Whether you watch it for love of movies, stars, or all the pageantry, one of the best parts of the Oscars is undoubtedly watching for all the surprise twists and turns — and we’re not just talking about who is announced as winner. The Academy Awards are chock full of ridiculously awkward moments that inevitably come along with live television, and with nearly a century of Oscars, there’s plenty of cringes to remember.
1. 1973: When Marlon Brando Didn’t Accept His Award
1973 saw one of the most awkward Oscar moments of all time. After Marlon Brando, a Hollywood leading man for decades, won his second Oscar for Best Actor thanks to his role in the seminal crime drama film The Godfather, he was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t directed towards the stage to give an acceptance speech, as winners usually are.
Instead, Brando sent Apache actress Sacheen Littlefeather in his place to decline the award on stage. Dressed in traditional garb, Sacheen used the platform to speak out in protest against the unfair portrayal of Native Americans in film and television. While it was a bold and mindful gesture, the audience reacted sharply with boos, making the situation vastly more uncomfortable.
2. 2000: When The South Park Creators Brought Back Iconic Red Carpet Looks
Anyone who watches South Park knows the creators have a, well, interesting sense of humor. Having been invited to the 2000 Academy Awards thanks to their song “Blame Canada” from the South Park movie being nominated for Best Original Song, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone showed up on the red carpet. Not ones to squander their opportunity, they came wearing women’s clothing — but not just any women’s clothing!
The comedic geniuses mimicked famous outfits worn by Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow years earlier. While Parker copied J.Lo’s low-cut 2000 Grammy Awards dress, Stone wore a pink gown meant to imitate Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1999 Oscars dress. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the men revealed that their outfit choice wasn’t well received by all celebs. They also admitted to having been under the influence of a certain mind-altering substance.
3. 2003: When Adrien Brody Kissed Halle Berry
Beloved actress Halle Berry was the presenter for Best Actor at the 2003 Oscars award ceremony. When she introduced the award to Adrien Brody for his role in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, the young actor took to the stage and did something no one saw coming.
Perhaps he was caught up in the excitement of winning his first Oscar, but Adrien Brody grabbed Halle Berry’s face and gave her a big smooch right on the mouth. The seemingly passionate kiss unsurprisingly stunned the actress, who later revealed in an interview that she was thinking, “What the….is happening?” the entire time. Yikes!
4. 2013: When Jennifer Lawrence Took A Tumble
Jennifer Lawrence was dressed to the tens at the 2013 Academy Awards, where she won her first Oscar for Best Actress thanks to her role in Silver Linings Playbook. Dressed in an elegant white floor-length Dior gown, the actress made her way to the stage to give her speech.
But on her way there, she tripped and fell. Luckily, like the chivalrous men they are, Hugh Jackman and Jean Dujardin sprang to her side to help her up. Lawrence received a standing ovation from the audience and joked that the applause was only because everyone felt bad after watching her take a tumble.
5. 2016: When Sam Smith Thought He Was The First Gay Man To Win An Oscar
At the 2016 Oscars, Sam Smith was awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The song that afforded him such an award was titled “Writing’s on the Wall,” which was part of the James Bond Spectre soundtrack. Smith took to the stage to accept the award and all seemed well until he started his speech.
During his acceptance speech, the singer announced how honored he was to be the first publicly-out gay man to win an Academy Award. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t true, and Smith received a great deal of flack from the LGBTQ community for such a statement. Dustin Lance Black and Elton John are among two examples of openly non-heterosexual men to have won an Oscar prior to Smith.
6. 2017: When Nicole Kidman’s Clap Became A Meme
It only sounds normal that viewers of an award show would see clips of audience members clapping. But many viewers argued there was nothing normal about the clip that showed Nicole Kidman’s odd clap at the 2017 Academy Awards. This clap was so obscure that not only did it win a place on our list of most awkward Oscar moments, it also became a viral meme.
Putting aside the Best Picture blunder at the same ceremony, perhaps the most pressing question surrounding the 89th Academy Awards was why Nicole Kidman clapped as if her hands were swimming fins. The answer? According to Kidman, it was all in an effort not to damage those gorgeous rings on her fingers — they didn’t belong to her!
