The Oscars are a night of indulgent celebration, when Hollywood elites get together and pay tribute to a year’s worth of hard work. It’s also a night of total unpredictability. Last year’s Best Picture mix-up fiasco is still a fresh wound, but it also gave the esteemed awards show one of the most talked about pop culture moments of the century.
But that disaster was hardly the first shocking, surprising, or downright whacky moment in Oscar history. Every year provides at least one headline moment. Some years get several. Here’s a rundown of the craziest-ever Oscar moments.
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Until recently, DeGeneres’s moment-making Oscar selfie was the most-retweeted tweet ever. (It was recently bested by a man seeking a year’s worth of free chicken nuggets from Wendy’s. Oh, the internet.) The gag had a simple conceit: DeGeneres was hosting and used her trademark kindness to concoct a positive buzz-worthy moment. She ran into the audience, gathered as many A-listers as possible, and snapped a selfie. The photo includes stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Lupita Nyong’o, and Bradley Cooper, and was -- as DeGeneres predicted -- a viral sensation.
Adrien Brody kisses Halle Berry (2003)
Brody’s Best Actor win for The Pianist was a total surprise that elicited a shockwave reaction from the audience. The moment clearly overwhelmed the young actor, who was 29 at the time (he's still the youngest-ever Best Actor winner). In his excitement, he galloped up the stage steps and passionately kissed presenter Halle Berry, the previous year’s Best Actress winner. Berry didn’t seem to mind, and a year later, when it was Brody’s time to present, he jokingly applied breath spray before reading off the winner.
John Travolta mispronounces Idina Menzel’s name (2015)
We’re still not sure how this one happened. “Idina Menzel” is a unique name, for sure, but when John Travolta introduced the Frozen actress, he called her “Adele Dazeem” -- which does make any sort of phonetical sense. Also, presenters usually rehearse the day before the ceremony. How is it possible he biffed this one so badly? Travolta claimed he ran into Goldie Hawn backstage and was so distracted by her beauty that he was thrown off onstage. Whatever the case, the incident will live forever in “Adele Dazeem meme” infamy.
Jennifer Lawrence falls up the stage (2013)
The famously candid and clumsy Lawrence made a big show of herself at the 2013 Oscars. As she took the stage to accept the award for Best Actress, the Silver Linings Playbook star tripped over her dress and fell on the steps. She mocked herself at the podium, joking that the audience only gave her a standing ovation because they felt bad that she fell. The moment proved oddly controversial, with several outlets (and Jared Leto) theorizing that she faked the fall to keep up her "relatable" schtick. Lawrence, who also fell on the red carpet at the next year’s Oscars, maintains it was a genuine moment. Whatever the case, "Jennifer Lawrence falling" is still a thing the media likes to follow.
Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tie for Best Actress (1969)
There have been a few Oscar ties through the years, but none so famous as this moment. Streisand and Hepburn were both top-of-their game actresses in 1969, and thus shared the title of Best Actress. Both roles -- Streisand in Funny Girl and Hepburn in The Lion in Winter -- became iconic, so it’s no wonder voters had a hard time choosing. Hepburn, who had also won the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, skipped the ceremony, so Streisand still got a solo moment to shine.
Angelina Jolie gets weird about her brother (2000)
Before Brad Pitt, her six children, her global activism, and her directorial career, Jolie was Hollywood’s resident weird girl and wild child. She wore ex-husband Billy Bob Thornton’s blood in a vial around her neck, and was public about her sadomasochism and obsession with knives. Perhaps her most infamously bizarre stunt was passionately kissing her brother, James Haven, on the lips at the 2000 Oscars, then declaring, as she collected the Best Supporting Actress statuette for her work in Girl, Interrupted, that she was "so in love with my brother right now." The speech sparked rumors of incest, which offended Jolie, but what could she have expected after kissing her brother on the lips in front of all those cameras. "It was disappointing that something so beautiful and pure could be turned into a circus," she would later say of the public reaction to her and James’s relationship.
Elinor Burkett ambushes Roger Ross Williams' speech (2010)
Roger Ross Williams' made history as the first black director to win an Oscar for Best Documentary Short with his short film, Music By Prudence. But Williams' triumphant moment was undercut when the film’s disgruntled producer, Elinor Burkett, stormed the stage, Kanye-style, to get in a few words herself. Williams handled the moment with finesse, letting Burkett speak while he stood by with a smile on his face, but it remains perhaps the most awkward and uncomfortable Oscar moment.
The streaker (1974)
For whatever reason, streaking was a popular gag in the '70s. The trend reached a crescendo at the 1974 Oscars, when a man ran across the stage as host David Niven spoke at the podium. Niven, known for his quick wit, was quick to make a jab: "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?” The streaker was a gay rights activist and conceptual artist named Robert Opel, who rose to instant fame for the daring act. Sadly, his life was cut tragically short when he was murdered in a robbery four years later. He was only 40 years old.
Sacheen Littlefeather steps in for Marlon Brando (1973)
Brando used his seminal Best Actor win for The Godfather to make a statement, seizing the moment in the name of political activism. The trend caught on, and it’s now fairly common for actors and filmmakers to use awards shows as a social platform. But none have ever done it quite as brilliantly as Brando, who did not attend the ceremony, and sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather to take the platform on his behalf. Littlefeather didn’t accept the award, but told the audience that Brando didn’t want it, due to the "treatment of American Indians by the film industry." Her speech garnered both boos and claps, and remains one of the show's most revered and parodied moments.
The La La Land/Moonlight mix-up (2017)
Poor Warren Beatty (not every day you hear that). The actor hit the stage with his Bonnie and Clyde co-star, Faye Dunaway, to present the biggest award of the night, Best Picture. La La Land was the odds-on favorite, so it was no surprise when Dunaway announced it had won -- despite Beatty’s apparent befuddlement. But chaos soon erupted on stage. As the La La Land producers thanked their families, the stage behind them started to buzz. One of those producers, Jordan Horowitz, was made aware of the issue: Beatty and Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope, and Moonlight had actually won, not La La Land. Horowitz stepped in and called the Moonlight team to the stage, as a truly gobsmacked audience of celebrities looked on in disbelief. It was honest mistake -- Beatty was given an envelope for Emma Stone’s Best Actress win, and a confused Dunaway mistakenly read off the film’s title -- but an everlasting one. It’s hard to think of anything that could top the sheer insanity of the moment.
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Lindsey Romain is a writer and editor living in Chicago. She covers politics for Teen Vogue and has also appeared in Vulture, Birth.Movies.Death, and more. Follow her on Twitter @lindseyromain.