Top 10 Controversial Moments at the Oscars

Beyond handing the awards over to movies that some would say didn’t deserve it, there are moments at the Oscars that caught everyone's attention and caused very mixed opinions. Here are just a few moments that threw everyone for a loop.
The Top Ten
1 Marlon Brando refuses his award (1973)

In 1973, Marlon Brando won the Oscar for Best Actor. He refused to show up to the event and instead hired Indigenous actor Sacheen Littlefeather to speak on behalf of him, delivering a brief speech about how Brando would not be accepting the award until Native Americans were given better representation in the media. Reportedly, John Wayne had to be physically restrained from assaulting Littlefeather while Clint Eastwood cursed her out when she left the stage.

2 Roman Polanski wins despite rape charges (2003)

In 2003, director Roman Polanski was arrested and charged for drugging and raping a minor. He fled the US a before he could be sentenced, but despite all this, the Oscars still nominated him as Best Director for directing The Pianist. That would've been bad enough, but the fact that he ended up winning was even more ridiculous. I'm all for separating the art from the artist, but Polanski couldn't even accept the award since he was out of the country, mind you, for raping a minor.

3 The slap heard round the world (2022)

The most recent controversy was just this year. Comedian Chris Rock made a questionable quip toward Jada Pinkett Smith that she took offense toward, prompting Will Smith to walk up to the stage and slap Rock in the face. Smith has faced massive backlash for this, and it seems his career is currently facing quite the slump.

I was likely sleeping at someone's house when this happened. When I got home, I found tons of memes about the incident. It really got me into making a YouTube meme, and the fact I haven't uploaded in almost four months at the time. The next day, I found many news reports about the incident, and it was the talk of the week at school. This was the first incident that had everyone talking that I remember.

4 Streaker interrupts David Niven (1974)

During a speech by David Niven, photographer Robert Opel interrupted Niven by running onto the stage naked, flashing a peace sign before quickly running off. Despite all the shock surrounding this bizarre moment caught on live TV, some have suggested that Opel had planned this out with a producer of the live show. Regardless, it is one of the most extraordinary things to ever happen at the Oscars.

Back when there were fun pranks in front of millions of people, not people having a meltdown over someone joking about their wife.

5 Michael Moore lays it on Bush (2003)

When Michael Moore won an award for his documentary "Bowling for Columbine", he proceeded to deliver an angry rant against then president George W. Bush, citing his election as "fictitious" and shaming Bush for advancing with the Iraq War. Moore was booed off the stage, and it was only years later that he finally finished his speech.

6 Sacha Baron Cohen spills ashes on the red carpet (2012)

If there's one person who knows how to provoke, it's Sacha Baron Cohen. During a red carpet interview with Ryan Seacrest, Cohen, dressed as his character in The Dictator, was speaking in character when he suddenly spills an urn containing Kim Jong-Il's "ashes" all over the carpet, as well as on Seacrest. He was swiftly dragged out by security, staying in character the whole time.

7 #OscarsSoWhite (2015)

Between 2015 and 2016, it seems the Oscars forgot that non-white people existed in Hollywood as well. During that period, all nominations made were for white actors, directors, etc. This led to frustration with the awards, with stars like Jada Pinkett Smith leading a boycott of the Oscars.

8 The Marisa Tomei conspiracies (1993)

When Marisa Tomei won the award for Best Supporting Actress, it led to a conspiracy theory coming forward that she wasn't actually supposed to win, but did because the speaker was too flustered and said the wrong name as a result. It's…wild to say the least, and despite all the controversy surrounding Tomei's win, I'd say this controversial moment was one of the more tame ones listed here.

9 Angelina Jolie kisses her brother (2000)

When actress Angelina Jolie won Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted, Jolie could be seen giving her brother James Haven a kiss on the lips. Media outlets went wild over this moment, with Jolie defending her actions saying such a harmless kiss was being blown way out of proportion.

10 The worst opening ever (1989)

The opening musical number for the 1989 Oscars was deemed a disaster, which included the infamous duet Rob Lowe performed with a woman dressed as Snow White. By today's standards, it really isn't that bad, but back then, the backlash was so severe that it pretty much ended the career of the show's producer Allen Carr.

The Contenders
11 Hattie McDaniel wins at the segregated Oscars (1940)

This was a historic moment for the Oscars, as Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win one of their awards. However, it wasn't without turmoil, as McDaniel had to endure the effects of racial segregation at the time in order to get to that point. And since this was well before the Civil Rights movement would rise to prominence, you can imagine what kind of response this garnered.

12 La La Land fake win (2017)
13 Rob Lowe and Snow White (1989)
14 Remarks about animation (2022)
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