Last night’s Oscars were historic for several reasons, but the chief among them was the flub heard round the world. When Faye Dunaway announced that La La Land won Best Picture, that film’s crew came onstage to accept the award only to find out that Moonlight had actually won the prize. Not only was this win historic, but it made for one of the most awkward moments in Oscar history, one which the teams behind both films handled with the utmost grace and dignity.
While this moment does stand out, it’s far from the first time that things have gone less than smoothly at the Oscars. From the stars to the hosts to the awards themselves, everyone involved in the ceremony has made their fair share of mistakes. Now, it’s time to look back at all of them, and see what the 89 years of the Academy Awards has offered us in terms of major gaffes. Here are the 15 Biggest Mistakes In Oscars History.
15. Chris Rock’s Asian Accountants Joke
Chris Rock was announced as the host of last year’s Oscars amidst a flurry of controversy after, for the second straight year, all 20 of the acting nominees were white. To his credit, Rock poked fun at the idea throughout the night, and he seemed like the perfect man to keep things light while also acknowledging that the Academy is old, white, and disconnected from many of the people who see movies today.
Rock’s hosting stint was flawed though, and one of its biggest bumps came when the comedian decided to bring out young Asian children in place of the accountants who usually arrive on stage to assure the audience that the votes were tabulated correctly. The moment was surprisingly insensitive, and effectively stereotyped young Asian kids as brainy, non-creative types. On a night where stereotyping seemed to be the obvious enemy, Rock’s decision to tell this joke was strangely counter-intuitive.
14. Sam Smith Isn’t the First Gay Man to Win an Oscar
Also from last year’s ceremony, this error was unfortunate, but it was also unforced. Some simple research would have led Sam Smith to realize that he was not in fact the first gay man to win an Oscar. Unfortunately, Smith’s win for “Writings on the Wall” from Spectre took the singer by surprise, and so he made the off-hand comment that he believed he was the first openly gay man to win the award.
In fact, plenty of gay men had won Oscars before Sam Smith, including Elton John and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. The moment quickly turned into a controversy that Smith eventually apologized for. He’d made a simple mistake, and taken credit for breaking a barrier that had already been broken many times before. Still, the whole thing probably could have been avoided if Smith had bothered to look it up before getting in his limo. The moral here is always do your homework, kids.
13. James Franco and Anne Hathaway Host
On paper, choosing these young up-and-coming Hollywood stars to co-host the ceremony seemed like an admirable and outside the box choice. They weren’t really comedians or late night hosts, and they might have brought a fresh, interesting energy to the proceedings. Of course, in practice that wasn’t the case. Instead, the pair made for an incredibly awkward night that was rife with costume changes.
Many of the jokes the pair attempted to make didn’t really land, and the whole night fell flat as a result. There’s little to be said about the pair’s hosting stint, although it seemed as though the idea of injecting youthful energy into the show actually had the opposite effect. Hathaway and Franco’s hosting job was actually one of the more unremarkable and uninteresting ceremonies the Oscars have ever held, with Hathaway overdoing it in an attempt to make up for Franco’s distinct lack of effort. It explains why the Academy has favored much more established comedians in recent years.
12. James Cameron Quotes Himself
James Cameron isn’t known for his humility, which is probably fair. The man has made two of the highest-grossing films ever, and he seems to have a sense for how to win a few Oscars as well. Cameron’s Titanic, the juggernaut that was the top movie at the box office for months on end, was also a big presence at the Oscars, where the film won 11 trophies, tying the all-time record.
Cameron won a few of those, including the Best Director trophy, and he closed his speech by shouting one of the most famous lines from his film, “I’m the king of the world!” While it may have seemed cool in his head to quote himself, it was much more awkward when he actually spit it out, and also seemed like a pretty bold thing to say. Cameron may be the king of the world. He’s certainly pretty good at making movies. Still, he probably didn’t need to shout it from the rooftops.
11. Jennifer Lawrence Keeps Falling
Poor Jennifer Lawrence. The girl is genuinely clumsy, that much is clear. Her first fall at an Oscar ceremony came on the way to the podium to accept the Best Actress prize for Silver Linings Playbook, where she was gracious, and told the audience that they were only giving her a standing ovation because she’d fallen. This incident was fairly endearing, and it was indicative of the “every girl” status that Lawrence had been claiming throughout her vigorous Oscar campaign.
