Your parents probably remember the day Marlon Brando refused his Oscar statuette for The Godfather in 1973 due to the treatment of American Indians by the film industry. They’ll probably understand comedic references to the words “You like me”, courtesy of Sally Field’s often-misquoted speech after winning the Best Actress award for Places in the Heart back in 1985. And let’s not forget the day activist Robert Opel stole the spotlight by streaking across the stage while host David Niven was introducing Elizabeth Taylor in 1974.
But what about those you still remember like they occurred yesterday? From Jennifer Lawrence (rather gracefully) taking a tumble to the tweet that broke the internet, Savoir Flair recaps the most memorable Oscar moments of the 21st century – in anticipation of the 92nd Academy Awards next week, of course.
Months before Kim Kardashian “broke the internet” with her Paper magazine cover, a selfie posted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres became the most retweeted photograph ever – and it’s hardly surprising. Costarring the who’s who of Hollywood, it has become the single most memorable moment of the night that DeGeneres hosted the 86th Academy Awards in 2014.
Only John Travolta can highjack the Oscars by completely botching up the name of the star he was asked to introduce. We all remember when he infamously referred to songstress Idina Menzel as “Adele Dazeem” at the 2014 awards ceremony. Cue Travolta later revealing that feeling starstruck by actress Goldie Hawn was the reason behind the flub – and a thousand memes, of course.
Halle Berry made history back in 2002 when she became the first African-American woman to receive the Best Actress Oscar, referring to her win as a door-opening moment for “every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance” during her tearful speech. She has openly spoken up about feeling “heartbroken” over the ongoing lack of diversity in Hollywood movies – particularly in light of #OscarsSoWhite gaining so much momentum. Berry, to this day, is still the only African-American actress to have won that accolade.
The Long-Time Coming
Leonardo DiCaprio loyalists breathed a sigh of relief in 2016 as the actor finally won an Oscar, proving that the sixth time’s a charm. Nominated in the Best Actor category for survival drama The Revenant, DiCaprio’s losing streak began when he was first nominated in 1993 for his role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? at the age of 19. Once again proving that he’s so much more than a pretty boy, the winner used his platform to address the severity of climate change, emphatically saying: “Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat affecting our entire species.”
The Downright Sassy
Yes, her speech in 2001 has often been cited as an example of “how not to give an acceptance speech”, but we can’t help but recall Julia Roberts’ on-stage attitude with a laugh. Taking the stage to accept the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Erin Brockovich, the actress brazenly addressed music conductor Bill Conti, saying, “And sir, you’re doing a great job, but you’re so quick with that stick. So why don’t you sit, because I may never be here again.” Interestingly, her speech clocked in at just under five minutes, making it one of the longest speeches in Oscar history.
From photobombing Taylor Swift’s interview at the Golden Globes to freaking out after meeting Damian Lewis at the SAG Awards, Jennifer Lawrence makes an awards ceremony worth watching. No J-Law moment, however, is as memorable as when she took a tumble while heading to the stage to accept her Oscar for Best Actress in 2013. Winning for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook, the actress briefly held her head in her hands, making for one graceful fall due to the voluminous Dior couture gown that she was wearing – and was soon likened to a “weeping princess” as a result.
Love him or love to hate him, Woody Allen is a creative genius with countless Oscar nominations to his name. Not only did the famously Oscar-shy filmmaker surprise the entertainment world when he showed up for the very first time in 2002, just six months after the events of 9/11, but he also beautifully paid tribute to his hometown of New York through wit, humor, and a video montage of the city’s longstanding role in movie history.
Both a monumental victory in Oscars history and the sweet revenge of an ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow’s win for The Hurt Locker in 2010 made her the first ever woman to be named Best Director. Not only did her low-budget Iraq war film beat 3D blockbuster Avatar – directed by Bigelow’s former husband James Cameron and one of the most expensive films ever made – in the Best Picture category, but the two were also sitting within feet of each other at the ceremony.
Heath Ledger’s posthumous Oscar win in 2009 for Best Supporting Actor in The Dark Knight is one that’s impossible to forget. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the award was accepted by the actor’s parents and sister. Ledger had tragically died just one year earlier, with many speculating that his “menacing, mercurial, droll, and diabolic” role as The Joker is what prompted the spiral of drugs and depression that ultimately caused his death.
The Painfully Awkward
Creating a face-palm moment at the 2017 edition that the world will remember for years to come, La La Land was mistakenly announced as the winner in the Best Picture category by presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, who were caught in the mix-up after pulling the cue card for Best Actress (won by Emma Stone for La La Land). The real victor was, in fact, Moonlight – with the truth revealing itself after La La Land producers had started giving their speeches.
Everyone – and their mother – loves Frances McDormand, so we were thrilled when she won the Best Actress award in 2018 for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. However, the internet was baffled when she ended her acceptance speech with what sounded like, “I have two words to leave with you tonight: inclusion writer.” Turns out, she actually said “inclusion rider”, which we now know is a clause that an actor can insist be inserted in their contract requiring a diverse cast and crew to be hired around them.
The first hostless Oscars in 30 years, last year’s edition also brought with it a moment that set tongues wagging worldwide. It all started innocently enough. The curtains went up, out came a piano, and Bradley Cooper took Lady Gaga’s hand to escort her to the stage for their performance of “Shallow”. What followed was heartfelt, emotional, and – dare we say it – downright passionate. Between them gazing intensely at each other, leaning into each other, and smiling tenderly as the song drew to a close, their chemistry was palpable. And that’s an understatement.