The Worst, Best, And Wildest Moments In Awards Show History

by Ricardo Johnson

I heard something about a slap?

Awards shows are so weird and amazing. At their best, they celebrate artistry and passion. But they can also have moments that are sad, cringey, and confusing. Overall, they're wonderfully chaotic and get the entire nation talking.

And nothing beats the fever dreams that are the early 2000s VMAs. These are the 19 wildest awards show moments of all time.    

19. That time Adrien Brody surprised Halle Berry with a kiss at the 2002 Oscars

Oscars / giphy.com

When asked about what was going through her mind in the moment, Halle Berry had this to say: "I was like, 'What the fuck is happening?'"

18. When Jack Palance did one-armed pushups at the 1991 Oscars to prove he wasn't too old for acting

Oscars / giphy.com

Often cast in cowboy movies as a tough guy, Palance said in his speech that producers were starting to grow cautious as he got older. To show that he was still in the prime of his life, he paused his speech and got down on one arm.

17. Lady Gaga's meat dress at the 2010 VMAs

MTV / giphy.com

Random fun facts about the meat dress, or as Weird Al Yankovic put it, the "skirt steak":

-Flank steak was the meat used

-The dress was treated with bleach, formaldehyde, and detergent to kill any bacteria, and then re-dyed a dark red color

-It has been preserved by taxidermists as a type of jerky, and is currently displayed in Las Vegas's Haus of Gaga museum.

-Gaga stated that the dress was tied to her opposition of the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy (I don't see how, either).

-It's actually not the first time someone has worn a meat dress. Photographer and performance artist Linder Sterling wore a meat dress in 1982 as a symbol for women being objectified.

16. When Britney Spears performed with a live python at the 2001 VMAs

MTV / giphy.com

The song was called "Slave 4 U," and the albino python was named Banana. She likely won't be doing it again, however, because when E! asked Spears about the moment in 2016, she said, "It's so dumb."

15. Beyoncé announcing her pregnancy with a belly rub at the 2011 VMAs

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After performing the song "Love on Top," the world caught its first glimpse of Blue Ivy.

14. Rob Lowe and Snow White performed at the 1989 Oscars, and Hollywood was not happy.

Rob Lowe and Snow White singing and dancing during Cocoanut Grove opening production number

Randy Leffingwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

To be fair, this whole stunt was called the "worst Oscars ever" in 1989, when the industry was still dominated by old-school Hollywood. Nowadays, every awards show has at least one desperate ploy for ratings. Still, the crowd was not feeling the 11-minute sketch/musical number about Snow White discovering Tinsel Town.

The production ruined the career of Allan Carr, who is best known for producing the movie Grease. Carr came up with the number, and his career never recovered. Just how bad was the reaction? Well, some of the fallout included:

-The Walt Disney Company sued for using Snow White without permission.

-Several actors signed a letter to the Academy Awards, demanding there never be a show like it again.

-Gregory Peck threatened to return his statue if the stunt was ever repeated.

The real tragedy is that Eileen Bowman, who played Snow White, was just at the start of her acting career. Twenty-two at the time, she was proud of her performance and eager about her big break. But after the show, Rob Lowe told her to "get out of LA as quickly as you can. There's blood in the water and the sharks are circling for you." Consider this an open petition to get Eileen Bowman back at the Oscars next year.

13. That time Diana Ross got friendly with Lil' Kim at the 1999 VMAs

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Reflecting on the momet in 2019, Lil' Kim called the moment "legendary." She also hopes that if there is ever a movie made about her, Diana Ross will play her mom.

12. Miley Cyrus twerking on Robin Thicke at the 2013 VMAs

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Miley Cyrus endured a lot of the mockery immediately following the VMAs, but it didn't take long for people to realize Robin Thicke was acting like the supervillain he dressed as. Two years later, she told Independent that Thicke "actively encouraged her to be as naked as possible."

In the following years, Cyrus built on her skyrocketing fame, getting her first #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 Chart with "Wrecking Ball." Meanwhile, Thicke was caught groping a woman that was not his wife, got sued by Marvin Gaye's family over the beat of "Blurred Lines," and went through a divorce.

Miley Cyrus has mixed feelings about the performance. She's said, "It was kind of like saying, 'Fuck you. Girls should be able to have this freedom,'" and also that she felt sexually exploited. By 2018, she stated, "It inspired me to use my platform for something much bigger. If the world is going to focus on me and what I am doing, then what I am doing should be impactful and it should be great." She's using that platform to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community and the homeless.

11. When John Travolta mispronounced Idina Menzel's name at the 2014 Oscars

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After the Oscars, Travolta sent Menzel flowers and a note. She told Billboard , "That threw me for a minute, but then I just got back on track and reminded myself of where I was. He was really gracious and sent this gorgeous email, and we’re buddies and it’s all cool."

