From Tom Hanks' praise for his former teacher to Jennifer Hudson's tearful tribute to her grandmother, these overwhelming expressions of gratitude were unforgettable

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February 21, 2019 09:00 AM

Some viewers tune in to the Academy Awards to see who bests the prestigious competition, or to play fashion critic as the celebs waltz down the red carpet. But for those of us craving catharsis, crying right along with the stars as they choke out their “thank yous” is by far the best part of the night.

Luckily, these 12 past Oscar winners definitely did not forget about the little (or the very well-established) people when they finally made it to that coveted stage.

To prepare for all the feels at the 2019 Oscars, we’re looking back at some of the most touching ways winners have expressed their appreciation while claiming their statuettes.

 

Sandra Bullock Recognizes Mothers Everywhere

“I would like to thank what this film was about for me, which are the moms that take care of the babies and the children no matter where they come from. Those moms and parents never get thanked. I, in particular, failed to thank one. So … if I can take this moment to thank Helga B. for not letting me ride in cars with boys till I was 18, ’cause she was right; I would’ve done what she said I was gonna do. For making me practice every day when I got home, piano, ballet, whatever it is I wanted to be. She said to be an artist you had to practice every day. And for reminding her daughters that there’s no race, no religion, no class system, no color, nothing, no sexual orientation, that makes us better than anyone else. We are all deserving of love.”
— accepting Best Actress for The Blind Side in 2010

Tom Hanks Remembers Two Influential Men in His Life

“I would not be standing here if it weren’t for two very important men in my life, so … two that I haven’t spoken with in awhile, but I had the pleasure of just the other evening. Mr. Rawley Farnsworth, who was my high school drama teacher, who taught me to act well the part, there all the glory lies. And one of my classmates under Mr. Farnsworth, Mr. John Gilkerson. I mention their names because they are two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with, to fall under their inspiration at such a young age. I wish my babies could have the same sort of teacher, the same sort of friends. And there lies my dilemma here tonight. I know that my work in this case is magnified by the fact that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels.”
— accepting Best Actor for Philadelphia in 1994

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Viola Davis Pays Tribute to Fences Playwright August Wilson

“You know, there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place and that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. So, here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.”
— accepting Best Supporting Actress for Fences in 2017

Robin Williams Pokes Fun at His Late Father

“And most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, ‘Wonderful, just have a back-up profession like welding.’ Thank you. God bless you.”
— accepting Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting in 1998

Matthew McConaughey Sends Love to His Family

“To my family, that’s who and what I look forward to. To my father, who I know is up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He’s got a lemon meringue pie over there. He’s probably in his underwear and he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite. And he’s dancin’ right now. To you, Dad, you taught me what it means to be a man. To my mother who’s here tonight, who taught me and my two older brothers — demanded — that we respect ourselves, and what we in turn learned was then we were better able to respect others. Thank you for that, Mama. To my wife Camila and my kids, Levi, Vida and Mr. Stone, the courage and significance you give me every day I go out the door is unparalleled. You are the four people in my life that I want to make the most proud of me. Thank you.”
— accepting Best Actor for Dallas Buyers Club in 2014

Be sure to check out PEOPLE’s full Oscars coverage to get the latest news on film’s biggest night.

Frances McDormand Toasts Women in the Industry

“If I may be so honored to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me in this room tonight. The actors — Meryl [Streep], if you do it everybody else will, c’mon. The filmmakers. The producers. The directors. The writers. The cinematographer. The composers. The songwriters. The designers. C’mon! Okay. Look around, everybody. Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days — or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best — and we’ll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”
— accepting Best Actress for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in 2018

Halle Berry Honors Black Actresses Who Paved Her Way

“This moment is so much bigger than me. 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. Thank you. I’m so honored. I’m so honored.”
— accepting Best Actress for Monster’s Ball in 2002

Louise Fletcher Thanks Her Deaf Parents in Sign Language

“For my mother and my father, I want to say thank you for teaching me to have a dream. You are seeing my dream come true.”
— accepting Best Actress for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1976

Dustin Lance Black Supports Marginalized Youth

“When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas, to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married. I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you God does love you, and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours.”
— accepting Best Original Screenplay for Milk in 2009

Gwyneth Paltrow Gushes About Her Family

“I would not have been able to play this role had I not understood love of a tremendous magnitude, and for that I thank my family. My mother Blythe Danner, who I love more than anything, and my brother Jake Paltrow, who is just the dearest person in the whole world. My earthly guardian angel, Mary Wigmore. And especially to my father Bruce Paltrow, who has surmounted insurmountable obstacles this year. I love you more than anything in the world. And to my grandpa Buster, who almost made it here tonight, but couldn’t quite get here. Grandpa, I want you to know that you have created a beautiful family who loves you and loves each other more than anything, and we thank you for that.”
— accepting Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love in 1999

Lupita Nyong’o Sends a Message to Children

“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.”
— accepting Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave in 2014

Benj Pasek Salutes His Mom for Letting Him Quit Soccer

“I want to thank my mom, who is amazing and my date tonight. And she let me quit the JCC soccer league to be in a school musical. So this is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain and all the moms who let them. Thank you very much. I love you, Mom.”
— accepting Best Original Song for La La Land‘s “City of Stars” in 2017

Jennifer Hudson Reflects on Her Late Grandmother’s Impact

“I cannot believe this. Look what God can do. If my grandmother — I didn’t think I was going to win but, wow, if my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration for everything because she was a singer, and she had the passion for it but she never had the chance, and that was the thing that pushed me forward to continue.”
— accepting Best Supporting Actress for Dreamgirls in 2007

The 91st Academy Awards are broadcasting live from Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT on ABC.

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