Unfortunately, when Lawrence was nominated again the next year for American Hustle, she fell again, this time on the red carpet. While this incident was also an accident, it was one that the wider world looked upon less favorably. Suddenly Lawrence had gone from an incredibly grounded celebrity to a “faker,” and that kind of backlash has dogged her ever since. It’s sad that it all began because the woman has trouble controlling her limbs.
10. Angelina Jolie Kisses Her Brother
When Jolie received her first nomination for Girl, Interrupted, in 2000 she brought her brother to the ceremony. There’s nothing that unusual about that. Many stars, especially when they’re young and are making their first trip to the ceremony, choose to bring a close relative who can share in the experience with them. Unfortunately, Jolie may be a little closer to her brother than most people are to theirs. In one iconic moment, the pair were seen locking lips in a kiss that looked like it contained far more than simple sibling affection.
In fact, when Jolie went on to win for her work, she spent quite a bit of her speech explaining how in love she was with her brother, which seemed like an odd thing to say at the time, and is still quite confusing today. While there’s nothing wrong with Jolie being close to her brother, people are still pretty uncomfortable with the idea of incest, and unfortunately for Jolie, she got dangerously close to that point during her acceptance speech.
9. “Uma… Oprah”
David Letterman was never one to make the easy joke, and usually that led to comedy that was often equal parts unusual and hilarious. Of course, this wasn’t always the case. Sometimes, Letterman poked fun at things that weren’t actually all that funny, even if they might have been funny to him. That was exactly what happened when Letterman hosted the Oscars in 1995, and decided he would have some fun with the guests who were in attendance.
This is what led him to introduce the legendary Oprah Winfrey to nominee Uma Thurman by simply saying “Oprah… Uma… Oprah… Uma.” The idea was to poke fun at two names that Letterman found unusual, but the bit fell flat in the room, and was actually seen as offensive by many, including Oprah, who refused to appear on Letterman’s show for years afterwards. Letterman was an edgy comedian to be sure, but on that particular night, he might have gone too far.
8. Anne Hathaway Backlash
The backlash against Hathaway had been building for a long time before she took the stage to accept her Oscar for her work in Les Miserables. Her speech began with the line “it came true,” and the whole thing went downhill from there. Hathaway was seen as too polished, or as someone who had rehearsed her speech in the mirror a million times leading up to the final ceremony.
This kind of polish isn’t typically beloved by the wider audience that watches the ceremony, and it led to an enormous backlash for Hathaway that she’s still trying to recover from. People want their celebrities to be funny and biting, and they don’t want them to take awards like the Oscars too seriously. Unfortunately, Hathaway was incredibly serious. Whether the backlash against her was fair or not, it certainly taught actors a valuable lesson about what people are looking to get out of an Oscar speech.
7. The “In Memoriam” Reel Has the Wrong Picture
Although the kerfuffle at the end of the night dominated coverage of 2017’s Oscars, there was another dust up surrounding the In Memoriam reel. In addition to the usual discussion around who was left out of the reel, there was also the fact that one of the pictures in the reel was of someone who was still very much alive. The still was supposed to be of Janet Patterson, a costume designer who worked on films like The Piano and Far From the Madding Crowd. Instead, it was a picture of Jan Chapman, a long-time friend and collaborator of Patterson’s who is still very much alive.
This screwup may seem more minor considering how the night went overall, but it’s still pretty significant when you consider the fact that the Oscars mistakenly honored the wrong face. For her part, Chapman was horrified by the incident and claimed she urged Patterson’s agency to double check any photo they used of her. Turns out they probably should have taken Chapman’s advice.
6. Rob Lowe Duets With Snow White
Rob Lowe’s first attempt at a comeback didn’t actually help his career very much. The actor was marred by a sex tape controversy as the ’80s came to a close, and he attempted to revitalize his career by performing a fun opening number at the Oscars. While this idea might have been good on paper, it was actually one of the more embarrassing moments in the history of the ceremony, in part because it wasn’t particularly good.
Lowe took to the stage to sing alongside an actress playing Snow White, and spent a large part of the song completely off-key. Lowe eventually recovered from this embarrassment and went on to do great things on shows like The West Wing and Parks and Recreation. His reputation rehab came eventually, but it wasn’t to be at the 1989 Oscars. Instead, the result was largely cringe-worthy, although it may be the first example of the comedic Rob Lowe that we know and love today.