10. The streaker that stormed the stage at the 1974 Oscars

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His name was Robert Opel, and his candle shone bright but brief. Besides streaking, Opel worked as a photographer, wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan (when he was governor), owned an art gallery, and taught English as a second language (until he was fired for streaking at the Oscars).

Opel was known in the San Francisco arts scene as a pioneer of gay male art. His art studio was dedicated to it and brought national attention to several erotic gay artists. 

After Opel's Oscars stunt, guess who asked him to streak at a party? Allan Carr, the guy who organized the Snow White/Rob Lowe production.

9. Eddie Murphy going off script at the 1988 Oscars, calling out how few awards have been given to Black actors

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Usually when a presenter walks out at the Oscars, they give a short speech about how magical the magic of films and filmmaking is, and you can tell they're reading a script. So whenever someone ditches the pre-written material and speaks from the heart, you can tell right away. 

When Eddie Murphy walked up to the podium at the 1988 Oscars, you could instantly tell he wouldn't be reading a script. He talked about how he initially didn't want to accept the offer to present the Best Picture winner at the Oscars because there has been such little recognition of Black achievements in the industry. 

Many people connect this speech with the 2007 Oscars, when Murphy lost out to Alan Arkin for Best Supporting Actor. The speculation is that he lost for his performance in Show Girls because of the 1988 speech, and Murphy left the show shortly after Arkin was announced as the winner.

8. A man with the words "Soy Bomb" painted on his torso while Bob Dylan performed at the 1998 Grammys

Bob Dylan holds a guitar and watches security take away a shirtless man with Soy Bomb painted on his chest

Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images

Michael Portnoy is a multigenre mastermind artist who is almost a vegetarian. At least, that's how he describes himself. Like Bob Dylan, Portnoy makes music, and claims that he is the future of music while Dylan is stuck in the past. What is "Soy Bomb"? Again, I'll leave it to Portnoy to explain: a "sort of life and death and explosion."

7. That time Madonna kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 VMAs

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The camera immediately cut to Justin Timberlake (he and Britney had broken up the year before). 

6. Then there was that time in 2015 when Steve Harvey announced the wrong Miss Universe

Miss Universe / giphy.com

This moment is really just one of the most uncomfortable things to ever happen on live TV. Still, what a day to be Miss Philippines!

5. Jodie Foster publicly came out as gay at the 2013 Golden Globes

Jodie Foster smiling at the Golden Globes and holding her lifetime achievement award

Frank Trapper / Corbis via Getty Images

Jodie Foster is notoriously private, a fact that she cherishes about her life. When she accepted a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, she had this to say:

"So while I'm here being all confessional, I have a sudden urge to say something that I've never really been able to air in public. A declaration that I'm a little nervous about. But maybe not quite as nervous as my publicist right now, huh Jennifer? But you know, I'm just going to put it out there, loud and proud, right? So I'm going to need your support on this. I'm uh...single."

After her joke, Foster said that she had already come out years ago to friends and family. But she decided to make it public knowledge since we live in an age, as she puts it, where "every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, fragrance, and a primetime reality show."

4. When Marlon Brando had Sacheen Littlefeather deny his Best Actor award for him at the 1973 Oscars so she could speak about the representation of Native Americans in film.

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Littlefeather's speech, though short, garnered ugly and hateful comments from the rest of the attendees. As soon as she mentioned the representation of Native Americans in film, several audience members started booing her. They were drowned out by applause from the rest of the room, but presenters later in the night made condescending remarks. When Raquel Welch presented Best Actress, she said, "I hope the winner doesn't have a cause." 

Michael Caine said Brando let "some poor little Indian girl take the boos," and when Clint Eastwood presented Best Picture he mocked Littlefeather, saying the award was "on behalf of all the cowboys shot in John Ford Westerns over the years." Worst of all was John Wayne, who tried to rush the stage while Littlefeather spoke and had to be restrained by six security guards.

3. At the 2017 Oscars, La La Land accidentally won Best Picture for about five minutes

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As soon as Warren Beatty got onstage to announce Best Picture, a crewmember reportedly said, "Oh my god, he got the wrong envelope." And that's exactly what happened. Beatty had the card for Best Actress in a Leading Role, which was Emma Stone in La La Land. After opening the envelope, Beatty was confused, but assumed that meant La La Land had won. But in a classic Steve Harvey twist, it was actually Moonlight that won.

2. Kanye West steals the microphone from Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs

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"I'm going to let you finish, but..."

1. Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars

Oscars /   giphy.com

The slap heard around the world. After making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair loss, Will Smith walked onstage and smacked Rock across the face. He yelled at Rock to "Keep my wife's name out your fucking mouth," then won an Oscar for Best Actor. Smith has since resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 

Not only was the moment wild, but it sparked a heated debate the following week about who was more at fault: Rock or Smith. That, and about 10 million memes.

What crazy awards show moments did I miss? Put them in the comments!