15 Absolute Worst Moments in Academy Awards History
These are the moments that made headlines, drew criticism, laughter and sometimes nausea. Whether it is celebrities making controversial statements and conceited speeches in a space where they are supposed to show gratitude and humility, or seeing Hollywood’s best and most entertaining blunder either professionally or personally, the following moments have spanned the ceremony’s history, some dating back over 50 years, and some more recent.
15. Letterman Hosts the Wrong Show
In 1994, late-night host David Letterman was chosen to host. An extremely funny host for late-night television, Letterman had a hard time getting his humor across to the more serious primetime show, a common worry for the Oscar ceremony with Seth MacFarlane in 2013 as well. Basically, the host’s jokes didn’t quite hit where it was supposed to, leading to an awkwardly ill-received monologue and lack of honest laughs. Some blamed Letterman for not translating his jokes for a different audience, while others believed he shouldn’t have been considered as an Oscar host in the first place.
14. Travolta Gets Touchy
In 2014 actor John Travolta absolutely butchered actress Idina Menzel’s name while introducing her. So, at the 2015 Oscars, Menzel decided to get a little payback of her own by jokingly calling Travolta by a different name while on stage. Travolta laughed and made his way to her and then did something very odd- he grabbed her closely by the chin and said her name correctly. This weird handy gesture made audience members and viewers at home alike very uncomfortable. However, after the incident received negative attention for being creepy, Travolta’s rep came out saying it was planned. Still creepy.
13. Snow White and the 7-Plus Minutes of Rob Lowe
The 1989 Oscars were produced by Allan Carr, who was known for Grease, and his opening musical number sent ripples through the entertainment industry. The number, which went on for over ten minutes, involved Snow White dancing her way through a nightmare, and ending up singing a duet with actor Rob Lowe, who was trying to save face after a sex-tape scandal at the time. There were multiple problems however. For one, they didn’t ask Disney to use Snow White, so they later got sued. Then the second problem was that everyone hated it. Multiple Hollywood stars publicly expressed that it was an embarrassment to the entire Academy.
12. A Failure for Tinhorns
Another musical number gone bad, the 1986 Oscars involved one of the weirdest musical numbers in Oscar history. This one involved “A Fugue for Tinhorns” from Guys and Dolls performed by Pat Morita (better known as Mr. Miyagi), Telly Savalas from Kojak, and Dom DeLuise. However, the weird thing about this performance is that you can’t actually find video or proof of the number anywhere. It is almost as if the musical performance from these three seemingly randomly chosen celebrities, has found a way to be kept from the wrath of the internet and lives on only in the memories of those who attended.
11. Julia Roberts Tries to Steal the Show
At the 2002 Oscar ceremony, actress Julia Roberts was chosen to present the Best Actor Award since she had been chosen as the Best Actress winner the year before. The two, Roberts and the winner Denzel Washington, had worked together previously, so when she got to present the award to her former co-worker, she was understandably excited. However, many people said they thought she was trying to steal a bit of the attention, seeing as how before calling his name as the winner she exclaimed, “I love my life!” She also tried to hug (maybe?) him while they were exiting the stage, but it appeared more like a tackle.
10. Julia Roberts Tries to Steal the Show Again
Julia Roberts struck again at the 2001 Oscar ceremony. This time, she tried to make it all about her by making her acceptance speech for Best Actress a little too long. Most award shows keep the speeches brief and even cut actors and actresses off if they go too long, but somehow Roberts managed to ramble on for around four minutes, and even paused to say “Stickman I see you” when they were trying to tell her to rap it up. She turned the speech into something besides thanking all the people who had helped her get to this point, and took it the more the route of expressing all of her emotional thoughts about winning.
9. Greer Garson: The Original Julia Roberts
Actress Greer Garson apparently wrote the long, rambling book for Julia Roberts to follow as far as acceptance speeches go. At the 1943 Oscars, Garson was presented the award for Best Actress for her work in Mrs. Miniver and she gave what came to be the longest acceptance speech in Oscar history. The speech came in at around seven minutes, almost doubling Julia Roberts’ speech. However, especially at this early point in Academy Award history, acceptance speeches at award shows rarely went on for more than a minute, and at most two, so a seven-minute speech made headlines.