7. 2011: When James Franco And Anne Hathaway Hosted
Actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway were chosen to host the 2011 Oscars in an attempt to promote younger viewership. Unfortunately, however, their hosting gig was labeled an unmitigated disaster in the press. Fans criticized everything from their outfits down to their lack of chemistry. Those jokes just weren’t landing.
While Franco wore a bright pink dress and rattled off lines that were clearly from a teleprompter (at least give us the illusion they aren’t!), Hathaway tried compensating by putting on an over-eager performance, all the while dressed in a tux. Thankfully, the duo responded to people’s jabs with a sense of humor. Hathaway posted on Instagram ahead of the 2019 Oscars, saying, “No matter what happens with today’s show, just remember, it’s already been worse. Happy Oscars!”
8. 2017: When The Wrong Winner Was Announced
Of the many years of awkward Oscar moments, this one is simply unforgettable. Considered by many to be the biggest blunder in the history of the Academy Awards, seasoned acting veterans Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong Best Picture winner in 2017. Need a recap? We’ve got it.
Damien Chazelle’s La La Land and Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight were neck and neck on taking home the Oscar. By mistake, Beatty was handed the wrong envelope before presenting the winner. He was noticeably confused when he read aloud, “Emma Stone, La La Land.” It wasn’t until later that people realized the card was meant for Best Actress. In fact, Chazelle was nearing the end of his acceptance speech — when Oscars staff circled him and the cast on stage and announced that there had been a mistake. The true winner was Moonlight.
9. 2010: When Ben Stiller Dressed As A Na’vi Avatar Creature
To present the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling at the 2010 Academy Awards, comic actor Ben Stiller dressed up in fake pointy ears, a long black beaded wig, and blue face paint. Oh, and let’s not forget his yellow colored contacts!
It seems the Zoolander star just really wanted to get into character to present the award to the sci-fi epic, Avatar. And while we applaud his dedication, other viewers were less enthused to see Stiller dressed as a Na’vi character. After imitating the native language of the planet Pandora, Stiller was met with strange looks and uncomfortable chuckles, to which he responded, “This seemed like a better idea in rehearsal.”
10. 2010: When A Winner Couldn’t Get A Single Word In
Though the Short Film category at the Oscars doesn’t receive as much attention compared to other categories, this awkward moment from the 2010 ceremony definitely helped the genre stand out. Some even argue that it overshadowed what should have been a happy moment for all parties involved.
After the team behind the documentary Music by Prudence were announced as the Documentary Short Subject winners, director Roger Ross Williams took control of the mic to explain his experience in Zimbabwe. The film’s producer, Elinor Burkett, had none of it and interrupted Williams, saying, “Just like a man, never lets a woman talk. Isn’t that just the classic thing?” Awkward!
11. 2000: When Angelina Jolie Smooched Her Brother
Hollywood icon Angelina Jolie made sure no one would forget the first time she was nominated for an Oscar back in 2000. She brought along her brother Jamie Haven as her date, and the two sent shockwaves through the media thanks to their stint on the red carpet.
Need a refresher? The two siblings shared a kiss on the lips before Jolie went on to accept the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the drama, Girl, Interrupted. As if echoing the red carpet moment, she started her acceptance speech by talking about how much she loves her brother. While some fans thought of it as more than a little strange, other excused their tight familial bond — even if it seemed too close for comfort.
12. 2015: When Dakota Johnson’s Mom Made A Confession
Tension between actress Dakota Johnson and her mother during a 2015 Oscars red carpet interview was so high, it was almost palpable. When asked by ABC’s Lara Spencer whether she had watched her daughter’s iconic and steamy film Fifty Shades of Grey, Melanie Griffith simply responded, “No.”
Following her daughter’s desperate bid to lighten the mood by saying her mother would “maybe one day” watch her movie, Griffith revealed that she had no plans to see it in the future either. “I don’t think I can. I think it would be strange,” she said. To which Johnson responded by rolling her eyes and exclaiming, “Alright! You don’t have to see it!” The whole moment was just as awkward as Anastasia Steele.
