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The 15 Most Memorable Academy Awards Moments from History

In the show's 91-year history, audiences have witnessed the good, the bad, and everything in between, but these moments deserve top honors as the most unforgettable.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10108210g) An Oscar statue is pictured at the press preview for the 91st Academy Awards Governors Ball, in Los Angeles. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles 91st Academy Awards - Governors Ball Press Preview, Los Angeles, USA - 15 Feb 2019Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

From unforgettable to “I wish I could forget”

The Academy Awards are hands down the biggest night in Hollywood. With 91 ceremonies under its belt, the Oscars have seen some truly historic and breathtaking moments (like Sidney Poitier becoming the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964), red-carpet fashion to die for, inspiring acceptance speeches, and, well, moments we wouldn’t mind forgetting (ahem—James Franco and Anne Hathaway awkwardly hosting in 2011). It’s not easy to narrow down the loveliest, craziest, and most cringe-worthy moments, but we think these 15 moments stand out as the most unforgettable.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Shutterstock (3613773ce) Kelly Preston and John Travolta 86th Annual Academy Awards Oscars, Vanity Fair Party, Los Angeles, America - 02 Mar 2014Shutterstock

2014: John Travolta’s name flub

Who could forget one of the most shocking moments from Oscars history: When legendary actor John Travolta introduced “Adele Dazeem” to perform “Let It Go” at the 2014 Academy Awards instead of, you know, Frozen star Idina Menzel. Travolta later apologized to Menzel and chalked the moment up to a big rush on time, weird phonetic spelling, and Goldie Hawn (kind of), but oof.

Here’s every Oscar Best Picture winner ranked—from worst to best!

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Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kobal/Shutterstock (5852349a) Hattie McDaniel, Fay Bainter Oscars / Academy Awards - 1939 OtherKobal/Shutterstock

1940: Hattie McDaniel becomes the first Black Oscar winner

Far and away one of the most historic Oscars moments of all time: Gone With the Wind star Hattie McDaniel won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1940, becoming the first African-American actor to win an Oscar. But the night wasn’t all celebration. McDaniel almost wasn’t allowed into the ceremony and was segregated from her co-stars, who were all sitting together. In her acceptance speech, McDaniel humbly said, “I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry.”

Don’t miss the stories of these other trailblazing women who made history.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Adam Scull/ (9854181a) Sally Field Sally Field - 01 Jan 1985Adam Scull/ /mediapunch/Shutterstock

1985: Sally Field’s speech

Say it with me now: “You like me. You really like me!” It’s not hard to drum up Sally Field’s 1985 acceptance speech for her role in Places in the Heart. But, as memorable as the heartfelt moment is, that’s not actually what Field said. The correct wording? “You like me. Right now you like me!” Either way, the moment will go down in history.

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angelinaEverett Collection/Shutterstock

2000: Angelina Jolie locks lips with her brother

Shortly after winning the award for Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted at the 2000 Academy Awards, Angelina Jolie planted a big ol’ kiss on older brother James Haven’s lips at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Jolie, who gushed about being “so in love” with her brother during her acceptance speech earlier in the night, opened up about the moment to People in 2004: “First, we’re the best of friends. And it wasn’t some odd open-mouthed kiss. It was disappointing that something so beautiful and pure could be turned into a circus.”

Check out these other pop culture artifacts from the 2000s.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (9192567az) Ellen DeGeneres takes a photo with, from left, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jared Leto during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre, in Los Angeles 86th Academy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 2 Mar 2014John Shearer/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

2014: Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie

Meryl Streep. Jennifer Lawrence. Julia Roberts. Brad Pitt. What do all of these celebrities have in common? They’re featured in Ellen DeGeneres’ iconic selfie from the 86th Annual Academy Awards. Taken by Bradley Cooper, the photo was posted on Twitter in real-time and retweeted more than three million times, surpassing the record previously held by Barack Obama.

Don’t miss these mind-blowing facts about selfies.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michael Caulfield/AP/Shutterstock (6464400a) Bjork Singer Bjork, wearing a Marjan Pejoski swan gown, arrives at the 73rd annual Academy Awards, in Los Angeles. Bjork is nominated for best song for "I've Seen it All" from the film "Dancer in the Dark 2001 Academy Awards, Los Angeles, USAMichael Caulfield/AP/Shutterstock

2001: Björk’s swan dress

It’s no surprise that celebrities’ red-carpet looks have become just as legendary as the movies being honoured and the acceptance speeches. But no Oscars dress evokes as many memories or as much emotion as the swan dress Björk wore to the 73rd Academy Awards. The singer, who was nominated for Best Song for “I’ve Seen It All,” even laid an egg on the red carpet!

Speaking of swan dresses, we’re counting down the best fashion films ever made.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Anonymous/AP/Shutterstock (6594477a) Actor David Niven presents an award as streaker Robert Ope crosses the stage during the 1974 Academy Awards show in Los Angeles Film Five Most, LOS ANGELES, USAAnonymous/AP/Shutterstock

1974: The naked man on stage

It’s hard to forget the man who streaked across the stage at the 1974 Oscars right before Elizabeth Taylor came on to announce the award for Best Picture. Host David Niven laughed off the crazy moment saying, “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?” But the man in question—Robert Opel—was actually an artist and gay rights activist who had streaked before in protest.

