Top 10 Times Jane Fonda Was the Greatest

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Top 10 Times Jane Fonda Was the Greatest

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Tatiana Ward
Jane Fond is the greatest and we're not just talking about her acting chops. Our countdown includes 1979 Oscar acceptance speech in ASL, the story of the iconic mugshot, memorable Dick Cavett interview, and more!
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Top 10 Times Jane Fonda Was the Greatest


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Times Jane Fonda Was the Greatest.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the actress, activist and icon’s best pop culture moments. There’s just so much we can say about this trailblazer that we have to save her film and TV performances for a list of their own, though.

When did you discover that Jane Fonda is a certified badass? Tell us your favorite moment of hers in the comments!

#10: The Megyn Kelly Interview


Correspondent Megyn Kelly interviewed one of Hollywood’s favorite on-screen couples, Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, for Megyn Kelly Today back in 2017. The conversation was going well until Kelly asked Fonda about her cosmetic surgery. Fonda, noting how unnecessary Kelly’s question was, redirected the interview back to her and Redford’s film, Our Souls at Night. Yeah, that was as cringe-inducing as you thought it was. Fonda’s handling of the uncomfortable situation warranted a chuckle from Redford and the audience and would be talked about for many more months after that. In fact, she and longtime friend and actress, Lily Tomlin, even joked about the awkward exchange on the Today show when hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie asked them how long they have known each other.

#9: Accepting the Oscar on Her Father’s Behalf


In 1982, Jane Fonda literally took home the Oscar for Best Actor for On Golden Pond on behalf of her father, Henry Fonda, who was unwell and absent from the ceremony. Though The Grapes of Wrath star had a shining acting career, this was his first and only non-honorary Academy Award. And it was all because of Jane. She bought the rights to the play of the same name so that she and her father could finally share a moment on screen together. And the award for greatest daughter goes to… Though their relationship was as complex as the father-daughter pair they portrayed in the film, Fonda gave a glowing speech, making this a special moment in Academy archives.

#8: Memorable Dick Cavett Interview


Throughout the decades, Jane has always aligned herself with many causes, like hosting Black Panther Party fundraisers at her home, speaking out against the Vietnam War, and supporting the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz. Fonda seizes every opportunity to use her platform for change. What could’ve probably been an interview full of funny remarks and comments about her beauty or acting roles instead became one in which Fonda eloquently detailed the discrimination against the Native American community and how she came to join activist Bernie Whitebear in the occupation of Fort Lawton. Compelled by the passion in her eyes and the conviction in her voice, we think it’s safe to say that that night, The Dick Cavett Show became the Jane Fonda show.

#7: “Workout Starring Jane Fonda”: The Origin Story


Activist, actress, and exercise video instructor? Workout Starring Jane Fonda was a hit upon its release in 1982 and is still the top-selling VHS of all time. Even living-legend and friend, Meryl Streep, paid homage to Jane Fonda’s Workout in her tribute to Fonda for her AFI Life Achievement Award in 2014. But Workout was more than a celebrity exercise tape. Fonda created a fun way to get people fit while raising money for multiple political causes at the same time. Fonda and her at-the-time husband and politician Tom Hayden created the video series to fund the Campaign for Economic Democracy, an action-committee they co-founded to tackle issues such as water pollution, anti-war efforts, and women’s rights, to list a few. Of course, who could forget the pink-striped leotard, the 80s bops, and that big hair? Iconic.

#6: “In Conversation with Pat Mitchell” at TEDWomen 2015


You can’t mention the best Jane Fonda moments without mentioning Lily Tomlin. In 2015, Ted’s TEDWomen Conference welcomed the Grace and Frankie co-stars to the stage to discuss the importance of female friendships. Seeing how Fonda and Tomlin have been friends for over forty years, they were the ideal duo for this talk. Their shared admiration and effortless timing of each other’s banter made the interview flow so organically that the host, Pat Mitchell, barely had to ask any questions. Honestly, the hilarious and sweet moments the two share whenever they’re on-screen together deserve a list of their own.

#5: The 1979 Interview on Gay Rights


Fonda has been known for and continues not to shy away from sticking up for the underdog. Critics be warned. Her 1979 interview on gay rights was no exception. In the wake of the assassination of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, a reporter asked Fonda if she believed there was still discrimination against the gay community - and if they were using her organization, the Campaign for Economic Democracy. She gave a beautiful and powerful response that would earn virality every time the video resurfaced on social media.

#4: The Story of the Iconic Mugshot


If you know who Jane Fonda is, then chances are you know that iconic mugshot: fist in the air, Bree Daniels haircut. But do you know how she pulled off that famous photo? On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2016, she told the tale of how she was arrested reportedly on orders of then-President Richard Nixon and accused of smuggling drugs in 1970. We can’t tell which moment is the greatest: her beautiful defiance captured on camera that will inspire even more generations to come or that she demonstrated how she managed to finesse her way out of a pair of handcuffs on the talk show. She’s such a badass.

#3: 1979 Oscar Acceptance Speech in ASL


Jane Fonda has always been about using her platform to elevate necessary conversations, highlighting issues that go ignored, and making sure that all types of people feel heard. At the 51st Academy Awards, she won Best Actress for her role in Coming Home where she starred as Sally Hyde, a woman who develops a romance with a Vietnam War veteran bound to a wheelchair. Fonda not only gave a memorable speech as she always does, but also delivered part of it in American Sign Language. She embraced those few minutes on the biggest night in Hollywood to shed light on the many ways we can make the world more accessible for those with differences in human experience.

#2: Oprah Winfrey Interviews Jane & Her Adopted Daughter


Fonda and her daughter, Mary “LuLu” Williams, sat down for what was then known as Oprah’s Next Chapter. Until the episode aired in 2013, it was not common knowledge that Fonda had adopted Mary after she met the young, aspiring actress at her and Tom Hayden’s summer camp. Fonda and Williams are seen sitting across from Oprah, holding hands and staring lovingly into each other’s eyes. The three fight back tears as Mary speaks of how she went from living in Oakland, California with her biological parents, former Black Panther members, to being invited to live with Jane and her family. Hearing Fonda speak so poetically about her daughter, who she endearingly calls “Lulu” for Mary Luana, is one of the sweetest Jane Fonda exchanges we’ve been graced to see.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

On Acting with Viola Davis in “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors”

On Her 2017 On-Screen Reunion with Robert Redford

On Her Regrets About Marvin Gaye

Jane Fonda vs. a Bear

Her AFI Life Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

#1: Her Arrest During BAFTA Award Acceptance Speech


Each year, BAFTA Los Angeles honors figures in Film for their impactful artistry that sticks out from the rest with the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence. But not even BAFTA could predict Jane Fonda accepting her award while being handcuffed during a 2019 Fire Drills Friday protest in Washington, D.C. Fonda and Greenpeace launched the movement to ignite an urgency around the climate crisis, which has resulted in Fonda being arrested multiple times along with fellow protesters - once, even on the eve of her 82nd birthday. She does not miss a beat, thanking the British Academy of Film and Television Arts out loud even while officers detain her. Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly be even more fond of her, Jane Fonda proves time and time again that she is a force to be reckoned with.
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