13. 2018: When Richard R. Hoover Snubbed A Kiss
In 2018, Blade Runner 2049 won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. This meant Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert, John Nelson, and Richard R. Hoover were asked to make their way to the stage and accept the award. But even more talked about than their victory was an uncomfortable display of unrequited affection, which took place just as the men were heading to the stage.
After rising from their seats, the men were of course met with hugs and kisses from their dates. Hoover didn’t see one woman who was leaning for the kiss and ended up walking right past her. Unfortunately, her hanging mid-air kiss was captured on film, allowing everyone to relive the cringeworthy moment over again.
14. 2016: When Stacey Dash Gave A Puzzling Acceptance Speech
Many people consider Stacey Dash’s appearance at the 2016 Oscars ceremony to have been one of the night’s most awkward moments. When the Clueless star was brought onto the stage and introduced by host Chris Rock, very few people clapped.
Dash was on stage for less than a minute when she said, “I cannot wait to help my people out…Happy Black History Month.” As someone who has vocally opposed the Black Lives Matter movement and said she doesn’t believe in there being a Black History Month at all, her comment understandably left people both stunned and really, really confused. Chrissy Teigen’s baffled reaction even became a meme.
15. 1998: When James Cameron Quoted His Own Movie
James Cameron’s 1997 groundbreaking epic drama film Titanic won just about every award at the Oscars the following year. For such a well-told story, it wasn’t really of any surprise. But what was a surprise was how Cameron accepted his award for Best Director.
He took to the stage and graciously thanked the cast, his family, and all of his supporters. From the looks of it, all was going well. Audience members clapped and cheered alongside him as he reveled in his glory. But critics say the end of his speech took a distasteful turn. He closed his speech by shouting, “I’m king of the world! Woo!” This was, of course, an iconic line from his movie, but many people found it arrogant.
16. 2015: When Sean Penn Made A Tone Deaf Joke
Actor Sean Penn provoked a great deal of people after making an insensitive comment at the 2015 Academy Awards. Seconds prior to announcing the drama film Birdman as the winner for Best Picture, Penn glanced down at the envelope he was holding and turned a happy moment into an awkward one.
Referring to Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, the actor said, “Who gave this son of a…a green card?” The backlash against Penn’s joke was immediate, and viewers everywhere took to the Internet to express their outrage. Journalist Liliana Segura tweeted, “Way to go Sean Penn for reminding us that even when it’s your Latino pal’s moment, a white dude’s gotta make it all about himself.” But Iñárritu couldn’t care less, saying he found the joke hilarious.
17. 2017: When Auli’l Cravalho Got Hit In The Head
For those who need more convincing that Auli’l Cravalho is a true professional aside from just her voice, this one is for you. Moana‘s 16-year-old “How Far I’ll Go” singer performed the Oscar-nominated musical number at the awards ceremony in 2017.
During her performance, she was smacked in the head by one of the flags that circled behind her. But like a true professional, Cravalho maintained her poker face and continued singing without missing a beat. Fans praised her poise during what could have made for an even more awkward moment, saying she was a total pro and took the bop on the head like a champ. Bravo!
18. 2013: When Seth MacFarlane Objectified Women
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane hosted the Academy Awards back in 2013 and gave an opening monologue that many have been unable to forget ever since. And it’s not because it was just that good. It’s instead because it was that shocking and, needless to say, pretty awkward.
MacFarlane opened the Oscars ceremony with a musical number in which he called out each of the actresses in the audience who had exposed their top on screen. Unsurprisingly, a number of celebrities and media outlets were aghast and called the skit tasteless and demeaning. MacFarlane, on the other hand, revealed he was invited to host the ceremony again the following year, saying the Academy, for one, was not perturbed by his performance.
19. 2014: When Scarlett Johansson Snubbed A Kiss
This next Oscars moment earned Pulp Fiction actor John Travolta the title “Creep of the Oscars” according to the Daily Mail. Such a nickname was all thanks to a photo of the actor that went viral, showing his arm around Scarlett Johansson‘s waist and his kiss, which she did not return, hanging mid-air.
