protesting outside the ceremony by applauding Jews who fought against Nazi dictators and condemning the “small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression.” Well, that didn’t go over so well with the audience, some of whom cheered while many others booed.
2. SEAN PENN
Before he was scoring one-on-one interviews with one of the most infamous drug dealers alive, Sean Penn tried to do right by defending Jude Law against a joke from Chris Rock. The 2005 host asked “Who is Jude Law? Why is he in every movie I have seen the last four years?”
While at the mic announcing the winner for Best Actress, Penn rebutted the jab by confirming Law’s place in Hollywood: “He’s one of our finest actors.” But that wasn’t Penn’s only brush with controversy on the Oscars stage. He made a green card crack at Mexican director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s expense when the director won for Birdman.
1. SALLY FIELD
This is the best situation to come out of an awkward moment. So overcome with the joy of winning the Oscar for her work in Places in the Heart at the 1985 Oscars, Field giddily uttered those now famous words, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.”
It was cute, and it was Field. Unfortunately, it became a meme when it was shortened to “You like me! You really like me!” It was a joke that’s grown into an endearing moment for the Academy Awards. It’s nice to be recognized by your peers who really like you.
Which controversial Oscar speech is your favorite? Is there one we missed? Share in the comments below!
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