8. Jerry Lewis Dances Away the Awkward
Poor, poor Jerry Lewis had to deal with one of the most poorly timed Oscars on record. He was hosting his third Oscars ceremony in 1959, when things took a turn for the worse. The broadcast turned out ending 20 minutes sooner than planned, the final performance of There’s No Business Like Show Business came too soon and Lewis was left to fill the remaining time. This improvised performance ended up living on in infamy, as it showed the less than perfect side of Hollywood with the show’s host bumbling around on stage. The notoriously funny comedian danced around on stage and made jokes with instruments until finally NBC cut to something else.
7. David Niven and Robert Opel: The Naked Man
During the 1974 ceremony, America and the Academy got more than they bargained for. David Niven, the co-host best known for his work in Around the World in 80 Days was stuck trying to ease the tension after a man ran out and streaked right before the Best Picture Award. The naked man, a gay-rights activist named Robert Opel, disappeared and Niven was left to improvise the line, “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?” It was thought that the streaking incident had all been a plan to get Opel and his causes more attention, as it was not his first time going uncovered at a well-covered event.
6. Phil Collins Watches Someone Else Butcher His Song
Musician Phil Collins offered to sing his hit Against All Odds at the Oscars in 1985, but the Academy had written back telling “Mr. Phill Cooper” that all the time slots had been filled. He attended the show anyways, since he was nominated for the Best Song Award with the very same song. The song was to be performed by Ann Reinking, a Hollywood singer and dancer. What transpired was possibly the worst scenario. Not only did Reinking awkwardly try to dance out the lyrics of the song apparently, but she also lip-synced most of her performance, something that infuriated Collins. To add insult to injury, he didn’t take the award home that year.
5. Jolie Blushes Over her Brother
Tons of philanthropy, an inspirational battle with Cancer, child adoption, tons of movies, kissing her brother. Now, which one of these descriptions comes to mind when you hear Angelina Jolie? Unfortunately it’s the last one, although all apply. At the 2000 Oscars, Jolie drew attention to herself by not only ecstatically proclaiming how much she loved her brother during her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress, but also by giving him a not-so-brotherly on the red carpet. Incest rumors spread like crazy, but the pair saw nothing wrong with it. They said later that it was a celebration kiss and just having sibling affection for each other.
4. Michael Moore Damages His Image With an Anti-Violence Speech
Documentary film maker Michael Moore induced boos and cheers alike at the 2003 Oscars when he won the Oscar for Best Documentary for Bowling for Columbine. Moore took the stage and started a rant against the War in Iraq and President George W. Bush. He rambled for a bit, then threw in the zinger, “We are against this war, Mr. Bush… Shame on you!” Moore tried to explain after the ceremony that he wasn’t actually getting booed. Maybe he thought they were booing along in agreement? That seems plausible. Even though it has turned out that some of what Moore said during his speech was accurate, many people still see him as a liberal nut.
3. Vanessa Redgrave’s Hoodlum Hubbub
Vanessa Redgrave also had an Oscar moment with a political and controversial acceptance speech. She had worked on a pro-Palestine documentary in 1978 and was picketed at the ceremony. When she got on stage Redgrave commended the Academy for not being “intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world.” Obviously, this did not go over well. Many people spoke out in disapproval, saying Redgrave was pushing her own agenda and should have just said thank you for the honor and been happy.
2. Marlon Brando Sends Littlefeather With a Big Statement
Probably one of the worst (or best?) political mix ups in Oscar history belongs to Marlon Brando, or I guess we should say the absence of Marlon Brando. When Brando won an Oscar for The Godfather, he refused to attend and sent Sacheen Littlefeather, dressed fully in native gear, to speak on his behalf. He had written a long speech about civil rights and Hollywood’s representation of Native Americans and his feelings, but Littlefeather who had been threatened with arrest, refrained from reading that speech and did a shorter version instead. She was allowed 60 seconds, but offered to share the full speech with the press afterwards.
1. Two Franks, One Embarrassing Moment
In 1934, Will Rogers was chosen as the Oscar host. He was presenting the award for Best Director when he made a horrible mistake. The nominees were George Cukor and two Franks, Frank Capra and Frank Lloyd. Rogers opened the envelope and for his big reveal said, “Come on up and get it, Frank!” Apparently Rogers didn’t pay attention to the names of the nominees. Frank Capra hurried towards the stage to accept the Oscar, while Frank Lloyd was the actual winner. I guess you could say Will Rogers was the 1930s equivalent to Steve Harvey, just without the social media backlash and memes.
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