The Oscars Moments We'll Never Be Able to Stop Talking About
Hollywood's biggest night never fails to bring laughter and tears, but sometimes, the show delivers moments that keep audiences buzzing long after the trophies are handed out
1940: HATTIE MCDANIEL MAKES HISTORY
It took over a decade into Oscar history for the first black actress to win a trophy. The honor went to Hattie McDaniel for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. However, the win wasn't all progress: In 1940, with segregation still intact, McDaniel wasn't allowed to sit beside the rest of the film's cast, and was made to sit at the back of the venue.
1943: GREER GARSON'S VERY LONG SPEECH
Greer Garson set a record that has yet to be broken with her very, very long acceptance speech after winning the Best Actress award for her performance in Mrs. Miniver. The lengthy speech ran for seven minutes, and many point to it as the catalyst for the modern introduction of the time limit.
1968: ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S SHORT ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
The master of suspense was nominated for five Oscars over the course of his long career, but Hitchcock never won until 1968, and even then, it was a bit of technicality. Instead of winning one of the Academy's traditional categories, he was presented with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, which is something of a lifetime achievement award for filmmakers. Clearly not satisfied with his honorary title, Hitchcock gave one of the shortest acceptance speeches in Oscar history: a simple "thank you."
1969: BARBRA STREISAND AND KATHARINE HEPBURN'S TIE
There have been six ties in Oscar history, and the one that got the most buzz came in 1969, when Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn both won the Best Actress award: Streisand for Funny Girl and Hepburn for The Lion in Winter - her second in a row (and third overall) after taking home the prize for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner the year before. Streisand was the only one of the winners present, however, and started her speech with her now-iconic line, "Hello, gorgeous."
1972: CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S HONORARY OSCAR (& STANDING OVATION)
The bulk of iconic silent film star Charlie Chaplin's career occurred before the Oscars began, but his impact on the industry was incomparable. To recognize that, the Academy gave him an honorary award in 1972, and when he did receive it, he was given a standing ovation that lasted a whopping 12 minutes. "Words seem so futile - so feeble," Chaplin said in his speech. "I can only say thank you for the honor of inviting me here." His appearance at the ceremony was also a big deal because it was one of his first public ones in the United States in two decades: he had his re-entry permit to the United States revoked in 1972 due to controversy surrounding alleged communist ties.
1973: SACHEEN LITTLEFEATHER STEPS IN FOR MARLON BRANDO
When Marlon Brandon won for what is now considered to be one of his best-known roles, as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, the actor wasn't there to take home the Best Actor trophy - and the woman he sent in his place didn't accept it on his behalf. He sent Littlefeather, an Apache Native American activist and the president of National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, to speak on his behalf. "He very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award," she said. "And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry."
1974: THE STREAKER
The controversy just kept coming the next year, when a naked man (right) ran across the stage just before Elizabeth Taylor (left) handed out the award for Best Picture. Robert Opel was the man in question who did the running, behind the show's host David Niven, who could only laugh and say: "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?"
1974: TATUM O'NEAL BECOMES THE YOUNGEST OSCAR WINNER IN HISTORY
Starring in Paper Moon alongside her father Ryan O'Neal, Tatum O'Neal won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar at just 10 years old. She collected the award wearing a little tuxedo, and gave a very brief speech: "All I really want to thank my director, Peter Bogdanovich and my father. Thank you."
1989: ROB LOWE'S SNOW WHITE OPENING NUMBER
The opening of the Oscars always includes a humorous bit, and on occasion, a song. And in 1989, it was a Snow White-inspired take on "Proud Mary," sung by Rob Lowe and Eileen Bowman as Snow White. The routine was a disaster, and the show ended up being sued by Disney along with a whole slew of stars, including Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. They wrote in a letter that the performance was "an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire picture industry."
1993: RICHARD GERE, SUSAN SARANDON & TIM ROBBINS GET BANNED
When Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins took their moment on the Oscar stage to get political - the first two on Haitian people living with HIV and Gere talking about the recent Chinese invasion of Tibet - the reaction from the Academy was not positive. They were then banned for life from the show, but it didn't last long: Sarandon won Best Actress three years later for Dead Man Walking and Robbins scored a win in 2004 for Mystic River. Gere hasn't won, but he has attended the show multiple times in the years since.
2001: BJORK'S SWAN OUTFIT
There have been a lot of iconic outfits at the Oscars over the years, but none perhaps more so than Bjork's. When she attended the show in 2001 as a Best Original Song nominee, she wore an eye-popping dress with a faux swan head wrapped around her neck.
