Awkward Oscars Moments That Made Us Cringe

Whether you call them the Oscars or the Academy Awards, history is filled with memorable moments from Hollywood's biggest night of the year. Who can forget Halle Berry's tearful acceptance speech after becoming the first African-American woman to win best actress, or a 73-year-old Jack Palance mocking Hollywood's ageism by doing one-handed push-ups after winning best supporting actor in 1992. Or how about Tom Hanks? While accepting the 1993 best actor award for Philadelphia, Hanks lauded his high school drama teacher as one of "the finest gay Americans I have known" and paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands who died during the AIDS epidemic. While these moments will live forever in Oscar history, there are just as many that will live in infamy. 

Do you know about the streaker who ran across the stage in 1974? You do now. Did actress Jennifer Lawrence fall? You bet she did. Want to know more? Let's race down the red carpet — Don't worry, we won't ask you who you're wearing — because we're going to talk about awkward Oscars moments that made us cringe.

James Franco & Anne Hathaway bombed

In an attempt to draw younger viewers to the 2011 Oscars, the Academy tapped James Franco and Anne Hathaway to co-host. It didn't go well. Called "one of the worst Oscar telecasts in history" by The Hollywood Reporter, most of the criticism targeted the nonexistent chemistry between these two. Franco's stoner persona vs. Hathaway's excited theater kid bombed with the audience and critics alike. "People said I was under the influence," Franco told David Letterman (per USA Today). "I love her, but Anne Hathaway is so energetic, I think the Tasmanian Devil would look stoned standing next to Anne Hathaway."

In a 2012 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Hathaway said she "was just shooting energy to the back [of the house]," but "it looked slightly manic and hyper cheerleadery on screen." Sitting down with Entertainment Weekly in 2019, Hathaway revealed that she initially turned down the offer to host that infamous show, but Franco supposedly convinced her to do it. "When all the dust settled, I was just like, you gotta be kidding me," she said. "Your first instinct is usually the right one, and all the reasons why I turned it down came true."

The day of the 2019 Oscars, Hathaway still wasn't finished poking fun at herself on Instagram: "No matter what happens with today's show, just remember, it's already been worse. Happy Oscars!"

Brie Larson didn't clap for Casey Affleck

In 2010, lawsuits were filed against Casey Affleck by two women who claimed he sexually harassed them during the filming of I'm Still Here. Affleck denied the allegations and settled both cases out of court. Flash forward to the 2017 Oscars: Affleck was the heavy favorite to take home the best actor trophy for his masterful performance in Manchester by the Sea. He won, but awaiting him on stage was actress Brie Larson — a vocal advocate for sexual assault survivors who won the 2016 best actress Oscar for her portrayal of a sexual assault survivor in Room.

After handing Affleck the award, Larson stepped back and stood silently with both her arms at her side as the audience gave Affleck a standing ovation. Social media quickly took notice, and that was the point. Larson later spoke to Vanity Fair about that awkward Oscar moment. "I think that whatever it was that I did onstage kind of spoke for itself," she said. 

The Chris Rock and Stacey Dash joke that didn't land

Comedian Chris Rock opened the 2016 Oscars and tackled the #OscarsSoWhite controversy head-on with a scorching monologue. "Man, I counted at least 15 black people in that montage," he said, calling the ceremony "the White People's Choice Awards." Like any great comedy set, it made the audience simultaneously laugh and squirm in their seats, but the follow-up just left the audience feeling really uncomfortable. Rock introduced Trump supporter and Clueless star Stacey Dash, who was a Fox News commentator at the time, as the "new director" of the Academy's "minority outreach program." The crowd was not feeling it. "I cannot wait to help my people out," Dash told the crowd. "Happy Black History Month!" On the bright side, that awkward joke launched a reaction meme that will likely live forever (Thanks, Chrissy Teigen). 

Dash took to her blog to try to explain her awkward appearance at the Oscars. "When they added ME to increase the diversity, I'm sure many black people rolled their eyes," she wrote. "I'm not 'black enough,' they say. But guess what? I've heard that all my life. I would rather be a free thinking, black than a cookie cutter black who thinks — and votes — just like all my friends." Okay then.

Sean Penn's 'green card' joke

Sean Penn and Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu are friends, but when the actor presented Iñárritu with the best picture Oscar for Birdman, he maybe got a little too familiar. Penn glanced at the winner's name on an envelope, paused, and shouted: "Who gave this son of a b**ch his green card?"

The joke didn't go over so well. "I'm just so shocked, angry & upset at Sean Penn's disgusting comment. I will NEVER pay to see any of his films ever again #oscarssowhite," Entertainment Weekly's Nina Terrero tweeted. "Hey congrats on winning the award of your life here's a green card joke to announce it," The Washington Post's Elahe Izadi quipped.

Iñárritu, on the other hand, "found it hilarious." When asked about the joke backstage, he said (via the Boston Herald), "Sean and I had that kind of brutal relationship where only true friendship can survive. When I was directing him in '21 Grams,' he was always making jokes ... I made a lot of very tough jokes (to him) that I will not tell you." He added, "I didn't find it offensive, I thought it was very funny."

'Adele Dazeem'

Where were you when John Travolta introduced Idina Menzel as "Adele Dazeem" at the 2014 Academy Awards? That was brutal, right? A year later, the Saturday Night Fever actor sat down with Jimmy Kimmel to explain his unforgettable flub. 

