Even with the surfeit of awards shows these days, there’s something special about the Oscars. Generations of Hollywood royalty line up, desperately hoping to bring home a little gold statue — or maybe even a couple, if they’re lucky.
With such high stakes, the Academy Awards often feature more drama than the actual movies! These unforgettable mid-show moments captured both the emotional highs and lows of the ceremony. In fact, some deserve film adaptations of their own — and probably a few Oscars, too…
1. Legendary producer Allan Carr helmed the 1989 Oscars, but the event was anything but acclaimed. Viewers and stars alike could barely watch the awful musical numbers, which included Snow White and Rob Lowe singing a “Proud Mary” parody. Carr never worked again.
2. Marlon Brando skipped the 45th Academy Awards, where he won Best Actor for The Godfather. He did send someone in his place — Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather. She turned down the statuette and called out the industry’s mistreatment of her people.
3. In a groundbreaking decision, Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar. She received it for her part as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, an epic that many viewers give a damn about. Hattie also paved the way for some modern stars…
4. For example, Hattie’s achievement laid the foundation for an African-American woman to finally win a lead acting Oscar. Halle Berry brought home the statue in 2002 for headlining Monster’s Ball.
5. When legendary film duo Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced 2018’s Best Picture, it should’ve been a slam dunk. But after receiving the wrong envelope, they gave the award to La La Land. The entire cast and crew celebrated! But…
The Hollywood Reporter
…in the middle of the acceptance speech, a La La Land producer learned there’d been a mistake. Holding up the real card for proof, he showed that Best Picture actually went to Moonlight. What followed was one of the most awkward celebrations in history.
6. Has there ever been another photo with this much star power? 2014 host Ellen DeGenes planned to snap a selfie with Meryl Streep, but then Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, and a ton of other stars hopped in.
Twitter / Ellen DeGeneres
7. In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow made history as the first woman named Best Director. In a nice bit of showbiz camaraderie, fellow nominee (and her ex-husband) James Cameron was the first to congratulate the Hurt Locker director.
8. In the early days of the Cold War, allegations of Communist sympathies got Charlie Chaplin blacklisted from film. Decades later in 1972, Hollywood returned to its senses and awarded the comedian an honorary Oscar. The crowd gave him an astounding 12 minute standing ovation.
9. Nobody was that surprised when Tom Hanks won Best Actor for his heartbreaking role as an AIDS-stricken lawyer in Philadelphia. During his acceptance speech, however, he made a statement that turned heads everywhere…
Pointing out his former drama teacher Rawley Farnsworth, Tom called him one of the “finest gay Americans.” The only issue was that Rawley wasn’t publicly out. However, he felt the time had come to share his story, and appreciated his student’s kind words.
American Film Institute
10. Heath Ledger tragically died in 2008, cut down in his prime. Before his passing, he filmed a tour de force performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. It won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, a rarity for superhero movies.
11. When she won her second Oscar for Places in the Heart, Sally Field delivered one of the stranger speeches we’ve seen. Overcome with giddiness, she exclaimed to all present that “you like me, right now, you like me!”
12. Aside from Bob Hope, nobody’s hosted more than Billy Crystal. He scared up tons of laughs in 1992 when he arrived dressed as Hannibal Lecter. Billy then approached Anthony Hopkins and asked, “I’m having some of the Academy over for dinner. Care to join me?”
13. Before announcing Best Picture, host David Niven began an impassioned speech about the importance of film. He never got to finish. A streaker named Robert Opel tore across the stage! Giggling, David handled the situation well and cracked a few jokes.
YouTube / Oscars
14. Though he’s one of the greatest modern directors, Martin Scorsese had to wait until 2007 to grab his Academy Award. His close pals Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas presented it to the mind behind The Departed.
15. Plenty of viewers tune in just for the red carpet outfits. Costume designer Lizzy Gardiner made the biggest fashion statement in Oscars history with a dress made of American Express cards! It didn’t buy her any snacks after the show, however, as the cards had expired.
16. Sometimes, when stars take the stage to present awards, it’s clear they could’ve used a little more practice. John Travolta made a flub for the ages when he slightly mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name as “Adele Dazeem.”
17. The feeling of winning an Academy Award is usually worth the wait. When 73-year-old Jack Palance nabbed a Supporting Actor Award for City Slickers, he pulled off one-armed push ups to show off his energy.
18. Sometimes Oscars come when you least expect them. The year 2006 provided one of the event’s biggest upsets when Crash won top honors over favorites including Brokeback Mountain and Capote. Surprising as it was, frontrunners often leave completely empty-handed.
