The Academy Awards are the summit of prestige in the movie industry. Even to be nominated for one of their dozens of awards, from Best Visual Effects to Best Picture, is a honor that solidifies the nominees as one of the greatest in their field of moviemaking. The 87th Academy Awards are fast approaching on February 22nd, 2015, when the top actors, directors, writers, and producers will meet to not only acknowledge each other’s achievements, but to unwind after a year of intense production.
Since its beginnings in 1929, The Oscars have attracted millions of movie fans to the warm glow of their televisions. The ceremony is more than an awards show. It’s also a great source of entertainment: jokes, stunts, music, and incredible fashion are all staples.
Hosts are more daring, presenters are funnier, acceptances more outlandish, and show producers seek new ways to attract audiences year on year. Keeping things fresh has led to some hilarious and shocking moments, some planned and some completely improvised, that surprise the attendees as much as the people watching at home.
Who knows what’s in store this year? Will anything top these fifteen most shocking and memorable moments in the Oscars’ history?
15. “Shakespeare in Love” Beats “Saving Private Ryan”
It can be upsetting when that film you saw in the theatre three times in a row and loved so dearly is nominated and doesn’t win the coveted Best Picture award. But like any art form, movies are subjective, and their quality is based on many factors.
However, when Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture at the 1999 Oscars, the resounding reaction was downright dumbfounded. Directed by Steven Spielberg with an ensemble cast including Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan masterfully depicts the tribulations of soldiers during WW2.
On the other side of the artistic spectrum, Shakespeare’ was a semi-fictional account of William Shakespeare’s love affair, and very little else. Many filmmakers and fans agree that ‘Ryan should have won by a landslide because of its solid subject matter and lofty execution. It was an upset for many industry-insiders and fans alike and is generally recognized as one of the Academy’s biggest bloopers.
14. Co-host James Franco Drops the Ball
Oh, James Franco. He might be able to act, direct, paint, write, and teach, but one thing he can’t do is properly host The Oscars. At the 2011 Academy Awards, he and Anne Hathaway had the nerve-racking task of keeping people entertained while presenters announced awards and nominees accepted their wins.
But Franco bombed the gig when he struggled to stay engaged – he looked half asleep – while Hathaway did her best to stay energized. The critics panned Franco’s performance, and Hathaway wasn’t too happy with him after the fact. However, according to an Howard Stern interview with Franco, he and Hathaway have since made up.
13. Michael Moore’s Booed Acceptance Speech
Michael Moore is famous for his documentaries that challenge the status quo in American politics and foreign policy. When he won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for Bowling for Columbine in 2003, Moore made a speech that earned him criticism, threats, and loud boos from the audience.
Four days before The Oscars aired, former-President Bush announced America’s decision to go to war with Iraq, a decision that Moore emphatically condemned as shameful in his speech. It was a shock for many to hear the politically charged monologue, and Moore had to have security detail to protect him because of potential physical harm.
12. Woody Allen Always Missing In Action
It’s understandable now, with allegations of sexual abuse abounding, that Woody Allen declined to attend the last Oscars. However, before the allegations, Allen was already consistently absent from the prestigious ceremony despite being nominated numerous times; he has also been absent when actors in his films were nominated. But why?
According to NPR host and biographer Eric Lax, it’s because Allen believes art is too subjective to judge, and he fears he may unconsciously start making movies that appeal to a certain group. Allen has made many excuses for his absence from The Oscars since his first notable absence in 1978 when his movie Annie Hall won four awards.
11. Roberto Benigni’s Win Celebration
The Italian comedian, writer, and director Roberto Benigni made a masterpiece with Life is Beautiful, a film about a family struggling to survive in a Nazi concentration camp with their young son. Although some critics said the film trivialized the Holocaust with too much humor and an insufficient depiction of the horrors of war, Life is Beautiful won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1999.
Benigni was ecstatic when he heard of the win. He jumped up on the seats, shook people’s hands, and joyfully skipped to the stage in celebration. He went on to make a touching speech to the delight of the audience, but the “freak out” stunned audiences.
10. Pharrell Dances With The Stars
It’s common for musical guests to perform a song at The Oscars, especially when that song is featured in the soundtrack of a nominated film, or is nominated itself. Pharrell Williams performed at the 2014 Oscars, with his song “Happy” from the film Despicable Me 2.
Midway through the performance, as back-up dancers filled the stage, Pharrell went to the audience level and began dancing with some Hollywood superstars including Lupita Nyong’o, Meryl Streep, and Amy Adams. The Oscars can be very formal at times, but it was a joyous and hilarious moment to see mainly dramatic actresses get up and let loose.
9. John Travolta’s Verbal Fumble
With so many people watching The Academy Awards, presenters try to do their absolute best when announcing the next winner. Granted, it can be easy to fumble with so many eyes watching you. But when John Travolta mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name so badly at the 2014 Oscars, people couldn’t help but take notice, not least Menzel herself who performed the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen.