"The truth is, I was expected backstage, and it was getting very close to the time I was supposed to go on, and suddenly a paige — an assistant to you — grabbed me and said you're on in a minute,' Travolta said. "I was like 'What happened to 15 minutes?' and they didn't explain." Travolta then ran into actress Goldie Hawn and became "starstruck." Then Academy staff told him they'd "changed Idina's name to a phonetic spelling" on the teleprompter. Travolta panicked. 'So I go out there, and I get to her thing, and I go 'Huh?' In my mind, I'm going 'What? What is that name? I don't know that name.' And it was this phonetic spelling, and I didn't rehearse it that way.'"

A few months after the ceremony, Menzel told Andy Cohen of Watch What Happens Live that when she heard her name being butchered, it bothered her for "like eight seconds." She said it's now "the best thing that's ever happened to me." The "Let It Go" singer got her revenge at the 2015 Oscars by introducing Travolta as "Glom Gazingo."

Jan Chapman is 'alive and well,' thank you very much

The annual "In Memoriam" segment of the Academy Awards honors those in the industry who have passed. It's a poignant moment each year to celebrate the contributions and legacies of movie industry professionals who left their mark on the art of cinema, but imagine sitting at home enjoying the Oscars, and your face pops up on the screen saying you're dead. This is exactly what happened to Australian producer Jan Chapman in 2017 when the Academy used her likeness to pay tribute to Oscar-nominated costume designer Janet Patterson, who had died in October 2016.

"I was devastated by the use of my image in place of my great friend and long-time collaborator Janet Patterson. I had urged her agency to check any photograph which might be used and understand that they were told that the Academy had it covered. Janet was a great beauty and four-time Oscar nominee and it is very disappointing that the error was not picked up," Chapman told Variety. "I am alive and well and an active producer."

That gaffe didn't even garner too much attention in 2017, because it wasn't the biggest Academy screw up of the night. Let's talk about that one... 

La La Land won best picture, then didn't

The 2017 Academy Awards looked to belong to La La Land. When Warren Beatty opened the envelope and announced the musical drama had won best picture — after it had already one won five Oscars, including best actress and best director — it seemed like a logical conclusion to the night. But after producer Jordan Horowitz finished his acceptance speech and producer Marc Platt stepped up to the microphone, things on stage got weird. Before Platt's speech was over, Horowitz and producer Fred Berger found out that Moonlight had won the award instead.

Berger, still taking in what just happened, stepped up to the microphone and thanked his family and director Damien Chazelle before informing the audience and viewers at home that there had been a mix-up. "We lost, by the way, but, you know," he said. Nobody in the stunned audience knew what was going on, so Horowitz jumped on the microphone to clarify: "You guys, I'm sorry. No. There's a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture." He held up the card, and then the bewildered makers of Moonlight moved to the stage.

Warren Beatty then attempted to explain what happened, but the secondhand embarrassment is still too much. Too soon, guys. Too soon.

Adrien Brody's Halle Berry kiss hasn't aged well

Adrien Brody grabbing and kissing presenter Halle Berry after winning the 2003 Academy Award for best actor for The Pianist is one of the Oscars' most memorable and/or infamous moments. In the age of the #MeToo movement, we assume this wouldn't fly today. Like, at all.

On a 2017 episode of Watch What Happens Live, Berry revealed that the famous kiss wasn't planned and she "knew nothing about it" before it happened. She said her reaction at the time was: "What the f**k is happening?" Berry, who won the best actress Oscar for Monster's Ball the year before, said that because she knew the feeling of being out of your body, she "just f***ing went with it." When host Andy Cohen asked how the kiss was, she answered, "I don't know. I was too focused on 'What the f**k is going on right now?'"

Brody had a different take on the kiss. "That probably was one of the most memorable moments ever. You could say time slowed down," he told Vanity Fair in September 2015. "In fact, it must have, because by the time I had finished kissing her and people kind of settled in, they were already flashing the sign that said, 'Get off the stage, your time is up.' It was amazing."

That opening number in '89

The 1989 Oscars opened with an 11-minute musical number featuring an unknown actress as Snow White, her "blind date" Rob Lowe, dancing tables, cameos by legendary aging stars, and enough cheese to make Wisconsin proud. Immediately after the broadcast (per The Hollywood Reporter): "17 prominent Hollywood figures" wrote an open letter to the Academy, proclaiming the ceremony "an embarrassment" and "demeaning" to "the entire motion picture industry." It gets worse.

According to LA Magazine, that performance was the brainchild of Grease producer Allan Carr. The production failed so spectacularly that Carr reportedly "never produced another movie or stage show" in Hollywood again and lived in seclusion until his death in 1999 of liver cancer. Snow White, a then 22-year-old aspiring actress named Eileen Bowman, told Inside Edition that Lowe told her after the show to "get out of LA as quickly as you can." Bowman said she "couldn't get work in LA for years." At the time of this writing, her last credit was on an episode of the 1998 action-drama series Pensacola: Wings of Gold.

Lowe managed to survive the humiliation and carve out a nice career, but in a 2018 interview with The New York Times, the West Wing actor recalled that awkward night: "I remember vividly looking out in the audience and seeing Barry Levinson, who on that particular evening was the belle of the ball with 'Rain Man,' and I could see him very clearly popeyed and mouthing, 'what the [expletive]?'"