5. “We Saw Your Boobs”
Seth MacFarlane made a risky gamble during his opening bit at the Oscars. Instead of doing a straightforward monologue, MacFarlane decided that he would show the audience what an alternate version of the night would look like, one where he had chosen to sing a song called “We Saw Your Boobs,” which referenced the many actresses who have gone topless for film roles. While the idea was for this taboo song to be a representation of what you shouldn’t do at the Oscars, many in the room didn’t get it, and it’s remembered today as simply a terrible decision.
MacFarlane’s always been interested in pushing the envelope, it’s true, but this song was a bridge too far. It’s widely seen as sexist and disrespectful, and it was certainly awkward for those who were watching at home. The moment would live in infamy, and it would mar MacFarlane’s performance as host, which was otherwise fairly solid.
4. John Travolta Says “Adele Dazeem”
John Travolta should really wear his glasses more often. This instantly memorable moment came when Travolta was tasked with introducing Idina Menzel’s performance of “Let it Go” from Frozen. While the introduction was mostly unremarkable, it ended with Travolta introducing the “wickedly talented Adele Dazeem.” If you’re particularly keen, you may notice that the words Travolta said have very little in common with Menzel’s actual name, and many took note.
Although this controversy is more hilarious than horrifying, it was followed up the next year by the decision to have Menzel and Travolta present an award together. The joke was supposed to be that the pair had put last year’s debacle behind them, and were ready to put on a united front. This time, though, Travolta decided to touch Menzel’s face a little more than he probably should have, which made for an even more awkward moment than the previous year’s encounter. When it comes to Idina Menzel, Travolta just can’t win.
3. Sammy Davis Jr. Reads the Wrong Envelope
Many were shocked by the envelope confusion that occurred at this year’s Oscars, but it actually wasn’t the first time the show has run into these kind of hiccups. In 1964, when Sammy Davis Jr. took the stage to present the award for Best Musical Score, he ran through the correct list of nominees. When he opened the envelope, though, Davis Jr. announced that the winner was Tom Jones. The audience and Davis Jr. quickly realized that there must be some confusion, because Tom Jones wasn’t even nominated in the category.
The singer was quickly given the correct envelope, and eventually went on to announce that Irma La Douce was the real winner in the category. In this instance, it was much easier to notice the mistake because the film Davis Jr. named wasn’t actually nominated. Unfortunately, it took a bit longer to catch the error during this year’s ceremony, which may have led to some genuine heartbreak.
2. Michael Moore Gets Booed
Michael Moore has never shied away from making political statements, and his trips to the Oscars have been no exception. The filmmaker makes openly slanted films, and that’s never been more true than in Bowling for Columbine, for which he won Best Documentary Feature at the 2002 Oscars. When Moore took the stage, he was initially greeted by thunderous applause for his work on the film, which was widely acclaimed and widely seen.
As soon as he began talking, though, things got a little more contentious. Moore attacked President Bush, and claimed that the the country was being sent into drummed up wars on his orders. He also attacked the results of the 2000 election, which he called “fictitious.” Moore was greeted by thundering boos and awed silence for his speech, and was quickly played offstage for expressing these beliefs. Ironically, many in Hollywood would eventually come to agree with him.
1. La La Land Is Given Moonlight’s Best Picture Award
The granddaddy of all Oscars mistakes, this one was captured in real time via the shocked faces of those on stage, and by reaction shots of the crowd. When Faye Dunaway mistakenly said that La La Land won Best Picture, it seemed as if the obvious had happened. The film had been the frontrunner going into the ceremony, and had won more awards than any other film on the night. So, when one of the film’s producers said that it was Moonlight that had actually won, there was a stunned silence followed very suddenly by a series of screams.
The wrong film had been announced, and the people from La La Land had gotten halfway through their acceptance speeches before the truth was uncovered. Apparently, Warren Beatty was handed the wrong envelope as he made his way toward the stage, and the confusion spawned from that moment. There has never been a mistake this huge in the Academy’s storied history, and it’s one that will live on indefinitely. Hopefully it will also drive people to theaters to see both La La Land and Moonlight, two terrific films that both won Best Picture last night– one for just a few moments, and one for the rest of history.
Which awkward Oscars most moment is most memorable to you? Let us know in the comments!