13 Wild Moments From the History of the Academy Awards (VIDEO)
The 2023 Oscars are here. The 95th annual ceremony will kick off on Sunday, March 12 at 8/7c on ABC. It being the first Oscars since the Will Smith/Chris Rock slap, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is undoubtedly crossing its fingers that the only drama will come from clips of the nominated films.
The slap was far from the first time the awards show has had an unexpected moment, though it’s definitely one of its most shocking. Throughout its 95-year history, scores of artists have produced unforgettable moments on the stage of film’s biggest night. Some were joyous wins, others embarrassing production snafus, and some bold statements made in the name of activism.
Alternatively, however, this year’s Oscars could go down in infamy. Remember 2017’s La La Land/Moonlight mix-up? Or that same year’s “In Memoriam” blunder? How about the time Marlon Brando refused his Godfather win?
In short, Hollywood’s biggest night is always unpredictable, and the videos below show just some highlights and lowlights from the last 95 Oscars ceremonies. And yes, Adele Dazeem earns a spot on the list.
1969: Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tie for Best Actress
Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn split the Best Actress vote for the 1969 ceremony, receiving 3,030 votes apiece for their roles in Funny Girl and The Lion in Winter, respectively. Hepburn was a no-show at the 1969 ceremony, though, so Streisand took to the stage and greeted her new statuette, saying, “Hello, gorgeous!”
1972: Charlie Chaplin gets a 12-minute ovation
The audience at the 1972 ceremony gave silent film legend Charlie Chaplin a 12-minute standing ovation, the longest in Oscars history, as he accepted an honorary Academy Award upon returning to the United States more than 20 years after being exiled for alleged Communist ties.
“Words seem so futile — so feeble,” Chaplin told the crowd. “I can only say thank you for the honor of inviting me here.”
1973: Marlon Brando refuses his Best Actor award
After Brando won the 1973 Best Actor category for his work in The Godfather, Apache activist Sacheen Littlefeather refused the award on his behalf.
“He very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award,” she told the audience, citing the actor’s objections to the “treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television and movie reruns.”
Littlefeather and Brando’s protest was badly received at the time. The activist was booed by the crowd, John Wayne had to be held from storming the stage, and attendees lambasted the moment for years afterward. The Academy finally formally apologized for the mistreatment Littlefeather endured in a September 2022 ceremony that the activist attended. She died one month later at the age of 75.
It will be interesting to see if the 2023 Oscars “In Memoriam” segment, performed by Lenny Kravitz, will honor the late activist.
1974: A streaker crashes the ceremony
Photographer and art gallery owner Robert Opel streaked nude across the stage of the 1974 show.
“Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?” co-host David Niven quipped as the audience gained its composure.
1989: Rob Lowe duets with Snow White
When Lowe Met Snow: During the 1989 telecast, Rob Lowe sang a cringe-worthy “Proud Mary” duet with a Snow White performer as audience members looked bewildered. 17 Hollywood stars, including Paul Newman and Julie Andrews, later signed an open letter lambasting the 1989 show as “an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry.”
1999: Roberto Benigni clambers over chairs
Italian actor-director Roberto Benigni couldn’t contain his excitement after his film Life Is Beautiful won Best Foreign Language Film in 1999, standing atop chairs at Los Angeles’ Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and waving his hands in the air — with Steven Spielberg, that night’s Best Director winner, helping him keep his balance. Benigni later won the Best Actor trophy for the same film.
2003: Adrien Brody plants a kiss on Halle Berry
Halle Berry, who made history with her Best Actress win the year before, presented the 2003 Best Actor award to The Pianist’s Adrien Brody, who bounded to the stage and locked lips with her, sparking controversy that raged for years. Berry later said the kiss took her by surprise.
“I was like, ‘What the f**k is happening?’” she said on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen in 2017.
2012: Sacha Baron Cohen ash-bombs Ryan Seacrest
While walking the 2012 Oscars red carpet in character as The Dictator’s Admiral General Aladeen, Sacha Baron Cohen upended an urn and dumped powder — purportedly the ashes of Kim Jong-il — on a less-than-amused Ryan Seacrest.
2014: John Travolta butchers Idina Menzel’s name
During the 2014 ceremony, John Travolta had the honor of introducing Idina Menzel’s performance of the Oscar-nominated Frozen anthem “Let It Go.” Unfortunately for them both, he somehow pronounced her name “Adele Dazeem.” They both made light of the flub at the following year’s Oscars … with Travolta awkwardly cradling the Tony winner’s chin.
2017: “In Memoriam” segment shows (the alive) Jan Chapman
The 2017 Oscars’ “In Memoriam” segment (featuring a performance by Sara Bareilles) showed a photo of Australian producer Jan Chapman instead of the late costume designer Janet Patterson, a friend of hers. Chapman later told Variety she was “alive and well” and “devastated” about the Academy’s mix-up.
2017: La La Land is erroneously named Best Picture
It wasn’t their fault, though: They had the wrong envelope. A PricewaterhouseCoopers partner handed the Bonnie and Clyde pair the extra Best Actress winner envelope. The card read “Emma Stone, La La Land,” confusing Beatty and prompting him to stall. In the rush of the moment, Dunaway mistakenly declared La La Land the winner.
PwC later took responsibility for the snafu, and the two PwC partners responsible for guarding the envelopes were not invited back for the 2018 ceremony.
Honorable mention from the 2017 ceremony goes to Nicole Kidman‘s excessively meme’d clapping.
2021: Moved Best Actor category causes confusion
Anthony Hopkins won Best Actor at the 2021 Oscars for his performance in The Father, and while no one’s denying the Silence of the Lambs star’s talent, the Oscars made a production choice that paired his win with confusion.
Best Picture is typically the last award of the night. But in 2021, the Academy put Best Actor in the final slot, leading viewers to believe the category would be won posthumously by Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The beloved Black Panther actor died in August 2020 was favored to win at the April 2021 ceremony. Based on the changes to the category order, it seemed the show’s producers (who, like viewers and attendees, aren’t privy to the winners in advance) assumed Boseman would win as well.
Hopkins himself didn’t even expect to win and didn’t attend the ceremony, making for a lackluster ending to the 93rd Academy Awards. Hopkins paid tribute to Boseman in his acceptance speech video, shared the following day.
“I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early,” he said. “I really did not expect this. So I feel very privileged and honored. Thank you.”
2022: Will Smith slaps Chris Rock
The slap heard ’round the world went down when Rock delivered a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith‘s hair. The Red Table Talk host has struggled with alopecia (an autoimmune disease causing hair loss) for years, and her husband felt the G.I. Jane joke was an insult to his partner. Smith took to the stage again later that night to accept the award for Best Actor for King Richard.
In the weeks following the controversy Smith has since publicly apologized to Rock and voluntarily resigned from the Academy. Rock saved his comments about the infamous moment for his stand-up shows. He addressed the slap one year later in his live Netflix special Selective Outrage on March 4, 2023.
The 95th Academy Awards, Sunday, March 12, 8/7c, ABC