We watch the Oscars for the dresses, the red-carpet interviews, and the bragging rights for when we win our Oscars pool . . . but there’s always a chance something memorable will happen, and that’s really what we’re here for. Whether it’s a genuinely funny speech or a full-blown disaster involving the wrong winner being announced, the Oscars offer the best in highly scripted jokes and entirely unscripted celebrity reactions.
Anna Paquin’s Win at Just 11 Years Old
This Winnipeg native is the second-youngest winner of an Oscar ever for The Piano in 1993, beating out major talents like Emma Thompson and Winona Ryder. Watch how she remains cool and composed when addressing a whole auditorium full of famous people.
When Björk Laid Eggs
Picking out the best dressed is a whole other part of the Oscars. There have been few dresses as memorable as Björk’s swan dress, especially given that she “laid” six ostrich eggs on the red carpet. Fun fact: that dress is now in the Museum of Modern Art.
Marlon Brando Makes a Political Statement
Lots of celebrities use awards shows to make political statements, but Marlon Brando made maybe the biggest statement ever when he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache activist, to the Oscars on his behalf. And he had her refuse his statuette for his performance in The Godfather because of Hollywood’s historically poor treatment of Indigenous peoples.
That Time Snow White Showed Up
The 1989 Oscars ceremony started out with a 15-minute musical number featuring Snow White. After greeting baffled stars in the audience, she sang a few numbers in a weird Cocoanut Grove-esque nightclub and then did a duet with a very young Rob Lowe. Watching the thing is a strange experience, and the actress who played Snow White left Hollywood immediately after, but it might be the most memorable opening to the Oscars in history.
Barbra Streisand & Katharine Hepburn Tie
There haven’t been that many ties in Oscar history, but Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn split the Best Actress Award in 1969 (for Funny Girl and The Lion in Winter, respectively). But Hepburn wasn’t there, so everyone remembers Babs greeting her statuette with the famous line, “Hello, gorgeous.”
Marisa Tomei’s Surprise Win
Tomei won Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny and people were so shocked that they speculated the wrong name was read. In fact, that particular urban legend stuck around so long that the Academy has insisted on multiple occasions that Tomei was the rightful winner. Know what? Give My Cousin Vinny a rewatch. It’s on Disney+. It’s great and she’s hilarious.
Charlie Chaplin’s 12-Minute Standing Ovation
In 1972, Chaplin came back to America for the first time in 20 years to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars and everyone got a little emotional. Chaplin saw his career damaged during the Red Scare and had left for exile in Europe, not knowing if he’d ever return to Hollywood.
. . . Oh Yeah, and Moonlight
And who could forget the La La Land or Moonlight mix-up of 2017?