Twitter went ablaze when Travolta called Menzel something that sounded like “Adele Dazeem”, a name not even close to the singer’s actual one. Travolta was embarrassed by the verbal bomb, and has since said he was beating himself up over it.
8. “Crash” Beats “Brokeback Mountain”
The race is always nerve wracking when two stand-out, legendary films are in the running to win an Oscar for Best Picture. This is amplified when films like Crash and Brokeback Mountain both take on very important issues, such as racism and homosexuality. Which film would the Academy favor?
As it turned out, Crash which wasn’t even nominated for the Best Picture at the preceding Golden Globes the same year – beat Brokeback’ for Best Picture, upsetting many. However, it wasn’t a complete loss: Ang Lee won Best Director for his work on Brokeback’.
Many critics cited homophobia as one main reason the film did not take home the biggest award of the night.
7. Seth MacFarlane’s Offensive Hosting
Move over Billy Crystal. Family Guy creator and voice actor Seth MacFarlane was the host of the 2013 Oscars to the surprise of many. He may not be as controversial as Ricky Gervais, who hosted the Golden Globes, but MacFarlane is known for his particular brand of raunchy comedy.
There are a lot of limits at the Academy Awards, but MacFarlane managed to dish out the insults as best he could within the confines of the prestigious ceremony. Many criticized MacFarlane for sexist jokes about Adele’s weight, women’s breasts, and Rihanna’s physical abuse. Tasteless jokes like these made some people cringe in awkwardness. Comedian Chris Kattan didn’t seem impressed, according to his Tweet that said, “starting to wish Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were there.”
6. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Win and Speech
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were two relatively unknown writers and actors before the 1997 Academy Awards. They were just starting to make waves in Hollywood, and their big break came when their movie Good Will Hunting took audiences and critics by storm.
Affleck and Damon co-wrote the film and won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, a win that inspired a giddy and breathless acceptance speech among the two rookies. The film was so wonderfully written, some speculated it was actually written by more famous screenwriters. Some screenwriters like William Goldman were asked if they had a hand in the movie, but they denied it. However, Goldman did provide advice on how to strengthen the script.
5. Adrien Brody’s Unexpected Kiss
Adrien Brody won Best Actor for his performance in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist. It was his first ever nomination and first ever win, launching his public profile to unprecedented heights.
Brody was so happy to win that he immediately embraced and kissed presenter Halle Berry. The kiss got some laughs from the audience, but afterward Berry was seen fingering her lips without a grin.
As Chicago Tribune reported, Berry had to deal with “an unwanted and ultra-public display” that received a tremendous amount of publicity. Was the kiss playful or uncalled for? More than the kiss, the win for the young actor was relatively unexpected, especially from Brody himself.
4. Life-Changing Pizza Delivery
Ellen DeGeneres hosted the 2014 Oscars, one of the most memorable ceremonies in a decade. A lot was happening, but one of the most unexpected moments was when she had pizza delivered to the absolute surprise of the audience. Of course, like the fine host she was, she also brought paper plates for stars like Brad Pitt and Martin Scorsese to chow down without making a mess.
It was later revealed that the pizza delivery guy was not an actor, but a real, local delivery man. He had no idea that he would be making the biggest delivery of his life. As it was revealed on Ellen DeGeneres’ show, he also received a $1000 tip.
3. Trey Parker and Matt Stone Crash The Red Carpet
The Academy Awards are the height of prestige in the movie industry. There is very little nominees will do to ruin their big night, especially when a potential award will bring their careers to a new level.
But being serious was the least of Trey Parker‘s concerns when he was nominated for Best Original Song. To celebrate the night in his own way, he and anarchic creative partner Matt Stone dressed in ball gowns inspired by Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow. They also hit the red carpet high on acid. According to an interview in the documentary Six Days to Air, most attendees at The Oscars were not impressed with their hijinks, as it was perceived to be mocking the red carpet tradition.
2. The Ultimate Celebrity Selfie
After having pizza delivered, Ellen DeGeneres went even further at the 2014 Oscars. DeGeneres took an extraordinary selfie straight from her cellphone in what seemed like a genuine and improvised moment.
The selfie included celebrity royalty, among them Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, and Kevin Spacey. The selfie became the most re-tweeted pic of all time and was seen by more than 37 million people planet wide. It’s easily the most popular and iconic selfie in the world…
But, perhaps not so genuine. According to Publicist CEO Maurice Levy, the selfie was orchestrated by a publicity team as a product-placement opportunity for Samsung.
1. Angelina Jolie’s “Sisterly Love”
Even with all of the shocking Oscars moments in the history of the awards, nothing sparked more controversy than the kiss between Angelina Jolie and her brother, James, in 2000.
Jolie and her brother have a close relationship, and when she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, she profusely thanked her brother for his support. Afterward, the siblings shared what seemed like a passionate kiss directly on the lips.
It was photographed and eventually sparked rumors of an inappropriate relationship between the siblings. A family friend claimed the kiss was nothing more than “sisterly love” but of course that didn’t stop media and fans from letting their imagination run away with them. The moment is now iconic in the history of The Oscars.