2002: HALLE BERRY'S GROUNDBREAKING WIN
It was pure euphoria for Halle Berry when she won Best Actress for Monster's Ball in 2003, becoming the first black woman to do so. After her name was read out, she immediately burst into tears, taking the stage to deliver one of the ceremony's best-remembered acceptance speeches. "This moment is so much bigger than me," Berry said. "It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."
2009: HEATH LEDGER'S OSCAR WIN
There was barely a dry eye in the house when Heath Ledger, who died in January 2008, won an Oscar posthumously for his chilling performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, which earned rave reviews when it was released the summer following his death. His mother, father and sister accepted the award on his behalf.
2010: KATHRYN BIGELOW WINS BEST DIRECTOR
In the now 91-year history of the Oscars, only one woman has ever won Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, for her film The Hurt Locker. "This really is, um, there's no other way to describe it," she said in her speech. "It's the moment of a lifetime." Bigelow is one of just five women to be nominated for Best Director - a number that includes 2018 nominee Greta Gerwig.
2014: THAT ELLEN DEGENERES SELFIE
In 2014, Ellen DeGeneres used her hosting gig at the Oscars to attempt to break the Internet with one very star-studded selfie. With a photo featuring Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong'o, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, among others, she managed to do it. The group photo became the most retweeted photo in Twitter history (at the time) within an hour.
2013: JENNIFER LAWRENCE TRIPS
Jennifer Lawrence is famous for her quirky realness, which was on full display when she made her way up the Oscars stage to collect her Best Actress award for Silver Linings Playbook, tripping on the stairs. In true J.Law fashion, she took it in stride. "You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell," she said in her acceptance speech. "That's really embarrassing."
2016: LEONARDO DICAPRIO FINALLY WINS HIS OSCAR
In 1994, Leonardo DiCaprio nabbed his first Oscar nomination. In 2005, he got another, and in 2007, another. And in 2014, he had one more. But still - no wins. That is, until 2016 came around, when he won Best Actor for The Revenant, as well as a standing ovation from his peers.
It was Feb. 26, 2017. The 89th Academy Awards were nearing their end, with just one award left to give out. Bonnie & Clyde stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway took the stage to present the prize for Best Picture. Upon opening the envelope, Beatty paused. The crowd laughed, and he showed the envelope to Dunaway after she urged him along. Dunaway read out the name of the film La La Land. Their cast and crew took the stage, and the speeches began.
But behind them, something was amiss: stagehands started running across the stage behind them. The faces of team La La Land went from blissful joy to confusion and horror. And then producer Fred Berger said: "We lost, by the way."
His fellow producer Jordan Horowitz took the stage and delivered, perhaps, what are now the most iconic words in Oscars history: "There was a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture." He grabbed the correct card out of Warren Beatty's hands, showing it to the crowd. Horowitz added, "I'm going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight."
Beatty then took to the stage to explain what happened - he and Dunaway had accidentally been given an extra envelope for Best Actress, which read "Emma Stone, La La Land." He then presented the award to Moonlight, and director Barry Jenkins took the stage. "Clearly, even in my dreams, this could not be true," he began. "But to hell with dreams, I'm done with it. Because this is true."
An unprecedented mess that made headlines for weeks to come, one thing's for sure: there will likely never be a bigger moment in Oscar history than Envelopegate.
2019: SO MANY CONTROVERSIES
Not long after Kevin Hart was announced as the year's Oscars host, some of the comedian's old, homophobic tweets and comments resurfaced on the Internet, and as critics called him out, he refused to apologize, saying he'd addressed his words in the past. The backlash was so big, though, that Hart ultimately stepped down, but for a while, the Academy considered inviting the comedian back after he made the rounds on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Late Night with Stephen Colbert and Good Morning America and eventually apologized.
The Oscars moved forward without a host, and almost without some of its awards, after planners announced that four trophies - Best Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short and Makeup and Hairstyling - would be given out during commercial breaks. Again, the Academy faced backlash, and days before the show, reversed that decision.
2020: THE RETURN OF EMINEM
The last pre-COVID awards show had lots of memorable moments (Parasite's wins! Brad Pitt's first Oscar! An army of Elsas!) but the biggest "omg" for celebs in the audience and fans at home alike came when Eminem returned to the stage to perform "Lose Yourself" 18 years after the rap won the Oscar for Best Original Song. He famously didn't attend the ceremony when his song was up in 2003, and thanked the Academy for allowing him back in an Instagram post after the show.