The 31 Stupidest Oscar Moments

1. Best Picture Outrage

The Academy has a knack of anticipating the best films in any given year/decade/career by not rewarding them at Oscar time. In 1981 it was Martin Scorsese’s still-searing boxing masterpiece Raging Bull , which lost a points decision to Robert Redford’s schmaltzy, po-faced grief ‘em up Ordinary People .

2. Bugsy’s Perfect 10

Oscar has always had his clear favourites, and arch smooth operator Warren Beatty is definitely one of them. How else to explain the fact that his dreary and disjointed glamour biopic Bugsy scored TEN nominations at the 1992 ceremony? 

3. Art Over Artistry

In 1974, Art Carney - who? - fended off both Chinatown ’s Jack Nicholson and The Godfather Part II ’s Al Pacino to claim the Best Actor gong for, umm, Harry And Tonto . FYI, he played Harry, and Tonto is a cat.

  4. Pulp Fiction Gets Gumped

Robert Zemeckis’ mawkish idiot tour of the American century trumps Quentin Tarantino’s unutterably cool reinvention of alternative Hollywood filmmaking. Epic fail.

5. Comic Tragedy

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before... Tim Curry, Kathy Najimy and Mara Wilson walk into a bar… No, wait, they open the Oscars – with a chaotic performance of ‘Make‘Em Laugh’ including an excruciating tapdance routine and shoehorned-in clips of all the best comedy bits in films ever. Najimy made the best of a bad situation: "I’ll give you sex for a close up!" she told director Jeff Margolis. "For two, I’ll be in leather." She got the close-ups.

6. Why Rush When You Could Cruise?

The sad but predictable triumph of affliction acting ( Shine ) over an image-defying work of unexpected and earnest depth ( Jerry Maguire ). Rush was good, but his performance was basically just getting angry and pretending to play the piano. Cruise should have, uh, cruised it. [page-break]

7. Moonstruck Dumb

In another moment of collective Academy mentalness, Norman Jewison’s schmaltzy Italian-American romance scored SIX nominations and forehead-slapping win for Cher, who stole the Best Actress gong from Glenn Close, Holly Hunter and Meryl Streep.

8. Corleone Offer Refused

Joel Grey won the Best Supporting Actor award in 1973 for his workmanlike turn in decadent Nazi musical Cabaret , beating - wait for it - three members of the original Godfather ’s Corleone family – Robert Duvall, James Caan and Al Pacino – in the (clearly wrong, wrong, wrong) process. 

9. Richard Gere vs China

Deviating from his mushy teleprompter speech while handing out the Art Direction gong in 1993, Gere urged audience members to help ease the situation in Tibet by sending happy thoughts to China telepathically through the television.

"Something miraculous, really kind of movie-like, could happen here", the star blathered. "We could all send love and truth and a kind of sanity to Deng Xiaoping right now in Beijing, and he will take his troops away from Tibet."

Didn't work.

10. Apocalyptic Judgement

Exploitative family drama Kramer Vs. Kramer beat meditative and operatic war classic Apocalypse Now to the Best Picture award in 1980. None more epic fail.

11. Chase Goes Cold

The marvellous Mr Chevy Chase has hosted the ceremony twice – the first time in 1987 as part of an inexplicable trio with Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan – but it's his solo flight in 1988 that makes the stupid chart. He began with the killer line, "Good evening, Hollywood phonies!" and lowered the tone as far as pretend nose-picking. He was never asked back, and his film career tanked.

12. Not So Wise, Guys

Kevin Costner’s indulgent contemporary Western Dances With Wolves (there weren’t even any real cowboys!) beat Martin Scorsese’s incredible, indelible return to form in Goodfellas to the Best Picture Oscar in 1991. The lesson: if you make your film long and dull enough, people will assume it’s important.

13. What's In The Box? Nothing...

For a modern masterpiece, brimming with brilliant design, unnervingly powerful performances and shadowed, modern-noirish photography, Se7en was inexplicably ignored by the Academy (just the token single, patronising editing nom).

14. Death Of The Dark Knight

The decision not to include Chris Nolan’s outlandish and outstanding comic-book caper in the Best Picture category fits the dictionary definition of ‘crackers’ - not only because The Dark Knight made more money than God last year, but because it’s five times better than Frost/Nixon , Milk and The Reader put together.

Why so serious, Academy voters? 

15. Black & Ferrell On Song


"There’s one song that nobody wants to hear – the song they play when your acceptance speech has gone on too long!" explained Jack Black, presenting an award in 2004. "And did you know," added Will Ferrell, "that it actually has lyrics?" Cue one of the strangest and best (good-stupid) musical interludes the Oscars has ever seen .

16. Brando Goes AWOL

Rather than simply refusing to accept his Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather in 1973, the mighty Marlon Brando instead sent a stand-in to refuse it for him.

Sacheen Littlefeather was supposedly an Apache Indian and spokesperson for Native American rights. It was later suggested that she was a Mexican actress called Maria Cruz. Either way, her speech sucked .

