23 totally awkward Oscar moments
Hollywood's top players are usually flawless on screen, but at the Academy Awards, they're bound to say or do the unexpected. We've compiled a list of squirm-in-your-seat uncomfortable moments from past Oscar ceremonies.
Sean Penn's green card joke | 2015
When Sean Penn opened the envelope to announce the best picture at the 87th Academy Awards, he asked, "Who gave this son of a ... his green card?" before revealing "Birdman" as the winner. In a year when the Oscars were being scrutinized for the lack of diversity among the nominees in the top categories, some felt Penn's joke about director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's nationality fell flat.
Neil Patrick Harris's strange magic | 2015
After hosting the Emmys and the Tonys, jack-of-all-trades Neil Patrick Harris took over Oscar duties in 2015 with mixed results. In addition to butchering actors' names and making an ill-advised joke about Edward Snowden's absence, Harris strained the patience of even the most faithful viewers with a running gag involving a magic box holding his winners predictions.
A different kind of mother-daughter moment | 2015
During a red carpet interview actress Melanie Griffith admitted she had not yet seen daughter Dakota Johnson's performance in "Fifty Shades of Grey," implying she was uncomfortable with some of the scenes she would see. When Griffith continued to refuse even the possibility of watching the film, a flustered Johnson responded "All right! You don't have to see it!"
Introducing 'Adele Dazeem' | 2014
John Travolta was tasked with introducing Idina Menzel to perform the Oscar-nominated (and later Oscar-winning) song "Let It Go" from "Frozen" at the 86th Academy Awards. Unfortunately, he ended up introducing "Adele Dazeem" in what would become the flub of the night. Ever the professional, Menzel still nailed her performance
Liza Minnelli tries for attention ... and fails | 2014
The 86th Academy Awards was a night filled with both poignant and milestone-setting moments — that Liza Minnelli wanted in on.
Mid-show, host Ellen DeGeneres rounded up high-profile celebs for a selfie that shattered records (and servers) with more than 3 million retweets. What fans missed in the image is Minnelli joining the huddle from behind, too short to be seen.
Later, as Lupita Nyong'o made her way to the stage for her supporting actress win, Minnelli jumped up to snag an embrace ... before some of Nyong'o's other cast members could.
Seth MacFarlane hosts | 2013
The academy took a gamble by having Seth MacFarlane host the 85th awards, counting on his star power from TV to draw in a larger audience for the telecast. What they perhaps did not count on, however, was his brand of television humor not being better received on movies' big night. Some people thought the many moments that MacFarlane relied on jokes about race or women were inappropriate for the occasion. His cringe-worthy opening number, "We Saw Your Boobs," a song that diminished actresses and their work to their moments of on-screen nudity, set the tone for the night.
Jennifer Lawrence stumbles | 2013
Jennifer Lawrence proved she is just as human as the rest of us when she tripped on the stairs on the way to accept her best actress Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards. After making it to the stage to a standing ovation, she confronted the situation head-on by saying, "You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell and that's really embarrassing, but thank you."
'The Dictator' attacks Ryan Seacrest | 2012
Thwarting efforts from the academy to stop him, Sacha Baron Cohen walked the red carpet of the 84th Academy Awards in character as General Aladeen from his film "The Dictator." Flanked by supermodel "body guards" he also carried a gold urn he claimed contained the ashes of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. During a red carpet interview, Baron Cohen surprised Ryan Seacrest by emptying the urn all over him, taking this publicity stunt to a new level.
Billy Crystal's racial snafus | 2012
The 84th Academy Awards hit a hurdle when producer Brett Ratner resigned for making homophobic and other controversial remarks; in the aftermath, Ratner's planned host, Eddie Murphy, stepped down too. Nine-time host Billy Crystal seemed like a safe choice for the Academy to steer away from any additional controversy.
Unfortunately, when Crystal fell back on an old bit impersonating Sammy Davis Jr. during his opening number, he learned the hard way that viewer sensibility about donning blackface has significantly changed since the 1990s. Later in the ceremony, after Octavia Spencer won the award for supporting actress, Crystal joked: "After I saw 'The Help' I just wanted to hug the first black woman I saw. Which from Beverly Hills is about a 45-minute drive." For many, these racially charged moments missed the mark.
James Franco and Anne Hathaway: the entire show | 2011
In a play to attract a younger audience, actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway were paired to host the 83rd Academy Awards. Unfortunately, most people agreed the show was a bust. Hathaway gave an honest effort, and even looked like she was trying to overcompensate for Franco, who at best could be described as not mentally present. Franco tried to defend his performance to David Letterman, saying that his former co-host "is so energetic, I think the Tasmanian Devil would look stoned standing next to Anne Hathaway."
An awkward reunion | 2009
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston ended their five-year marriage in 2005 amid reports that linked Pitt romantically to Angelina Jolie. The 81st Academy Awards was the first time all three were publicly present in the same room: Both Pitt and Jolie had acting nominations and Aniston was a presenter. In fact, Aniston presented her awards directly in front of Pitt and Jolie, who were seated center stage. The three put a new meaning to the words "grin and bear it" by appearing to exchange smiles throughout the awkward arrangements.
