In spite of their popularity, the Oscars are regarded as the highest level of recognition for contributions to cinema. They are not only a celebration of the best art created in a given year, but they have also become a source of some of the most talked about pop culture phenomena in the modern world.
While artists and celebrities strive to give their best performances at the Oscars each year, even the most unexpected reaction or a quirky head turn frequently becomes a meme and is saved for posterity.
The infamous slapping incident between Will Smith and Chris Rock last year undoubtedly raised the bar for awkward moments at the Oscars.
From Nicole Kidman’s strange palm clap and Jennifer Lawrence’s spectacular fall to some tense hosting that failed to elicit laughter, here are the most awkward moments at the Oscars thus far.
Wrong announcements, awkward hosting, and other memorable gaffes at the Oscars
1.When the wrong film was nominated for Best Picture,
The Oscars in 2017 were completely overshadowed by a major gaffe made right at the ceremony’s most important moment, when the Best Picture winner was announced. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were summoned to the stage to perform the honours. Initially, Dunaway declared La La Land the category winner.
While the error would not have been as awkward if it had been corrected immediately, it was not. Only after the cast and crew of La La Land took the stage and began celebrating their victory did producer Jordan Horowitz walk up to the stage and announce that there had been a mistake and that the winner was actually Moonlight.
This major blunder appeared to be a first in Oscar history. Although the artists involved laughed it off, the incident remains at the top of the list of major gaffes committed at the awards ceremony.
2) When John Travolta introduced Idina Menzel as ‘Adele Dazeem’
Prior to the incorrect announcement of the best picture winner, minor hiccups such as name mispronunciation were uncommon at the Academy Awards.
This changed when, at the 2014 Oscars, John Travolta introduced Idina Menzel as Adele Dazeem, leaving both the audience and Menzel perplexed.
In January 2022, Idina Menzel took to social media to launch the “Not My Name” challenge, in which she compiled a list of the roles she had played and declared, “My Name is Idina, but they call me…” She also included a clip of Travolta calling her by a different name, in addition to all of the roles she has played. While it was all in good fun, fans were pleased to see her incorporate the gaffe into her challenge.
3) When Anne Hathaway and James Franco were the hosts
Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted the Academy Awards in 2011, in what is widely regarded as one of the worst Oscar disasters ever. The hosting was awkward and uncomfortable because the two were barely in sync. Both of them were widely mocked for their lack of coordination and timing during the monologues, musical numbers, and attempted jokes.
Fans and critics were left disappointed for months after the ceremony. Years later, the 2011 Academy Awards are remembered for their truly awkward hosting.
4) Sacha Baron Cohen spitting ashes on Ryan Seacrest
Cohen attended the 2012 Academy Awards dressed as his character from The Dictator. Along with the clothing, he carried what he called Kim Jong Il’s ashes.
The jury is still out on whether what happened next was a prank or an honest mistake – Cohen spilled the ashes he was carrying on Ryan Seacrest’s suit when they met on the red carpet.
While Seacrest was disappointed at the time, he took it all in stride and even joked about it on Twitter. When Seacrest refused to be interviewed by Cohen during the Oscars season in 2016, fans remembered the incident and speculated that he might not be over it after all.
5.When Will Smith won an Oscar for King Richard
While this may not appear to be an awkward moment in and of itself, the fact that it occurred immediately following Smith’s physical assault on Chris Rock on stage made it all the more awkward and out of place.
Will Smith received the Best Actor award for his role in King Richard moments after being offended by Rock’s joke involving Jada Pinkett Smith. However, the moment was ruined by what had occurred before it.
Smith eventually resigned from the Academy.