17. One-Armed Bandit

Grizzled Western veteran Jack Palance made the most of his resurgence when he won Best Supporting Actor in 1992. "Billy Crystal?" he grinned, looking around the theatre like a cheeky schoolboy, "I crap bigger ‘n him!"

He then mocked Hollywood’s nervousness about using older actors by performing some one-armed push-ups on stage and cracking jokes about hookers. They don’t make ‘em like Jack any more.

18. God’s Lonely Film

Rocky beat Taxi Driver to the 1976 Best Picture award. Sly’s original underdog boxing flick is probably better than you remember – and definitely better than the ticker-tape parade of jingoistic stereotypes that served as sequels – but is it really better than Martin Scorsese’s pummelling drama of alienation and despair? Really ?

19. Lowe Point


Presumably Rob Lowe’s tedious, garish and demeaning musical double-act with a squeaking real-life version of Snow White at the 1989 ceremony was some kind of industry-mandated punishment for nailing an underage girl on videotape the year before.

So, nobody spotted the potential taste issue in having him romance a doll-face teenage princess come to life, then? To cap the disaster, Disney sued for illicit use of the costume.

20. "Hello, Gorgeous!"

These days, the words ‘see-through dress’ and ‘Barbra Streisand’ don't go so well together. But back in the ‘60s she was pretty hot - hot enough to accept her Best Actress Oscar wearing a transparent pyjama get-up.

Weirdly, the really memorable thing turned out to be what she said when she got up there – "Hello, gorgeous!" – which was also the first line from the film for which she won, Funny Girl.

21. A Real Drag

In 2000, easily the hottest outfits on the red carpet were worn by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

Making a less than subtle dig at the expensive dresses and expansive skin shown during awards season, Stone wore a steal of a pink Versace gown made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow, while Parker sizzled in a green open-fronted Versace number worn by Jennifer Lopez. Raaaow!

22. Family Affair

Angelina Jolie got so excited after her Best Supporting Actress win for Girl, Interrupted in 2000 that she landed a wet one on her own brother - after she claimed to be 'in love' with him during her speech. Eeeew. 

23. Hitched To A Star

After the grace and magnanimity of Denzel Washington’s acceptance speech for the Training Day Best Actor award in 2002, it seemed only fitting that Julia Roberts – presenting the statue – should ride him like a seaside donkey as he left the stage.

24. Gruesome Twosome: Adrien & Halle


Collecting his Oscar for Best Actor for The Pianist in 2003, Adrien Brody dashed to the stage and swept presenter Halle Berry into a lingering, matinee poster kiss . When you’re hot you’re hot.

25. Moore Than They Can Handle

Having voted Michael Moore’s Bowling For Columbine the best documentary of 2002, the Academy booed the dissenting filmmaker when he used his speech to denounce President Bush . What did they expect him to do, recite a poem?

26. No Patton The Back

"The whole thing is a goddam meat parade!" George C Scott once famously said of the Oscars. And he stuck to his guns, too – he was nowhere to be seen at the 1970 Awards, despite being named Best Actor for military biopic Patton .

27. Big Talker


Ms Greer Garson is the reason that the modern Oscars have a time limit on acceptance speeches.

At the ceremony in 1942 after her win for Best Actress in Mrs. Miniver , Garson spoke for five minutes and 30 seconds - listed in the Guiness Book Of Records as the longest Oscars speech ever. "I’m practically unprepared," she began.


28. Classy Bird

Everybody was thinking the same thing as Bjork performed her song ‘I’ve Seen It All’ at the 2001 Oscars – "What. Is. She. Wearing?". Perfect host Steve Martin brought it out into the open without appearing sneery or mean. ("I was going to wear my swan…") The singer’s since claimed it was a joke. Well, clearly.


29. Letterman – Oh, Ah, Oh No

Chat show host David Letterman bombed when he hosted the awards in 1995, mostly due to a bizarre monologue skit in which he repeated the names of audience members Uma Thurman and Oprah Winfrey over and over: "Uma…Oprah…Oprah…Uma".

This was apparently a reference to an old Anne Bancroft sketch ( watch it here ) but the mystified audience just tittered awkwardly. Oprah was apparently furious, and Dave was never asked back.  


30. Shrivelling Put-Down

Delivering a link during the 1973 ceremony, David Niven proved utterly unflappable when he was interrupted by an onstage streaker. "Well, that was almost bound to happen..." he said dryly, before quipping, "Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?". Niven 1, naked man with moustache 0.

31. Giving Up Hope

Despite presenting the ceremony 18 times – and being given four Honorary awards – legendary comic Bob Hope never received an Oscar for his work.

The lack of recognition became a running joke in his films ("Gimma that, you got one!" he says in Road To Bali when he finds Humphrey Bogart’s Oscar) and led to the classic introductory line to the 1968 ceremony: "Welcome to the Academy Awards or, as it’s known at my house, Passover."

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