The 9 most empowering speeches by women in Oscars history

For a heaping dose of girl power

Oscars, Halle Berry
(Image credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images)

Hollywood's biggest night is almost here. The Oscars might be a little different than celebrations of years past, but the event promises to deliver star-studded appearances, glamorous looks, and of course, plenty of inspiration for your to-watch lists. 

We're helping you plan the perfect Oscars party of your own (even during the age of social distancing) and providing the scoop on this year's eight films nominated for the highly-coveted best picture award. But perhaps the best way to ring in the festivities is to take a look back at some of our favorite, girl-power acceptance speeches that touch on everything from friendship and unity to acceptance and diversity.

Shattering the glass ceiling in this industry hasn't been an easy feat. Several years ago, a Vanity Fair detailed the "staggering inequality" at the award show, noting that women represent only 19% of non-acting nominations. Meanwhile, Variety quoted Jane Fonda, Women’s Media Center co-founder and co-chair, who said, "Hollywood is still an all-boys' club."

This year, however, is the most diverse nominations in the show's history, which is long overdue. Enjoy a sip of the Oscars house champagne and enjoy these fierce, empowering speeches from Hollywood's leading ladies.

Cate Blanchett in 2014

Upon winning Best Actress for her role in Blue Jasmine, Cate took the opportunity to acknowledge how important—and profitable!—female films are to the industry. We're totally here for it!

Halle Berry in 2002

Halle Berry took home the title for Best Actress in 2002 for Monster Ball. She acknowledged how her success story would help pave the way for other women of color in years to come. 

"It’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened," she said. 

Patricia Arquette in 2015

Winning the Best Supporting Actress award for Boyhood was the perfect time to briefly discuss gender norms, and Patricia certainly did. She even called to close the gap on pay gaps between genders.

Reese Witherspoon in 2006

After nabbing the Best Actress award for her portrayal of June Carter, the Walk the Line actress made a note about being a fearless woman. She loved that June is a real woman with "dignity, honor, fear, and courage."

Meryl Streep in 2012

Naturally, this list wouldn't be complete without the incomparable Meryl Streep. The iconic actress took home an award for Best Actress in Iron Lady. During her humbling speech, she notes the importance of friendship and what it takes for loved ones to create something together. 

Lupita Nyong’o in 2014

Like Halle, Lupita used her acceptance speech to pave the way forward for women of all backgrounds. After winning for Best Supporting Actress in 12 Years a Slave, she said, "When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid."

Olivia Colman in 2019

The Crown favorite delighted the audience with her totally candid, humble, and hysterical acceptance speech for winning Best Actress for The Favourite. She even acknowledged a few of her idols—whom she beat—in the process. 

Shirley MacLaine in 1984

The wise MacLaine noted famously in her acceptance speech for Best Actress for Terms of Endearment, "Films and life are like clay waiting for us to mold it." A word to the wise for sure!

Emma Thompson in 1996

Emma won Best Actress for her role in Sense and Sensibility, and praised executive producer Sydney Pollac "for asking all the right questions, like, ‘Why couldn’t these women go out and get a job?’ Why indeed’."