These crazy movie theories will blow your mind!

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Invision/AP/Shutterstock (9241604de) Faye Dunaway, left, and Warren Beatty present the award for best picture at the Oscars, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles 89th Academy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 26 Feb 2017Invision/AP/Shutterstock

2017: The Moonlight mistake

In one of the most cringe-worthy moments from Oscars history, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty declared La La Land as the winner for Best Picture at the 2019 Academy Awards. The problem? Moonlight actually won. Dunaway, who said she “felt guilty” for the mix-up, was accidentally given the wrong envelope to read from. Oops!

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Reed Saxon/AP/Shutterstock (6554201a) HANKS Best Actor winner Tom Hanks gives an emotional speech at the 66th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles on . Hanks won for his role in the movie "Philadelphia HANKS OSCARS, LOS ANGELES, USAReed Saxon/AP/Shutterstock

1993: Tom Hanks outs his former teacher

When Tom Hanks won the Best Actor award for Philadelphia, he thanked his high school drama teacher, Rawley Farnsworth. Praising him as one of the “finest gay Americans,” Hanks accidentally outed Farnsworth in the process. The memorable moment was even turned into the 1997 comedy In & Out.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock (9427895a) Oscars Brando. Sacheen Littlefeather, tells the audience at the Academy Awards ceremony that Marlon Brando was declining to accept his Oscar as best actor for his role in "The Godfather." The move was meant to protest Hollywood's treatment of American Indians Oscars-Politics, LOS ANGELES, USA - 27 Mar 1973Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

1973: Marlon Brando refuses his Oscar

Marlon Brando may have won the Oscar for Best Actor in The Godfather in 1973, but the actor sent Native American actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather to the stage to refuse the award. Why? Brando was protesting Hollywood’s portrayal and stereotyping of Native Americans in film. The audience didn’t get to hear the letter Brando gave to Littlefeather to read on his behalf, but his refusal of the award made a big point.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (9198449l) Actress Jennifer Lawrence stumbles as she walks on stage to accept the award for best actress in a leading role for "Silver Linings Playbook" during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre, in Los Angeles APTOPIX 85th Academy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2013Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

2013: Jennifer Lawrence trips

On her way to the stage for her Best Actress win at the 85th Academy Awards, Jennifer Lawrence famously tripped up the stairs. The Silver Linings Playbook star, known for being real and down to earth, even owned up to the snafu in her acceptance speech: “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell, and that’s really embarrassing.” Lawrence walked away with a shiny Oscar, though, so the laugh’s definitely not on her.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Shutterstock (227245ad) ANNA PAQUIN ACADEMY AWARDS, LOS ANGELES, AMERICA - 1994Shutterstock

1994: Anna Paquin is speechless

One of the cutest Oscar moments took place in 1994, as a then-11-year-old Anna Paquin took the stage to accept her award for Best Supporting Actress in The Piano. Paquin became the category’s second-youngest winner (after Tatum O’Neal in 1974), but perhaps more notably, she stood at the podium adorably silent and in complete shock for a while. We’re talking speechless. Then, after she managed to thank a few people, Paquin skipped back to her seat instead of going backstage. So precious, so pure.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Stewart Cook/Shutterstock (318826bp) TREY PARKER [ LEFT ] MATT STONE [ CENTRE ] AND MARC SHAIMAN 72ND ACADEMY AWARDS, SHRINE AUDITORIUM, LOS ANGELES, AMERICA - 26 MAR 2000Stewart Cook/Shutterstock

2000: Trey Parker and Matt Stone make a statement

Who could forget Jennifer Lopez’s iconic green Versace dress or Gwyneth Paltrow’s sweet pink Ralph Lauren gown? Memorable in a different way: South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone wearing copycat versions of those dresses to the 2000 Academy Awards. The duo later admitted to Jimmy Kimmel that they were on acid at the time.

Brush up on the pop culture trivia people always get wrong.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Amy Sancetta/AP/Shutterstock (9490688c) Actress Angelina Jolie arrives before the 84th Academy Awards, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles 84th Academy Awards Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 26 Feb 2012Amy Sancetta/AP/Shutterstock

2012: Angelina Jolie’s leg becomes a star

Angelina Jolie, married to Brad Pitt at the time, was a huge actress by 2012, but it was her right leg that took the spotlight at the 84th Annual Academy Awards. Donning a black Atelier Versace gown with a slit up to here, Jolie famously posed with her leg out all night. By the time the Oscars were over, the leg had gone viral, amassing more than 14,000 followers for a brand-new Twitter handle called @AngiesRightLeg. “It’s as simple as being a woman picking a dress you like and having a night, and not really thinking about anything else,” Jolie later commented.

Think you know the Academy Awards? Take our Oscar trivia quiz and find out!

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Fisher/Shutterstock (5599373ey) Leonardo DiCaprio - Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, The Revenant 88th Annual Academy Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, America - 28 Feb 2016David Fisher/Shutterstock

2016: Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins

After five—count ’em, fiveOscar nominations for his work in films such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio finally took home the award for Best Actor in 2016 for his role in The Revenant.  DiCaprio used his acceptance speech to thank family and friends, but also as a platform to bring awareness to climate change, a cause the actor has spoken about often.

Next, check out even more fascinating facts about the Oscars.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest