The Academy Awards are widely deemed to be the film industry’s most prestigious, glamorous and classy night of the year. But like every other awards ceremony, they’ve nonetheless witnessed their fair share of mishaps and awkward moments over the years. So, from meme-spawning mispronunciations to sexist show tunes, here’s a look at 20.
20. Jennifer Lawrence’s fall
Jennifer Lawrence was undoubtedly one of the biggest Oscar darlings of the 2010s. Not only did she pick up Best Actress for her turn in Silver Linings Playbook, she was also nominated for her roles in Winter’s Bone, American Hustle and Joy. But she was one of the clumsiest stars, too.
Indeed, while on her way to the stage to pick up the coveted statue in 2013, Lawrence embarrassingly got caught in her dress and tripped. Both Jean Dujardin and Hugh Jackman displayed their courtesy by coming to her rescue. Lawrence laughed off the fall, joking in her acceptance speech that the standing ovation she received was only out of pity.
19. The streaker
The Academy Awards isn’t entirely averse to a bit of flesh-baring. In 2015 host Neil Patrick Harris gamely stripped down to his underwear to spoof a scene from Best Picture winner Birdman. But another notable display of nudity on stage way back in 1974 certainly didn’t appear to be scripted.
Here, a naked photographer named Robert Opel ran onstage, interrupting David Niven as he welcomed guest presenter Elizabeth Taylor. But Opel – who worked for LGBT magazine The Advocate – didn’t put Niven off his game. The actor simply remarked, “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?”
18. Rob Lowe sings with Snow White
“An embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry.” That’s how 17 A-listers described the start of the 1989 ceremony in a public letter. Yes, it turns out that the likes of Gregory Peck and Julie Andrews didn’t particularly enjoy a disgraced Brat Pack star singing and dancing with a Disney princess.
After gracing the tabloids thanks to a scandalous sex tape, Rob Lowe tried to rebuild his reputation with a more family-friendly performance. But his all-singing, all-dancing routine with an unfamiliar actress portraying Snow White didn’t have the desired effect. To make matters even worse, the Academy was then sued by Disney for using one of its characters without permission.
17. Sam Smith’s wrong assumption
If you’re going to make a bold claim at the Oscars, you’d better get your assertions 100 percent correct. Sam Smith learnt that after accepting Best Original Song for his James Bond theme “Writing’s on the Wall” in 2016. The vocalist proved that research wasn’t his strong point when he proclaimed himself to be the first openly gay man to pick up an Oscar.
Having collected an award in 2009 for writing Milk, Dustin Lance Black was particularly disgruntled by Smith’s faux-pas. So, he sent a message to the vocalist on Twitter, making his annoyance abundantly clear. At the time, he was due to wed Olympic diver Tom Daley. And so, alongside a video clip of his Oscar victory, Black posted, “If you have no idea who I am, it may be time to stop texting my fiancé.”
16. Seth MacFarlane’s sexist song
The Academy perhaps knew that Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane would sail close to the wind when they appointed him as host of the awards in 2013. But they maybe weren’t prepared for just how badly the comedian misjudged proceedings. For MacFarlane’s opening musical routine is widely regarded as one of the most sexist moments in the ceremony’s history.
MacFarlane chose to kick off the evening with a musical number titled “We Saw Your Boobs.” The song saw the host embarrass various female stars by referencing the times they’d gone nude on screen. The fact that MacFarlane mentioned several movies which included sexual assault only made the whole thing even more tone-deaf.
15. Adele Dazeem
Idina Menzel doesn’t appear to be a particularly hard name to pronounce. But John Travolta got it spectacularly wrong when he introduced the vocalist’s performance of Frozen’s “Let It Go” at the 2014 Academy Awards. Indeed, much to everyone’s amusement, the actor for some reason pronounced the name as ‘Adele Dazeem.’
Luckily, Menzel saw the funny side. And a year later, she joined Travolta on the Academy Awards stage as a guest presenter. Speaking at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016, the singer admitted that the gaffe was the “best thing that ever happened to me.” Indeed, Menzel claims that a whole new audience discovered her talents thanks to Travolta’s bizarre mispronunciation.
14. John Travolta kisses Scarlett Johansson
John Travolta appeared to go out of his way to embarrass himself at the Academy Awards in the mid-2010s. Just a year after the Adele Dazeem incident, the Hollywood veteran was pictured kissing Scarlett Johansson on the red carpet while putting his arm around her waist. Johansson’s moody pose suggested that she was far from comfortable about this public display of affection.
However, Johansson later came to Travolta’s defense after learning about all the negative comments he received. She said, “The image that is circulating is an unfortunate still-frame from a live-action encounter that was very sweet and totally welcome. That still photo does not reflect what preceded and followed if you see the moment live.”
13. James Cameron quotes his own movie
James Cameron has never been the most subtle of Hollywood filmmakers. The man has built his reputation on delivering blockbuster spectacles such as The Terminator, True Lies, Avatar and, of course, Titanic. And it appears as though Cameron is just as over the top when he’s away from the director’s chair.
In 1998 Cameron took to the stage to accept Best Director on a night in which Titanic had swept the boards. And he couldn’t help but get carried away. As he clutched his award, Cameron boasted, “I’m the king of the world! Woo!” This was, of course, one of the most famous lines from his all-conquering disaster movie.
12. James Franco and Anne Hathaway’s hosting
It’s difficult to pinpoint just one awkward moment from the night when James Franco and Anne Hathaway were hosts. The likes of Steve Martin, Billy Crystal and Ellen DeGeneres may have previously made the presenting gig look easy. But Franco and Hathaway soon proved that there’s an art to keeping the audience entertained throughout.
Yes, the 2011 hosts bombed every time the pair stepped onto the stage together. Hathaway appeared just a little too eager to impress, while Franco conversely always seemed as if he’d just woken up. And their skits – particularly the one where they both went full drag – produced more tumbleweed than laughs.
11. Stacey Dash’s presence
It’s hard to believe now that Stacey Dash was once considered one of the coolest girls in Hollywood. The actress lit up the screen alongside Alicia Silverstone in mid-1990s teen classic Clueless. But ever since she became a regular on Fox News, Dash’s credibility has gone out of the window.
Dash had drawn particular criticism for her vocal opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. And that’s why many people were left baffled when Chris Rock introduced her to the Oscars stage in 2016. The star-studded audience – perhaps most notably Chrissy Teigen – was left open-mouthed by the random and misjudged cameo.
10. Adrien Brody kisses Halle Berry
It’s unlikely that Adrien Brody would get away with his overexcitement at being crowned Best Actor in the #MeToo era. After hearing his name called out for his performance in The Pianist, the star walked towards guest presenter Halle Berry. But he did far more than simply shake her hand.
Instead, Brody clutched a bewildered Berry and planted a kiss on her lips which lasted several seconds. Some of the A-list audience appeared to enjoy this impromptu display of affection, but many were left feeling uncomfortable. Berry later revealed that at the time she was thinking, “What the f*** is happening?”
9. The wrong in memoriam photo
The in memoriam section is often the most touching part of Oscars night. That, of course, is when the Academy pays tribute to industry names who have passed away over the previous year. Unfortunately, in 2017 organizers were a little slack when it came to their research. As a result, they ended up flashing the image of a woman who was very much still alive.
The name of costume designer Janet Patterson had been correct. The Australian four-time Oscar nominee had, indeed, died just a few months earlier. But the accompanying photo was of a different costume designer named Jan Chapman. Understandably, a watching Chapman was left “devastated” when she saw her ever so premature in memoriam cameo.
8. Auli’I Cravalho gets hit on the head
Performing before a star-studded audience and millions of global viewers would be daunting for anyone, let alone a 16-year-old. And singer Auli’l Cravalho’s task was made even more difficult when she was hit on the head by a waving flag during her rendition of Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go.” However, the teen proved she was the ultimate pro by continuing without even flinching.
Cravalho’s consummate professionalism was championed by several celebrity names on Twitter. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Ming-Na Wen tweeted, “Bravo, @auliicravalho! Beautiful voice, stunning beauty, total pro to continue even after that bop in the head by the flag.” Holly Robinson Peete from 21 Jump Street also expressed her admiration, tweeting, “She took that flag like a champ.”
7. Brie Larson snubs Casey Affleck
Casey Affleck was given a rapturous response in 2017 when he accepted the Best Actor Award for his dramatic turn in Manchester by the Sea. But not every celebrity in attendance showed their appreciation for the winner. In fact, the star who awarded him with the prestigious accolade was noticeably unimpressed.
Brie Larson – an Oscar winner herself – decided not to clap for Affleck after handing him the award. And her snubbing was viewed as an act of solidarity towards the women who’d filed lawsuits against the actor for sexual harassment. Larson later told Vanity Fair, “I think that whatever it was that I did onstage kind of spoke for itself.”
6. The La La Land/Moonlight mixup
It’s perhaps the biggest faux pax in the history of the Academy Awards. In 2018 Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were honored with presenting one of the most coveted categories of the night – Best Picture. But through no fault of her own, the former ended up reading out the wrong winner.
The pair had been given the wrong envelope by organizers. As a result, Dunaway called out La La Land as victorious, when it should have been Moonlight. Several minutes of chaos ensued as panicked producers tried to rectify the matter. But eventually the real winners were allowed to come on stage and make their acceptance speech.
5. The unreciprocated kiss
In 2018 Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert, John Nelson and Richard R. Hoover all got the chance to make their way to the Oscars stage after winning the award for Best Visual Effects. The four men were honored for their creative work on sci-fi sequel Blade Runner 2049. However, their victory was initially overshadowed by an excruciating display of unrequited affection.
As the four men rose from their seats, they were greeted with kisses and hugs by their respective plus-ones. Embarrassingly, Hoover didn’t notice one particular woman leaning in for a kiss and left her hanging mid-air. The lady in question tried to style it out. But unfortunately for her, the whole incident had been captured on camera.
4. Marlon Brando’s no-show
Marlon Brando’s performance in The Godfather is undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s most iconic. However, the legendary actor had little interest in receiving any recognition for it. In fact, having been nominated for Best Actor in 1973, Brando sent someone else in his place to the ceremony.
That someone was a Native American woman named Sacheen Littlefeather. Brando wanted to protest about the harsh treatment Native Americans received, believing that a cameo from Littlefeather was the perfect way to do so. Brando was announced as the winner of the Oscar, and so Littlefeather took to the stage. Sadly, the poor woman had to endure a chorus of jeers from the Hollywood audience.
3. Angelina Jolie and her bro
Angelina Jolie was already known for being a little odd by the time she showed up at the 2000 Oscars. The actress had, by then, famously married Jonny Lee Miller in a t-shirt emblazoned with his blood, for example. However, her behavior on this particular occasion was more icky than gory.
Jolie had asked her brother James Haven to accompany her to the ceremony. But the pair acted more like they were lovers than siblings at the event. And when Jolie was called up as Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted, she used her acceptance speech as an opportunity to gush about her familial date.
2. Jennifer Aniston’s nightmare
Jennifer Aniston went through one of the most public break-ups of the 2000s when husband Brad Pitt left her for Angelina Jolie. Understandably, the Friends actress may have done her best to avoid the Mr. and Mrs Smith co-stars in the wake of the divorce. But she had no option but to face them at the 2009 Oscars.
Alongside Jack Black, Aniston served as a guest presenter of the Best Animated Short and Feature Film awards. And who was at the front of the audience as she read out the nominees? Who else, but her ex-husband and his equally famous partner. Aniston’s discomfort was palpable from the moment she stepped onto the stage.
1. Björk’s egg dress
It would have been far more surprising if Björk hadn’t done something strange when she attended the 2001 Academy Awards. The Icelandic star had already, after all, built much of her early career on being eccentric. And she certainly didn’t disappoint when she showed up on the red carpet as a nominee for Best Original Song.
Björk – who’d been recognized for Dancer in the Dark song “I’ve Seen It All” – eschewed the usual haute couture for a dress that looked like a swan. Fully committing to her outfit, the singer then went on to lay half a dozen eggs in front of photographers. You can actually now see the dress in question on display at the Museum of Modern Art.