Here are 11 of Oscar's most notable political moments:
In the 1970s, the Vietnam War, Watergate and the increasing visibility of various rights movements ushered in a new politically outspoken attitude among stars.
When Marlon Brando won the lead actor award for his role in "The Godfather," the audience was surprised when a woman in Native American dress, who identified herself as Sacheen Littlefeather (Marie Louise Cruz), took the stage and informed the crowd that Brando was declining the honor in protest of "the treatment of the American Indian in motion pictures and on TV, and because of the recent events at Wounded Knee," where federal agents clashed with hundreds of Native American protesters between February and May of 1973.
Prior to Oscar night, Vanessa Redgrave had already raised the ire of the Jewish Defense League after she produced the pro-Palestine TV documentary "The Palestinian." Upon winning the supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of an anti-Nazi activist in "Julia," Redgrave doubled-down with an impassioned speech that drew audible boos.
Referring to people protesting "The Palestinian," Redgrave labeled them "a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression," before also condemning President Nixon and Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Later in the show, Paddy Chayefsky (the writer of "Network" and "Hospital") countered with, "I'm sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda." That push and pull has continued ever since.
Like many in the audience, the famously politically active couple Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins wore red ribbons to the ceremony, which they used as a way to call attention to HIV-positive Haitians who were being held at Guantanamo. Sarandon addressed Washington politicians, asking them to "admit that HIV is not a crime and to admit these people into the United States."
Richard Gere took a moment from introducing the nominees in the art direction category to bring up the still-unresolved issue of Tibetan independence, asking Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping to "take his troops and take the Chinese away from Tibet and allow these people to live as free, independent people again."
Lifetime achievement awards are rarely controversial, but when Hollywood legend Elia Kazan was given the honor in 1999, the audience was visibly divided because of Kazan’s 1952 testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He informed on old friends who had been members of the Communist Party and later refused to apologize. While such A-listers as Warren Beatty, Kathy Bates, Kurt Russell and Meryl Streep rose to applaud, others including
In November 2008, California voters approved the controversial
When "The Cove" was named best documentary in 2010, the filmmakers extended its animal rights themes to Oscar night, when one of the film's subjects, "Flipper" trainer-turned-activist Ric O'Barry, prominently displayed a phone number for more information about dolphin activism.
As Oscar winner Natalie Portman announced the year's leading actor hopefuls, she described nominee Demián Bichir's "A Better Life" character as an "undocumented immigrant," eschewing the then-more prominent term "illegal immigrant," and added, "you gave a voice to the voiceless." Even more surprising was the fact that the term was used in what appeared to be a scripted speech, and not during the often-times off-the-cuff speeches given by winners.