Markéta Irglová's speech is cut off | 2008
When Glenn Hansard and Markéta Irglová won the award for original song for "Falling Slowly" at the 80th Academy Awards, both were overcome with emotions. Hansard took the mike first to give his thanks as they accepted their statuettes. When Irglová leaned in to give her own thanks, the show cut her off with music before she could get a word out, forcing her to awkwardly make her way off the stage with her musical partner. Ever the gentleman, host Jon Stewart later called Irglová back on stage so she could give her speech and have her well-deserved Oscar moment.
Gary Busey hijacks a red carpet interview | 2008
Red carpet reporter Ryan Seacrest just wanted to interview Laura Linney and Jennifer Garner, but Gary Busey was not having it. Busey first called out to Seacrest as he was calling Garner and Linney over, delaying the start of the interview. Then, after everyone continues, assuming the incident is over with, Busey is back addressing Linney for a second interruption. The moment gets even stranger after Seacrest directs Busey's attention to Garner, whom Busey then surprises with a hug and a kiss on the neck.
Sean Penn doesn't get the joke | 2005
The 77th Academy Awards assigned stand-up comedian Chris Rock to the hosting post, foreshadowing a night of ruder-than-usual digs at celebrities for laughs. Take this for example: "Who is Jude Law? Why is he in every movie I have seen in the last four years? Even if he's not acting in it, if you look at the credits he makes the cupcakes or something." Perhaps actor Sean Penn thought that Law forgot his armor, stepping onstage to defend his peer before presenting the lead actress award. "Forgive my lack of humor," Penn responded. "Jude Law is one of our most talented actors."
Adrien Brody gets to first base with Halle Berry | 2003
Apparently, when overcome with happiness, actor Adrien Brody's primal instinct tells him to latch his lips onto the pretty woman who gave him the news. Brody took everyone by surprise (especially Berry) when he enveloped the actress in his arms for a long, bending kiss after winning a lead actor Oscar for "The Pianist."
Michael Moore bashes President Bush | 2003
Most winners don't even have time to finish their thank-yous before the cut-off music switches on, but filmmaker Michael Moore managed to squeeze in a whole political rant after snagging a best documentary win for "Bowling for Columbine." "We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president," he said to an A-lister crowd that quickly took sides. The boos and cheers were very, very audible.
Gwyneth Paltrow stops believing in bras | 2002
Gwyneth Paltrow's skimpy 2002 Oscar outfit seemed to be missing some vital components. (Was she not cold? Look at how bundled up everyone else is outside the Vanity Fair after-party.) In later years, the actress admitted that she wished her bits were covered better, citing the mistake as one of her worst red carpet looks.
Bjork lays an egg on the red carpet | 2001
Icelandic musician Bjork's 73rd Academy Awards dress is not only one of the most iconic red carpet outfits ever (the ruffled number even has its own Wikipedia page), but also among the most awkward. Folks who thought she dropped her clutch while walking toward the ceremony venue were surprised to see she dropped a sizable egg, on purpose, out of her swan dress. We'll let you argue about how good she looked in the ensemble, but we will say this: Bjork's Oscar cameo sure reminded us of Hans Christian Andersen's tale of a duckling that didn't quite fit in.
'South Park' creators, high and in drag | 2000
"South Park" creators Trey Parker, left, and Matt Stone, center, were tickled by the idea of showing up to the 2000 Oscars mimicking some legendary red-carpet looks (namely Jennifer Lopez's belly-button-baring gown at the 2000 Grammys and Gwyneth Paltrow's 1999 Oscar get-up). We later found out that the duo took drugs to muster up the courage. "It's really important we set the record straight," they told Jimmy Kimmel in 2011. "We were on acid." If it takes illegal substances to merit the stunt, perhaps it wasn't worth it to begin with.
Angelina Jolie kisses older brother before show | 2000
That Oscar trophy wasn't the only one smooched by Angelina Jolie's famous lips at the 72nd Academy Awards. The actress planted a kiss on older brother James Haven with a force that set rumor-mongers atwitter with word of an incestuous relationship. It didn't help that the excited Jolie launched into her acceptance speech for lead role in "Girl, Interrupted" with an ode to the sibling: "I'm in shock, and I'm so in love with my brother right now," she giggled. "He just held me and said he loved me and I know he's so happy for me."
David Letterman's Oprah-Uma joke | 1995
In 1995, David Letterman was tapped to host the Oscars, but his irreverent humor failed to mesh with the grand tone of the event. Most awkward was a bizarre gag in which he jokingly introduced Oprah Winfrey to Uma Thurman from the stage (say it with us: "Oprah...Uma... Uma...Oprah").
Rob Lowe and Snow White butcher the classics | 1989
To open the 1989 Academy Awards, an off-key Rob Lowe sang a duet with actress Eileen Bowman as Snow White as part of an elaborately hokey musical medley that lasted more than 10 minutes and left seated stars such as Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr. and Sigourney Weaver scratching their heads in confusion. How bad was it? Disney filed a lawsuit against the academy for unauthorized use of its character.
Get more entertainment news on Facebook
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.