The Hollywood Reporter
Take Sigourney Weaver, for example. While she is certainly no alien in Hollywood, many people do think she was robbed of an Oscar nomination for her role in the original Alien in 1979.
2. Robert Downey, Jr.: Though he blasted into stardom at a young age, Jr. lost a lot of respect after a drug streak sent him in for some hard time. He has locked in two Oscars nominations for Chaplin and Tropic Thunder, but this unstable wonder has yet to carry a little golden man home.
3. Angela Bassett: If the world was under attack and we had to elect someone to become a superhero and save us all, it would obviously be Angela Bassett. That aside, she is an incredible actress. She played Tina Turner AND Dr. Betty Shabazz. C’mon.
4. Steve Buscemi: He is one of the greatest character actors in Hollywood. Seriously ask yourself, who else can make you as uncomfortable as Buscemi? Remember Fargo…Reservoir Dogs? And yet, no Oscar!
5. Meg Ryan: Okay, Meg might not jump to the front of everyone’s minds when we think of great actresses. BUT, she has some serious comedic chops and has charmed your pants off more than once — don’t even try to deny it. Just, send a little love her way.
6. Bradley Cooper: We have to give it to Coop — he has really come into his own. He received 3 consecutive Oscar noms between 2013-2015, and was then nominated for best director of A Star is Born. Still, no wins!
7. Liam Neeson: Nowadays people think of Neeson as the action film guy, but before his Taken days, Neeson was really thought of as the guy who lost the Oscar to Tom Hanks. In 1994 it seemed he had the Academy Award in his hand for Schindlers List, But Hanks took home the gold that year for Philadelphia.
8. Ian McKellen: This English master has held many iconic roles in Hollywood over the years. In that time he has garnered two Oscar nominations for Gods and Monsters as well as Lord of the Rings. Though it can’t be said his work has gone unacknowledged, McKellan has recently questioned why no openly queer actor has ever won an Oscar.
9. Naomi Watts: Another powerhouse performer who has received two Oscar nominations but no wins. She was up for best actress for her performance in 21 Grams and then again for The Impossible. It’s okay, we still heart you, Naomi Watts!
10. Johnny Depp: Sometimes he can be tricky to spot as he is known as one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood. Depp has received Academy nominations 3 times for Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Neverland, and Sweeney Todd. True to character, the actor says he doesn’t want to win an Oscar anyway.
11. Jessica Chastain: Unlike Depp, this actress seems to chomp at the bit for an Oscar on her mantle. She is another two-time nominee for her work in Zero Dark Thirty and The Help. Keep it up Chastain, maybe this will be your golden year.
12. Angela Lansbury: Who doesn’t love this woman! Though she was nominated 3 times for Gaslight, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Manchurian Candidate, she has never quite sealed the deal. In 2014 the Academy did award an honorary Oscar to the beloved actress for over 70 years of working in film.
13. Jeff Daniels: Most people jump to Dumb and Dumber when they hear Jeff Daniels name. As iconic as he was in the film, it makes sense. But don’t cut the guy off there, this actor is wildly versatile. Just look to his work in The Newsroom and The Squid and The Whale.
14. Glenn Close: How is this even possible!?! Close has certainly been close to getting an Academy Award. How close? Seven-time Oscar nominated close! Can everyone finally get it together? This woman is amazing!
15. Annette Bening: A legendary actress, Bening, like many, has received several promising nominations and no victories. It should also be noted that she was infamously snubbed in 2016 for her knockout performance in 20th Century Women.
16. Amy Adams: Closing in on Close as far as Oscar noms go, Adams has racked up a whopping 5! Clearly, this woman is on the Academy’s radar — could this be her year?
17. Michelle Williams: Okay, if you don’t always feel all the feels every time Michelle Williams is on screen, you’re just lying to yourself. She has delivered some of the most complex, emotionally-charged performances ever! Stop just nominating her. Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!
36. Joaquin Phoenix: Though it seems Phoenix was bred to win Oscars, what with the roles he plays and all, he has never locked one down. According to him, the Academy Awards are “total, utter bulls–t.” So, sounds like this guy is just doing it all for good ol’ fashion passion.
18. Michelle Pfeiffer: During her heyday in the late ’80s and early ’90s this fantasy woman was a three-time nominee. Since then, she has been overlooked by the Academy for her solid, but less-frequent roles. Whatever, Hollywood, you’ll never take Catwoman away from us!
19. Catherine Deneuve: Hollywood, how could you?! Have you seen Umbrellas of Cherbourg? Do you know what romance is? This French fox, though now in her 70s, is the real deal. No matter what anyone says, je t’aime, Deneuve, je t’aime.