The most memorable moments in Oscars history: From the Best Picture mix-up to Jennifer Lawrence's fall

Katie Rosseinsky
EPA

It's the most important date in any Hollywood star's diary - and Oscars night can be relied upon to provide us with some of the biggest celebrity moments of all time.

Given the sheer amount of A listers packed into Los Angeles' Dolby Theatre - and the potential for things to go very wrong indeed - it's no surprise that the annual awards ceremony is showbiz gold.

As we cross our fingers for some similarly headline-grabbing antics at the 92nd annual show, we’ve looked back at some of the defining moments in Academy Awards history - from the inspiring to the downright cringe-inducing...

Jennifer Lawrence falls over (2013)

Oops: Lawrence took a tumble while traversing the stairs (Reuters)

A Dior-clad Lawrence became a meme sensation when she tripped up as she made her way onto the stage to accept her Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook.

With her trademark quick wit, she styled out the moment by telling the audience (who had got to their feet in a standing ovation): “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell. That’s really embarrassing.”

She later explained that she took a tumble because she was thinking about - wait for it - cake while making her way up the stairs.

“I was at the Oscars, waiting to hear if my name was called, and I kept thinking, ‘Cakewalk, cakewalk, cakewalk,’” she told W magazine.

“And then, as I started to walk up the stairs and the fabric from my dress tucked under my feet, I realised my stylist had told me, ‘Kick, walk, kick, walk, kick, walk.’ You are supposed to kick the dress out while you walk, and I totally forgot because I was thinking about cake!”

La La Land is mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner (2017)

Mistake: The chaos played out on stage (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“There’s been a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture!”

Three years later, looking back at footage of the biggest Oscar mix-up of all time is like watching a tragi-comedy play out in slow motion.

First, there’s the meaningful look that presenter Warren Beatty gives Faye Dunaway after taking his time to look at the envelope, before his Bonnie and Clyde co-star announces “La La Land.”

Then there’s a series of emotional speeches from La La Land’s producers - as confusion gradually builds in the background - until one of them says “we lost, by the way,” leaving Jordan Horowitz to pick up the pieces and reveal that Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight was in fact the winner.

Horowitz, who remained commendably calm in what must have been an excruciating moment, told the crowd “This is not a joke” before holding up the contents of the Best Picture envelope for the camera (and sparking a major meme in the process).

As host Jimmy Kimmel cracked out an awkward line about wishing that both films could win, the producer shut him down, telling him: “I’m going to be really thrilled to hand this to my friends from Moonlight.”

Confusion: Beatty tried to explain what had happened (EPA)

Jenkins was then finally able to make his speech - though it has been pointed out that the circus surrounding the Best Picture gaffe slightly detracted from the director’s big moment. Reflecting on the incident one year on, he said that the win felt “bittersweet” because “when that switch happened, I didn’t enjoy it.”

“I’m never going to get the opportunity to enjoy that - because even if it happens again, it won’t be the same. Moonlight was a very special film for me. It was super personal.”

PWC, the accountancy firm in charge of vote counting, apologised to “Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Oscar viewers” for the blunder.

Kathryn Bigelow makes history as the first female Best Director winner (2010)

Milestone: Bigelow with two of her Oscar statuettes (AFP/Getty Images)

Bigelow’s win for Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker was a milestone for women in film - though many of the headlines (and jokes during the ceremony) fixated upon the fact that she beat her ex-husband James Cameron, who was nominated for his mega-budget sci-fi fantasy Avatar, to the trophy. Her film was later named Best Picture.

Bigelow was just the fourth woman to be nominated for Best Director in the ceremony’s then 82-year history, following Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation in 2003, Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993 and Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties in 1975.

Greta Gerwig has since received a nomination for her solo directorial debut Lady Bird (2018) but the Oscars are yet to crown another female winner.

Halle Berry accepts her Best Actress Oscar (2002)

Tearful: Berry dedicated her win to other black actresses (AP)

When Berry became the first black woman to be named Best Actress for her role in Monster’s Ball, she dedicated her acceptance speech to African-American actresses past, present and future, telling viewers that her win was “so much bigger than me.”

“This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll,” she said. “It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of colour that now has a change because this door tonight has been opened.”

18 years on and Berry remains the only black Best Actress winner. Reflecting on her success in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Berry has since said that she fears that the historic moment “meant nothing” to Hollywood.

“I thought it meant something, but I think it meant nothing,” she told Teen Vogue. “I was profoundly hurt by that, and saddened by that.”

John Travolta introduces Idina Menzel as Adele Dazeem (2014)

Bizarre: Travolta managed to turn Idina Menzel into Adele Dazeem (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

In a year packed with meme-friendly moments (from that star-filled selfie to Ellen DeGeneres handing out pizza), one incident manages stands out from the 2014 Oscars: Travolta’s woefully mangled pronunciation.

Before Frozen star Idina Menzel made her way to the stage, he inexplicably introduced her as “the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem” - a gaffe which the actor later put down to misunderstanding the phonetic spelling written on the Oscars teleprompter and erm, being starstruck after bumping into Goldie Hawn beforehand.

Heath Ledger receives a posthumous Oscar (2009)

Tribute: Ledger is one of two stars to receive a posthumous Oscar (AFP/Getty Images)

One year after his tragic death at the age of 28, the Academy paid tribute to Ledger by awarding him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

The Australian star’s family took to the stage on his behalf, with his father Kim telling the audience: “This award tonight would have humbly validated Heath’s quiet determination to be truly accepted by you here, his peers, in an industry he so loved.”

His sister added: “We really wish you were [here], but we proudly accept this award on behalf of your beautiful Matilda.”

Matilda, Ledger’s daughter with Brokeback Mountain co-star Michelle Williams, was three years old at the time. Per the Academy’s regulations, the trophy is held in trust for her by Williams until she turns 18.

Marlon Brandon turns down his Oscar (1973)

One of the most powerful moments in Oscar history was not an acceptance speech but a rejection speech. When he beat the likes of Laurence Olivier, Peter O’Toole and Michael Caine to the Best Actor trophy for his role in mob epic The Godfather, Marlon Brando boycotted the Academy Awards and instead sent Sacheen Littlefeather in his place.

Littlefeather, the president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, refused to take the statuette and went on to explain Brando “regretfully cannot accept this very generous award” due to “the treatment of the American Indians today by the film industry.”

The New York Times later published a full statement from Brando, in which he called out Holl​ywood for “degrading” Native Americans and “making a mockery of [their] character, describing [them] as savage, hostile and evil.” No winner has made a stand like it since.

Hattie McDaniel becomes the first black Oscar winner (1940)

Winner: Hattie McDaniel was the first black Oscar winner (AP)

McDaniel made history as the first ever black person to win an Academy Award when she received the Best Supporting Actress statuette for her role as Mammy in Gone With The Wind.

While this was undoubtedly a milestone moment for Hollywood, it should also be noted that McDaniel was the only African American person present at the ceremony in the segregated Ambassador Hotel, and was banned from sitting at a table with her white co-stars Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.

A streaker makes his way on stage (1974)

Awkward: Niven tried to diffuse the situation with a quip ()

As Oscar co-host David Niven prepared to introduce Elizabeth Taylor to the stage in order to announce the Best Picture winner, he got a surprise when a streaker appeared behind him, throwing a peace sign to the audience.

The intruder was artist and gay rights activist Robert Opel, who sneaked backstage by pretending to be an entertainment reporter.

Not missing a beat, Niven quipped: “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off his clothes and showing his shortcomings?”

Instead of being arrested, Opel held court at a press conference afterwards - just like the Oscar winners.

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