Ten actors have won Oscars playing LGBT characters. But aside from thanking their collaborators, families, agents, and attorneys, some Oscar winners have used their moment in the international spotlight to make a larger statement.
As we look forward to this Sunday’s Academy Awards, we look back on seven acceptance speeches from actors and filmmakers who paid moving tribute to LGBT people.
Jared Leto — Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Accepting the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as a transgender woman who’s battling AIDS, Leto honored his mother and his gay brother, and provided hope for international victims of homophobia.
Ang Lee — Brokeback Mountain (2005)
By honoring the fictional gay lovers in his landmark film, the Best Director winner honored many of us as well.
Graham Moore — The Imitation Game (2014)
Accepting the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for the true story of gay mathematician Alan Turing, who helped the Allies win World War II, the first-time screenwriter provided inspiration for anyone who feels “weird.”
Sean Penn — Milk (2008)
After an endearing introduction by Robert De Niro, Penn let his outspoken bad boy flag fly and slapped down the homophobic protesters outside while accepting his Best Actor Oscar for playing gay icon Harvey Milk.
Hilary Swank — Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Accepting her first Oscar, awarded for playing the real-life transgender man Brandon Teena, Swank paid moving tribute to young trans people everywhere — even as she forgot to mention her then-husband, Chad Lowe.
Dustin Lance Black — Milk (2008)
Before we all came to know the Oscar-winning screenwriter as a major gay activist, he shared the impact that Harvey Milk had on his life — and had this memorable moment on the Oscar stage.
Tom Hanks — Philadelphia (1993)
The Best Actor winner for Hollywood’s first major film about AIDS gave one of the most moving and transcendent acceptance speeches in Oscar history.