Travolta’s stance was only made all the more awkward thanks to what appears to be Johansson’s frozen look of horror. But The Avengers star set the record straight and told the Associated Press that the photo was not reflective of the actual moment, but was instead just the result of some unlucky timing. Phew!
20. 2009: When Jennifer Aniston Presented An Award In Front Of Brangelina
It’s not easy to pull off the part of a nonchalant ex, let alone in front of tens of millions of viewers, but we’d say Jennifer Aniston did a masterful job of it at the 2009 Academy Awards. The Friends star was made to present not one, but two Oscars while standing smack dab in front of her ex-husband, Brad Pitt and his belle Angelina Jolie.
Fans took to their keyboards afterwards to discuss how noticeably uncomfortable the whole situation was. The intimate setting of the circular stage, and the fact that the cameras kept cutting to show Brangelina’s reactions to Aniston’s on-stage jokes, definitely added to the awkwardness.
21. 2017: When John Travolta Introduced Idina Menzel
At the 2017 Academy Awards, actor John Travolta was instructed to introduce the voice behind Frozen‘s iconic song “Let It Go,” Idina Menzel, to the stage. But for reasons no one has really been able to explain, the Pulp Fiction actor called her “Adele Dazeem.”
Classic mispronunciation? We think not. Viewers were quick to lay into Travolta and it seems he didn’t go easy on himself either. He told E! News: “I’ve been beating myself up all day. Then I thought…what would Idina Menzel say? She’d say, ‘Let it go!’” He did let it go, and Menzel got back at him the following year by introducing him as “Glom Gazinga.”
22. 2015: When Neil Patrick Harris Bared It All In Boxers
Throwback to the time back in 2015 when the Oscars host was in his skivvies on stage. That’s right: in an effort to pay tribute to a particularly embarrassing scene in the Best Picture winner, Birdman, famed actor Neil Patrick Harris stripped into nothing but underwear, socks, and shoes.
Harris pretended to get locked out of his dressing room while completing a quick change. The camera then followed him as he took off his robe, walked down a hall with a mortified look on his face, and emerged on stage to confront a shocked audience. He then stated, “Acting is a noble profession.” That it is.
23. 1989: When Rob Lowe Sang Off Key With Snow White
The West Wing actor Rob Lowe opened up the 1989 Academy Awards ceremony with a musical number that left most viewers, whether at the ceremony or in their homes, cringing in their seats. For the entirety of 11 minutes, he sang off tune and danced alongside a life-size Snow White.
According to The New York Times, the performance earned “a permanent place in the annals of Oscar embarrassments.” It was considered so embarrassing, in fact, that Disney tried to sue the Academy for copyright infringement. A number of Hollywood icons such as Julie Andrews, Gregory Peck, and Paul Newman even signed an open letter stating the performance was “an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry.” Ouch!
24. 1974: When A Streaker Ran Across The Stage
At the 46th Academy Awards in 1974, host David Niven invited Elizabeth Taylor up to the stage to announce the winner for Best Picture. But he was shocked to see who appeared on stage next. Hint: it was not Elizabeth Taylor.
While Niven was introducing Taylor, a naked man flashing a peace sign ran up from behind him. Not missing a beat, Niven then unforgettably quipped: “But 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?” While some speculated that the awkward moment was staged, streaker Robert Opel, a photographer at The Advocate, insisted that it wasn’t.
25. 2017: When Jan Chapman’s Picture Appeared In The “In Memoriam” Slideshow
Less funny than the rest — but still an awkward Oscars moment nonetheless — was when Australian movie producer Jan Chapman’s photo was mistakenly included in the “In Memoriam” segment of the Academy Awards. While some viewers laughed at the mix-up, The Piano producer was less amused.
As it turned out, Chapman’s photo was used to represent Australian costume designer, Janet Patterson, who had passed away in October of 2016. Chapman told Variety that despite being mistaken for the four-time Academy Award nominee and BAFTA winner, she was “devastated” over the error. She added, “I am alive and well and an active producer.”